Tips for Surviving a Work and Travel Program in Australia

Australia is a great place to work, and it may be the best place in the world to live – at least according to the Aussies.  Outgoing, adventurous, and fun, Australians are a welcoming bunch.  But that doesn’t mean you should start your work exchange program without knowing some of the basics for navigating Australian culture.  Here are some quick tips that may just spare you some embarrassment!

Don’t tip in restaurants.

Don’t tip?  Staff is paid fair wages and tipping just isn’t customary in Australia.  That said, tipping is becoming more common in areas popular with tourists.  A good rule to follow is to leave a 10% tip if you are in a tourist district, everywhere else a sincere thank you for good service will be appreciated.  If you aren’t sure, go ahead and tip.  No one will be angry, but they may find it slightly odd – and that’s OK.

Don’t ask if their ancestors were convicts.

Don’t ask people if they are descended from convicts.  Sure, Australia was set up as a penal colony – and in the early days it was a rough place.  But that was over 230 years ago and most Australians aren’t descended from the original settlers and most of the original settlers weren’t murderers –  the first woman sent to Australia had stolen five handkerchiefs.

Joking is a form of friendship.

Don’t be offended by the humor.  Australians love a good joke and appreciate sarcastic humor.  If someone makes a joke about you, it means they like you.  Take it as a sign that they think you are a great person and they want to be friends.  Just like in the 3rd grade, Aussies tease you to get your attention.

Be punctual.

Don’t be late.  Australians value punctuality in the workplace and showing up for work late, or worse, turning in projects late, is seen as very unprofessional and shows a lack of concern.

That ‘shrimp on the barbie’ quote isn’t funny.

And please don’t ever say “Put another shrimp on the barbie.”  It is a line from an old 1980s tourism commercial promoting Australia – and it makes Australians cringe when Americans (and Canadians, you are guilty, too)  say this.  Australians call shrimp “prawns” and while they do put them on the barbie (barbecue grill), they don’t enjoy hearing old ads from the 80s quoted at them – unless you are doing it sarcastically 😉

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