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CULTURE

Six ways you might be annoying your neighbours (and not realising it) in Austria

It’s always a good idea to get to know the neighbours - especially when living in a new country. Austria has its own peculiar set of cultural norms. Here's how you might be breaking some or all of them - and how to fix it.

Six ways you might be annoying your neighbours (and not realising it) in Austria
Gardening is a great way to get to know your neighbours - but make sure you don't do it loudly on a Sunday. Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

It’s always a good idea to get to know the neighbours – especially when living in a new country.

Not only does it display good manners, but it also shows a willingness to embrace the new culture and integrate with the locals.

Some people tell us they’ve found it difficult to get along with the neighbours when moving to Austria. 

But while Austrians can be direct and sometimes curt, their frostiness could also be because you are breaking some unwritten rules. 

Here are six ways you might be annoying your neighbours – and how to fix it. 

Not introducing yourself

First things first – if you’re the new person on the street or in an apartment building, it’s up to you to make the first move.

Thankfully, this isn’t as scary or intimidating as it sounds, and most Austrians will expect it.

The best way is to simply knock on the door, start a polite conversation by introducing yourself and share details about where you’re from and where you live (e.g. which house or apartment).

You can say that you wanted to say hello in case you bump into each other on the street or in the hallway. It’s polite and helps to avoid any awkward conversations later on.

Plus, you can use it as an opportunity to ask questions about the local area and get some insider tips about where to go and what to do.

However, there’s no need to take sweets or food for the new neighbours. Just yourself and a smile will do.

Sharing is caring

If you grow vegetables in a garden on a balcony, it’s always nice to ask your neighbours if they would like some.

Sharing food is a friendly move and a great way to build a sense of community. It’s an easy ice-breaker with the neighbours and it stops unused food from going to waste.

And you never know, you might get some home-grown produce back in return.

Sunday, noisy Sunday

Sunday is observed as a day of rest in Austria – and it is taken very seriously. 

This means no mowing the lawn, hammering nails into a wall or blaring loud music out of speakers in the garden.

In other countries like the UK, New Zealand or Australia, this is not usually the case and doing some gardening or DIY on a Sunday is totally acceptable. 

But in Austria it’s a rule that’s observed nationwide – so expect unhappy neighbours if you break it.

Think of it this way – you wouldn’t make a lot of noise after 10pm, so until Monday morning at 7am, act like it’s midnight on a Saturday. 

FOR MEMBERS: Nine mistakes everyone makes when they first move to Austria

Not saying hello

Good manners and a friendly nature are appreciated in Austria.

Saying “Hallo”, or “Servus”, to neighbours is expected and helps to build up a polite rapport with the people you live next to.

However, there are other greetings to be aware of, like “Grüß Gott” (God bless you) or “Griaß di” (greetings), and using these local terms will earn you extra brownie points with the neighbours.

Don’t be shy – introduce yourself to your neighbours. Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

It’s rude to stare? Not in Austria…

Staring isn’t considered rude in Austria, which can be hard to get used to if you’re from a country where staring is actually very rude.

So, if you’re the new kid on the block, you should expect some staring as the neighbours try to get a glimpse of who has moved in.

But instead of being offended, use it as an opportunity to say hello and introduce yourself instead.

Communication is key – especially regarding parties or noise

If you’re planning a big party or having building work done on your house, then it’s nice to let the neighbours know – especially if it’s going to be loud.

No one likes to be woken up by a drill in the morning, or kept awake by loud music at night, but most people will be understanding if they’ve been informed in advance.

The best way to do this is to knock on your neighbours door and have a quick chat, or even invite them if you’re having a party.

READ MORE: How do foreigners feel about living in Austria?

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CULTURE

How to greet people like a local in Austria

There are several ways to greet people in Austria – all with different meanings. So stop saying “Hallo” and learn how to sound like a local instead.

How to greet people like a local in Austria

Saying the right thing at the right time is usually a good way to sound like you belong somewhere. And in Austria, you can start from the first moment you meet someone.

Here’s a selection of Austrian greetings and their meanings to help you sound more like a local in the Alpine Republic.

READ ALSO: All churned up: Austrian oat milk ad draws farmers’ ire

Servus

“Servus” is a popular greeting in Austria and Bavaria in Germany. The word “Servus” actually means “greetings” and can be used to say hello or goodbye, similar to “Ciao” in Italian.

The roots of this greeting date far back; it comes from the Latin word servus, which means “slave” or “servant.” So if someone greets you with Servus, it roughly translates to “I’m your servant” or “At your service!”

Usually, servus is a colloquial way of greeting people you know better, especially friends. It is also one of the few historical words that is still widely used amongst teenagers today.

Guten Tag

This is an easy one to remember (no matter how bad your German language skills might be) and simply means “Good day”. 

However, it is quite a formal greeting and outside of some of Austria’s main metropolitan centres, it’s rarely heard. Instead, “Guten Tag” is mostly used by German people or some left-wing Austrians who prefer to opt for a neutral greeting in a professional setting.

This was highlighted in a recent debate in Vienna when a politician was criticised for using the traditional “Grüss Gott” greeting during a parliamentary inquiry, as reported by The Local

FOR MEMBERS: Austrian clichés: How true are these ten stereotypes?

Grüss Gott

“Grüss Gott” is widespread in the Catholic German-speaking world, such as Austria, the German states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, and in South Tyrol. 

Strictly speaking, it means: “God greets you”. It is similar to “Pfiat di Gott”, which comes from “Behüt dich Gott” or the Swiss “Grüezi”. Initially, these phrases meant a blessing.

The spiritual background leads to the fact that “Grüss Gott” is still used today primarily by religiously influenced, more conservative people, or those living in rural areas. On the other hand, more secular, left-oriented people tend to use different formulations such as “Begrüsse Sie” (Greetings) or  “Guten Tag”.

However, the way of greeting currently gives less clear information about worldview and political affiliation. “Grüss Gott” often has as little to do with religion as “Gott sei Dank” (thank God). 

Griass di

“Griass di” is another general greeting that simply means “greetings” or “hello”. 

You can use this at any time of the day, although only when greeting one person. To greet multiple people with “Griass di”, switch to “Griass eich” for plural, or even “Griass enk” for a regional variation from Tyrol.

READ MORE: Eight habits that show you’ve embraced life in Austria

Guten Morgen/Abend

The meanings behind “Guten Morgen” or “Guten Abend” are simple: “good morning” (until midday) and “good evening” (from around 6pm). Just don’t expect to hear them very often in Austria.

These greetings are very much Hochdeutsch (High German) sayings and many people in Austria prefer to use regional dialect instead.

If you say “Guten Morgen” or “Guten Abend” to an Austrian, you will be understood. But they will probably say something different back to you, like “Servus” or “Grüss Gott”.

Moagn

This is basically the Austrian dialect equivalent of “Morgen”, which means “Morning” and is short for “Good morning”.

It’s usually said in a cheery way, especially if coming across other people during a morning walk or when entering the workplace.

But, as with “Good morning”, this greeting is strictly reserved for the morning time and should not be said after midday.

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