Quite often, the first thing people think of when they think of Australia is kangaroos and koalas. Or it could be the ‘shrimp on the barbie’, the deep love for sports such as cricket, rugby league and tennis, or laying around on golden beaches all day.
The reality is, Australian culture is a bit more sophisticated than that.
Sure, our native animals are cute and quite thrilling to international visitors; Aussies love them too! But whilst they are a part of our identity, they’re not really what makes our culture what it is. Let’s take a look at some customs, facts and history about Aussie culture.
Australia is a very open-hearted and open-minded country. There is great respect for the law, for the individual’s freedoms and for playing fair. Just as with other countries, there are those who would flout the law and try to impinge on other people’s choices and freedom, but in general, Australia is a safe, free country with a clean environment, relaxed lifestyle and easy-going culture.
Equality between men and women continues to evolve, however Australia is considered progressive by world standards. Gay marriage was legalised in 2017, the Australian people stand up for what they believe in, generally without the need for violence (though it does happen on occasion) and for the most part, Australians are tolerant, welcoming and obliging.
Mostly a Christian country, Australia’s population is very multicultural. Most of the world’s religions are practised here and there are plenty of churches, mosques and temples.
Australia is originally the home of the Aboriginal people who have been here since ancient times. Since the country became a British penal colony in the eighteenth century, it became Anglicised and developed its own ‘flavour’, its own national identity.
In more recent times, Australia has become incredibly diverse, with countless nationalities migrating here and infusing the local culture with myriad others. As such, ‘Australian culture’ is a colourful blend all its own, that can’t be compared with any other country of the world.
When you meet people in Australia, its customary to shake right hands. If meeting a close friend or relative, you may give each other a hug or a kiss on the cheek. Referring to people by their first name is usual unless it’s a very formal occasion. This is the case, for instance, for colleagues, employers, doctors, teachers and neighbours.
If you are invited to someone’s home for a meal or a drink, its customary to take something with you like a cake, a box of chocolates or a small plate of food. If it’s a party, you might be asked to bring your own alcohol.
Even though the national language of Australia is English, there are lots of ways that Australians speak differently to those from, say, the United States or England. Australian slang can be difficult for people from other countries to understand.
For instance, a sausage is called a ‘snag’, mosquitoes are ‘mozzies’, a man or a guy is a ‘bloke’ and breakfast is ‘brekkie’. And of course, “g’day” is a common greeting, short for “good day”. If you don’t understand what someone is saying, it’s perfectly fine to ask them to make themselves clearer.
Australians love sport, particularly team sports like rugby league, Australian Rules football, tennis and cricket. Then there is horse racing and motor racing. Big events such as Grand Finals and the Melbourne Cup horse race are important dates on the calendar and are celebrated with barbecues and parties.
Aussies also enjoy playing sports and could be involved in team sports or regularly play golf or tennis. Cycling is an activity that is growing rapidly, for recreation as well as commuting. Aussies enjoy surfing, stand up paddle boarding and competing in triathlons which involve running, swimming and cycling.
Australians love to socialise and the ‘backyard barbie’ (barbecue) is the most common way to entertain at home. Otherwise, going out for a meal or a drink, catching up to see a movie, go for a picnic or to see a live band is also popular.
Thanks to Australia’s deep multiculturalism, you can find practically any cuisine here. From American burger chains and English-style pubs, African eateries and Greek tavernas through to high end fusion cuisine restaurants, there’s something for all tastes.
Outdoor food markets are popular for the street foods, fish and chip shops abound in seaside locations and Australia’s café culture is booming. Outdoor dining is commonplace as are drive-through takeaway food and home delivery meals.
Favourite Aussie foods include pavlova (a meringue dessert with fruit and cream), lamingtons (sponge cake with a coating of chocolate and coconut), Vegemite (a sandwich spread made of yeast extract), lamb and seafood. Aussies are known for their love of beer, and since some of the world’s best wines are produced in Australia, wine is also well loved.
In general, Australia’s classes can be identified as working class, middle class and upper class, however there is not really any ‘class’ or ‘caste’ system.
All children enter the school system by age six but many attend pre-school or kindergarten and some are entered into day care programs from infancy. Students must attend school until the age of sixteen (and complete Year 10) and high school ends at Year 12.
Beyond school, there is university or vocational education and training. In Australia, parents typically pay for their children’s education until they leave school and then if the student goes on to tertiary studies, they enter into a governmental payment system called HECS (Higher Education Contribution Scheme). HECS is paid off by the student through their taxes upon completion of their studies.
Even though it’s located so far away from so many countries of the world, Australia is a popular country to visit or move to because the quality of life is so good. The lifestyle, the people, the environment and the culture are relaxed and comfortable.