Today, we made the very long trip back home. Australia has the only place in the world that is worth sitting down in a plane seat for 20 hours straight to get to, it takes some work. Reflecting on our time in Australia, it’s hard to believe we were only there for less than three weeks. We fit so many activities and learned so much in an incredibly short amount of time.
A major focus of the trip was to identify similarities and differences between the way business is conducted in Australia vs. the United States. The first thing that stood out to me about Australian business is the work environment. Everywhere we went seemed very relaxed, and almost anti-corporate. Ties were uncommon in men’s dress code and were not required at any of the businesses. That would not fly in a lot of American businesses! Although it was relaxed environment, there was still a backbone of efficiency. Many of the places we went to were not traditional offices, but a workplace. You can walk in, grab whatever desk or room you find fit for the day, and work comfortably. The agile layout of the offices made for a high level of collaboration in the companies. I have not visited many American companies, but the ones I have visited do not have anything like that. Another difference in the way Australians conduct business, or conversation in general, is openness.
There has been a trend in the US to closely monitor every word you say, as if it could be used against you at any moment. In Australia, people like to say what they are thinking, and they are applauded for doing so. I really noticed this when watching the Australian equivalent of C-SPAN. Australian politicians openly call each other out for bad politics and can be brutal. I think it is great. In business, that kind of environment creates great balance and allows for innovation. It also allows for a high level of intellectual diversity, something that the US has come to lack in academia and the corporate world.
As far as similarities, it would be hard to write them all down, because Australia is similar to the US overall. Something that did come up at most of them was about the value of your education. We can all agree that going to college is important to be hirable at a high level, but what sets you apart are your soft skills. Your ability and willingness to learn make you hirable, and continuously improving yourself drives long term success. Being shown that made me feel great moving forward with my transition into the corporate world.
Aside from the company visits, I made it a goal to have at least one meaningful interaction with an Australian person every day, to see what they find important. I had so many, and each of them was great. I cannot recall a single time I felt treated poorly by anyone I made conversation with, which says a lot about the people. You can’t approach people in the US in the same way without facing hostility. My interactions were usually small, but they could mean a lot in a short amount of time. We made friends at many of the pubs, and I can count at least three separate occasions where locals told me about a place to check out in the city that was wonderful.
In Sydney, we took a fishing charter. Not that it was my fault, but I may have forgotten my jacket as we headed out early on a cold morning. When we got to the charter, two local women greeted us, and even found a jacket in their car for me to borrow. They even made me some Irish coffee to warm up after. Australians really look out for each other. Here’s a picture of me wearing that jacket (yes, it is a women’s jacket, and yes, I do look great in it)
Australia has a one of a kind culture, and you really must see it to believe it.