Let’s start with a “hello”. Studying in another country can be intimidating and making friends can be even more so. With so many unique social and cultural norms found in Australia, it can be a bit overwhelming and confusing. Luckily, sometimes all you need is a great starter to get conversation flowing with Aussies – here are some of our tips on starting conversations with local students.
How to approach local students
While daunting, university is a great place to make friends and provides plenty of opportunities to talk to other students. There are many clubs on campus – writing, music, reading, acting, and sports to name a few. These are a great opportunity to chat to local students. Starting a conversation in these environments can be easy. Many students are eager to talk about their interest in the class or club they’re attending and may ask the same of you. It’s great to start out where you have something in common.
Tutorials are also a great opportunity. Although group projects might seem like a bit of a bore, they are a good way to get to know the students in your group. Australians appreciate honesty, so if you like a classmate’s outfit or the way they write their notes, speak up! Your classmate will most likely return the compliment and start up a conversation. Study groups can also be a good way to reach friends, building on what you have in common.
What to talk about
There are plenty of topics to talk about when first speaking to a local student. Sport is a massive deal in Australia. Many students participate in sporting leagues, and watching professional sport is a huge part of Aussie culture. Local students will also be likely to engage in conversation about the latest movies, music, and TV shows, and will be interested to know what sort of media you watch or listen to back home. You might also like to ask about the latest events happening at the university, or in the city, which can not only help introduce you to local students but also help you get to know the area you are in.
What not to talk about
Australians are generally quite relaxed and laid-back and are open to discussing all kinds of subjects. However, there are a few conversation topics you might want to avoid when first talking to a local student – perhaps not that different to back home. Religion and sex are probably not the best conversation starters due to their personal nature.
You may also want to treat the topic of politics with caution. Although many Australians may mention politics or recent news in passing, some political topics are sensitive and may lead to a heated discussion, especially concerning Australian politics. So, it’s best to avoid talking about politics when first talking to a local student.
Aussie humour can be a bit difficult to understand. Humour in Australia can be dry, self-deprecating, and sarcastic and filled with good-natured insults. You might find that your Aussie friends will make fun of each other, or themselves, but don’t worry; they’re not being rude or mean, they’re just having a laugh. So next time your Australian friend says ‘great job’ after you fail to walk up the stairs or you drop a book, laugh it off in true Aussie fashion and try again. Nicknames are also a part of Australian humour. Australians might shorten (or lengthen) your name or give you a new one based on your personality or features. For example, someone with red hair might ironically be given the nickname ‘blue’.