Travel Tips

Thu, 1 Nov, 2018Over60

How common etiquette in Australia differs from overseas

How common etiquette in Australia differs from overseas

Etiquette is a funny thing.

The rules are often unspoken; a delicate maze of social norms we’re expected to indulge for fear of disrupting the status quo.

So, when it comes to our manners within the home compared to the rest of the world, how do Aussies stack up?

According to director of the Australian School of Etiquette, Zarife Hardy, Australians tend to have less of a fascination with etiquette than many overseas. 

“Australians have a very relaxed and casual approach to common etiquette. After all, etiquette is all about how you make someone feel in your presence, whether that be formal or informal. Some areas of etiquette are slipping but this seems to be happening globally, mainly due to technology and the use of mobile phones,” she says.

She notes that although we generally conduct ourselves in a way that is not dissimilar to how others do overseas, we have our idiosyncrasies that set us apart.

“As Australians we eat Continental English style, which is different to many countries in the world; we follow England and their table etiquette rules. This means our fork goes in the left hand and knife in the right hand, with the tines of the fork always over and never up. Laying your knife and fork in the middle of your plate with the blades of your knife facing in is our signal to show that you are finished your meal even if food is still on the plate,” she says.

Hardy also says that while barbecues are a common Australian way of bringing people together in the home, it’s not “a common form of entertaining in the global arena”.

“Australians are known globally for their hospitality in a casual, relaxed setting; we warmly open our doors and invite guests into our homes.”

More than that, the Australian etiquette for greetings is distinctly, well, Australian.

“When greeting someone most European countries kiss at least twice, once on each cheek when greeting or saying goodbye to someone. This is not done in Australia. It is OK to simply offer a handshake, particularly when meeting someone for the first time. In a social setting, or once you get to know each other better, a peck on the cheek becomes acceptable between members of the opposite sex.”

While Australians are generally relaxed, we do have firm ideas about how we should respond to food, Hardy says.

“We don’t burp, belch or spit in front of others, which may be considered normal in some cultures.”

Anna Musson, etiquette expert at The Good Manners Company, does not believe there is a marked difference in how we interact at home in comparison to those overseas. 

She does, however, believe our attitude towards social norms and etiquette is, perhaps, more blasé than others.

“Aussies generally have a relaxed approach to life, which can see us occasionally stretching the bounds of good etiquette,” she says.

Musson believes, too, that Australians have adopted some bad habits that do not make for good manners overseas.

“For example, turning up to an invitation in thongs is a no-no, or being the last to leave and not offering to help clean up.”

Musson adds, “Not noticing cues to leave is another one – we should never stay longer than four hours for dinner.”

Written by Zara McDonald. Republished with permission of