What is it like to work in Australia as an American Expat?


The Land Down Under

An overdue article on the differences of living down under; Australia!  I have been in Australia 9 months now.  As an American living and working in Sydney Australia, there are surprising quite a few cultural differences.  There’s always the first two questions of

  1. What’s your opinion on trump?  (do you really want to know?! Or are you just saying something to fill the void of empty conversation)
  2. Do you own a gun? (well, not anymore!)

But alas, someone else had my idea of summarizing the cultural differences in Australia with an article titled: 24 things expats find surprising about Australian working culture. (Link. Tip: if the link does not work as AFR may block you, just google the article title and click in that way.  Works for me when I don’t want to pay for the articles!)

Very timely article for me as I am feeling a bit out of place in Australia and some of my favorites or the ones I relate to the most:

The Dance (#1 in the above referenced article).
Just at the bank today.

Teller: “What do you think of your new president?”
Me: “ Ahh,  none of your business.”

Come on bro, This is no bank related.  plus I DON’T CARE!!  Just fix my credit card you fools!  Ergh.

Or a separate example.  At the copy shop yesterday to get a report bound for work.  The receptionist started to chat to the customer about ‘the tennis” (in reference to the Australian Open of Tennis played in Melbourne) before getting the order down for the copy request.

Everyone assumes you know what they are talking about.  A lot more assumptions.  Maybe because everyone tends to be on the same page more in Australia and less dissenting opinions?

The Slang (12 in article)
Example that I heard within my first week at my job:
“Why don’t you update the spready to put it in the pack for the preso this arvo?”

WTF?? especially to this American.  But translated to ‘merican English:
Please update the spreadsheet to put it into the power point for the presentation this afternoon.

Or “That’s all right” used instead of “You’re Welcome” In America.  After someone else says thank you.  This still catches me off guard.  As in that aussies are not used to being thanked? Americans probably say ‘thank you’ more often that we should and definitely more often that Australian’s (see # aaaa about being direct in the linked article above).  Directness.

Won’t be long.
This is used everywhere from the coffee shop to the copy shop. To signify. Please wait. As in I have no idea how long this will take, but not “Long”  quite a cop out, face saving tactic.

Next waiting.
Called out by the teller at the checkout counter. Theoretically makes sense.  But in the states we just say “next”.

Coffee (22 in article)
Everyone likes coffee and wants to go for a coffee.  And everyone has their own special spot they have to go to for coffee.  Aussies are mad (aussie term for crazy) about their coffee and think it is the best.  But, it is not.  All it is is milky caffeine.

Grab a Coffee mate?

Flat whites are the rage here.  But come on, they’re  Just espresso with heaps (aussie slang for lots) of milk.  Latte.  Same thing.  Espresso with milk.

Where is the flavour?  I need a cup of joe!  Brewed coffee!!

No coffee at work.  Well, that is a bit of an exaggeration.  There is coffee in the office, but it is all Nescafe instant coffee.  Tastes like drinking hot dirt.

But the worst is alll the coffee shops close at like 4 or 5pm.  Why no late night coffee shops?  I guess because of the big drinking culture in ‘Straya.  Starbucks may get a bad rap down here, but at least it is open late and you can hang out and do work.

I am curious where all the students do their late night studies if the coffee shops are closed?  Just a thought.

My own contributions:

Late Lunch
Lunches don’t start until after 1pm.  I would be back by 1pm in the U.S.!  No biggie, just different.  Also, lots of people eat breakfast as work (Mainly toast or cereal).  I think more people eat breakfast at home before work in the States.  Again, just a difference.

The Weather

As a Souther California native, I find the weather in Sydney a bit bipolar.  Just yesterday morning it was over 85 degrees F (35 C) and humid.  A very sticky, icky day.  Now it is 72 F (22C)  WTF!  Why the sudden change.  If are moving from New York, Sydney is probably going to be awesome.  But for a spoiled Southern California guy, the humidity is a killer.   I am drenched in sweat before I even sit down to my desk at work in the morning!

As the scouts say, be prepared!

Make sure to have an umbrella as it showers here.  California just gets storms and you get like a 3 day warning something is coming.  Not so in Sydney.


Anyway, Good on ya mate for reading!

Cheers and G’day!

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