About Vienna

Austria’s dos and don’ts

There are many clichés about Austrians, some are contradictory: they are said to be laid back (‘gemuetlich’) and also a bit grumpy and both at the same time. As a rule, people will tell you when you slip up: So if you cross the street when a traffic light is red, those who disapprove will make their disapproval clearly noticable.
Generally, Austrians are very approachable and glad to help.

  • Formal vs. informal pronoun (‘du’ and ‘Sie’). Use the formal pronoun when talking to people older than you. At universities however, ‘du’ is fairly frequently used even with teaching staff. Observe Austrian students for pointers.

  • Title and last name: Using someone’s title is important, though more so in business communication rather than in private meetings

  • Shaking hands is the established form of greeting. Take the other hand out of your pockets and look into the person’s eyes
    Say ‘hello’, ‘Guten Tag’ (‘Good Day’) or ‘Grüß Gott’ (typical Austrian greeting) when you enter a (small) shop

  • Punctuality: This cliché is true, try to be punctual or apologise if not – though some people believe in being a tad late (max. 5-10 minutes depending on meeting point) for dinner invitations.

  • Dinner-invitations: Be punctual and bring a small gift (flowers or a bottle of wine) when dining at somebody’s home.

  • Table manners: Say ‘Mahlzeit’ or ‘Guten Appetit’ before eating. Keep your hands but not your elbows on the table.
    In restaurants and bars service is not included in the bill. Staff will expect around 10%.

Generally, people will be understanding if you make a mistake. Don’t worry, they have been abroad themselves.
However, if you are in Austria to do business it might pay to do some extra research.

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