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What do I need to know about Aussie culture?

I will be going to Sydney for the first time next year! I'm coming from the States. What are some things I should know about the culture down under? Any cultural differences, words that have a different meaning in Australia than they do in the States, etc, that I should know about? Thanks!

11 Answers

top answer by
greg from Manhattan Beach

Australians are like Californians with cool accents.  I found people to be fun loving, diverse, and had a serious joie de vivre.  Check out Mr. Wong restaurant - get reservations - near the Circular Quay (pronounced "key") and definitely do the Harbour Bridge Climb.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Mr. Wong (restaurant)
  2. Circular Quay (attraction)
  3. Harbour Bridge Climb (attraction)
8 thankscomments (1)

answered first by
Narelle from Sydney

Hi Juliana,

Welcome, you will enjoy Sydney I am sure. We recently returned from the State so some of the word differences that come to mind are:

Restrooms - we say toilets, ladies or sometimes bathrooms.

For food to go - we say takeaway

Flip flops we call thongs.

What type of experiences are you looking for when here?

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Sydney (city)
6 thanks

answered by
Bill from Sydney

Hi Juliana

The answers to your questions could go on for weeks so please allow me to be very general. 

Australians GENERALLY:

* Love great food and we have probably the best cultural mix you will find anywhere

* They often enjoy a drink or two

* They almost always enjoy a good joke - so the colloquial language differences will not be a  problem but perhaps the source of some humour. You will enjoy learning the local slang. Just learn to say "good day" pronounced "gudday" 

* Must do - if you get the opportunity while you are in Sydney try the Harbour Bridge Walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Even as a local, it is one of my top 10 experiences in the world.

Above all - just have a great time!! 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Sydney Harbour Bridge (attraction)
5 thanks

answered by

The answer is yes and no. We have lots of different words for things, like footpath rather than sidewalk but we are so emerced in America culture through TV and movies etc that we always know what you mean.

one word of advice - don't over tip!! Only tip if the services is good - really good. Trust me on this Australian's minimum wage is far better than USA and staff do not survive on tips so you don't need to do it. Australians don't tip doormen, taxis, or in cafés and coffee shops and many don't tip in restaurant. If they do tip it is usually around 10%. when you get to Australia ask anyone they will confirm this.

Americans are much like Australians......friendly and outgoing. If you are friendly, not over critical (we are very layed back about most things) and don't expect to be called sir or mam in a restaurant'll be fine.


4 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Megan from Palo Alto

Sydney is a wonderful city for Californians - the laid back atmosphere feels so familiar, but it is so much more expensive to eat at restaurants and cafes.  We didn't go to any of the great restaurants on the list we compiled because of the cost for a family of 4. We wound up eating at burger joints and small cafes without name recognition.  My favorite activities were mostly free:  The cliff walk between Bondi Beach and Bronte Beach (or go further if you are fit - you can walk for many more miles along this spectacular coastline). The ferry to Manly - not free but inexpensive and great harbour view. Rent bikes and cycle around Manly.  Taking buses around Sydney and exploring the neighborhoods is a fun thing to do.   Very poor public transport in Sydney - buses are really only option as trains don't go where you want to go.   I loved the colonial buildings in Sydney with the fringed porches - the Museum of Contemporary Art is spectactular and I loved the artisan craft shop in the Rocks - some great baskets and pottery to bring home.  Very little is actually made in Australia and it's hard to find artisan products.  The ginger beer and Tim Tam cookies are wonderful and local.  The Aboriginal art is highly overpriced but check out the woven aboriginal mats - very unique and somewhat affordable but must purchase at the official aboriginal stores. I tried to find high quality sheepskin rugs and found out they are made in New Zealand. Also, the Great Barrier Reef was gray and bleached off the coast of Queensland if you take the high volume boats, which we regrettably did.  Recommend signing up for one of the small boats that take around 20 people and visiting at least 2 or 3 sites on the reef to find colorful unspoiled reef and giant clams, fish and fauna.  Loved Byron Bay and saw lots of Kangaroos and Koalas there in the Hinterland, but sadly many of the Koalas had chlamydia (yes the disease you've heard of) and are dying off. Highly recommend staying at The Byron at Byron Resort and Spa and visiting the local hilltowns.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Bondi Beach (metro area)
  2. Bronte Beach (attraction)
  3. Manly (city)
  4. Museum of Contemporary Art (attraction)
  5. Great Barrier Reef (region)
  6. Byron Bay (city)
  7. Hinterland (attraction)
  8. The Byron at Byron Resort and Spa (hotel)
  9. Sydney (city)
3 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Liv from Wagga Wagga

Most of us here in Aus are pretty friendly and willing to help with just about anything, as long as its reasonable of course.

If you come down in the summer, you might hear the word "Thongs" thrown around... we definitely have different meanings on that one, where we say thongs I've heard you guys say flip flops.                                          

We're loud, we talk a lot, and most people are willing to start a conversation about just about anything. 

G'day isnt a big thing but in some of them more country places "mate" can be used as a term of endearment.

Hope I helped :)

3 thanks

answered by
muna from Australia

Hi Jules, Aussie is really a cool place to live you can visit Sydney, Melbourne, Newcastle (Australia), Gold Coast

I am flat out: means I am very busy

Good oil: useful information, a good idea, the truth

Piece of piss: easy task

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Sydney (city)
  2. Melbourne (city)
  3. Newcastle (Australia) (city)
  4. Gold Coast (city)
3 thanks

answered by

Ha! We're not so different! Plus, as Carol mentioned, we borrow so much media from the States that we'll understand what you mean, even if we usually say things differently. You may be made fun of for using 'americanisms' like gas instead of petrol, cab instead of taxi etc, but it's all just a bit of fun. Just enjoy yourself, even if you say the wrong thing people will just laugh it off - your accent will probably give you away as a foreigner. In my experience a lot of Australians aren't your typical Outback Aussie and so a) have (or have family that has) experience trying to navigate australian colloquialisms and b) don't really use words like Crikey, Bonza etc anyway. Have fun!

2 thanks

answered by

It's funny after reading Rob's comments at first I was hmmm a little bit of sauce and spice might have been added. And in some ways I agree with him to a degree because growing up in Sydney I honestly never felt safe going out at night alone. I think tho the gang related incidents are gang related and not random. And Aussies are loud when they drink. Like really loud compared to well, the rest of the world. Don't let that scare you. And if your in need call 000 not 911. On the other hand when I'm in NYC I am likely to be strolling the streets at 1 -am and I've never ever been bothered by anyone in fact the opposite. People in NYC are engaging. I love that about NYC. Whenever I come back to Sydney I always feel that most people keep to themselves unless they are in close proximity and you get to engage. I personally find the bush (country side) very still and it's not my thing, but the sapphire south coast is gorgeous. Sometimes Aussies cut their words and it can get confusing. Just ask them to speak slower: generally it's all the same. Yes and don't over tip. No need. 10% that's it. Cabs are expensive no need to tip them either and try path them in cash because they charge some ridiculous credit card fees like 5% or something stupid like that. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Sydney (city)
2 thanks

answered by

Just be aware that fanny has a different meaning to what it means in the US. Tipping is only engaged in if the service has been adequate, and only in restaurants. Australians, in the main, are heavy drinkers in comparison to many other countries, but I wouldn't take Rob's comments too seriously. Just be as careful of your personal safety as you would be any time you travel, and don't get drunk yourself.

I'd suggest the bridge climb, definitely go to Manly-take a ferry and get a view of the Sydney Opera House and the bridge from the ferry. Taronga Zoo worth a look.Try to get up to the Blue Mountains outside Sydney, and the Jenolan Caves. The southern Highlands towns are only a couple of hours drive away and worth a day trip. Canberra the national capital is not far and could be a side trip.

I'd stay away from souvenir shops as most cheap souvenirs are produced in China anyway. There are lots of opportunities to buy tasteful souvenirs and gifts- Australian pottery, art, foodstuffs rather than tourist tat. You'll visit the Rocks area for sure-they have markets on weekends. Try other local markets as well.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Manly (city)
  2. Sydney Opera House (attraction)
  3. Taronga Zoo (attraction)
  4. Blue Mountains (attraction)
  5. Jenolan Caves (neighborhood)
  6. Canberra (city)
1 thanks

answered by
Rob from Costa Rica

You should not go near the western suburbs. Sydney is a very violent place with daily gang shootings and ethnic wars going on. Gun crime is rampant. It's not a safe place after dark.

The inner city ( Newtown, Kings Cross, Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, George Street ) are simply no go zones at night time lest you are likely to end up dead or in hospital with brain damage from receiving a random king-hit ( in Sydney they call them "coward punches" ) It's when you can be walking along the street with friends, minding your own business and someone will randomly and for no-reason, king-hit you. It's special to Sydney. 

And avoid the beachside suburbs of Bondi Beach and Coogee, Maroubra. Very dangerous and a lot of tourists being bashed and robbed. 

I would suggest staying away from the major cap-cities. Go bush mate. Country towns. They are cheaper, nicer, cleaner, less crowded and you are more likely to meet the real dinky-di Aussies. 

Oh yeah, Rooting the fanny takes on a whole new meaning mate! 

1 thankscomments (3)

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