Australian Culture Guide

Janusz Siwiorek .

Christmas Traditions in Australia

Australians live on the world's largest island, which is also the world's smallest continent. Most of Australia's immigrants came from England and Ireland, bringing their Christmas customs with them.

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Australia is the Land Down Under, where the seasons are opposite to ours. When Australians celebrate Christmas on December 25, it is during summer vacation. Most of Australia is a hot, dry desert, known as the Outback. The grassy or marshy savannas are called the Bush. But most people in Australia live in the green coastal areas of the southwest.

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The most popular event of the Christmas season is called Carols by Candlelight. People come together at night to light candles and sing Christmas carols outside. The stars shining above add to the sights and sounds of this wonderful outdoor concert.

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Australian families love to do things outside. They love to swim, surf, sail, and ride bicycles. They like to grill meals outdoors on the barbecue, which they call the "barbie".

Families decorate their homes with ferns, palm leaves, and evergreens, along with the colorful flowers that bloom in summer called Christmas bush and Christmas bellflower. Some families put up a Christmas tree. Outdoors, nasturtiums, wisteria, and honeysuckle bloom.

Christmas festivities begin in late November, when schools and church groups present Nativity plays. They sing carols throughout the month of December.

On Christmas Eve, families attend church together. Some children expect Father Christmas to leave gifts, and others wait for Santa Claus to visit and deliver gifts.

After opening presents on Christmas morning, the family sits down to a breakfast of ham and eggs. Then the family goes to church again.

On Christmas Eve in families that observe Irish traditions, the father sets a large candle in a front window of the home to welcome Mary, Joseph, and the Baby Jesus. The youngest child in the family lights the candle. The family goes to midnight mass and attends church on Christmas Day, as well. Afterwards there are parties and festive visits.

Christmas Day is when families and close friends gather together from all over Australia. The highlight of the day is the holiday midday dinner. Some families enjoy a traditional British Christmas dinner of roast turkey or ham and rich plum pudding doused in brandy and set aflame before it is brought to the table. The person who gets the favor baked inside will enjoy good luck all year round.

Other families head for the backyard barbie to grill their Christmas dinner in the sunshine. Many families even go to the beach or to the countryside and enjoy a picnic of cold turkey or ham and a salad. Father Christmas has been known to show up in shorts to greet children at the beach on Christmas!

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The day after Christmas, December 26, is Boxing Day. Australians with British and Irish backgrounds leave tips for the grocer, postman, newspaper carrier, and others to thank them for their help in the past year.

New Year's Eve is always a special time, with dinners, dances, and parties. On Twelfth Night, January 6, there is one last party to end the Christmas season.



Australian Culture Guide

Janusz Siwiorek .

A Brief Guide to the History of Australia

Australia is a diverse and fascinating country, with an Indigenous population dating back many thousands of years.

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Australia’s Indigenous population have lived in the nation for at least 50,000 years. This means they have the oldest living cultural history in the world. When the British arrived in 1788, as many as 250 different languages were spoken across the nation. Barani, an Aboriginal word of the Sydney language that means ‘yesterday’, is a project detailing the Aboriginal history of the Sydney area.

Prior to the arrival of the British, there were between 300,000 and 1 Million Aboriginal people living in Australia. 

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The Dutch first sighted Australia in 1606 before Captain Cook claimed the land for Great Britain in 1770. The First Fleet of 11 boats arrived at Botany Bay in 1788 to establish New South Wales as a Penal Colony (receiving convicts until 1848). Convicts were subsequently sent to the other states, with the exception of South Australia that was established as a free colony in 1836.

Over 162,000 convicts were transported to Australia from Great Britain, the majority to New South Wales and Tasmania.

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The discovery of gold in Australia (in Bathurst first, then Ballarat in 1851) kickstarted the economy and created the idea of Australia as a desirable location. 1854 saw the Eureka Stockade at Ballarat, a rebellion against taxation that some see as a crucial event in the evolution of Australia’s democracy. This is also the first period of Chinese immigration with 50,000 Chinese arriving and the establishment of many Chinatowns.

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The Commonwealth of Australia was created in 1901 with the federation of all the states. It was agreed that the capital could be in NSW but no closer than 100 kms from Sydney. This led to the creation of Canberra, with a temporary parliament set up in Melbourne for 27 years. 

Both New Zealand and Fiji were invited to join the federation of the states but declined the invitations.

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1915 – WORLD WAR 1

In April 1915 the Australian and New Zealand Anzac Corps (ANZACs) took part in the World War One Gallipoli Campaign. Despite the defeat, this battle has great relevance in defining the characteristics of Australians. April 25, the date of the first landing at Gallipoli, is ANZAC Day – the date Australians remember and pay respects for the sacrifice of their Armed Forces, both past and present, in conflicts around the world.

Almost 39% of Australia’s male population between 18 and 44 enlisted to fight in World War One. 

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The end of World War Two, and then subsequently the Vietnam War, led to an influx of migrants to Australia. The Snowy Mountains Scheme (1949 – 1974) employed 100,000 people with 70% being migrants from 30 different nations. Steady Asian migration began
in the 1970s, and now people from all over the world call Australia home. This is reflected
in many aspects of Australian life, with Australian society known for its equality and lack of clear class distinctions.



Australian Culture Guide

Janusz Siwiorek .

Australian Hospitality

Sharing a drink or a meal is an important bonding experience in most cultures to show friendship- or mateship, if you’re in Australia! But sometimes, this can differ across cultures. When it comes to eating and drinking, there are some things that are entirely Australian, so below is a guide to Australian hospitality.

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Disclaimer: while some of what is discussed here centres around alcohol, it’s not necessary to drink alcohol to have fun at events, and no one should pressure you into it.


Australians are notorious for shortening words, which creates a more laid-back, less formal way of speaking. Here are some common examples of terms and acronyms that may appear confusing at first:

BYO: This stands for ‘Bring Your Own’, which is usually related to alcohol. If this appears in an invitation received to an event, it tends to mean that if you’re planning on drinking, it’s best to bring your own beverages, while the food will usually be provided by the host. Sometimes you might need to bring your own contribution for a BBQ, but check with the host.

“Bring a plate”: Similar to BYO, “bring a plate” is usually mentioned to guests to encourage them to bring a plate of food to an event. This is often to make the host’s job easier, and also to ensure that everyone’s dietary requirements are catered to. Traditionally, bringing a plate means bringing something you’ve cooked yourself, but we all understand that students are time-poor, so something store-bought won’t seem out of place at all!

Grog, goon and tucker: These are other words for food (tucker) and alcohol (grog and goon).

Barbie: This refers to a BBQ, which is an outdoor apparatus used for cooking or grilling food such as sausages, hamburgers, or skewered meat or vegetables. Commonly found at gatherings held during the summer, the barbie is loved by many Australians as a way to grill ‘tucker’ out in the beautiful sunshine, without heating up the inside of the house.


Sometimes an event will begin with what is called pre-drinking, which is a way that university students are able to save money by drinking at home before heading out. It can also be a form of ‘social lubrication’ AKA drinking as a way to be less shy at events. If this isn’t for you though, you’re completely welcome to show up to an event without having done so. In Australia, it’s generally better to be a little late to an event rather than early unless you know the host well, which gives you time beforehand to pick up some food or drink if you’ve been asked to ‘BYO’.


When you arrive at an event, whether that be a house party, restaurant dinner, picnic, or pub crawl, it’s generally polite to find the host and thank them for the invitation first. This can also be very helpful if you don’t know many people there, as the host can introduce you to others around you. From there, don’t be afraid to talk to anyone - most people want to be your friend!


As the event comes to a close, it can be really nice to help the host clean up a little bit, as this is often an overwhelming task! After an event, it can be a great opportunity to thank your host for having you whether that be in person or through social media. This is also the perfect time to connect with any people you may have met by simply adding them on Facebook or accepting any friend requests you may have received.

Feeling comfortable at Australian events is really all about being friendly, approachable and helpful. Australians really value having a sense of comradery, which can be achieved by offering a hand where needed, or by having a laugh together over something you may have in common.

( by Jesse Thomas)


Australian Culture Guide

Janusz Siwiorek .

Australian Indigenous Cultures

While visiting Australia, you may hear someone say at the beginning of a speech or a meeting, “we acknowledge the Traditional Owners of this land”.

This is called and Acknowledgement of Country and it’s a way of showing respect to the people who have lived in Australia for 50,000 years. They are one of the oldest living populations in the world.

Many international students visiting Australia are incredibly curious about Indigenous peoples and their culture but find it difficult to learn more about them.

Here’s a few facts to get you started.


Australia has two Indigenous peoples. They are Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people.  Aboriginal Peoples inhabited the whole of Australia, and Torres Strait Islanders lived in the islands between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Once there were over 500 different Aboriginal Nations – so there’s no single ‘Aboriginal culture,’ there are many.

Their cultures do have some common themes, though, such as the Dreaming and a deep connection to the land.

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This is the Aboriginal Flag, adopted in 1972. The red symbolises the red earth and ochre used by Aboriginal people in ceremonies. The yellow symbolises the sun and the black symbolises the Aboriginal people.

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This is the Torres Strait Islander flag adopted in 1992. The green panels represent the land, the blue symbolises the waters of the Torres Strait, the white object in the middle is a dancer’s headdress (called a dhari) and symbolises the Torres Strait Islander people.  The star is a symbol for navigation.


It’s estimated that there were around 250 different languages spoken in Australia before the British arrived in 1788.

Up until the 1970’s, policies implemented by the Australian Government prohibited or discouraged Indigenous Australians from speaking their own languages.  Because Indigenous Australian’s dominant form of record keeping was by passing down their traditions and language through word of mouth, these policies resulted in the loss of many Indigenous languages and cultural history.

The National Indigenous Languages Survey Report 2005 found that only about 145 Indigenous languages are still spoken and that many of those were also in danger of disappearing.

In 2016 the Australian National Dictionary listed around 500 words which were in common usage coming from 100 different Aboriginal languages.  Many of them are the names of plants, animals and places, so you probably already know a few like:



Canberra (which means meeting place)


The Dreaming or, the Dreamtime, is a similarity that runs through different Indigenous belief systems and is a concept that is often not easily understood by non-Indigenous people. The phrases Dreaming and The Dreamtime are English translations that don’t capture the true meaning.

There is no afterlife in Indigenous Australian religions, no heaven or hell, which sets them apart from many other world religions.  The Dreaming is the source of life philosophy and morality and while it’s intertwined with Indigenous stories of creation, is also a constant state where both the past and the present exist together. In attempting to explain the Dreaming, anthropologist W.E.H. Stanner used the term ‘everywhen’.


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There are still many places in Australian where you can get in touch with Indigenous culture.  Some of them are hard to get to but well worth the visit.

Probably the most well-known place is Uluru or Ayers Rock.  The ancient monolith is sacred to the Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara people.  It’s visited by thousands of people every year. 

The Flinders Ranges in South Australia have ancient rock paintings that are accessible to the public, as does Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park in NSW and The Grampians National Park in Victoria.



British Culture Guide

Janusz Siwiorek .

British Royal Family Tree

Here you can find the family tree of the current British royalty to help make sense of what can often seem very complicated.

Most members of the royal family have their own title that you can see in the picture.

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As you can see from the family tree above, Queen Elizabeth II is married to Prince Philip (also known as the Duke of Edinburgh), and they have four children. They are Prince Charles (the Prince of Wales), Princess Anne (the Princess Royal), Prince Andrew (the Duke of York) and Prince Edward (the Earl of Wessex).

Each of Queen’s children has two children of their own. Her eldest, Prince Charles, is now married to Camilla Parker-Bowles, but had two children with Princess Diana before she died. They are Prince William (now married to Kate Middleton) and Prince Harry.



British Culture Guide

Janusz Siwiorek .

British Slang

Slang in Britain flourishes, from North to South or East to West you’ll find an interesting mix of English and regional dialects, sometimes heavily influenced by international culture (heightened by internet culture).

You can easily find yourself puzzled by the quick retorts of youth, or the savvy lingo expressed by the professional and even by the old pensioners outdated observations.

The following table reveals the meaning behind the words:

slang table

This is by no means a complete list as there are thousands and thousands of slang words in the UK. You will probably pick up many of them yourself whilst you stay in the UK.



British Culture Guide

Janusz Siwiorek .

UK Regional Weather Differences

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Each different region of the UK can face very different weather conditions, even at the same time of the year. Not only do Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland differ from one another, but also the different regions of England. In general, you can see it as the further north you go, the colder and windier it gets, and the further west you go, the wetter it gets. Although the regions of England have no official boundaries, the areas highlighted in red are rough outlines.     

Southern England’s Weather

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Generally the South of England is the warmest area of the UK and has the less rain than most other regions. The conditions are affected by location even within this region however. The closer to the coast you get, the cooler the summers and warmer the winters, due to proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. However, this also causes more rain to fall in coastal areas.

London almost creates its own weather conditions due to its sheer size. The urban landscape means that temperatures are often a couple of degrees higher than in surrounding areas, meaning snow is less common in the winter.     

Northern England’s Weather

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Generally, the further North in England you go, the colder the average temperatures get and the windier it gets. However, in terms of rainfall, it depends on where in the north you are. Whilst the North East has relatively little rain, the North West experiences quite a bit.

The East of England’s Weather

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The East of England is the furthest from the Atlantic Ocean and the weather is therefore least affected by it. This means that the East is generally drier, cooler and less windy than the rest of Britain and also experiences the largest range of temperatures. The clouds that bring rain to the UK have emptied themselves over the West of England by the time they reach the East, meaning it stays dry.

The West of England and Wales’ Weather

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The West of England and Wales face pretty similar weather conditions due to the fact they are located so close by. In general, both regions have warm summers, mild winters and lots of rain. The fact that the West of the UK is so close to the Atlantic Ocean means that it has milder winters. This is because the huge mass of water holds heat better than land and so ‘heats’ Wales and Western England during the winter.  

Scotland’s Weather

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Scotland is the coldest part of the UK throughout the year, and has average minimum temperatures of just -0.2oC during the winter. It is also the wettest place every month of the year except May, June and December, and almost always the cloudiest too.

On top of this, Scotland has the shortest daylight hours in the winter in the UK, but the longest in the summer (up to 18 hours a day!) due to its northerly location. Overall, this may not make Scotland sound too appealing, but it is important to remember that the figures are swayed a bit by the northern and Highland areas of the country that are largely uninhabited.    

Northern Ireland’s Weather

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Northern Ireland is warmer than Scotland throughout the year, and has milder winters than England or Wales. In terms of rain, Northern Ireland is generally drier than both Scotland and Wales, but wetter than most of England.  Really, in terms of weather, it is best to think of it as half way between England and Scotland in temperatures, and half way between England and Wales in rainfall. Simple!  



British Culture Guide

Janusz Siwiorek .

British Stereotypes

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There are lots of stereotypes and misconceptions related to the British. It is to be revealed here which ones are true and which ones are completely made up. You might think that all British people drink excessive amounts of tea to solve their problems, or maybe you have heard that their upper lips are peculiarly stiff, presumably since birth.

Heaven forbid you may have even heard that they have no sense of humour, if so leave this site right now! (Please don’t literally do that…this is an example of our famous dry wit).

 Misconception One: All British people like to queue

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Queuing – some say it’s nonsense, others view it as the ‘right thing’ to do. Whether or not it is justified, most cities have thousands of queues that you can’t avoid.

A bank or a bus stop both require a level of courtesy, that is to say members of the public in Britain are brought up in a culture that has a tendency to queue in a range of everyday situations.

Since this is the norm, those who break it - or ‘queue jumpers’- are often frowned upon. Having said this, don’t let this put you off - just learn to love the queue and you’ll fit in perfectly!

Here we have a society, which has evolved to queue, but it isn’t all or nothing and even those native to the country sometimes break the unwritten social laws of the queue, and when they do, this is your opportunity to be a part of the crowd and also mock them!

 Misconception Two: All British people hate other nationalities

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British people like to think they were once rulers of the world, so some of this quest for global notoriety still lingers up until the present day. However, nowadays most of the comments made about other nations are meant in jest.

You may think that the British hate Americans, Germans and French, in fact this is not true - really the British hate everyone! OK, that was a joke, but you can rest easy knowing that hate is a very strong word for a British person, the average Brit is very fond of friendly rivalry with other nationalities.

This is taking into account that most British people would rather swim the English Channel than face any confrontation with someone; they are as timid as a church mouse (except when at a football match). Britain is a very open society to live in, and you’re much more likely to receive genuine and friendly interest in where you’re from than any form of hostility whatsoever. 

Foreign Students Top Tip:  Judge Britain for yourself. It’s one of Europe’s most multicultural countries, so the Brits aren’t that full of hate after all!

Misconception Three: All British people speak the Queen’s English

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The English language is often misconstrued as being only understood as an elite expression of lords and ladies. Why golly gosh, this is absolute utter incongruous pish posh my dear boy!*

In the days of Kings and Queens, the language was certainly more Dickensian, but modern Britain is an eclectic blend of different sounds.

In fact, the true vernacular is refreshingly diverse in its slang and you’ll probably surprise the person on the street with how good your English is. Like with most things Britain exports, they invent something but are then always outdone by foreigners (see cricket)!

* Translation: "Damn, this is made-up nonsense my friend".



British Culture Guide

Janusz Siwiorek .

British Royal Palaces and Castles

The Royal family has a number of different residences in the UK that they stay at depending on the time of year and occasion.

Each place has its own purpose, though they all share one thing in common - they are all massive! The royal family has two different types of residence - the official state owned royal residences, and their privately owned property. The former includes Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Holyrood Palace, whilst the latter includes Balmoral Castle and Sandringham House.

Official Royal Residences: Buckingham Palace (London) 

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Buckingham Palace is the main residence of the royal family and is used for official state occasions and visits. It is a huge, spectacular building right in the heart of London, in Westminster. It also backs onto the largest private garden in London, where the Queen holds yearly garden parties.

Each summer during August and September the state rooms are opened to the public. If you can, you should visit if you are based in London as they are quite spectacular.

Windsor Castle (Berkshire, England)

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Windsor Castle is the largest inhabited castle in the world, as well as the oldest in continuous occupation. It was originally built almost 1000 years ago, by William the Conqueror, and every monarch since then has lived in it at some point.

These days, Queen Elizabeth II spends many weekends a year at Windsor, and uses it for both private and state entertaining.  

Holyrood Palace (Edinburgh, Scotland)

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Holyrood Palace is located opposite the famous Edinburgh Castle and is used for state ceremonies and official royal entertaining. The Queen spends one week there at the beginning of each summer, and whenever she is in Scotland for State occasions.

When no members of the royal family are staying there, it is open to the public throughout the year.  

Private Homes: Balmoral Castle (Aberdeenshire, Scotland)

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Balmoral is a massive estate that is privately owned by the Queen and is very popular with the royal family in the summer. The huge grounds measure 64,000 acres and it takes 50 full time staff and 100 part time staff to look after the whole estate.

Sandringham House (Norfolk, England)

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Set in 20,000 acres of land, Sandringham is also privately owned by the royal family. It was first built in 1870 by the Prince of Wales (who went on to become King Edward VII) and has been owned by the royal family ever since.



British Culture Guide

Janusz Siwiorek .

UK Weather Conditions

Although the UK doesn’t face too many extreme weather conditions, it does face a wide variety of conditions on a regular basis. The British weather can be quite erratic and conditions regularly change from day to day, whatever the season.

Below you can find which weather conditions the UK faces, and when and how often they happen.


Temperatures in the UK

Temperatures in Britain usually stay within the range of between about -10°C at the very lowest night time winter temperatures, to 30°C at the height of summer. This relatively small range is due to Britain being surrounded by oceans, which hold heat much longer than land, and therefore warm the UK in the winter and cool it in the summer.  

Occasionally the temperatures do exceed these extremes. The lowest temperature in the UK on record is -27.2°C in Scotland in 1995, whilst the highest was 38.5 °C in Kent, England in 2003.

Temperature is not always roughly the same anywhere in Britain, as it is generally colder the further north you get. For example, even just in England, the average annual temperature for the south is 11°C, whilst for the north it is just 8.5°C. 


Sunshine in the UK

In the UK sunshine can seem scarce at times. The average total annual sunshine is 1340 hours (just over 3 and a half hours a day on average) which is about 30% of the maximum possible. However, this obviously varies hugely depending on the time of year and location in Britain.

As you would expect, there is more sunshine in the summer than in the winter, when some mountainous areas get as few as 38 hours during the three winter months. However, location makes such a huge difference that this average winter total increases to about 217 hours in the south and east of England during winter.

This regional difference is true throughout the year, and indeed, it is Eastbourne on the south coast of England that holds the record for most hours of sunshine in a month, with a massive 384 hours in July 1911 (that is almost 12 and a half hours each day!).  

If you are planning on a trip during the British summer that requires the sun to be out, we recommend that you check the weather forecast, head to the south of England and keep your fingers crossed.


Rain in Britain

There is a stereotypical view of Britain that it rains all the time. Whilst this can seem true when it begins to rain in the middle of June just as you have packed your bags to spend a day on the beach, for many parts of the UK it is actually a complete myth. This is due to the huge difference in amount of rainfall different parts of the country receive.  

As a general rule, the further west and the higher the land the more rain will fall. For example, the mountains of Wales and Scotland and the moors of South West England can see as much as 4,577 millimetres (180.2 in.) of rainfall each year, making them some of the wettest locations in Europe.

In contrast, London, for example, gets just 650 mm (25.6 in.) on average per year, which is less than Rome, Sydney and New York. This erratic rainfall has meant that in recent years the UK has suffered from a number of both floods and droughts in certain areas.


Snow in Britain

The British have a strange relationship with snow. Most areas rarely get much of it, but when they do people seem to go mad. It is on every news channel, in every newspaper and is all that anyone seems to talk about. Transport links close down, roads shut, children can’t get to school and workers can’t get to their offices. This causes half the population (mainly the younger half) to love the snow as they go sledging, have snow ball fights and build snowmen, whilst the other half are simply frustrated by it.

Snow is far more likely to fall the further north or east you get in the UK. For example, many areas of Scotland get heavy snow every year (there are even five ski resorts in the Scottish mountains!), whilst the south coast of England almost never gets a considerable amount. However, there are exceptions to this rule, when some winters bring heavy snow to the whole of Britain (as happened in the winter of 2009-10).


Wind in Britain

The fact that the UK is so close to a large ocean to its west (the North Atlantic) means that it regularly experiences quite strong winds, whilst rarely faces extreme hurricanes or tornadoes.   

Gales (winds with speeds of 51-101 km/h) are common in some areas of Britain. The Hebrides (a group of islands off the west coast of Scotland) for example, experience on average 35 days of gale a year, whilst many inland areas of England experience less than 5 on average.

The highest wind ever recorded in Britain was 191 km/h (119 mph) in Cornwall on the south west coast of England in 1979.