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11 Austrian life hacks that will make you feel like a local

11 Austrian life hacks that will make you feel like a local
Cash is incredibly important to the Austrians - and to much of German-speaking Europe. Take it wherever you go. Photo: Pixabay.
Austria can be a tricky country to figure out - especially outside of the main cities with different dialects and regional cultures. But there are ways to fit in and live like a local in Austria. Here’s how.

In Austria, fitting in is about more than just language.

Here are 11 ‘life hacks’ that will make you feel like a local wherever you might live in Austria. 

1. Use the 24-hour clock and tell time the “German” way

While in English this is largely limited to the military, in Austria, people use the 24-hour clock to tell the time.

This means 2pm is 14:00 and 8pm is 20:00. If you book a table at a restaurant or organise to meet a friend, telling them you’ll meet them at “14” or “20” is completely normal. 

This is how you say 7:30pm in Austria. Photo by Lucas Santos on Unsplash

But that’s not all. There is also a “German” way to tell the time – as in how to tell the time in the German language.

For example, in German, saying half three (halb drei) means 2.30, not 3.30. It’s half way to three, not half an hour past two.

This is confusing for English-speakers at first, but once mastered it makes life so much easier – especially when booking appointments or arranging to meet friends.

2. Say hello to people

This tip probably applies more to people living in the countryside than Vienna, but it’s well worth mentioning.

Basically, in smaller places, people will expect a greeting, such as “Hallo”, “Servus” or “Griaß di” – even if you don’t know them.

READ MORE: The 10 biggest culture shocks experienced by foreigners in Austria

In fact, failure to greet others could have you labelled as unfriendly, arrogant or badly educated, at least according to the Kurier. The article might be five years old, but the advice definitely still applies today.

3. Always carry cash

Austrians love cash. They always have and probably always will.

Even though card payments and digital banking are gaining in popularity in Austria, there are some places that will still only accept cash. Or the staff will grudgingly dust off the card reader so someone can pay by card.

READ MORE: Why is cash so important to Austrians?

So, to avoid feeling like a tourist that is inconveniencing someone, always carry cash.

4. Fall in love with the mountains

Austria is famous for the Alps in the west of the country and there is an ongoing love affair between the locals and the mountains.

Even people that live in the cities will regularly visit the mountains for skiing in the winter or hiking in the summer.

And for people that live in the Alps, exploring the mountains is a big part of the lifestyle.

**Actual footage of you falling in love with the mountains.

5. Look people in the eye during “Prost”

“Prost” is the Austrian version of “cheers”. 

If you have a drink with a group of friends, you should expect to toast with “prost” – and to make eye contact with each person.

FOR MEMBERS: Six ways you might be annoying your neighbours (and not realising it) in Austria

Not only is it considered polite, but failure to lock eyes could result in bad luck. At least according to some locals.

6. Don’t cross the road when the light is red

In the UK, it’s acceptable to cross the road at a zebra crossing (Schutzweg) or junction when the light is still red. As long as the road is clear.

But in Austria, people wait until the pedestrian light has turned green – even if it means waiting on the side of the road without any cars going past.

This is because there are fines for jaywalking in Austria and people follow the rules.

A pedestrian traffic light sign in Vienna. Image: Wikicommons.

7. Learn some dialect

Austria is officially a German-speaking country, but few people speak high German (Hochdeutsch).

Instead, most regions have their own dialect, although there is no exact number for how many different dialects exist in Austria.

READ MORE: The best words in Austrian German

For international residents, this makes learning the language even harder because even though high German is taught in language schools across the country, most locals don’t speak it.

The best way to tackle it is to learn a few dialect words in the area where you live, to really make you feel like a local.

8. Don’t be late

In the German-speaking world, punctuality is highly rated and lateness is considered rude.

To really fit in, the best advice is to just be on time for meetings. But if you are going to be late, it’s recommended to call or text the person to let them know in advance.

The alternative is to turn up late without warning, which won’t win you any brownie points.

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

9. Embrace a healthier work-life balance

Austria has a family-friendly culture and a healthy work-life balance is highly valued.

This is why a lunch break is an important part of the working day and many people finish work at midday on Friday.

READ MORE: Nine things you might be surprised are actually Austrian

For people from places like the UK and the USA where presenteeism is endemic in the workplace, slowing down can be hard to get used to.

But the benefits are well-worth it, and there’s no better way to feel like a local than by clocking off early on a Friday afternoon.

10. Avoid small talk with strangers

In many English-speaking cultures, small talk is a guaranteed conversation starter and a way to avoid awkward silences.

In Austria however, small talk is not as common and people generally prefer to have meaningful conversations about topics they are interested in.

READ MORE: Five unwritten rules that explain how Austria works

Austrians can also be more reserved around people they are not familiar with and shy away from asking personal questions until they know them better.

The best approach is to avoid small talk with strangers and stick to a simple “hallo”.

11. Get used to staring

In Austria, people stare and it’s not considered to be rude behaviour like in other cultures.

It’s rude to stare, except in Austria where it’s persistently common.

For international residents, this can be uncomfortable at first, but there are two ways to deal with it.

Either get used to it and ignore it, or smile back when someone stares, which will usually put an end to the staring.

REVEALED: What do Austrians think about foreigners?


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