Austria has a small population and little in the way of natural resources and therefore relies heavily on neighbouring countries for imports and expat workers to fill any labour shortages.
Despite these handicaps, however, Austrians enjoy one of the highest standards of living in Europe. The country’s economy is robust as it 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 12pm and 2pm to 5pm
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. Business women visiting Austria, however, can expect to be treated with a great deal of professional respect.
Business culture in Austria
While Austria’s economy changed dramatically in the post-World War 2 era as a result of cutbacks in state involvement and a series of privatisations, there is a still a legacy of hierarchical bureaucracy which impacts modern Austrian business culture. Consequently, Austrian businesses tend to have a hierarchical management structure, with respect being granted to those in senior positions.
As would be expected in a hierarchical business culture, senior management figures tend to be less open to group decision-making than in countries where a more inclusive approach is used. Therefore, 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 arrive 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
Don’t use coded language as this can be confusing. Always be as direct and literal in the use of business language as possible.
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.