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Austrian dos and don’ts

There are many clichés about Austrians, some contradictory: they are laid back (‘gemuetlich’) and a bit grumpy at the same time. As a rule, people will tell you when you transgress: So if you cross the street, when the traffic light is red, people who disapprove will make sure you notice.
Generally, Austrians are approachable and glad to help.

  • Formal vs. informal pronoun (‘du’ and ‘Sie’). Use formal pronoun when talking to people older than you. At universities however, ‘du’ is fairly frequent even with teaching staff. Watch German students.
  • Title and last name: Title is important, though 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 and they are considered to be social outlaws
  • Dinner-invitations: be punctual and bring a small gift (flowers or a bottle of wine) when dining at somebody’s place
  • Table manners: Say ‘Mahlzeit’ or ‘Guten Appetit’ before eating. Keep your hands but not your elbows on top of the table.
  • In restaurants and bars tip is not included in the bill. Staff will expect about 10%

Generally, people will understand if you blunder. 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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