Austrian Culture

Etiquette

Basic Etiquette

  • 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 leeway. In social situations, one should arrive approximately five to 10 minutes before the designated time. If you expect delay, inform your Austrian counterpart or they may leave or begin the event without you.
  • 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). 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'.
  • Austrians tend to greet sales people when entering and leaving the store. The most common greeting is the casual ‘Grüß dich’ or ‘Grüß gott’ (God bless you). 


Visiting

  • Dropping by someone's home is considered impolite. Rather, people make arrangements in advance or telephone before an impromptu visit.
  • Guests are expected to offer 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.
  • Should the host leave the room for a moment, they will usually offer guests something to occupy themselves (such as a book) until they can return.
  • Hosts will also offer beverages such as water, tea, coffee or juice.
  • People are expected to greet each person that enters the room. Standing up when an elder or higher-ranked person enters is also common practice.

 

Eating

  • Austrians follow a particular set of manners when eating. These include keeping one's hands on the table during meals, not gesturing with utensils and not placing elbows on the table while eating.
  • Do not begin eating until all people have been served and the host has indicated it is time to start. The host will usually say “Guten Appetit” or “Mahlzeit”. 
  • At a dinner party in someone’s home, hosts will usually always offer a second serving to their guests. However, they will also accept a polite ‘Nein, danke’ (no thank you).
  • Traditionally, the main meal of the day was usually midday. This is still common, but among some working people and students, it is more common to eat their main meal in the evening.
  • The host of the event usually gives the first toast. Guests will return the toast later in the meal. To do a toast, people raise their glasses and maintain eye contact. Austrians typically say “Prost”, “Prosit” or “Zum Wohl” when they toast (all three meaning “to your health”).
  • If invited to dine out, the person who extends the invitation typically pays the bill in the restaurant. Struggles over the bill are not usually appreciated.


Gift Giving

  • 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.
  • As a general rule of thumb, gifts should be moderate in price and not lavish or excessive.
  • It is also common for married children to bring a gift when visiting their parents.
  • People will sometimes give gifts to their friend’s children rather than their friend.
  • Gifts are opened immediately upon receiving.

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