Customs & Traditions in Austria

Updated: May 5

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General Etiquette

  • Austrians are generally traditional people.

  • They are careful and moderate in their behavior.

  • Being clear and honest is highly valued. Austrians prefer straightforward and direct communication and questions.

  • Respect an Austrian's personal space. Many value their physical and personal privacy when among strangers. Ask permission before photographing or taking a video of someone.

  • It is expected that one will knock on doors before entering.

  • Speaking about personal matters and being more open in body language is more acceptable once you have a well-established relationship with your Austrian counterpart.

  • Do not think Austrians and Germans are the same. There are distinct differences in culture, customs, and values between the two countries. Some Austrians may have a sense of anger towards Germans. As such, don’t refer to an Austrian as a German, and try not to make comparisons between the two countries.

  • Neighborly etiquette also has its rules it is important that common areas such as sidewalks, pavements, corridors (in flats), and steps be kept clean at all times by all associated with them.

  • Presentation and dressing well are also important to Austrians.

  • Even when dressed informally, they are neat and conservative; their clothes are never showy.

  • There is sometimes a strict protocol for dressing appropriately in different situations: formal wear for the theatre or a concert and semiformal wear for better restaurants.

  • Some high-level events may have a dress code and will turn away patrons who are not dressed properly.

  • A good conversation topic is Austria's regional diversity. Austrians enjoy talking about their home region. Many feel a sense of belonging to their region of birth, even if they left many years ago. Also, show a sense of admiration for Austria's natural beauty and landscapes.

  • Austrians generally have a love for gaining knowledge and learning. Show an interest in learning about a topic your Austrian counterpart is passionate about, and likewise, feel free to share your thoughts on topics of interest.

  • As for much of Europe, WWII is a sensitive conversation topic, especially for elderly individuals, speak sensitively and neutrally. The younger generation is more open to such discussions.


Family

  • The family forms the basis of the Austrian social structure.

  • The family is generally small consisting of the parents and one or two children, extended families tend not to reside together, largely due to limited space in housing and the wide availability of childcare options.

  • But in rural families, they are typically larger, with two to four children, they tend to live near the extended family, and will often rely on their family network to help raise children.

  • Weekends are generally devoted to family activities such as outdoor activities.

  • Eating dinner together in the evening is very much the norm.

  • Sundays are usually bookmarked for visiting grandparents for dinner, and/or, enjoying a hike in the country together.

  • When young adults begin their tertiary education or employment, they usually leave their parents’ home to live in their own apartment or with friends.

  • However, due to the competitive housing situation in Austria, many young adults may not leave their family's home until they finish university or will move back in after graduation.


Naming

  • Austria uses similar naming conventions to the English-speaking.

  • Some Austrians have two personal names (one that is a first name and one as a middle name) and a family name (e.g. David Lukas Gruber).

  • Surnames are passed down to subsequent generations through the father’s lineage.

  • After marriage, a couple can choose either of their surnames to be their new surname. The default case is to adopt the surname of the groom.

  • The partner who changes their surname is allowed to use their maiden name alongside their partner's surname, connected with a hyphen (e.g. David Lukas BAUER-SCHMIDT).

  • In the past, one popular naming tradition was to name the firstborn son after the father. In rural areas, this tradition continues but has largely shifted to the middle name.

  • Children may also be given middle names derived from their mother or other relatives’ names.

  • Austrians have recently begun choosing more popular English and international names. However, some traditional names such as Anna and Lukas remain popular.


Meeting & Greeting:

  • Greetings in Austria are formal.

  • The most common greeting is the handshake accompanied by direct eye contact & formal verbal greetings such as ‘Guten Morgen’ (‘good morning’), ‘Guten Tag’ (‘good day’) and ‘Guten Abend’ (good evening).This is normal regardless of age and gender.

  • Among friends and family, people may use casual greetings such as ‘Hallo’ or ‘Servus’ (Hi).

  • In business or social settings, you are expected to greet everyone (women, men, and children) by shaking hands.

  • The higher-ranking people or older person typically extends their hand first.

  • Some Austrian men, particularly those who are older, may kiss the hand of a female.

  • Women may also kiss men, but men never kiss other men.

  • Between friends and family, women may give other women a light hug and kiss. Two kisses are given on each cheek. The kisses are more of an air kiss with cheeks briefly touching.

  • A male from another country should not kiss an Austrian woman's hand.

  • People may greet one another in passing on the street or greet salespeople when entering and leaving the store. by saying “Grϋß Gott” (God bless you). This is an informal and polite way of greeting someone.

  • Titles are very important and show respect during introductions, for example, ‘Doktor Wagner' (Dr. Wagner). Use a person's title and their surname until invited to use their first name.

  • So the use of first names is reserved for close friends, family, and among the youth.

  • When making or answering phone calls, it is the norm to introduce oneself by saying one’s name (typically the surname, but the first name can be used if preferred).As it is considered impolite if the caller or receiver does not say their name, even if accompanied with other polite greetings such as ‘hello' or ‘good morning'.

  • Punctuality is highly valued in Austria. Being on time for meetings, appointments, services, and parties is expected. Deadlines are expected to be met with little flexibility. In social situations, one should arrive approximately 5 to 10 minutes before the selected time. If you expect a delay, inform your Austrian counterpart and give an apology for your delay or they may leave or begin the event without you.



Visiting a home

  • Visiting someone's home without arrangments is considered impolite. Rather, you have to make arrangements in advance or telephone before any visit.

  • Only close friends and relatives are invited into the house, so it is a place where more informal communication may occur.

  • Guests are expected to remove their shoes when entering a home. Hosts may provide a pair of house slippers to keep guests’ feet warm. It is also acceptable to simply wear one’s socks after removing shoes.

  • Guests typically remain standing until they are instructed where to sit by the host.

  • Hosts will often offer the best seat in the home to their guests.

  • If the host leave the room for a moment for any circumstances, they will usually offer guests something to occupy themselves until they can return such as books.

  • Hosts will also offer beverages such as water, tea, coffee, or juice.

  • Austrians take care of their homes, keeping them neat and tidy.

  • In a formal culture such as theirs, the home is the place where people relax and let their hair down.

  • Neighborly etiquette also has its rules that must be observed. It is important that common areas such as sidewalks, pavements, corridors (in flats), and steps be kept clean at all times by all associated with them.


Giving gifts

  • When invited to visit someone’s home, guests are usually expected to bring flowers, chocolates, alcohol, or a small gift appropriate for the occasion, such as a handcrafted item.

  • Gifts should be reasonable in price and not lavish or excessive.

  • Austrians exchange gifts with family and close friends at Christmas and birthdays.

  • Children receive gifts on December 6th, the feast of St. Nicholas

  • It is also common for married children to bring a gift when visiting their parents.