Etiquette in Australia and New Zealand
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Expectations regarding good manners differ from person to person and vary according to each situation. As the perception of behaviors and actions vary, intercultural competence is essential. However, a lack of knowledge about the customs and expectations of people in Australia and New Zealand can make even the best intentioned person seem ignorant, inconsiderate or even rude.
Australia and New Zealand are separate countries, each with its own distinct national identity that includes particular customs and rules of etiquette. Confusing their identities in general conversation is usually not tolerated and will be quickly corrected. Points of etiquette that apply to both countries include the following:
- In general, Australians and New Zealanders have a notable preference for rote niceties, the classic "P's & Q's"; especially the word "please," but also the phrases "thank you," and "excuse me."
It is also considered good manners to say "excuse me" when asking to move past or between other people or when asking a question.
- Requesting a fanny pack can be considered obscene due to the use of "fanny" as a slang term for female genitalia. "Bum bag" is the acceptable local variation in some areas. Australians and New Zealanders are generally tolerant of foreigners making this mistake and will understand both.
- An enquiry about a person's well being (such as "How's it going?", "How are you going?" or "How are ya?") is a common greeting. Generally the accepted response is non-negative; "Good thanks", "Not too bad" or "Pretty good, mate", and it is considered polite to ask the person the same question back. It is considered polite to greet 'anyone including strangers, in this way.
- Bragging/Boasting (called 'skiting' by some New Zealanders), or initiating discussion of one's own achievements, is usually considered in poor taste. (See tall poppy syndrome.)
- It is acceptable to host a barbecue without supplying all the food and drink. The host may ask guests to bring particular items such as beverages, salad, or meat, often using the initialism "BYO" (Bring your own)
- The term "bring a plate" is synonymous with "potluck"
- As cars drive on the left side of the road in both countries, people moving forward will generally go to the left as well. When walking on the pavement (usually called the 'footpath'), one should walk on the left, whenever possible. When travelling on escalators or moving walkways, one should keep to the left when standing, or keep to the right when walking.
- Spitting in the street or on the footpath is considered to be gross bad manners.
Bars and restaurants
- When paying a cashier, it is usual to place the money in their hand. Change is usually placed in your hand in return. Snatching money out of a person's hand is considered very bad manners.
- Tipping is not expected and some employees may not understand the gesture and return the money. Some employees are forbidden from accepting gratuities (this is mainly in positions of authority e.g. in a casino one cannot tip the dealer or a security guard however, this would not apply in a formal restaurant situation) and tipping face-to-face can create an awkward situation. However, one may like to add a tip to restaurant bills if the service has been especially good. It is also acceptable to suggest that taxi drivers or waiters "keep the change", especially if the difference is small. Tips may be as large or as small as you feel appropriate. Where tip jars are provided, they are mostly used for loose change or coins.
- Queuing (getting in line/forming a line) is expected when there is any demand for an item or when waiting to board public transport, and is considered basic manners. Queues are formed on a first there first in line basis. The only exception to this is a pub where people will normally lean on the bar to wait but you should be aware of who is waiting ahead of you because it is rude to accept service from a barman before someone who has been waiting longer. A simple nod or subtle gesture towards the person who has waited longer will be understood by any experienced server to mean that the indicated person was before you.
- When out with friends, co-workers or relatives, it is common but not compulsory for people to take turns buying rounds of drinks. This is referred to as a 'shout', e.g. "It's my shout."
- A person who takes the last item of food from a common plate, without first offering it to the others at the table may be seen as greedy or inconsiderate. If someone does want more food in this situation and the remaining portion can be split, proposing to halve it is common.
- You should treat people serving you as politely as you expect them to treat you. Use 'please' when placing an order or making a request and 'thank you' when you receive your order or service. They are there to help you, but they are not your inferiors; they are fellow human beings
- Complaints in restaurants are rare. Most customers will merely refuse to revisit an establishment after bad food or service
- Surcharges for use of less commonly used credit cards such as Diners Club and Amex commonly apply in many New Zealand and Australian establishments. To avoid conflict most establishments will advertise this with a sign of some sort near the cashier area
- Arguing or yelling with staff in any establishment is considered very rude and inappropriate.
- Common restaurant manners include using the knife and fork properly, refraining from burping and placing elbows on a table, placing your napkin on your lap and leaving it folded on the table after use, and eating neatly. Chewing open-mouthed (including chewing gum), slurping loudly, burping and talking with a full mouth are considered very rude. If you do any of these things accidentally, say "pardon me" or "excuse me."
- It is considered bad manners to pick one's teeth with the fingers in public.
- Waving as a gesture of thanks to drivers that stop to allow you into their lane, exit a driveway, merging into the lane, or cross at a crossing, is viewed as polite.
- A common experience while travelling on state highways is being 'flashed' by oncoming vehicles. This is when an oncoming vehicle flicks its high beam headlights quickly but noticeably (day or night), and serves to warn drivers they are approaching a hazard: a speed camera or Police vehicle/Radar/Random Breath Test (most commonly), or a motor vehicle accident, or animals/rocks on the road . Many drivers acknowledge this with a return wave or a brief reply 'flash' of their high beam headlights.. It is also done to alert the other driver if they have neglected to turn their own headlights on when necessary.
- When driving between towns and cities it is considered extremely rude to speed up in a passing lane, especially when going through winding areas of road where you may be taking corners much more slowly than others would.
- Although 70% of the population has some Anglo-Celtic ancestry, there is acknowledgement of the country's growing ethnic/racial diversity.
- Making jokes at another's expense or "taking the piss" is common in Australian society and is often a bonding process. However, it is frowned upon and considered cowardly to make jokes in the absence of the subject. Contrary to many other countries, Australians will generally wait until the subject is present before making derogatory jokes. For example, when an Australian meets a New Zealander on holiday, they may ask if they brought velcro gloves in order to get a better grip on those Australian sheep. (See point below re New Zealanders' thoughts on sheep jokes)
- "Indigenous Australian" and "Aboriginal person/Torres Strait Islander" are polite terms, also regional/state preferences such as "Koori" are also acceptable as long the person in question and you both consider each other friends. Aboriginal refers to Indigenous people from the mainland, the Torres Strait Islanders are a separate group with their own cultural traditions. "Abo", "Coon", "Gin" and "Boong" or "Boonga" are all considered offensive and unacceptable in formal conversation when describing Aborigines but are sometimes in casual conversations even when one of the participants is of Indigenous descent, though this is controversial and often frowned upon. "Aboriginal" is now used only as an adjective, although older documents may still use it as a noun (e.g. "Aboriginals"). Note that the words "Coon" and "Gin" are not always considered offensive in other contexts - the former being a popular brand of cheese and the latter a common drink. The politest option is to simply avoid the issue of race.
- State/ regional preferences for specific names for groups of Indigenous Australians have also arisen in recent years: The term Koori (or Koorie) in New South Wales or Victoria. Those from Queensland use the term Murri (pronounced the same as "Murray"). Nunga is used in most of South Australia. Noongar is used in southern Western Australia. Anangu is used in northern South Australia, and neighbouring parts of Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Palawah is used in Tasmania. However, there were over 200 different languages at the time of European settlement, which means these terms are very specific.
- In the UK, the term "Paki" is considered racially offensive; however, the word also evolved in parallel in Australia as a shortened form of "Pakistani", similar to the shortening of "Australian" to "Aussie". Usually used in a cricketing context, in Australian usage the word refers specifically and solely to people who are Pakistani and carries no derogatory intent.
- Amongst Indigenous Australians, it can be taboo to refer to deceased Indigenous Australians by name, or through use of images.
- Correct pronunciation of Māori words and placenames, and the word "Māori" itself, is often important to Māori, although usually less so to non-Māori.
- It is incorrect to pluralise "Māori" and loan words from Māori by adding an "s". There is no letter "s" in the Māori language, and plurality is indicated by the articles (te/nga/ngati) appearing before the word rather than a word ending.
- Sitting on or resting one's backside against a table or desk can offend Māori. A table is where food is served and should not be touched by the "unclean" regions. Similarly, you should not sit on a pillow; the head is tapu (sacred), and pillows are for resting heads only.
- Shoes should always be removed before entering the wharenui (meeting house) on a marae. Never eat inside a meeting house — the building is regarded as tapu (sacred).
- Modern Etiquette
- Etiquette in Africa
- Etiquette in Asia
- Etiquette in Canada and the United States
- Etiquette in Europe
- Etiquette in Latin America
- Etiquette in the Middle East
- Worldwide etiquette
- Rebecca Falkoff Unintentional Transgressions of the Work Abroad Community Monster.com
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- Mackinolty, Chips and Jamie Gallacher. "A note on referring to deceased Aboriginal people—and the use of the term "kumanjayi" and its spelling and linguistic variants" (PDF). Media Watch. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 13 December 2012.