Do's & don'ts: Austrian Etiquette

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The Austrian people are known for their warmth, but, in Austria, informality doesn’t always equate with warmth.  Here are some hints for how to show your appreciation for their hospitality in a way that the Austrians will appreciate. Note:  The Viennese are specialists in formal manners and to this day, may make a more formal and ornate greetings than in other parts of Austria.   A gentleman kissing a ladies hand is still done, in the certain circumstances and style.  (Note: Don’t try this unless you were born in Austria, and know exactly what you are doing.)
  • Punctuality: This cliché is true, Austrians are punctual. Try to be punctual. If not, apologize. A little late (5 – 10 minutes) to a social occasion is usually acceptable.
  • Shaking hands is the established form of greeting. Take the other hand out of your pockets and look into the person’s eyes.  Shake hands with everyone present–men, women and children–women before men. Women should offer their hand first. Shake hands again when leaving.
  • When invited to someone’s home, always bring a gift for the hostess. What to bring?  Flowers (in odd numbers only, except for a dozen, unwrapped, and presented to hostess). If not flowers,  wine, pastries, chocolates, brandy, whisky are always welcome.
  • titles are important in Austria.  If you know someone to have one, it is polite to use the title as well as the proper nomenclature,  instead of Herr Schmidt, it would be Herr Doktor Schmidt. Don’t use a person’s surname unless invited to do so.   Err on the side of formality.  (This is changing, especially in younger generations so follow the lead of those around you.)
  • Traditionally  the host gives the first toast, then the honored guest returns the toast later in the meal. Maintaining eye contact during a toast is very important.
  • The head of the household is the first to begin the meal  (unlike America, where it’s the head cook whose raised fork signals you may begin eating). Often, the host says “mahlzeit” or “Guten Appetit!” to signal that the meal has begun.
  • If you are invited for a meal in someone’s home, cut as much of your food with your fork as possible, since this compliments the cook by saying the food is very tender.
  • Never cut a dumpling. Instead, hold the dumpling with your knife and break it apart with your fork.
  • Put your napkin on your lap as soon as you are seated.
  • Business isn’t usually discussed during a meal, even if it’s a business meeting.  Wait till your host initiates the topic.
  • When finished eating, place your knife and fork together side by side . It’s considered polite (especially if invited in a private home) to finish what’s on your plate.
  • The person who extends the invitation pays the bill in a restaurant and it’s not polite to struggle over the bill. If you want to reciprocate, proffer another invitation to meet…and you’ll pick up the bill for that one.

If you come to Kuchl on an Austrian Untour, you won’t find a better “home away from home” than the Springl apartment. 



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