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Australian Work Culture – Practical Tips for Doing Business in Oz
26 September, 2019
Copyright Roberto De Riccardis Australian work culture

The annual Global Power City Index(GPCI) ranks the world’s major cities according to their ‘magnetism’ – their power to attract capital, enterprise and people. In the latest edition, Sydney, Australia ranked 10th, sharing the top ten hotspot with typical global leaders London, New York, Paris and Tokyo.

If you’re part of this economic shift and have business opportunities in Australia, keep reading. 

To build strong, profitable relationships with clients and colleagues in The Land Down Under, you need to understand the nuances of their communication style and unique command of the English language.

So here are our top 6 tips on how to communicate effectively when doing business in Australia.

Tip 1. Learn the lingo

Australian English is characterized by abbreviation – Aussie’s just love shortening words! And slang is a prominent feature in people’s day-to-day speech, even at work. 

So if you want to understand what’s going on during meetings, you need to be familiar with the local lingo! 

To get you started, here are some of the abbreviations and phrases most commonly used at the office. You'll notice that shortened words often include a "y" or "o" suffix at the end:

  • Arvo (afternoon) 
  • Lappy (laptop)
  • Defo (definitely) 
  • Demo (demonstration)
  • Doco (document)
  • Sweet (ok or no problem)
  • Chockers! (full) 

Tip 2. Give it to them straight 

Have you ever heard of the phrase "to beat around the bush"? It means to equivocate, to talk around an issue without confronting it...this is not behavior that you should expect from an Australian.

Aussies are refreshingly direct and this characteristic is especially valued in the workplace because it avoids confusion and saves time. Subsequently, they are likely to appreciate you taking a similar approach – forget your nuanced negotiation style and don’t hide behind email communication to deal with difficult issues.

Tip 3. Respect their work-life balance

Work-life balance is sacred to Aussies (with so many beautiful beaches and barbecues to be had, who can blame them!) Most employees only work overtime if it’s an absolute necessity and bosses encourage their team to have a rich, full life outside of the office.

But don’t confuse this value with laziness – during business hours everyone is working hard and efficiently. So if you want the respect of your client or team, avoid taking long and frequent breaks, and strive to leave the office on time.

Tip 4. Balance professional with laid-back

While Australian business and finance professionals share a lot in common with their British cousins, they operate with a more laid-back professionalism – and it can be hard to understand where the formal boundaries lie.

Aussies have a very open, friendly style of communication – characterised by casual swearing and joking around – and this extends to most scenarios in the workplace. Mirroring their relaxed attitude and making time for genuine, informal chit-chat is the best way to build rapport.

But punctuality and efficiency are highly valued. Try to make meetings as short and sharp as possible, and know that being on time (or early) for meetings is essential.

Tip 5.  Go local with Small Talk

With a lot of friendly chat in and around meetings and negotiations, Small Talk is an essential skill for doing business Down Under. To win at Small Talk with Australians, show an interest in the local culture:

  • The glorious weather
  • Sport; AFL (Australian Football League), Rugby (popular in New South Wales and Queensland), cricket and tennis (mainly in Melbourne)
  • If you are working in Sydney, they love to talk about the surf and maybe even the whales (if it is whale season during autumn and winter)

But avoid local politics, as well as all the traditional Small Talk taboos like religion and personal issues.

Tip 6. Adapt your management style

Generally speaking, Australian companies operate with an accessible management style in which decision making is a collaborative effort. If you’re used to a more hierarchical workplace, be careful not to isolate your team – get them involved at every stage of the decision making process and encourage an ‘open door’ policy.

This collaborative spirit, also extends to after work socialising. After a long meeting or hard day at the office, senior and junior staff will all ‘hit the pub’ together. Not attending or only engaging with other managers and directors doesn’t reflect well.

Want to impress clients with your business English and cultural acumen?

Our courses aren’t just about grammar and vocabulary. Your sessions are conducted by native-speaker trainers from different countries, so you’re exposed to a range of backgrounds. As a result, you learn the cultural nuances associated with conducting business in Australia and beyond.

Zoe Flaherty, Founding Director of The Language Grid

Learn more about how The Language Grid gives you the English you need for successful cross-border business.

Image: © Roberto De Riccardis

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