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Is it tea or dinner in Australia?

If you ever find yourself visiting the land down under, also known as Australia, you might come across a unique dining experience that might leave you scratching your head. Australians have their own unique way of referring to their evening meal which is often called “tea”. To someone who is not familiar with this term, it could be confused for an afternoon cup of tea, but for Australians, it’s their slang term for dinner. In this article, we will explore the origins of this phrase and why it’s widely used in Australia.

What Do Australians Call Their Evening Meal?

When it comes to Australian cuisine, many people are curious as to whether the evening meal is referred to as dinner or tea. This debate has caused confusion for both locals and visitors alike. In this article, we will explore the roots of tea and dinner in Australian culture and answer the age-old question!

The Origins of Tea and Dinner in Australia

Before we dive into the naming conventions for the evening meal in Australia, let’s first explore the origins of the two terms, tea and dinner. The term tea is derived from the British culture and was used to describe the light meal that was typically taken in the late afternoon or early evening. This meal consisted of tea and light refreshments. The term dinner, on the other hand, originated from larger meals served in the early afternoon or evening.

When the British colonized Australia, they brought their mealtime customs with them. Over time, Australian culture has adapted these customs and evolved them into their own unique traditions. However, the debate over whether to refer to the evening meal as tea or dinner has continued to persist.

Tea vs. Dinner

Now that we’ve covered the basics of the two terms, let’s move on to the main question at hand: what do Australians call their evening meal? The answer is not simple, as it largely depends on the individual and their regional background. In some regions of Australia, the evening meal may be referred to as dinner, while in others, it’s known as tea.


In urban areas, dinner is the most common term used to refer to the evening meal. This is because the term dinner has been adopted by many restaurants and cafes, which serve their meals in the early evening. Additionally, many people who live in urban areas have adopted the term to describe their evening meals.

Dinner in Australia


In rural areas of Australia, the term tea is commonly used to refer to the evening meal. This is largely due to the British influence and the traditional light meal consisting of tea and refreshments served in the early evening. In these regions, dinner may be used to refer to a larger meal or a special occasion.

Tea in Australia

Other Names for the Evening Meal

Aside from tea and dinner, Australians may also use other terms to describe their evening meal. These terms include supper, which is typically a light meal served later in the evening, and evening meal, which is a more general term that can refer to any meal served in the evening.


The debate over whether to call the evening meal tea or dinner is largely a matter of personal preference and regional tradition. While dinner is more commonly used in urban areas, tea is still a prevalent term in rural regions. Whatever term you prefer to use, the most important thing is to enjoy the delicious meals that Australian cuisine has to offer!

What is Dinner in Australia?

Dinner, the main meal of the day, is a significant aspect of Australian culture. It is typically served in the evening, and Aussies typically take great pride in their culinary skills. Dinner is also an opportunity for Aussies to connect with their families and friends, catch up on the day’s events, and unwind after a long day.

Timing of Dinner in Australia

In Australian culture, dinner is typically served between 6 PM and 8 PM. The timing of dinner varies depending on an individual’s work hours and family commitments. Typically dinner is eaten with family or friends in a relaxed and informal atmosphere.

Types of Dinner in Australia

Australia is a diverse country, and the types of dinner enjoyed by Aussies vary depending on their cultural background. Some popular types of dinner in Australia include:

  1. Meat and three vegetables
  2. Roast beef with gravy and vegetables
  3. Seafood platter
  4. Pizza and pasta
  5. BBQ (grilled meat) with vegetables or salad
  6. Stir-fry with rice or noodles

Popular dinner in Australia

Popular Beverages During Dinner in Australia

While Aussies enjoy a variety of beverages with their dinner, some popular choices include:

  1. Red or white wine
  2. Beer
  3. Soft drinks or juice
  4. Tea or coffee

Popular beverage during dinner in Australia

The Importance of Dinner in Australian Culture

Dinner is an essential aspect of Australian culture. It is an opportunity for Aussies to connect over a shared meal, catch up on the day’s events, and discuss various topics. Dinner is also a way for Aussies to celebrate significant events and milestones such as birthdays, weddings, and holidays.

Dinner Etiquette in Australia

While there are no strict rules for dinner etiquette in Australia, Aussies typically follow these guidelines:

  1. Dress casually
  2. Arrive on time
  3. Wait until everyone has been served before eating
  4. Use utensils and napkins provided
  5. Keep your elbows off the table

Dinner etiquette in Australia

Restaurant Culture in Australia

Dining out in Australia is very popular, and Aussies enjoy a diverse range of cuisines from all over the world. In Australian cities and major towns, there are many restaurants and cafes to choose from, ranging from fast food to fine dining.


Dinner is an important aspect of Australian culture, and Aussies take great pride in their culinary skills. From traditional meat and three vegetables to international cuisine, Aussies enjoy a wide variety of foods for their dinner. Whether enjoyed at home with family or dining out with friends, dinner is an opportunity to connect and unwind after a long day.

Australian dinner table

Tea or Dinner: The Australian Terminology Debate

1. The History of Mealtime Terminology in Australia

Australia has a rich history of immigration, leading to a melting pot of cultures and traditions. This has contributed to the emergence of a unique Australian dialect and slang, including the term used to describe the evening meal. The use of “tea” and “dinner” in Australia is steeped in tradition and regional differences.

Historically, “tea” was a term used in working-class communities to describe the evening meal, as it was often a simple and quick meal served early in the evening. As Australia became more affluent, the evening meal became larger and more formal, and the term “dinner” was adopted by the middle and upper classes as a more sophisticated description.

2. Regional Differences

The use of “tea” or “dinner” in Australia varies by region. In states like New South Wales and South Australia, the term “dinner” is most commonly used, while in Victoria and some rural areas, “tea” is the preferred terminology. Queensland and Tasmania are often split between the two, depending on social class and tradition.

3. The Modern Usage of Tea and Dinner

In modern Australia, the terms “tea” and “dinner” are often used interchangeably, with some families even using the terms to differentiate between a hot meal (dinner) and a light meal (tea) served in the evening.

However, the terms can still carry connotations of social class, with “dinner” often associated with more formal occasions, and “tea” being viewed as a more casual and family-oriented meal.

4. The Impact of British Influence

Australian culture has been heavily influenced by British traditions and customs, including the terminology used to describe meal times. The use of “tea” and “dinner” in Australia can be traced back to British usage, with many Australians retaining these traditions to this day.

5. Other Mealtime Terminology in Australia

While “tea” and “dinner” may be the most common terms used in Australia to describe the evening meal, there are other regional variations in terminology. For example, some Australians may use “supper” to describe a late-night snack, while others may use the phrase “smoko” to describe a break for food or refreshment during work hours.

Term Region Meaning
Tea Victoria, rural areas Evening meal, typically informal
Dinner New South Wales, South Australia Evening meal, typically more formal
Supper Various regions Light meal or snack, often eaten late at night
Smoko Australia-wide Break for food or refreshment during work hours

Overall, the use of “tea” or “dinner” in Australia can be a point of debate and difference, with regional and social class factors contributing to which term is used. However, both terms are still commonly used and reflect the unique cultural mix that makes up modern-day Australia.

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Thanks for Sharing a Cuppa with Me!

Well, now you know the tea on tea versus dinner in Australia. It’s always interesting to learn about different cultures, isn’t it? I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. And don’t forget to check back later for more interesting articles about life down under. Ta-ta for now, mate!

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