Culture Shock in Austria

Austria is a modern, cosmopolitan and efficiently run country; and expats might even find that day-to-day life is easier in their new home than it was in their country of origin. Austria is known for its organised systems of transportation, its contemporary housing, excellent healthcare, and moderate cost of living. It follows that with such easy-to-adapt-to infrastructure, most expats should experience a limited amount of culture shock. 


Language barrier in Austria

The language barrier might well prove to be the greatest challenge facing expats moving to Austria. The official language of Austria is German; however, Austrian German differs greatly from what is spoken north and east of the border, as Austria is full of regional particularities. Learning basic words and phrases – or even better, enrolling in a language class – will help expats integrate into Austrian culture.

While many Austrians know some English, they often hesitate to speak English unless it is necessary for foreigners to communicate with them. However, expats will be relieved to know that English is widely spoken in the business world in Austria, especially in the larger urban centres. 
That said, it is important to realise that not all Austrians speak English. For example, the person who sells internet packages to a new arrival might speak fluent English, but then the installer who comes to set it up in the home may not. In addition, most cashiers speak some English, but it’s nonetheless a good idea to learn the German numbers in advance.


Attitude toward foreigners in Austria

Austrian people are quite friendly and foreigners are typically received with a warm welcome. Despite this, Austrians tend to lead more private personal lives. It can be difficult to make friends with locals unless one interacts with them on a daily basis at work or as part of a recreational activity. 

Austrians are proud of their heritage, and they tend to prefer locally grown produce and locally made products over imports. This national pride can make foreigners feel alienated but try not to take it personally, and remember that Austria is a small country that stakes great importance in its heritage and traditions. 


Food and shopping in Austria

Pre-packaged foods are not as readily available as in some countries, and organic milk, cheese and produce, which can be purchased at most stores for reasonable prices, are labelled with the word "Bio” to indicate organic goods. 

Contrary to many countries where medicine can be purchased at grocery stores and convenience stores, the majority of medicines and drugs can only be purchased at a pharmacy in Austria. Most pharmacists speak English, and will gladly help foreigners find the medicines they need. 

When it comes to eating out in Austria, tipping for drinks and meals is common, but the tips are small. When the waiter or waitress presents the bill, patrons decide on how much to tip them at that time. Usually, diners just round up to the next full Euro.


Meeting and greeting in Austria

Austrian people appreciate personal titles (such as Dr, Mag, Herr, Frau), and it is polite to use someone's title when emailing them, addressing them in person, or introducing them to someone else. 

Close friends often kiss when greeting one another and departing. Typically, women will kiss other women, men and women will kiss, but men just shake hands with other men.