A Guide to Austrian Etiquette

By Rachael Funk

Manners are a big deal in Austria. Like, a REALLY big deal. Before you hop a plane and head to the country that gave the world PEZ candy and snow globes, you may want to brush up on some of the following tips to avoid awkward interactions with the locals.

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Be Punctual

This one is crucial. It is considered basic courtesy to not make people wait for you, so you’ll have a grace period of about five minutes before you are egregiously late. To be safe, abide by the “early is on time, on time is late” rule. Seriously, you will be a social pariah if you can’t get there on the dot.

Shake hands

When introduced to new people, or greeting ones you have already met, shake hands and make eye contact with everyone you meet; start with women, then greet men (if there are kids, shake their hands, too!). Women should extend their hands first and whatever your gender, make sure not to leave your other hand in your pocket!

Make eye contact

Everyone likes to be acknowledged! Whatever your interaction, make sure to look people in the eye. This is especially important if you are clinking glasses with someone.

Err on the side of formality

Titles are very important. Address everyone by their appropriate titles and last names until that person explicitly invites you to use their first name. Herr is used for men and Frau is used for women over the age of 18. If you are meeting someone with a professional title such as doctor, use Herr/Frau, their title, and then their last name. Got all that, Herr Doctor Howser?

Don’t skip salutations

When entering shops, busses, or any smaller space with people, say hello! A simple Guten Tag as you enter and a cheery Auf Wiedersehen as you exit will keep you in good graces.

Dress well

A well-dressed person is never out of place in Austria. Make sure to keep your appearance neat and clean. People tend to dress up when leaving the house, even if it’s just to hang out with friends, so skip packing the yoga pants and cargo shorts in favor of something a little dressier.

Undress well

It’s not unusual for sunbathers to go nude or semi-nude in public. If you are interested in sporting an Austrian full-body tan, be aware of your surroundings and take your cues from the people around you. If everyone else is buttoned up, you should be, too.

Know the rules for toasting

When toasting, take the time to make eye contact and say Prost to each participant. Only clink with one other glass at a time, and never reach other another person’s extended arm to complete the ritual.

Leave tips

Generally, the person who extends a dinner invitation is the person who pays the bill. When you have finished your meal, leave about 10% for the waiter. If someone else insists on paying, don’t struggle over the bill, but make sure to invite them out again before you leave in order to return the favor. Guten Appetit!

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