For members


How to speak Austrian: These are the major differences between Austrian and High German

Austrians and Germans speak the same language - in theory. But there are a number of small differences which you need to master if you want to truly feel at home in Germany's neighbouring Alpine state. 

The Opera Ball in Vienna, Austria

There is a famous saying that what separates Austrians and Germans is their common tongue. Or in German: “Was Deutschland und Österreich trennt, ist die gemeinsame Sprache.” 

We’ve summarised the key differences for any German speakers who plan to visit Austria. 

Austrians are more formal

Austrian German is often more polite and indirect than German spoken in Germany. 

For example while in Germany, people say Guten Tag (good day) or simply Hallo, in Austria Grüß Gott (God bless you) is a more standard way to greet someone.

Younger people in Austria and Bavaria may use the greeting Servus, which is common throughout central Europe. It comes from the Latin servus, and means “I am your servant” or “at your service”.

In Austria it is not considered polite to say succinctly to your waiter in a cafe: “Noch einen Kaffee, bitte!“ (Another coffee please!).

One should use  subjunctive forms, modal verbs and questions, asking instead “Entschuldigen Sie, könnte ich bitte noch einen Kaffee haben?“  (Excuse me, could I have another coffee, please?)

Some see this formality as charming, others find it a bit of a waste of time. 

Most common differences

The best known differences in vocabulary between Austrian German and German German are the following. 

  • Tüte (German) vs Sackerl (Austrian)

If you ask for a Tüte (shopping bag)  to take your goods home from the supermarket in Austria, you will be met with a blank stare. In Austria a Tüte is an ice cream cone. What you want is a Sackerl. 

  •  Treppe (German) instead of Stiege (Austrian)

When taking the stairs, Germans use the word Treppe, while Austrians say Stiege.

  • Kissen or Polster

Germans call a cushion a Kissen, Austrians go for a Polster


In addition, there are lots of different words for food in Austria compared to Germany. When Austria joined the EU in 1995, a list of 23 typical Austrian expressions for food were registered.

These included cauliflower, which is Karfiol in Austria and  Blumenkohl in Germany; apricots, which are Marille in Austria and Aprikose in Germany; and mince which is Faschiertes in Austria and Hackfleisch in Germany. 

Poetically, rather than the humble Kartoffel (potato), Austria has the Erdapfel (earth apple). And the prosaic Tomaten (tomatoes) become romantic Paradeiser in Austria. 

There are so many words for bread in Austria, that would require another article.


In Austria, you are more likely to be drinking a beer down your local Beisl (a Yiddish word for pub) than in the German Kneipe. If someone offers you a Jause in Austria, they are offering you a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack.

When you stagger home on the Straßenbahn (tram) in Vienna, remember to call it a Bim (a word which recalls the sound the tram makes as it winds its way through the city).

What to avoid saying in Austria

You will not be popular if you ask for Sahne (cream) in your coffee in an Austrian cafe, the correct term is Obers or Schlagobers (whipped cream). 

Likewise, when you finish eating in Austria, please do not describe the food as lecker (tasty). Many Austrians do not like this word. The Austrian way is to say Es hat mir gut geschmeckt (it tasted good to me)


If you feel like a change from the German Auf Wiedersehen or Tschüss (goodbye), try the Austrian Bussi Baba, which translates to “kisses, bye”. Maybe not one to try out on your boss. 

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For members


Reader question: What time do people eat dinner in Austria?

If you’re looking for a late-night food scene then Austria might not be the place for you. Read on to find out what to expect of dinner time in the Alpine Republic.

Reader question: What time do people eat dinner in Austria?

There are some countries in the world where dinner is served late and the evening doesn’t really start until around 9pm.

Unfortunately or not, Austria is not one of those places. But it doesn’t mean the culinary scene is boring – it just starts a bit earlier.

Here’s everything you need to know about when people eat dinner in Austria.

FOR MEMBERS: How did the Wiener Schnitzel become an Austrian icon?

Austrians prefer an “early” dinner time

As with many things in life, the concept of “early” is subjective and depends on where you’re from and what you’re used to.

For example, if you’re from Spain or Latin America, a typical dinner time is between 8pm and 11pm. In France, dinner is usually eaten between 7pm and 9pm, and in Italy it’s between 8pm and 10pm.

But in Austria, most people sit down for dinner at around 6pm to 7pm – even when going out to a restaurant to eat.

Also, some restaurants and take away kitchens close at around 9pm, or 11pm in touristy areas, which means you have to get used to eating earlier. 

READ MORE: ‘Prost!’: A guide to toasting in Austria

Why so early?

The main reason for an early dinner time in Austria is that lunch is the most important meal of the day. Most people take a break at midday (which is early compared to some other countries) and sit down with colleagues or family for a warm, cooked lunch. 

Typical Austrian lunch dishes include Käsespätzl (an Austrian-style macaroni and cheese), Rindergulasch (meat stew) and Fleischlaberl (meat patties), all of which are quite heavy dishes. And there is rarely a humble sandwich in sight.

As a result, dinner is usually a lighter meal, with some choosing to have cold cuts of meat and cheese. Other traditional dishes are soups and salads, or meat with vegetables.

International dishes are also popular in Austria for an evening meal, particularly Asian and Italian cuisine. 

READ ALSO: Wurst, schnitzel, kebab: A guide to Austria’s most popular street foods

Is it possible to eat late in Austria?

Although Austrians typically like to eat dinner early, there are always exceptions – especially in the bigger cities where you can find late night cafes and restaurants serving food from all over the world.

But if you are in a more rural area, be prepared for an early dinner – even when ordering a takeaway.

Unless you have dinner at home, which means you can eat at whatever time you like.