We all know that it can be difficult to make new friends in a new country. Not only do you have to learn a new language and familiarise yourself with a different social etiquette, but you’ve also got to pluck up the confidence to introduce yourself and make conversation with strangers – a skill that may not come naturally or comfortably to us all at first! While it may not be first and foremost on your list when settling in, eventually you will begin to feel like socialising, and breaking the ice may suddenly become more daunting. We’ve compiled this article to guide you through the social norms in Austria, along with suggestions on how to meet people once you arrive.Austrian people tend to be quite friendly and laid back, although this may depend on where you base yourself. For example, there’s a stigma that Austrian people in Vienna tend to be a little unfriendly towards outsiders, comparable to how Londoners are thought of as being less friendly and talkative compared to other (more welcoming) areas of the UK. Once you have a better understanding of how things work around here, it will become easier to score brownie points and avoid social faux pas.
First of all, staring isn’t considered rude in Austria. This may seem a little strange, depending on where you’re moving from, but once you understand that you haven’t done something wrong if you walk through town and people are staring, or you catch eyes on you as you sip hot chocolate in a cafe, you’ll feel more at ease. Always shake hands when introducing yourself or when being introduced and make eye contact. Austrian people see eye contact as a sign that you are being attentive. Always shake hands again when you leave. If you’re a woman, don’t freak out if you go to shake hands with someone and they kiss your hand instead! This is not an everyday thing, but it’s also not uncommon in Austria.
Austrian people like to dress smartly. If you decide to experience the opera, a popular pastime in beautiful Vienna, ensure you dress accordingly – that is, formally.
Nudity is not uncommon in many pools, saunas and at various beaches. Don’t automatically strip though; there will be signs if you’re in a nudist location! If you happen to wander into one of these places by accident, you have to either do as the local people do or leave. It’s illegal to wear a bathing suit in a nude sauna. Having said this, you’ll also probably see women topless sunbathing just about anywhere, even at public pools. Nudity isn’t a big thing here and is not something to be embarrassed about.
• You’ll likely receive some stern glances and tutting (and also a fine) for jaywalking in Austria.
• Public displays of affection won’t necessarily get you in trouble, but most people really won’t appreciate it.
• Not leaving a tip. Tipping etiquette is probably one of the most diverse and confusing aspects when it comes to travel as every country is different, but yes, in Austria, we tip. If you go for a meal with friends or business associates and fail to leave a tip, it won’t go down too well.
• Singing anything from the Sound of Music or quoting Arnold Schwarzenegger will go down like a lead balloon. Don’t do it!
Learn a bit of basic German. English speakers may find it difficult to wrap their heads around the formal and informal tenses or the male/female nouns, but a little effort will go a long way.
Titles are meaningful and, as such, it’s not uncommon for people to be referred to by their title as opposed to their name (such as “Herr/Frau Doktor”). You’ll earn some serious brownie points if you clock on to this straight away and address people accordingly.
“Manners maketh the man”. Manners matter in Austria, so always say hello, thank you and goodbye, even when popping into the local store for some milk.
Punctuality is highly valued, so make sure you arrive on time.
If you are invited to dinner, bring a gift such as wine or flowers.
As the old saying goes, cleanliness is close to Godliness. Being neat and tidy is expected of you in Austria, particularly if you live anywhere where there are common-use areas.
If you’re a smoker, you’re in luck. We are in no way encouraging you to start smoking, but smoking is common in Austria, and you can easily strike up a conversation by asking for a cigarette or lighter.
Any conversation about outdoorsy sports will generally be well received. Other topics that are likely to be a hit include art and music – particularly classical music and opera. Perhaps not with the younger generation though!
If you want to steer away from the typical dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble is a great app with several different options. Yes, it can be used for dating, but you can change your settings to look for friendships, or even for business networking.
Meetup.com is a hugely popular site where you can sign up to tons of different events and classes wherever you are.
Language exchanges are a great chance for you to get more fully immersed in the culture. They allow others to practice their language skills with you in return, so it’s a win-win situation.
Couchsurfing may seem like it’s only for backpacking and free accommodation, but this website also has a section about local events. So if you’re a bit stuck on where to go, give it a try.
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