The basics
Australia: Before you leave

Australian culture

Learn all about Australian culture, including who the indigenous Australians were, why Australia is a cultural melting pot and more...

Degraves Street Melbourne
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Young, historically complex and one of the most thoroughly diverse nations in the world, it’s difficult to talk holistically about the “culture of Australia”. Whilst we can all identify the crocodile-wrestling wilding and probably hum the Neighbours theme tune, these are superficial representations of a culture that’s really far too complicated to condense. There’s no single meaning of the word ‘Australian,’ but this awards the country a unique complexity that sets it apart and makes it all the more exciting to discover and get to know.

Whilst this overview can’t hope to cover it, our brief and basic breakdown of Australia’s diversity, history and culture will help give you an idea of what to expect when you study abroad down under.

 

Indigenous Australians

Historically known as the ‘First Australians’, the Indigenous population (referring to both Aboriginal Australians and Torres Straight Islanders) of Australia were the first to call the island home. Following dark periods of conflict and bloodshed during British colonisation, today there are still a number of Indigenous communities within Australia, particularly in the north. Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders comprise 30% of the Northern Territory.

Indigenous culture is exceedingly unique and forms a key part of Australia’s heritage. In the face of their turbulent past, there have been many efforts and initiatives by Australian groups and government bodies to try and reconcile ties with the Indigenous community. For example, in 2008 former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued a formal apology to Indigenous Australians for their experiences during colonial settlement, whilst a number of national festivals such as Spirit Festival, Adelaide and Yabun Festival, Sydney celebrate and seek to preserve the richness of Indigenous culture. Initiatives and Reform Agendas such as Closing the Gap similarly seek to combat inequalities still experienced by these groups.

Indigenous culture is also well known for its art, which is widely sought out and distributed throughout the world. 

 

Cultural melting pot

Today, Australia is one of the world’s most ethnically diverse societies.  A young country, most Australians are descendents of immigrants or refugees, forming a complex community that in 2012-2013 welcomed 123, 438 new citizens from 190 different countries.

About 6 million migrants from over 200 countries are currently represented in Australia, with the largest group hailing from the UK(1.2 million), followed by New Zealand (544,000), China (380,000) India (341,000) and Italy (216,000). A British colony with a high proportion of British expats, Australian culture is tangibly influenced by that of the UK.

Particularly noticeable in big cities, this mesh of cultural influences and backgrounds creates an effervescent larger community with copious resources and degrees of exposure to other cultures. This influence is perhaps most palpable via Australia’s unique culinary culture, with a spectrum of restaurants owned by ex-pats and second generation descendants serving traditional and modern cuisines influenced by tastes from their home country. There are also a number of cultural festivals and resources such as clubs, societies, community centres, language bookstores and foreign food supermarkets to cater to the needs of different ethnic groups.

Whilst this mesh of cultures, influences and spate of secular groups throws the idea of ‘being Australian’ into question, modern Australians enjoy exposure to a range of different modes of cultural thought, attitudes, tastes and flavours.

 

City life

Bigger cities such as Melbourne and Sydney boast cosmopolitan cultural scenes with a spectrum of art, cultural, sporting and entertainment events. Home of the famed Australian café culture, city centres will no doubt boast a spate of trendy, specialist cafés that have seasonal, ever-changing menus and daily coffee bean blend specials. Going out for a coffee is a favoured Australian activity, with a lazy Sunday brunch a common way to round out your weekend.

Popular café, restaurants and bars are sometimes in guidebooks but are often best-kept secrets of locals: be sure to ask your new local friends for tips. And with such an enviable climate, most places will have open-air, rooftop or outdoor sections as well.

 

The Outback

Not all Australians live in cities. Known best for being harsh and unforgiving, there is a small proportion of Australians living in rural areas. Today, less than 10% of Australians live in non-coastal areas. If you consider that a whopping 40% of the country’s land mass is uninhabitable, this is hardly a surprise.

If you study abroad in Australia it’s highly unlikely you’ll be living in the outback, but you should by all means make the effort to visit it. Whilst the landscape is dry, sparse, baking hot and unforgivingly expansive, it is without a doubt one of the world’s most unique landscapes and offers an experience you won’t be able to have elsewhere.

 

Communication

Whilst it’s impossible to generalize for an entire country of people, Australians are often taken as being quite laid back, friendly and easy to get along with. Whilst the Australian sense of humour, politeness conventions and conversational style can often appear dry and self-deprecating, it won’t take too long to get used to once in Australia and surrounded by new Aussie friends.

Australians are straightforward and typically quite informal in the way they communicate, but when it comes to appearing pushy or arrogant they will talk in generalities to avoid being abrasive. In this respect, communication may appear somewhat indirect and lacking in comparison to usual Aussie conventions of directness and ‘telling it like it is,’ and may be quite confusing for someone new. Typically team-players, Aussies will not make a show of boasting their own achievements, and will be quick to reprimand someone who appears pretentious or egotistical.

 

Travel culture

Perhaps due to Australia’s mixed cultural heritage and geographical isolation from the rest of the world, Australian culture strongly emphasises the importance of travel. Many Australians are well-travelled, and it’s considered completely common to leave the country for a few years to study abroad, live or work overseas before returning home. Anyone who has backpacked in any other part of the world will have most likely encountered a group of travelling Australians, who were no doubt talkative and keen to share their experiences.

 

Now that you’re inspired to head down under and see what it’s like to study in Australia, start browsing undergraduatepostgraduate,vocational and doctorate courses in Australia.

 

 

Read more:

'The Australian higher education system....simplified'

'Tuition fees in Australia'

'Applying to study in Australia'

'Applying for a student visa in Australia'

'Student accommodation in Australia'

 

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About Author

Degraves Street Melbourne

Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.

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