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Home > New Posting > Cultural Etiquette

The People

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 leaving.
  • 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.

Body Language

  • Austrians are reserved and formal. Kissing, hugging, touching and physical closeness in public are not common.
  • Eye contact is very important to Austrians.

Corporate Culture

  • 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 last minute.
  • 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 party.
  • 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.

Helpful Hints

  • 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.
Adapted from material compiled by Window on the World, a cross-cultural training and consulting firm. Originally based on material contained in the "Put Your Best Foot Forward" series of books by Mary Murray Bosrock.
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