Australia through (our) Dutch eyes.


This is not a description of Australian culture based upon extensive research and (statistical) evidence. It is our personal perception of our personal experience, in the local Brisbane region as a Dutch family with a Dutch background trying to integrate and adapt.


After being a year in Australia we can honestly say that it is a beautiful, interesting and challenging experience with ups and downs. This report tells something about our local Brisbane environment, (differences with) The Netherlands and about ourselves. It’s all relative and we don’t want to embarrass anyone!! Keep that in mind while reading it. This is OUR story. For a more general description  please go to:  Culture of AUSTRALIA.

The Country

The country is really beautiful. The flora and fauna, the space and the climate are breath taking and we really enjoyed it very much. Our private bush garden is an experience in itself. In the weekends and holidays we made many nice trips. The nature and the weather is (nearly) always great. We love it. In the city in the villages and in the national parks there are many picnic areas, often with barbecues and play grounds giving many opportunities to relax in a natural environment.

Living here

Our private property is situated against a protected State Forest with a Koala corridor in the back of our garden. With a bush garden of 20.000 square meter we see many animals crossing or living in it. Many lizards, several large Lace monitors (also called Goanna’s) of 2 meters, Brush Turkeys, Koalas, Kangaroos, Wallabies, Possums, many different Frogs and Birds but also Spiders and Snakes. Some of these animals can be dangerous, so we have to be careful, but we enjoy watching them living in our daily environment.

The kids can (nearly always) play outside and wherever you go, you always can find open playgrounds which is like a little paradise for the kids. It’s amazing how every playground is different in design and features often combined with a soccer field, rugby field, a basket ball basket etc. never damaged by violent youth. The school grounds are huge and the kids have lots of space to play outside in good weather on the ovals and tennis court and sometimes even a swimming pool.

We still feel on holiday here every morning when it is sunny and warm. In summer and winter the lengths of days/light is not very much different. Benefit is that in the winter the day is relatively long. However in summer it’s getting dark early (7 pm).

We have met many people and we also consider a few of them as our friends.

In daily life Brisbane is very different from what we are used to.

Society and Culture

Our perception is that rules are very important here and (at least publicly) they should be kept. The traffic here is a relief for us. Different traffic streams are zipping very well and if you want to change lanes they give you space to do so. These rules help to create order, but perhaps also suppress spontaneous behavior. Rules come with procedures that sometimes seem to become a goal in itself.

Women participation in jobs is considerable. One of the drivers is the many mothers working full time. Nevertheless we get the impression that (at least in Brisbane) in private live relations and roles are still traditional. Family ties are often close and more time is spent with family than with friends.

A real Aussie man is called a bloke. Although the bloke status is changing, it still is alive. On the other side the woman is fulfilling a traditional role as well and takes care for the kids. At the BBQ the men drink beer standing around the BBQ and the women are preparing the food in the kitchen or sit around the table. The distance between men and women is bigger than we are used to in The Netherlands.  The articles : “The demise of the Aussie-bloke”,  “Australian blokes face up to change” sescribes something of this phenomen. Below a funny viral marketing campaign (1st movie) and background info for marketers (2nd movie):

According to Hofstede’s research on dimensions of Cultural differences, there are some significant differences between the cultures of Australia and The Netherlands. Australian culture has far more Masculinity (MAS) which is clearly the biggest difference with the Dutch Culture. Australia is less Long Term Oriented (LTO) and has more Individualism (IDV). Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) and Power Distance (PDI) are nearly the same. (Source: Hofstede, G., 2001, Culture’s Consequences, 2nd ed.) For more background info, definitions and figures on Hofstede’s analysis goto “Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions“.

Compared to world average both cultures share strong Individualism, low power distance and lower uncertainty avoidance.

UK OU about the biggest difference: “The Masculinity dimension highlights ‘masculine’ cultures (e.g. Australia, Italy) where performance is what counts; money and material standards are important, ambition is the driving force. Big and fast are beautiful; ‘machismo’ is sexy. In contrast, in ‘feminine’ cultures (e.g. the Netherlands, Sweden) it is the quality of life that matters: people and the environment are important, service provides the motivation, small is beautiful and unisex is attractive. The expected relationship of men to women differs considerably along this dimension. In ‘masculine’ cultures the sex roles are clearly differentiated. Men should be assertive, dominating; women should be caring, nurturing. In ‘feminine’ cultures the sex roles are more flexible, and there is a belief in equality between the sexes. It is not ‘unmasculine’ for a man to take a caring role, for example.” (source:UK Open University, The Organisation and its environment

Social life

In general people are very polite. This is often appreciated, but also gets us sometimes confused and disappointed. (As in most countries) people are not as direct as in The Netherlands, so it seems to us that people don’t tell you what they think or are going to do, but just what you want to hear. We often are surprised how people spontaneously promise a lot, but don’t do what they promise. An Australian formulated it as: “We Australians say one thing and do another”. Forms of communications are very much embedded in rules of politeness. During the day you get many “How are you?” “How’s your day?”, “How are you mate?”, etc. even from people you have never seen you before and without expecting a real answer.

Many people work 5 days a week, or more. Saturday is shopping day and Sunday is family day.  Most of the people we meet are very much family oriented (instead of friends oriented). They visit each other or meet in the park for a picnic/barbeque on a Sunday. If you don’t have family here you are left out. Several immigrants here told us: They are very kind until the front door, but hardly let you in”. In effect you see immigrants coming from the same country clustering together as a family substitute. However this isolates other immigrants coming from countries less represented here even more.


The school system here was new for us, but we leave that for later.  However, it’s fun to see how kids at an early age ( 3 yrs old) already learn to do presentations for the group. It’s called “show & tell” and gives a kid the opportunity to take something from home (e.g. the favorite toy) and tell about it for the rest of the class. After the presentations the other kids can ask some questions.

Since we preferred our kids to go to a Christian school we had to choose a private school. It is known that on private schools there’s strong discipline and that’s also what the kids had to get used to. At school there are may rules from clothing (your need the wear the school’s uniform and even a hair string needs to be in the same color as the uniform) to welcome sentences as: “Good morning Mr … may God bless you”.

Competition is stimulated in many areas. Kids can earn certificates, medals, pictures, a stamp, … Also in sports kids have to compete. We noticed that our kids were very much stressed by this and we aren’t happy with this part of the system.

Also fund raisings are very popular and often have a competition element in it as well. The kids that succeed in raising the highest amount can get prices.

Kids play much more with kids in the family than with friends from school. For Nicole it was difficult to find girlfriends to play with after school time.

Each school day the school is finished at around 3 pm. No free afternoons on Wednesday and/or Friday. This is leaving less opportunities for social activities as well.

Each school year the classes get mixed. This can be a huge disappointment because kids get separated from (girl-)friends. It also stimulates an attitude of less investment in friendships at school.


Inherent to the long distances between cities, for cultural events you are more or less limited to the activities in your region giving you less choice than available in the Netherlands. This is especially true for more professional culture events. Nevertheless a lot of small communities are very active with all kinds of markets and events.

In contrast to the European settlers, the Aboriginals have a long history and can be experienced in many art forms from souvenirs to serious museums and exhibitions. It’s a rich and very interesting culture. The recent settlers from Europe and other areas in the world don’t have much history and common culture is limited. Buildings and camp ovens of around 100 years old are already called historical monuments.


There are three levels of government. The councils (1) are working locally in city regions, State governments (2) having a lot of power and get elected as well and finally the federal Government (3).  The State level is very powerful and decides about many things.

We have a Queensland driving license, not an Australian one. Vehicle inspections (like APK in The Netherlands) are required in New South Wales, but not in Queensland, etc. State level elections take place with big campaigns and we recently found out that even abortion and surrogacy are part of state level politics.

Many ministries ad related functions exist at federal and state level. Health Care is organized per state, just like a ministry of traffic. Each state has its own statistical  bureau, and there’s also one at federal level. This system doesn’t look very efficient to us and sometimes leads to less carefully decisions. Fluoride tablets are recently forbidden for sale because fluoride is put in the drink water system, however they forgot the many thousands of people only living from their own drink/tank water (which is stimulated by another department) like us. We have desperately looked for fluoride tablets every where, but even the dentist cannot get them anymore.

In contrast to the politeness in daily life politicians can be very rude in debates and play on the person and less on the ball. We find this contrast remarkable.


The Economy is a bit isolated and small. Although Australia is part of APEC (one of the Economical blocks (like EU and NAFTA) more substantial benefits of APEC are expected in the future when agreements within APEC are further developed. Practically Australia is in itself divided into even smaller economies around the cities. In effect in general there is not much competition leaving room for hiring/promoting your friends instead of the best people for the job. We’ve heard several Australians frustrated by this mechanism.

Other effects are not much choice in the shops, high prices and moderate service. On the other hand it is easy to have a friendly talk at the counter in the shop although many people might be waiting in the queue.

Also in Telecommunications it is a drama. Our Internet connections is expensive, has a low speed and often doesn’t work. And if works it still doesn’t do it very well and if we start to use it substantially we get punished.

A lot of products are sold with a label “Australian made”. In the newspapers and along the road you sometimes find advertisements “Buy Australia made” or “Buy a better Australia”.  Some illustrations of Australian made promotion: “Australian made”, “OnlyOZ”, “MadeIt”.

In Brisbane Mining and Building is mainly it.


The language is a real challenge. English is not our mother language and that makes it more difficult to express yourself. The Australian language is even worse because of the dialect, the abbreviations, the slang and the usual sayings.

Finally some Australian characteristics: “Basic guide to Australian life


It is a great relief that dogs cannot walk free anywhere. When you are walking or jogging somwhere you don’t have to be afraid that a dog is jumping up against you or worse bite you. It is also not very likely that you will step into dog-poo. Dogs are normally lined and in several parks dogs are allowed to walk freely within a fenced area. If they do a poo the owners have to remove it. Often bags are provided at the entrance of the dogs zones. This is a great system compared to the anarchie in The Netherlands where dogs are walking everywhere and drop there poo anywhere. On the radio I heard a (from origin Dutch) lady say that in The Netherlands was no room for dogs because of the high people density. And for perhaps a few dogs living there strong regulation would be requred. When she heard about the 8 million dogs in NL she nearly got a heart-attack.

Rabbits as pets are not allowed in Queensland (in NSW they are) because of the damage these animals cause to the landscape. Guinea pigs are allowed and popular. However in bush environments the smell from there animals attracks snakes so you need to be careful.

Rude and Impolite

When it comes to Australians and Dutchies, is one of them more rude and more (im)polite than the other ? W’ll soon answer that question here.


As most nations Australia has a history with sensitive and confusing elements. (under construction).

National Pride

Although research (reference to be added) shows that people in the Netherlands are not less happy than Australians, we have met much more Australians telling us that they are proud of their country. Several said to us: “Australians should go more overseas to appreciate their own country more. For us this is a fascinating difference. We noticed that children already at a young age are taught to be proud of their country and this is illustrated by many songs.

Last year Jorick learned “Home among the gum trees” at school and he can sing it for you if you want.

These songs are so popular that they are used as basis for unity, memorial, but also in marketing as the 2nd movie shows.

And of course the national anthem.  Nicole has never heard about the existence of a Dutch Anthem, but she can already sing the Australian one (without us teaching it). The 2nd is the new modern version by Adam Hills.


For completeness sake here’s also the informal Anthem “Waltzing Mathilda”. This is one of the most popular songs. The 2nd version below is brought by the Dutch Andre Rieu.


Coming here without knowing anybody made us realize and experience how important social relations are and how much you normally depend on others. On the other hand we also experienced that this made it a richer experience with many opportunities to learn about ourselves and our social life. It gave us also another view on daily life and culture in the Netherlands and Australia.

Finally the view of Dylan Moran and some old memories.