Dos and Don’ts

Mateship: Most Australians live along the coast because the desert interior is inhospitable. Survival here has traditionally meant relying on your “mates” (friends). Modern mateship is less life-and-death, but having mates is still important: throwing some “prawns on the barbie” (shrimps on the grill), or buying the next “shout” (drinks at the bar) will stand you in good stead.

Business Attitude: Sydney business meetings usually start casually, leveling the playing field and making sure you understand that nobody here is better than anybody else. Smug self-promotion is frowned upon—adopting an “I’ve-got-just-what-you-need” attitude won’t win you any friends. Say less, listen more, and when that deal is done, celebrate with a meal in a top-notch Australian restaurant.

Australian English: Isolated at the bottom of the southern hemisphere, Australians have developed a colorful vocabulary known as “Strine,” which can be both amusing and perplexing. If you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to say so. Similarly, visitors should avoid using overseas slang, and North Americans should skip baseball references like “ballpark figure” and “step up to the plate” which might not be understood.

Body Language: In Australia, the “V-for-Victory” sign (to signal the barman for two beers, please) needs to be done with the palm facing out. The palm-facing-in version is an insulting gesture.

Beach Attire: Bikinis and board shorts are standard Sydney beach wear, but some beaches are topless and some are altogether nude. If you’re unsure, do as the locals do.

Phrase Book

Keep your ears open for colorful “Strine” slang. Some basics to get you through:

Arvo: The afternoon

Barbie: A barbecue (either the event or the device), usually involving the cooking of “snags” (sausages)

Crook: Feeling ill, or describing substandard workmanship

Fair dinkum: Authentic or honest

Flat-out: Fast or really busy, as in “I’ve been flat-out at work today.”

G’Day: Generic informal greeting, day or night (truncated form of “good day”)

Hard yakka: Hard work

Mate: Australians refer to friends, colleagues (and sometimes rivals), both male and female, as “mate.”

Mozzie: Aussies love to abbreviate: “mosquito” becomes “mozzie.”

Shoot through: To leave the scene, as in “I’ve had enough, let’s shoot through.”

Tinnie: A small aluminum boat or can of beer (you can drink a tinnie while sitting in a tinnie.)

Tucker: Food; everything except highbrow restaurant meals


About Sydney and Australia

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    Get travel tips, see photos, take a quiz and more with National Geographic's Ultimate Guide to Sydney.

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