Business etiquette

Clothing, meetings and greetings

Business etiquette

Australians have quite a casual culture, but don’t be fooled and think this is how they always are. In business they can be quite different.

Australian people tend to dress rather conservatively in business environments. Flashy suits are uncommon. Dark suits, white shirts and a tie are generally preferred. In some companies it is accepted to dress more casually, but if you are not sure about the way to dress when you go somewhere new, it is better to be over-dressed than under-dressed.

Punctuality at work

Regular working hours are from 8:30-16:30 or 9:30-17:30 with an hour lunch break. The work week consists of five working days, Monday to Friday. Working overtime is not uncommon and results in Australia being among the countries with the longest working hours.

Deadlines are made to be kept in Australia. Being late with handing in work or delivering to clients will be seen as a lack of professionalism and could lead to a bad evaluation.

The Australians are known for their laid-back lifestyle, but are usually very punctual with business appointments. Being casually late will not be accepted for business meetings and is considered to be very rude. If you are late, make sure you call the person you are supposed to meet as soon as possible and let him know that you are late.

Don’t expect to see anyone without an appointment. In Australia it does not matter how important or not someone is, you always have to make a appointment with someone if you want to meet them.

Interacting with Australian business people

In meetings and negotiations Australians can come across as pretty laid back. But beware, they are hard and direct business people. There have no hidden agenda and will tell you what they think very directly. Don’t be insulted when an Australian just tells you that he thinks your product is not good enough.

Before a meeting, Australians are very nice and open, but the small talk might throw you off, because when it is time for business, it is hard talk.

When Australians meet in business they (both men and women) shake hand before and after meetings. It is considered rude to not shake someones hand when he or she offers a handshake.

If someone introduces themselves with their first name, you can assume that you can call them that. If you don’t know how to address someone, sir or madam is always fine.

During conversations like meetings and negotiations, speak plainly and expect that what you say will be taken literally. Don’t beat around the bush but be straight forward.

When talking to someone, keep a few feet of distance. Australians are not very comfortable if you invade their private space, especially if it is a formal meeting such as with business contacts.

Socialising in Australian business

Exchanging business cards is not as common as in some other countries, but not unheard of. Business card should be handed over in the beginning of meetings. Don’t be worried if you do not get one back, this could be because the other person does not have one or that he does not see the point of giving you one since he is the client.

Social contact with customers outside the office is no longer part of the Australian business culture. Business lunches or dinners do happen, but are usually swift and simple and are focused on achieving some negotiation point rather than bribing the customer. The same goes for bringing gifts to and receiving gifts from clients. This is not part of the Australian business culture and often seen as bribery.

Drinking alcohol at the office is usually only accepted on special occasions. Drinking alcohol during social gatherings is allowed, but best is to watch the host and follow his lead. Unlike some Asian cultures, you are not obliged to consume alcohol, a soft drink is perfectly fine.

Further reading

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