Every culture has a few of its own customs that tourists need to be aware of if they want to stay on the right side of the locals. Follow these tips and you’ll have a great time in Austria!
Mistake Austria for Germany
It sounds silly, but it does happen. Although it is a German-speaking country and there are obviously a few similarities, Austria has its own distinct character and is completely separate to its neighbour. The language, culture and food can be vastly different from Germany, and Austrians won’t be too happy if you get the two confused.
A castle across a meadow in Austria | © Austrian Tourist Board
Forget to Tip Waiters
Waiters in Vienna have a reputation for being uppity and unfriendly. However, you can keep them on your side if you follow a few simple rules. Tipping is very important in Austria, with 10% being the recommended amount. If you are always courteous, you shouldn’t meet the sharp edge of a Viennese waiter’s tongue.
A traditional Viennese waiter | (c) vienna tourist board
Ignore the Highway Code
Austrians take their Highway Code very seriously. Fines can be issued for jaywalking in Vienna, and so you’ll often see people waiting at a red light, even if the roads are clear. Remember to stay out of cycle lanes during rush hour, and obey the green man.
Traffic lights | © paulsteuber / Pixabay
Expect Stores to be Open on Sundays
Although it may seem antiquated, supermarkets and most major shops in Austria close on Sundays, even in the capital Vienna. Make sure you stock up on food on Saturday. Keep in mind that many restaurants and cafés will remain open.
Be Too Snap Happy
It is always tempting to photograph every landmark you see while you are on holiday, especially in a city as beautiful as Vienna. However, make sure to be aware of your surroundings before embarking on a photography session. A busy pedestrianised street, for example, won’t be an ideal location.
Belvedere, Vienna | © bogitw / Pixabay
Mistake the Nationality of Schnitzel or Strudel
Austrians are incredibly proud of their homegrown dishes. Schnitzel and strudel are considered the national dishes of Austria, although they are often mistaken for being German. There are a few rules regarding the schnitzel: a Wiener schnitzel is considered to be a true Wiener schnitzel only if it made using veal, and it is never served with sauce.
Schnitzel | © Monsterkoi / Pixabay
Mention The Sound of Music…
Although it may be hard to believe, the film was a complete flop in Germany and Austria when it premiered in 1965, and neither country has succumbed to its charms since. The Austrians resented the historical inaccuracies depicting their heritage, while the Germans found the Nazi theme difficult to swallow so soon after World War II. Vastly preferable in both countries is the 1956 German-language film Die Trapp-Familie, which was the original inspiration for the Broadway musical.
… or Arnold Schwarzenegger
Despite having lived away from Austria for over 30 years, he’s still considered one of the only famous Austrians, and his association with the country is not unfounded. However, there are other far more relevant popular Austrian cultural figures, such as celebrity Conchita Wurst, the winner of the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest.
Ask if They Wear Lederhosen
You might see a few Lederhosen-clad men wandering around the city, but they will mostly be in fancy dress. Austrians are pretty up to date with their attire, so do refrain from asking about the whereabouts of their leather trousers.
Lederhosen-clad men | © MEINE HEIMAT [Chiemgau] / Flickr
There are no barriers on the U-Bahn in Vienna, but don’t let this tempt you into fare dodging. Inspectors are often checking tickets at stations in Vienna, and the fines can be hefty if you’re caught. Weekly tickets can be purchased for a reduced price and hiring a bike is often relatively inexpensive.
Vienna | © Osamu Kaneko / Flickr
Assume Everybody Speaks English
People in Vienna generally have a very good level of English, but this is not the case for the entirety of Austria. Be sure to learn a few simple German phrases, even if it’s just asking how much something costs, or saying please and thank you.