Cultural Clues… Do’s & Taboos
A series of cultural tips for countries from A to Z
Some Conversation Guidelines for Austria
Austrian business is based on respect, conservatism, courtesy and formality. Dress professionally. Shake hands when arriving and departing.
Displaying knowledge of Austrian history and culture demonstrates an awareness of the uniqueness of Austria. They may take offense against anyone who fails to recognize the clear distinction between them and the Germans.
The only thing that is truly German about Austria is the language and, even then, Austrian German is very different from standard or High German (Hochdeutsch) in vocabulary, idioms, and pronunciation. Mostly German and some English is spoken for business.
In business, courtesy titles Herr (‘Mr.’), Frau (‘Mrs.’) or Fräulein (‘Miss’) followed by the surname should be used until invited to do otherwise. ‘Ms.’ has no direct German translation. Educational titles are also widely used.
Austrians expect you to mean what you say and say what you mean. Do not make idle promises during conversation. Austrians have a great sense of humor, and they will accept your joking so long as you are self-deprecating at the same time. However, humor has no place at a formal meeting or in the office where senior staff is present.
Austrians plan their schedules weeks, even months in advance and try to follow what they have pre-arranged on their calendars.
Austrians are scrupulously punctual and expect others to observe the same courtesy at all times.
Welcome Topics of Conversation
• Austrian culture, theatre and music, especially classical music are favorite topics. Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Johann Strauss, Bruckner, Schönberg and Berg were all Austrian.
• Opera is a great love, especially that of Mozart and Richard Strauss, even though Strauss was born in Munich.
• The beauty of the architecture of Austria’s cities and local sites, as well as their historical art is always a good topic. Vienna is known as ‘the city of music’.
• Your international travel to other countries is also of interest.
• Discussing Austrian winter sports is always well received.
• Austrian food is appreciated with gusto, has a noted distinction from the typical German food. Show appreciation of their distinct restaurants, beer and wines.
• Austrian traditions are uniquely Austrian. Appreciate the distinctions.
Conversation to Avoid
• World War II and Austria’s role in the war can still be a sensitive topic.
• Anything that leads to a discussion around Anti-Semitism should be avoided.
• The Austrian religion is predominately Catholic, so different religious view aren’t usually discussed.
• Austrians are a rather private culture, so talk about separation and divorce is usually avoided. Because of their private nature, Austrians don’t usually discuss money matters outside of business.
• Austrian hospitality is warm with a degree of formality. It is an honor to be invited to an Austrian’s home. Dress well and bring a gift.
•Talking too much about your education, professional experience, business success, and related achievements may be considered a boosting.
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