Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

Understanding the Business Culture in Australia

One of the exciting yet, challenging aspects of working for a company in a new country is understanding the business norms and culture of the country. Having worked in the U.S. as well as in the U.K., I quickly learned the importance of doing research on the working style of a country before moving as it will help you be successful in the long run.  

If I had to describe the corporate culture of my internship site, I would say that it is very laidback and flexible. We have a huge community space in the office where members will gather to have coffee, hang out and have conversations throughout the day. As an intern, while deadlines and projects are assigned ahead of time, all deliverables have flexible deadlines depending on the intern’s ability and interest in the project. For instance, on the first day I was given a list of projects to choose from and for each project I was given a list of contacts in the company to reach out to for more details. I really like this system because it gives me the opportunity to work on projects that I am interested in or want to learn more about. I also have the flexibility to meet different members in the company through the projects, which helps me learn more about the company overall.  

One of the main challenges however, of working in a flexible or laidback environment is that fact that you have to be more accountable for your own deadlines. Even though my manager checks in with me regularly, she does not set strict deadlines for me to meet. Instead, I must be accountable for my own deadlines and make sure that I plan out all the steps of the project in advance. This is a very new way of working for me, as in the past I have had managers who give me hard deadlines to meet and basically walk through all the steps of completing the project. However, this new way of working helps me become more independent and it teaches me to be more accountable for my work.  

For those of you who plan on working in a new business environment, the biggest advice I can give you is to do some research on expat forums online to see what other people have said about the business culture in the location of your interest. For instance, I looked at American expat forums and read about the experiences of professionals who moved from America to Australia. This was helpful because I was able to understand the business practices and norms in Australia before going into my internship. Furthermore, when you start working in your new company, it is always good to get to know your coworkers or any locals in the area so you can ask them questions about what their daily life is like. You can also ask coworkers to describe the working style or culture of the company, and this would also give you an idea of how to present yourself professionally during your internship.