Aust-US cultural differences

Jun 28th, 2008, 06:56 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 9,922
Aust-US cultural differences

[Note: this post isn't a trolling expedition and it isn't meant to suggest that one set of national characteristics is better than the other.]

This subject surfaced in a recent thread in connection with interactions between American visitors and Australian service staff. I've since laid hands on a book entitled "Cross-Cultural Communication for the Tourism and Hospitality Industry" (Fitzgerald, Helen; Melbourne, Hospitality Press, 1997). I thought the author's comments might be of interest, as we often tend to either exaggerate or downplay our differences.

Under "Some diferences between Americans and Australians" the following points are made:

"One major difference that can be identified ... is that Americans are generally more concerned about standards of efficiency, productivity and profitability than Australians. Certainly, at least in the past, Australians have been more easygoing about standards ... As a result, Australians sometimes see Americans as being over fussy 'nit-pickers', whereas Americans can see Australians as being sloppy and negligent.

"The same applies to people performing a service. In the USA such people are treated more as a professional carrying out a service, rather than as an acquaintance on personal terms. Australians can see the way Americans behave towards service staff as being arrogant. And to an Australian, the service offered in the USA may seem impersonal and automatic rather than being what Australians would oonsider as 'genuinely friendly'.

"A further difference is that the American emphasis on the Protestant work ethic of hard work and individual virtue has meant less of a role for government welfare and charities* whereas in Australian there is a belief that the virtuous are not necessarily rewarded. As a consequence, Australians tend to believe ... that there is a need to aim for equality of outcome as well as equality of opportunity..."

Under "American Humour":

"American humour is seldom sardonic or negative. They can see Australian humour as too negative, and as being even harsh and offensive. They may be surprised when Australians laugh and joke in stressful, difficult situations and 'send up' both themselves and their leaders. Americans are generally more respectful of their leaders.#"

(I would add that many Australians' attitude towards religion also has the potential to offend Americans.)

* I don't agree that there's less of a role for charities in the US - the relative lack of government assistance means that if anything there's more reliance on private charity, and the US has a stronger record of private philanthropy than Australia.

# Americans' respect for their leaders seems to have declined in recent years. Some may see this as unsurprising.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Jun 28th, 2008, 07:01 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 9,922
BTW, while it might be a bit presumptuous of me to speak for our New Zealand cousins, I think it's fair to say that the generalisations about Austrralian attitudes apply equally to Kiwi attitudes, with the proviso that their humour is even dryer than Australians.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Jun 28th, 2008, 08:53 PM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 878

That was interesting. Guess I will find out for myself soon. We leave for New Zealand on Jan 9 for almost 2 weeks. Then we move on to Australis for 4 weeks.

I will say the Australia I have met traveling are generally very "easy going" and fun to be around.
cwn is offline  
Jun 28th, 2008, 10:11 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 748
So Neil, we are irreverent are we, we tend to make fun of our leaders do we? Well I am here to tell you that that is nonsense - I personally would never do that and I know many other Australians who would not do that either!!!!!!

Kevin the Chicken

Trevor the farmer was in the fertilised egg business. He had several hundred young layers (hens), called 'pullets' and eight or ten roosters, to fertilise the pulletsí eggs.

Trevor kept records and any rooster that didn't perform went into the soup pot and was replaced. That took an awful lot of his time so he bought a set of tiny bells and attached them to his roosters. Each bell had a different tone so Trevor could tell from a distance, which rooster was performing. Now he could sit on the porch and fill out an efficiency report simply by listening to the bells.

The farmer's favourite rooster was Kevin, and a very fine specimen he was too, but on this particular morning Trevor noticed Kevin's bell hadn't rung at all!

Trevor went to investigate.

The other roosters were chasing pullets, bells-a-ringing. The pullets, hearing the roosters coming, would run for cover but to farmer Trevor's amazement, Kevin had his bell in his beak, so it couldn't ring.

He'd sneak up on a pullet, do his job and walk on to the next one.

Trevor was so proud of Kevin, he entered him into the Brisbane Exhibition and Kevin became an overnight sensation among the judges.

The Result?

The judges not only awarded Kevin the No Bell Piece Prize but they also awarded him the Pulletsurprise as well.

Clearly Kevin was a politician in the making: Who else but a politician could figure out how to win two of the most highly coveted awards on our planet by being the best at sneaking up on the populace and screwing them when they weren't paying attention.

Do you know a Pullitician called Kevin?.............

LizzyF is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 03:32 AM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 1,479
Lizzie - very funny.

Neil - I agree that Australians do have a darker or dryer sense of humour. I think the attitude to service has changed since 1997. I know in Sydney that we are less tolerant of lackadaisical service, but we want honest service, not lip service. Greetings like "Have a nice day" or "I'm Bob, and I'm your waitperson today" don't really cut it in Australia.

I did listen to an interesting discussion on radio recently. The people who live in Gerringong (a holiday seaside town) south of Sydney complain that it takes city vacationers a few days to relax and get into the holiday mode. They call it "hell"idays. When they arrive, they want their cappucinos in 2 minutes and still have the blackberries going. The locals say they have to train the citysiders on how to mellow out.
Sarvowinner is offline  
Jun 29th, 2008, 04:32 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 9,922
C'mon Lizzy, that one gets recycled for every PM! If you want disrespect, try the labels attached to the last PM and his lady - "The Rodent and Hyacinth (Bucket)".

Sarvowinner, I do think that book suffers from the same problem as all generalisations, but it was designed to alert Australian hospitality staff to the need to be aware of cultural differences - as for example that Japanese visitors usually won't complain directly about poor service, so the establishment will never know exactly why that tour company isn't patronising them any more.

While we know that there's a big cultural gap between us and the Japanese, we may not be too clear on how it may manifest itself. When it comes to Americans, the cultural similarities, both real and apparent, may blind us to the reasons why we sometimes inexplicably annoy each other.
Neil_Oz is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 02:05 PM.