Austrian idiosyncrasies and their effects on expats

Published:  10 Jan at 6 PM
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Tagged: Immigration, USA, UK, England
In general, expats in Austria are more than happy to be there, but some local habits can cause frustration in the overseas community.

Expats across the world are the first to admit that nowhere’s perfect, with those living in Austria finding the locals welcoming, helpful and supportive. Even so, some Austrian habits can cause consternation or even irritation amongst the expat population.

Perhaps the most controversial Austrian habit is the entire population’s disregard of the country’s less than stringent anti-smoking laws. Incomers, especially from the USA and UK, view smokers as just one jump ahead of mass murderers, and can become very annoyed when Austrians seem to totally disregard the laws. Austrian nationals light up anytime and everywhere – on over-and underground station platforms, in offices, bars, restaurants and in cars.

Austria is reputed to have the grumpiest waiters in the entire world, with most clearly having never heard the saying ‘the customer is always right’. Zero attention to diners seems to be part of their training, and getting your food or even your bill is a long, slow, process. If the order’s wrong, it’s your fault, and hefty tips are a must if you wish to avoid hostile stares.

Austrians are great at telling other people off, whatever the excuse and wherever they feel it’s necessary. The rules, it seems, must be obeyed, even if a newly-arrived expat has absolutely no idea what they are. Another disturbing favourite Austrian behaviour is staring, especially disconcerting if you’re from the UK! Smiling sweetly at starers usually works.

Scary bureaucrats can be a real problem for expats who fail to understand the outdated systems in the country. Forget to pay your electricity or any other bill and you’ll soon receive a frosty, special-delivery letter stating ‘pay up or go to jail’. Those making online payments are especially vulnerable, although a quick, grovelling phone call should be all that’s needed.

Political incorrectness is a way of life for many Austrians, including the use of unintended racial slurs harking back to the country’s history of immigration. Finally, and again indicating Austria’s clinging to past glories, paying by cash in restaurants is often the only way, however inconvenient for business diners. Even so, the vast majority of expats in Austria love their lives and simply smile when exposed to any of the above.
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