Doing Business in Austria
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Due to the country's wealth, doing business in Austria is an attractive proposition. Though Austria has a small population and little in the way of natural resources, the country has one of the highest GDPs in the world and Austrians enjoy one of the highest standards of living in Europe.
Austria is perfectly located to take advantage of the development and enlargement of the EU. In addition, Austria has the highly developed infrastructure needed to act as a bridge between Eastern and Western Europe.
Mondays to Fridays 8am to 5pm, with an hour-long lunch break.
While German is the official language in Austria, English is widely spoken in business circles.
Formal and conservative; dark suits are normally reserved for the more austere banking institutions, otherwise a jacket, shirt and tie will suffice for men, while trousers and corporate wear are acceptable for women.
Not necessary in business but expected if invited into a colleague's home – flowers or chocolate will suffice.
When meeting business colleagues a formal handshake is appropriate at the beginning and end of the business proceedings.
It is fairly unusual to see women in very senior positions in locally owned Austrian businesses. Businesswomen visiting Austria, however, can expect to be treated with a great deal of professional respect.
Business culture in Austria
Austrians take a formal and conservative approach to doing business. There is a definite hierarchical approach, with respect being granted to those in senior positions – particularly those who have high qualifications and many years of experience. Being organised, neat and respectful of the time of colleagues will go a long way towards ensuring a positive outcome.
Senior management figures in Austria tend to be less open to group decision-making than in countries where a more inclusive approach is used. Management will often give direct orders to their subordinates who will be expected to deliver on those instructions without questioning their authority. Business culture in Austria is not very consensus-driven and managers are expected to be experts in their field – therefore, they are considered to be in a position to make decisions alone without needing to consult their colleagues.
There is a somewhat old-fashioned sense of politeness and courtesy in the Austrian workplace. While senior managers hold most of the power within an organisation, they will rarely act in a tyrannical way. In fact, managers work hard to create a comfortable workplace and keeping all the workers on their side is a priority. In order to maintain a respectful work environment any form of correspondence, such as emails or memos, should convey a formal tone.
On a higher level, Austrian business culture prides itself on the concept of Sozialpartnerschaft, or social partnership, which promotes cooperation and dialogue in matters relating to industrial relations. Therefore, all industries, trades and professions in Austria have specific umbrella bodies which work together to promote healthy labour relations. It is very important to work closely and cooperate with business partners and Austrian subsidiary companies.
Dos and don’ts of business in Austria
Do come to meetings well-prepared; this means bringing supplementary materials for all parties
Don’t arrive late to a business meeting in Austria, as it is seen as unprofessional
Do dress formally for business meetings in Austria
Do address people by their titles such as Herr (Mr), Frau (Mrs) or Fräulein (Miss), or in the case of senior management, by their academic or professional titles
Don’t assume that Austrians are like Germans. While they speak German, Austria is a country with a great sense of history and a unique culture.