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Business etiquette, language and culture

Language

There is no official language of Australia, although English is the primary language with roughly 80% of the population using this as their first language. Therefore, English will likely be used during business meetings and is used in government. 

Other languages that can be heard throughout Australia include Chinese (such as Mandarin and Cantonese), Arabic, Vietnamese, Greek and Italian. This may be due to different immigrant groups that have entered Australia.

There is also a small percentage of the population that continues to speak some of the many aboriginal languages.

[Source – DIT]

 

Religion

The predominant religion in the country is Christianity, with almost a quarter of the population identifying as Protestant, a further 22.6% are Roman Catholic and 4.2% identify with other types of Christianity, taking the total amount of Christians in the country to just over half of the population. 

Other religions significant in the country include Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism.

[Source – DIT, CIA]

 

Ethnicity

Australia is a multicultural, multi-ethnic society made up predominantly of English and Australian individuals, as well as Asian ethnicities, such as Chinese and Indian, and Aboriginal people. 

There are also people of Scottish, Italian, German, Greek and Dutch nationality living within the country.

[Source – DIT, CIA]

 

Meetings and greetings

Australian business culture is relatively informal. It is usually appropriate to greet your Australian counterparts using their first names and you can expect them to do the same. 

Australians also value punctuality and as a result meetings will usually begin on time. You should make an effort to not be late in order not to appear rude, and if you cannot avoid being delayed, you should let the people you are meeting know. 

Small talk is not generally appreciated as Australians tend to be fairly direct. This means meetings tend to get straight to the point and are not overly conversational. This directness also means that your Australian colleagues will be likely to tell you if they disagree with something you say. Be prepared for this as they are not trying to be rude. 

Despite the informality of many Australians, handshakes and introductions will usually begin any meeting and this is to show respect. 

[Source – DIT]

 

Hierarchy

Like in many countries, Australian business can be hierarchical in nature, although it is more egalitarian than a lot of other places. Whilst business decisions are made from the top down, those lower down the business are often consulted before any major decisions are acted upon. 

Respect is often earned through individual achievement and dedication as opposed to your title or rank. 

[Source – DIT]

 

Titles

Titles are not vital in Australia, although it is advisable that you refer to your Australian business partner as Mr. or Ms/Mrs/Miss, followed by their surname, particularly if it is the first time you are speaking to them. You will usually be on first name terms after this initial greeting.

It is unusual that you would have to refer to a colleague by an academic or business title in Australia as these are not emphasised. 

[Source – DIT]

 

Attire

When conducting business in Australia, make sure you dress formally. Men should wear a suit, including suit trousers, a long sleeve shirt and a tie. Depending on the temperature, a jacket may be unnecessary. 

Women should wear a skirt or trousers with a long sleeve blouse, or a formal, conservative dress. 

[Source – DIT]

 

Gifts

If you are invited to a colleague's home for a dinner meeting, it is considered polite to bring a small token gesture such as a bottle of wine.

If you are given a gift by an Australian counterpart, note that it is common to open gifts on receiving them.

[Source – DIT]


 

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