Tips on what to do and what to avoid when conducting business with Aussies

Australia is a diverse, vast, multicultural country with an important indigenous population so please be respectful of this diversity and avoid making assumptions or stereotypes. There are differences between states and territories, metropolitan, regional, and rural locations, especially in terms of levels of formality. And remember that the population of Australia is 25.7 million mostly city and sea based, with important regions, and this is less than the population of Texas, USA at 29.5 million.

Here are some general dos and don’ts that might help when dealing with Australians:

Dos:

Be sure to arrive on time for all appointments and meetings as Australians respect punctuality – if you are running more than 5-10 minutes late you would be expected to text or call the person that you are meeting.

Use clear, direct (but not blunt or harsh) and friendly communication, being upfront with your intentions and don’t use overly complex language. Check meaning of acronyms and jargon to know you are meaning the same thing. For examples, Americans can often say, “Can I ask you a question?”, whereas Australians will just ask the question.

While Australians can be casual and friendly, they value professionalism, particularly in initial engagements. Generally easy-going and preferring a relaxed atmosphere, people often aim to gain common ground that is outside of a business context, before talking about work but this depends on the context. Show genuine interest in your potential collaborators and customers by getting to know them as a person first.

Personal relationships are important in Australia so take the time to understand the people you’re dealing with – their interests outside of work, their personal backgrounds, family, sports team, weekend activities – can make a difference.

Treat everyone with the same level of respect and equality as Australians believe strongly in egalitarianism – everyone is considered equal, regardless of their job title, hierarchy or location, for example the Prime Minister has a nickname of Albo, the South Australian Premier is often referred to as Pete.

Don’ts:

Avoid overly formal behaviour as Australians are typically informal and may not respond well to excessive formality, again this depends on the industry sector and situation but use first names unless told otherwise.

Aggressive sales tactics or being too focussed on yourself won’t be appreciated – it’s better to take a more laid-back, friendly approach when discussing business.

Avoid unnecessary compliments, genuine compliments are fine, but Australians can tend to be self-deprecating and may not respond well to what they perceive as flattery or excessive praise.

Social and networking events are for relationship-building and discussing business matters but take a broad ‘get to know you’ first approach. Attend industry events, participate in relevant online forums, and reach out to mutual contacts to establish relationships as warm introductions are considered favourably. This is why sister city relationships can work so well because it is like getting warm, connected introductions on steroids.

On a practical note, understand the time differences and meeting outside of business hours, diversity of the Australian population, the city, town or location where people live and work,

In Australia, business decisions can sometimes be collaborative and may require input from several people within an organisation. This can result in decisions taking a bit longer than they might in other cultures, including the U.S. so be patient with progress.

Understand the local legal and regulatory landscape, being aware of any compliance requirements, cyber security and talk to potential partners about any specific issues.

Australians love their holidays and travel, including national and local public holidays so you should generally avoid meetings during these times.

Different types of organisations will have their own unique cultures, for example it may be okay to wears jeans and hoodie if you work at a gaming or tech startup, but when you are meeting customers or clients, business attire if often preferred. Often people will put their hand out to shake your hand, if there is common ground and connection, then you’ll be offered a business card and/or asked to connect on LinkedIn.

When it comes to sister cities, say Austin, TX, USA, and Adelaide, SA, Australia:

Austin, Texas, USA:

Austin is known for its vibrant tech scene and startup culture being one of the leading cities in the US for tech growth and innovation. Here are some aspects to consider:

Business culture is entrepreneurial and forward-thinking, especially in sectors such as technology, digital media, and green energy, with a mix of fast-paced, innovative environments across startups, government, and social impact lead not-for-profits.

Business relationships often form through networking events ranging from formal business luncheons to casual meet-ups at local bars or music festivals.

Culture is relatively informal compared to other US cities and while professionalism is still important, don’t be surprised by a more casual dress code and the use of first names.

Austin prides itself on its quality of life, including a strong emphasis on work-life balance where there’s an understanding that downtime is important for creativity and productivity.

Adelaide, South Australia:

Adelaide is known for its defence industries, healthcare, food, wine and education sectors and its home to a growing number of tech startups. Here are some points to keep in mind:

Adelaide has a slower pace than some of Australia’s larger cities like Sydney or Melbourne, with more a focus on lifestyle. This doesn’t mean business is slow, but the approach to negotiations and decision-making may be less hurried.

Like in Austin, networking is important where building relationships can often lead to business opportunities. Adelaide has a very tight-knit business community and reputation is important.

While Australians are generally laid-back, they maintain a level of professionalism in business dealings, and this includes being punctual and respectful in all communications.

South Australians value work-life balance, working hard, but also placing a strong emphasis on enjoying life outside of work, including sports, arts, music, family and outdoor activities.

Owning a business for some, is a means to have more time with family, holidays and toys like a boat for example. Often business relationships cross over into ‘fun’ activities, especially where the state produces amazing food, beverages, and tourism experiences.

In both cities, it’s important to be authentic, open, and respectful. Ready to adapt your style to the local business culture, and don’t hesitate to ask for clarification if there’s something you don’t understand. Both cities have friendly vibe where people will appreciate your efforts to understand and fit into their business cultures.

Scroll to Top