Remember when I told you about Austria’s peculiar tradition of Krampus? You guys seem to enjoy cultural exchanges. So here’s a list of things about Austria that most likely seem odd to strangers and particularly to US-Americans. Enjoy!
Also: If you like lists like these, check out my posts about things about the US that strike Europeans as weird.
Austrians prefer to pay cash
Here in the US, I always use my credit card to pay. It took me a while to get used to this, though. Why? Because back at home I always use cash. And so do most of the other Austrians. I feel like there’s just a general sense of distrust towards credit cards. By the way, the smallest bill we have is five Euros. After that, it’s all coins.
And since we’re already talking about money…
In Austrian, you don’t tip as much as in the US
You’re probably already familiar with this one. While in the US, you’re expected to tip about 20 percent on top of your bill, this is not at all the case in Austria. Just like in most European countries, in Austria you usually tip the waiter only a couple of cents or Euros to round up the sum.
If you want to reward your waiter with a more generous tip, though, feel free to do so. It’s not like you’d be offending them or anything. When I was a student, I worked as a waitress every now and then and even though my wage was pretty decent, I was always thrilled when customers tipped me more than usual.
We take coffee breaks seriously
Have you ever heard of Austria’s Kaffeehauskultur? It’s a German word that translates as coffeehouse/coffeeshop culture. Coffee breaks are very traditional in Austria. We take them pretty seriously. In fact, the Viennese coffee house culture is even part of UNESCO’s national inventory of intangible cultural heritage. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that even in offices, during regular workhours, people sometimes gather at 3 p.m. to indulge in coffee and Sachertorte, Punschkrapfen or other delicious pastries.
Austrian coffeeshops aka Kaffeehäuser in general are very different from US coffeeshops such as Starbucks. In Austrian coffeeshops, there’s usually table service, meaning that you sit down and wait for a waiter. You proceed to spend hours at your table while reading a newspaper or engaging with your friends and family while enjoying your coffee and sweet treats.
We stare deeply into people’s eyes when we toast
… and by “toast” I don’t mean the bread. (Sorry, that’s my Austrian humour.) I’m talking about drinks. If you ever happen to raise a glass with an Austrian, make sure to look them in the eyes as your glasses touch. It’s considered both rude and bad luck if you don’t. Also, if you want to earn extra points, say “Prost!”.
Everything is closed down on Sundays
Have you ever been to an Austrian city on a Sunday? If so, there’s one thing you’ve noticed for sure: Almost every shop is closed down. Except for restaurants and Kaffeehäuser, of course!
In the US, a Sunday feels like any other day to me – except that I don’t have to work and everyone’s watching football. In Austria, though, you get a whole different vibe on the weekend. It’s strange when you take a city like Vienna that’s normally crazy busy and all of a sudden, time stands still.