Australians enjoy a plentiful lifestyle that will be familiar to Americans, but the country’s social and business culture reflect a unique history shaped by the challenges of distance both from linguistic cousins and within its own territory. Americans are more accustomed than Europeans to this landscape, but the sheer scale of the distances must be considered when doing business.
With Greater Sydney now home to nearly 5 million people, the surrounding state of New South Wales is one of the country’s most urbanized and densely populated – but it also extends deep into isolated stretches of the outback. Chances are, however, that most of your work will take place in or near Sydney, a diverse, sophisticated and friendly city with a laid-back vibe that reminds many of California.
Australia’s entire population of about 22.5 million is spread over a land mass that is only slightly smaller the whole of the US. Consider not only what that means for your supply chain, but also what it means for your business meetings. Australians are used to travelling long distances and think nothing of 3-4 hours in a car or plane to meet people around the country.
That being said Sydney is the country’s hub and more multinationals have their regional and Australian headquarters in Sydney than any other place in Australia. Sydney accounts for over 43% of all of Australia’s international air travelers and almost 50% of its international airfreight.
A mix of efficiency and informality. With their vigorous and no-nonsense financial sector, Sydney businesspeople like to get to the point. They aren’t, however, New Yorkers, and American visitors will do well to relax, smile, breathe, and invest just a few moments in small talk and in enjoying the weather. Allow your hosts to indulge in a quick story or detour – it won’t take too long.
With its multicultural population (one in three residents can speak a language other than English, particularly Mandarin or Hindi), Sydney is an Asian business hub and quite cosmopolitan. Even so, if you’re recruiting Australians or making a business case for the Australian market, take the country’s truly unique climate, physical size, smaller population, and cultural history into account when making your argument. Australians are broadly up to date on American business concepts and lingo, but don’t assume too much. Localize your pitch – this can include using Australian (Commonwealth/British/Canadian) spelling and using metric measurements. Your effort will be noticed.
Australian businesses are often considered “small” in size when compared to global companies, with the odd exception of Australian global leaders like News Corporation, Qantas, BHP, Westfield or Lend Lease. But when dealing with Australians it’s important to remember that “good things come in small packages”. Australian companies are often highly prized as partners because their small size means they are usually very dynamic, creative, practical and laterally-oriented. The scale of the US market often requires a very narrow but deep expertise in one vertical. The exact opposite is often the case in Australia and this makes for strong and complementary partnerships.