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What are kids allowed to do alone under Austrian law?

Summer is coming, schools are closing, and many parents will be wondering how they are going to keep their kids entertained and juggle other responsibilities over the next few weeks.

Children scoot near a park (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP)
Children scoot near a park

It may surprise many people in Austria to know there are some rules about how old your child can be before they are allowed out bike riding or scooting alone – and that children aged under 14 must be home by a certain hour. 

Here’s what you need to know.

Curfew

Children and young people are only allowed to stay out until 23:00 across Austria until they reach the age of 14, according to the ÖAMTC (Austrian automobile, motorcycle and touring club).

This time was standardised throughout the country at the beginning of 2019 by the Youth Protection Act. Legal guardians can also impose stricter going-out times for their children, but not more generous ones.

Trams, buses and trains

In theory children are allowed to use public transport alone from their sixth birthday. However, some companies such as Wiener Linien, Grazer Linien and Linz AG have ruled that children under six years of age are not allowed to use the facilities and vehicles without an adult. 

An escort service for children is also offered on some railway lines. When traveling abroad, children who are traveling alone, with one parent or accompanied by grandparents or friends should have a power of attorney from their legal guardian. You can find out more at this website.

Scooters

Since April 1st, 2019, children, if they are over eight-years-old, have been allowed to ride alone on scooters, as long as they are not electric or motorised. 

Cycling

Children under the age of twelve are only allowed to cycle on public roads in Austria under the supervision of an accompanying person, who must be at least 16 years old.

They must also wear a cycle helmet until they are 12 years old.

However, children who have successfully passed a cycling test are allowed to ride alone from the age of 10. Since April 1st, 2019, the cycling test can be taken at the age of nine if children are in the 4th grade of school

Generally the preparation for this test and the test itself are held by the compulsory schools as part of the traffic education program

Children must learn the rules of the road police and take a test before they are given a permit. 

The new free ÖAMTC App Fahrrad-Champion helps with the preparation , with which traffic rules and the correct behaviour in traffic can be learned in a playful way.You can find out more at www.oeamtc.at/fahrrad.

Cycle training

If you are based in Vienna, free cycle training for children is available at the Naschmarkt exercise area and in the Kaisermühlen cycling park. The training is suitable for children between three and 12 years of age, with people on site to support you. Free rental bikes and helmets are available.

Sessions run between June 11th and October 10th on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and can be attended without prior registration. Adults can have bikes checked at the same time.

Staying alone in the house

There are no hard and fast rules as to when you can leave your children alone at home, according to the WienXtra website.

As a parent or legal guardian, you have a duty to supervise your child, known as die Aufsichtspflicht in German. This is generally valid until your child turns 18 and means you have to ensure nothing harms them mentally or physically. This duty can be transferred to a teacher, babysitter or other responsible adult. 

If considering leaving your child alone, the youth organisation Wien Xtra recommends asking yourself.

  • How old is the child?
  • What is the stage of development? 
  • How does the respective child behave in certain situations? Does the child repeatedly exhibit risky behaviour? Or are they shy, cautious, and reliable?

All these points should be taken into consideration when deciding if a child can be left alone.

One final point to bear in mind is that guardians may be in some cases financially responsible if their child does something illegal such as vandalism, while in their care, according to the Kurier newspaper.

The paper cited as an example a case where some elementary school children deliberately scratched a 52 cars in Graz, causing damage of €30,000.

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Five signs you’ve settled into life in Switzerland

Getting adjusted to Swiss ways is not always easy for foreign nationals, but with a lot of perseverance it can be done. This is how you know you’ve assimilated.

Five signs you've settled into life in Switzerland
No lint: Following laundry room rules is a sign of integration in Switzerland. Photo by Sara Chai from Pexels

Much has been said about Switzerland’s quirkiness, but when you think about it, this country’s idiosyncrasies are not more or less weird than any other nation’s — except for the fact that they are expressed in at least three languages which, admittedly, can complicate matters a bit.

However, once you master the intricacies and nuances of Swiss life, you will feel like you belong here.

This is when you know you’ve “made it”.

You speak one of the national languages, even if badly

It irritates the Swiss to no end when a foreigner, and particularly an English-speaking foreigner, doesn’t make an effort to learn the language of a region in which he or she lives, insisting instead that everyone communicates to them in their language.

So speaking the local language will go a long way to being accepted and making you feel settled in your new home.

You get a Swiss watch and live by it

Punctuality is a virtue here, while tardiness is a definite no-no.

If you want to ingratiate yourself to the Swiss, be on time. Being even a minute late  may cause you to miss your bus, but also fail in the cultural integration.

‘The pleasure of punctuality’: Why are the Swiss so obsessed with being on time?

Using an excuse like “my train was late” may be valid in other countries, but not in Switzerland.

The only exception to this rule is if a herd of cows or goats blocks your path, causing you to be late.

A close-up of a Rolex watch in Switzerland.

Owning a Rolex is a sure sign you’re rich enough to live in Switzerland. Photo by Adam Bignell on Unsplash

You sort and recycle your trash

The Swiss are meticulous when it comes to waste disposal and, not surprisingly, they have strict regulations on how to throw away trash in an environmentally correct manner.

Throwing away all your waste in a trash bag without separating it first — for instance, mixing PET bottles with tin cans or paper — is an offence in Switzerland which can result in heavy fines, the amount of which is determined by each individual commune.

In fact, the more assiduous residents separate every possible waste item — not just paper, cardboard, batteries and bottles (sorted by colour), but also coffee capsules, yogurt containers, scrap iron and steel, organic waste, carpets, and electronics.

In fact, with their well-organised communal dumpsters or recycling bins in neighbourhoods, the Swiss have taken the mundane act of throwing out one’s garbage to a whole new level of efficiency.

So one of the best ways to fit in is to be as trash-oriented as the Swiss.

READ MORE: Eight ways you might be annoying your neighbours (and not realising it) in Switzerland

You trim your hedges with a ruler

How your garden looks says a lot about you.

If it’s unkempt and overgrown with weeds, you are clearly a foreigner (though likely not German or Austrian).

But if your grass is cut neatly and your hedges trimmed with military-like precision (except on Sundays), and some of your bushes and shrubs are shaped like poodles,  you will definitely fit in.

You follow the laundry room rules

If you live in an apartment building, chances are there is a communal laundry room in the basement that is shared by all the residents.

As everything else in Switzerland, these facilities are regulated by a …laundry list of “dos” and “don’ts” that you’d well to commit to memory and adhere to meticulously.

These rules relate to everything from adhering to the assigned time slot to removing lint from the dryer.

Following each rule to the letter, and not trying to wash your laundry in someone else’s time slot, is a sign of successful integration.

Voilà, the five signs you are “at home” in Switzerland.

READ MORE: French-speaking Switzerland: Seven life hacks that will make you feel like a local

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