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Australian culture guide for international students

Here's a list of some common traits of Australian culture

A group of young woman laughing as they shop and enjoy a takeaway coffee
A group of young woman laughing as they shop and enjoy a takeaway coffee

While Australia offers great universities, sandy beaches, world-class tourist destinations and unique flora and fauna, it’s also home to a few strange customs and quirks.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of some of the common traits of Australian culture that may seem a little different.

Australian culture 101:

1. Aussies are informal

Australians are not formal people. You might be used to calling your university professor by their last name, but Australian teachers are far more likely to ask you to call them by their first name, if not a nickname. Don’t fear, this is not considered rude or disrespectful. As most Aussies are easy-going, they’ll understand if you are more comfortable being formal sometimes too.

2. Shortened words and slang are part of the language

The English language in Australia isn’t that different to the United Kingdom (UK) or American (US) variants, but Australians like to shorten everything (cuppa – cup of tea, Maccas – McDonald's, sanga – sandwich), so it can be tricky to understand us. Don’t be afraid to ask what someone means; they’ll be happy to explain and have you speaking ‘Aussie’ in no time. Find out more about Australian slang and how to interpret it.

A group of young women wearing sports jerseys run out onto an oval holding footballs

3. Catching up often means a drink

Australians like to catch up for a drink with friends and take the taste and quality of beverages seriously. Australia has a thriving coffee culture. In fact, CNN Travel ranks Melbourne as the second-best city in the world for coffee. There is also an emerging (and booming) craft beer industry, and the good news is, even if beer isn’t your thing, most pubs also offer some amazing food. Discover more about moving to Melbourne.

4. Shopping and socialising hours can be different to a lot of the world

While Asian and European countries have plenty of shops, restaurants and entertainment options open well into the night, most Australian precincts close early. Shops are usually open until 5 or 6pm (9pm on Thursday nights and during Christmas trading periods) and most pubs, clubs and restaurants are closed at or by 12am (though 10pm is more common for food venues).

5. Sport gets taken seriously

If you walk past a pub or café and hear people loudly cheering, there’s a good chance there is a football, rugby, cricket or tennis match on the TV. Aussies like to follow their favourite sports, even when out with friends. An active lifestyle is pretty common, with most Aussies enjoying outdoor activities including a swim at the beach or playing a game of cricket at the local park.

6. Schools encourage active participation

While some cultures feel active participation in class shows disrespect to a teacher or professor, in Australia, your educators prefer you to be vocal in class and actively involved in working on projects. If you struggle with speaking up, speak to a lecturer or ask for help through student services, as this may improve your educational outcomes and experiences.

As you can see, Australia has many customs that may seem strange to people from other countries. Don’t be afraid to talk to the people around you about anything you don’t understand – Australia is a culturally diverse country and welcoming to all. Aussies are also happy to learn about your customs too!

Thinking about making the move to Australia? Get health cover that meets your visa requirements in less than five minutes. Learn more about our international student cover at OSHC.

Are you going to be working while in Australia? Find out more about our working visitor cover options here.

For more information about all things Australia, visit the dedicated Life in Australia section of The Check Up.