Austrian etiquette explained to refugees

Austrian etiquette explained to refugees
German language course in Vienna. CHRISTIAN BRUNA/EPA
Newly arrived asylum seekers in Austria are being given a helping hand to navigate their new home by a pocket book explaining the do's and don'ts of Austrian life.

The book – which was produced by the Red Cross with the support of state broadcaster ORF – explains some of the etiquettes and cultural habits of Austrians.

A section on food and drinks explains that Austrians “eat a lot of pork, and also beef, chicken, turkey and lamb” and that “many people drink beer or wine, particularly in the evenings.”

Regarding festivals and religion, the booklet describes that Christmas and Easter are both Christian festivals but “for reasons of tradition” are celebrated by people who are not religious, who give children presents even if they have not been baptised.

They also point out the brightly coloured eggs that are given to children at Easter, although adding that “children first have to look for them because their parents have hidden them beforehand.”

It goes on to explain: “If somebody gives you something for Christmas or Easter, that person does not want to convert you to Christianity. They only want to make you happy.”

Other tips include not conducting loud conversations in public, quiet time on Sundays in residential buildings and waiting for people to get off public transport before getting on – advice that a few Austrians might want to take as well.

Other practical advice such as where to go when you’re ill and what to do with rubbish are also covered.

60,000 editions of the 146 page book will be published in German, English, Arabic and Dari, and distributed around asylum centres and accommodation in Austria.

Mohammed, a 27-year-old asylum seeker from Iraq, told the Kurier newspaper that the book would save him from making a lot of mistakes and that advice on where to get halal meat is particularly important.

“I don’t know which types of meat there are here and where I can buy halal meat,” he said.

“The book is meant as a guide,” explains Red Cross President Gerald Schöpfer. “The refugees should understand how Austria works.”

In time, these habits are easy to pick up for any newcomer, as The Local Austria has previously explored: 'Seven signs you've lived too long in Austria' .

And if you wish to brush up on your own understanding of Austrian customs, you can find the first chapter of the book here.