Cultural Etiquette & Slang
Some points to remember when you are next in Australia
• Australians are fiercely egalitarian
: Taxi etiquette is the classic example of Australians' aversion to superiority. In Australia, if you take the back seat of a taxi, the driver will ordinarily perceive you to be condescending, in fact taking on the role of master with chauffeur. Thus, most people choose to sit in the front. Note, this behaviour is in pointed contrast to American custom.
• When travelling in Aboriginal-owned areas in Australia, visitor permits often must be obtained in advance. This is because the Aborigines (who are the original inhabitants of Australia) have in recent years reclaimed some of their ancestral lands, some of which are sacred. Please check with local information bureaus and tourist sites before leaving for wild areas, particularly in areas of the Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia.
• Always ask people first if you wish to photograph them before snapping away – you may inadvertently be infringing on a person’s cultural values
• Australian slang
: although Australians speak English, they are renowned for their – sometimes difficult to understand – slang, which has been injected with their own unique brand of playful humour. For example, the observation that a person has ‘a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock’ clearly means that he or she is considered mentally deficient by the speaker. However, much can also depend on the tone of voice used. For instance, the comment ‘Good on ya mate!’ can be either congratulatory (as in ‘that’s fantastic, well done’) or sarcastic in nature (as in ‘you idiot!) depending on the manner of the person speaking. And the comment ‘Just down the road’ in the city can mean literally, just a few metres, but in the bush (i.e. rural areas) can extend to mean a very long way indeed.