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Excerpted from the Austria Career Guide

Daily Life

Austria has a rich history and culture. It is the homeland of famous and influential artists and thinkers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert, Gustav Klimt, Sigmund Freud and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Austria once presided over a great empire; the Austrian Habsburgs ruled Central Europe until the First World War. Despite being bordered by eight countries, Austria has remained somewhat insular, maintaining a culture and traditions of which Austrians are extremely proud.

Cuisine

Austrian cuisine has Hungarian, Bohemian and Italian influences. Breakfast (Frühstück) is simple, usually a pastry with coffee. Lunch (Mittagessen) is the biggest meal of the day. Most Austrians eat dinner (Abendessen) at home with their families. After dinner, one may drink a digestif, usually Schnapps. Customarily, it is drunk in one mouthful. There may also be mid-morning and mid-afternoon coffee and snack breaks, known as Brotzeit and Jause, respectively.

Communication Styles

Austrians do not appreciate hand gestures or excessive talking, and they avoid shoving their hands in their pockets during a conversation. Austrians favor direct eye contact and consider it a polite way of showing interest in what another person has to say.

Austrians greet each other with lots of handshaking, even with children. Close friends may kiss on the cheek when greeting; this is increasingly common even for close male friends.

If You Want to Act Like a Local...

  • ‘Courtly cordiality’ is an Austrian trademark, and proper etiquette is expected in return. Good manners in Austria begin with common sense etiquette: one should always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ never chew gum in public, or point with the index finger. Austrians cover their mouths when they yawn or cough.

  • Austrian men often treat women with traditional courtesies. If a woman extends her hand, an Austrian man may raise it to his mouth, but he will not actually kiss it. (Interestingly, the woman’s hand is never supposed to be touched by the mouth.) Men stand up to shake women’s hands, but women typically stay seated. Foreign men should not attempt to kiss an Austrian's woman's hand as this is unexpected.,

Office Protocol

First impressions are important in Austria, so it is very important to be well dressed. Austrians dress elegantly. They wear clothes that fit well, shoes that are polished and simple jewelry that is made well. Men typically wear dark wool suits, cotton shirts and silk ties. Women wear somber-colored dress suits or pantsuits, with silk blouses and modest but beautiful accessories. On special occasions, Austrians may wear tracht, traditional clothing.

Management Styles

Austrian managers typically make the decisions and control the team’s agenda. In order to do this successfully, they must be experts in their fields and know the answers to most problems without having to consult subordinates. This style of management does not rely on consensus building, so decisions are made quickly. After the head manager makes a decision, implementation takes very little time.

Corporate Hierarchy / Boss and Subordinate Relations 

Austrian businesses tend to have rigid hierarchies. The boss and his or her subordinates remain distant from one another. Subordinates do not generally contest a manager’s decision, and they follow directions to the letter. Managers accept quite willingly the responsibility for their own decisions and the decisions of their team. Consequently, there is a large respect for status and hierarchy.

Business Practices

Although Austrians do prefer a third-party introduction, it is not necessary to have a personal relationship in order to do business. An Austrian negotiation table is a serious, sincere place. Negotiators should not pepper their interchanges with humor or personal opinions that can make Austrian businesspeople impatient. Nor should they make exaggerated or false promises that can make Austrians distrustful. Austrians prefer to deal with those who speak directly. They appreciate someone who speaks literally and with no room for misinterpretation.

This is just a short sample of what you’ll find in over 100 pages of information in the Austria Guide.



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