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Weird habits you’ll pick up living in Austria

The Local · 18 Dec 2015, 12:36

Published: 18 Dec 2015 12:36 GMT+01:00

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Staring deeply into people's eyes as you say 'cheers'

In Austria it's considered bad luck not to look your drinking or dinner companions in the eyes when clinking glasses, and saying 'Prosit!' - the Austrian equivalent of cheers. Failing to do this is said to bring you seven years of bad sex - so no wonder they take it so seriously. 

Not crossing the street until the light’s green

In the Anglophone world it might seem like perfectly reasonable behaviour to step out into the road if you’ve scoured both horizons and not found a vehicle in sight.

But in Austria it’s considered illegal and downright reckless - and a bad example to children, who might be watching out of windows even if they're not there beside you on the street.

After a few months in Austria you too will be waiting with the crowds for the little man to turn green - if you don’t, prepare to get shouted at, and possibly fined.

Saying hello and goodbye as you enter and leave lifts

These kinds of lifts too... Photo: Lech Zürs Tourismus

If you take a lift in a department store, or a block of flats or offices in Austria it’s considered downright rude not to greet people as they enter and leave the lift, with a ‘Gruss Gött’ or ‘Auf Wiedersehen’. The same goes for doctor’s surgeries and other public waiting rooms. We don’t know why this is, but perhaps it dates back to a time when more people lived in small villages and everyone knew everybody else.

Clapping when the airplane lands

It’s always an entertaining clash taking a flight from the US or the UK to Austria and witnessing the Austrian passengers clapping upon landing while the rest look baffled.

Especially when there’s a bit of a bumpy ride beforehand, it’s actually quite a nice gesture to show appreciation to the crew who’ve transported you safely back to the ground.

Obsessively collecting bottles for Pfand

Austrians are very serious about recycling - as you can tell by the specific bins in most apartment building's courtyards.

On top of that, supermarkets make it extremely easy to turn in bottles for their Pfand deposit and immediately get the cash reward (of around 20 or 30 cents) through automatic machines.

Thus you will see long queues of people on weekends awaiting their chance to claim back those extra cents and do their bit for the environment. Simply throwing a beer bottle in the normal garbage bin starts to feel almost sacrilegious.

Being totally cool with nudity (and mixed sex saunas)

Photo: sporthotelfruehauf

This is one habit that prudish Anglo-Saxons take some getting used to. In Austria it is accepted - if not widespread - to be naked in certain areas at the beach or by the lakeside.

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If you are a member of a gym in Austria you will also have to get used to the fact that you’ll be the only one wearing  a swimsuit in the sauna if that’s how you choose to go about it.

And there’ll be naked members of the other sex too. This is one habit that is sure to cause a storm if you take it back to the Anglo world with you.

Going through the supermarket checkout at lightning speed

Photo: Yusuke Kawasaki/Wikimedia

When you head to the checkout counter at grocery stores in Austria, you have to be both physically and mentally prepared. Those cashiers don’t mess around. And no one is going to bag your food for you like stores do in the US or the UK.

Austrian grocery store checkouts are a survival of the fittest, a competition between consumer and cashier to see if you can keep up with their lightning-speed hands, throwing veggies, milk and eggs across the scanner as you scramble to pack things in a reusable bag before they tell you how much you owe.

Those who are too slow should expect frustrated sighs and passive aggressive watch-checking from both the cashier and the customers behind them.

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