Australian culture: Insights from our international student community

Find out what our international student community says about the cultural differences they found in Australia.

25 June 2024

a group of friends having a picnic by a city river

Travelling internationally to study is a new experience filled with amazing opportunities. Although adjusting to a new culture can sometimes feel challenging, it’s all part of the exciting adventure.  

To help you prepare to settle into life in Australia, we’ve gathered insights from our international student community about what they found different when they first arrived here.  

Warm and friendly  

One of the first things you’ll notice is how casual and friendly Australians are. Don’t be surprised if someone greets you with a cheerful ‘G’day!’ or asks ‘How are you?’ even if they don’t expect a detailed response. It’s just our way of saying hello and being friendly.  

Most Aussies are quite laidback and happy to have a chat with a stranger.  

Independent, self-directed learning 

The Australian education system encourages independent thinking and self-directed learning.  

You’ll find that your lectures and tutorials are designed to encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills. This way of learning helps to prepare you for success in the workplace and to think like an entrepreneur.  

Driving on the left  

One important change for many international students is Australia's traffic rules. In Australia, we drive on the left side of the road which can be a bit confusing at first if you’re from a country where people drive on the right.  

Remember to always look both ways when crossing the street!  

Aussie slang  

Australians have a unique way of speaking that includes a lot of slang. You might hear phrases like:  

  • Arvo = afternoon 
  • Brekkie = breakfast 
  • Barbie = Barbeque 

The expressions are a fun part of the culture, but it might take some time to get to know the words! If you’re not sure, just ask.  

Early closing times  

Unlike many countries where shops stay open late, most Australian retail stores close around 5pm or 6pm. The exception is Thursday, known as “late night shopping,” when many shopping malls stay open until 9pm.  

Aussies love barbeques 

It’s common for friends and family to gather for a barbeque at someone’s home, the park or beach. There are many free barbeque facilities that you can use, usually found at parks or by the beach. 

Weather extremes 

Australia is known for its diverse and sometimes extreme weather conditions. Depending on where you are, you might experience hot, dry summers or wet, tropical weather. 

You can also find colder places in Australia like Tasmania and Melbourne. Even though their summers can get quite warm, the winters are cold. You might even see snow in Tasmania at certain times of the year!  

One thing is for sure, that no matter what the weather is, Australians love the outdoors and have quite an active lifestyle.  

More insights from our student community 

We also heard from the community about these little Aussie quirks (funny differences):  

  • Australian’s take their coffee very seriously. You’ll find many options for coffee shops with some of the best coffee in the world!  
  • You might notice the different bird sounds in Australia. Some are a bit loud, like cockatoos or the laugh of a kookaburra. And others are lovely to listen to, like magpies.  
  • It’s not unusual to see people walk around the street with bare feet. This is more common in beachside towns.  
  • The mullet haircut is back in style (for some!) This is when the hair is short at the top and long at the bottom.  

You are not alone 

Adjusting to a new culture takes time, but remember, you are not alone. Many other international students are going through the same thing.  

Learn more about Australian culture and lifestyle 

Check out our lifestyle and culture page to find out more about our safe, diverse and welcoming communities. 




You may also like