Are you heading down under to Australia for a business meeting and wondering how you will get on? Do Australian businessmen and women actually have an identifiable business etiquette, or is it a laissez faire affair? Here are some tips for non-Antipodean business people who are hoping to do business in Australia.
Australian business people are as different from each other as any nationality
It’s not a good idea to have stereotypes in mind when you travel overseas and visiting Australia on business is no different. Most Australians, especially those who are intent on doing business in Australia, are more concerned with getting the most out of a meeting than worrying about personality.
English is the language of communication
It is an unfortunate fact that in those nations where English is the main language, people do not bother to communicate in anything other than English. That does make British, Americans, many (but not all) Canadians, Australians and New Zealand business people basically monolingual, whereas the majority of Europeans are able to speak more than their own language, often two or three, English being one of them. That goes for any business or legal documents you are going to present, too. Make sure you have professionally translated copies available.
No need to be too formal
Australians in general tend to use first names freely, even with strangers. This can be a bit unusual for Europeans, more used to formal greetings, but it is something that North Americans will be familiar with. This doesn’t extend to dress codes, which are similar to anywhere else in the business world. Even in hotter cities like Brisbane, dress is formal. Offices are air conditioned, as there is no need to feel uncomfortable. Australians generally shake hands on greeting and on departure. Small talk, if it comes up may be about non controversial subjects: the weather, family, sport.
Business in Australia
Maintain a professional attitude and stick to the facts. Don’t oversell what you do or how you do it. Frankness and genuine information is appreciated. Australian business people may appear to be self-depracatory, but this does not mean they really undervalue their own success. They just don’t want to make themselves or their business seem to be superior. If discussion seems to be touching on controversial or touchy subjects, the best approach is to back off or use humour, which is always appreciated.