Want to learn more about business customs in Australia — the land Down Under? From the Great Barrier Reef to wildlife preserves, Australia is a stunning country with friendly, down-to-earth people. PGi Meetings Experts David Adams, Jeremy Rose, Kim McIndoe and Valentina Turitsyna share their knowledge on business etiquette and customs in Australia.
Q: How do you greet and say goodbye to a colleague or client?
A: Informal greeting: “How you going?” or “Hi/Hey, how you doing?” Formal hello? Well, we are not very formal in Australia, and so we’d simply address someone formally or senior as “Hello (or Hi/Good Morning), how are you today?”
Goodbye: “See ya later” or “Bye.”
Men might use “Mate” to address other men, like “Bye, Mate!”
Q: Where do business meetings usually take place?
A: There are no special business customs in Australia regarding this. It is essentially anywhere two or more people can meet: In the office, out at lunch, virtual meetings on the computer, on your phone, in the park or on the sporting field.
Q: What are some small talk topics to kick the meeting off? And what topics should be avoided?
A: The weekend, weather, sports, restaurants. No topics to avoid, except maybe getting down to serious business without some small talk first. You also don’t want to talk about your problems – avoid that!
Q: What are the best times to request meetings?
A: Best time to get someone is between 9-5, all of those are acceptable. Don’t request meetings at the weekends or too early in the day. Tuesday mid-morning is always good for work meetings, however generally a pretty tough time to get a date. Avoid Friday afternoons, especially for a formal meeting.
Q: How should I schedule a meeting in Australia? And what do I need to supply before the meeting?
A: And Outlook invite is usually enough if you meet with the guests often (i.e. members of the same department). If the meeting is external or an unusual request, a phone call should introduce the meeting intention, followed by an Outlook invite. Agenda’s should go with all but the most casual meetings.
Q: Should I schedule a lunch or dinner meeting? What are the business customs in Australia regarding sharing a meal?
A: It is very common to take clients out to lunch, as the organizer you would be required to make the reservation any time between 12 and 2 PM. Just go for whatever you like, although make sure that the client feels comfortable with your choice of cuisine or get them to pick the venue! Also make sure this isn’t a formal meeting as notes and minutes can’t be taken.
Being hugely multicultural, business customs in Australia are reasonably relaxed. As long as you make the reservation, don’t slurp your food and don’t smoke over lunch you should be OK. The person requesting the meeting should pay.
Q: At the meeting, what should I provide and prepare?
A: Business cards (external guests), Power Point presentations, projectors, online access, portfolio, the right meeting attendees, meeting minutes, whiteboard, snacks and your game face could all be needed — it depends on the meeting and whether it’s internal or external.
Q: How long should the meetings be?
A: Meetings should last between 30 minutes and an hour. However if you run out of things, don’t just keep chatting to fill time. Time is precious. Small talk should be minimal at the start, maybe five percent of the meeting.
Q: What can I do to encourage collaborative discussion during the meeting?
A: To encourage collaboration, ask questions, pause for comment and start a conversation, rather than solving the problem straight away.
Q: What should I wear to meetings?
A: Business customs in Australia typically call for a nice suit and some shined shoes, smart attire but make sure you feel relaxed and comfortable. In Australia it varies by state, but in the largest commercial cities (Sydney & Melbourne) you will probably need sunscreen and sunglasses — a lot of restaurants feature outdoor tables — in summer, spring and autumn. Winter you will need a coat. And you could need an umbrella at any time of year. Dress business or smart casual.
Q: What should I do after the meeting?
A: I would always follow up with a call and a thank you email. If they requested any information, send this through. Gifts aren’t really acceptable, unless it is something like a company calendar at the end of the year.
Q: What else should visitors to your country know?
A: Don’t be too serious, don’t give the restaurant staff a hard time or complain about your meal in depth. Don’t be late or too early. Don’t be afraid to say yes to a drink of alcohol. Don’t get down to business without a little small talk, even just a “how are you.”
Have fun and meet the locals! Be friendly and have a beer whilst watching the footy. If you can, get involved in a beach walk or try your luck at surfing — so much about Australia is about the outdoors!
And do not, under any circumstances, mess with the drop bears … or Tasmanians.
Have more questions about the business customs in Australia?
Photo courtesy of the Australia Tourist Guide.