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Traditions and Customs

Today, only very few Austrians wear traditional Austrian clothes every day. They neither eat Wiener Schnitzels, nor yodel and dance the Vienna Waltz all the time. Almost nobody in Austria knows “The Sound of Music” and there are even people who cannot ski. So, what really makes Austria special? What traditions and customs are characteristically Austrian?

What you Need to Know

  • Austria is a democratic republic – Austrians elect their own government.
  • Women and men have the same rights and duties – they decide themselves on how to lead their lives.
  • Common forms of salutation: Most people say “Grüss Gott”, “Guten Tag”, or more familiarly “Servus” when they meet. Normally, people shake hands, but amongst friends, cheek kissing, beginning with the left cheek, or hugging are common practice.
  • “Danke” is often used to say “thank you”. It is normal in Austria to thank people courteously for kindnesses.
  • Typical dishes: Schnitzel, Schweinsbraten (roast pork), Geselchtes (smoked meat), Backhendl (fried chicken), Gulasch (Hungarian stew), etc. which doesn’t mean that there are no exquisite vegetarian or vegan dishes to choose from.
  • Tipping: In restaurants, bars, cafés or other eateries, it is customary to tip the person serving you. The same goes for taxi drivers and many other personal services.

At the beginning of the academic year, Graz has a special festive treat which I very much enjoyed. If one wants to get to know the city of Graz and its people up close and personal, I recommend the Aufsteirern celebration.
Aufsteirern is an annual festival that takes place in mid-September in Graz. It displays the cultural prowess of the Styrians in so many ways. From traditional music and dancing, to delicious local cuisines and freshly brewed drinks. Above all, what made the scenery more panoramic is that almost everyone is dressed in the traditional dirndl and lederhosen. It creates a very warm feeling and shows how welcoming the people of Austria are. An event not to be missed!

The Typical Austrian

Austrians are said to
  • have an extreme sense of hierarchy,
  • discuss ideas and incidents directly and frankly,
  • attach great importance to punctuality and to intensely dislike having to wait for someone,
  • be cheerful and to tease each other, without intending to be offensive,
  • be polite and only address other people with the more familiar “du” and by their first names after a certain time,
  • mostly attach importance to people’s (academic) titles,
  • moan and complain a lot, without really meaning it,
  • open doors for a lady and help her into her coat (mostly older generations),
  • be basically willing to compromise and to readily agree to intermediate solutions,
  • love sweets such as Kaiserschmarrn as a main course, 
  • be proud of their skiing stars.