Austrians are proud of their contributions to world civilization.
They see themselves as modern, liberal and cultured. Austrians have
a great love for the outdoors (i.e., walking, skiing, climbing,
etc.). Although predominantly Catholic (89%), traditional family
values have been weakened by modern life and government legislation.
The rate of women working outside the home is one of the highest in
the industrialized world.
Meeting and Greeting
- Shake hands with everyone present--men, women and children--at
a business or social meeting; shake hands with women before men.
Women should offer their hand first. Shake hands again when
- Viennese men may kiss the hand of a woman. Accept this
tradition graciously. A foreign man should not kiss the hand of an
Austrian woman, since it is not expected and may come as a shock.
Names and Titles
- Titles are very important. Use last names and appropriate
titles until specifically invited by your Austrian host or
colleagues to use their first names.
- Herr/Frau + professional title + surname are used when
initially addressing someone. Example: Herr Doctor Bauer. Frau
+ professional title + surname are also used when addressing the
wife of a professional. Example: Frau Doctor Bauer. All
women over 18 are Frau, even if they are not married.
- After you initially meet someone, you can drop his/her surname
and address the person using Herr/Frau + professional title
alone. Example: Herr Doctor or Frau Doctor.
- Austrians are reserved and formal. Kissing, hugging, touching
and physical closeness in public are not common.
- Eye contact is very important to Austrians.
- Austrians take punctuality for business meetings very
seriously and expect that you will do likewise; call with an
explanation if you are delayed. Never cancel an appointment at the
- Light conversation usually precedes business.
- Rank and title are very important in business. Power is held
by a small number of people at the top.
- The business community is very political. Everyone is careful
about what they say to or about anyone else.
- Business is conducted at a slow pace. Be patient.
Dining and Entertainment
- Austrians insist on punctuality for social occasions.
- The host gives the first toast, then the honored guest returns
the toast later in the meal. Maintaining eye contact during a
toast is very important.
- Never cut a dumpling. Instead, hold the dumpling with your
knife and break it apart with your fork.
- When finished eating, place your knife and fork side by side
on your plate at the 5:25 position. An open knife and fork on your
plate means you would like more food or that you are not yet
finished eating. Do not leave any food on your plate at a dinner
- The person who extends the invitation pays the bill in a
restaurant. Austrians will not appreciate a struggle over the
bill. Reciprocate with a lunch or dinner invitation before you
leave the country.
- Do not discuss business during a meal unless your host
initiates the conversation.
- Austrians take pride in dressing well, regardless of where
they are going or what position they hold. Avoid wearing shorts in
the city, especially when shopping.
- Gifts are opened immediately upon receipt.
- When invited to someone's home, always bring a gift for the
hostess. Give: flowers (in odd numbers only, except for the
dozen--an even number means bad luck—and unwrap before giving to
hostess), wine, pastries, chocolates, brandy, whisky. Do not give:
red roses, unless romance is intended, red carnations (official
flower of the Social Democratic Party), perfume.
- Gifts are generally not expected in business, but come
prepared in case a gift is presented. Give: desk attire, books,
music, a regional or country gift. Do not give: personal gifts,
gifts with sharp edges, gifts with company logo (unless very
subtle) or a very expensive gift.
- Austrians are not Germans. Austria and Germany have very
different customs. Never refer to an Austrian as a German.
- Greet salespeople when entering and leaving a shop.
- Austrians may find personal compliments embarrassing.
- Do not put hands in your pockets while speaking to anyone.
Especially for Women
- Foreign women will have no problem doing business in Austria.
- Lunch is the most common setting for business discussions.
Women should stick to inviting male colleagues to lunch until they
get to know them on a more personal level.
- Men enter restaurants before women.
- Offer your hand first upon meeting or greeting a man.