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Aberglaube: Eight strange Austrian superstitions foreigners should know about

Practical, punctual and fond of preparation, Austrians are also surprisingly superstitious. Here are eight strange superstitions foreigners should know about.

Aberglaube: Eight strange Austrian superstitions foreigners should know about
A cat in a box. Bad luck in Austria. Bad kitty parenting everywhere. Photo by iam_os on Unsplash

Few new arrivals would connect Austrians with superstition, with practical, punctual and well-prepared perhaps the adjectives that come to mind. 

However the longer you live here – and the more of the language you learn – the greater the connections with superstition (Aberglaube) you’re likely to find. 

As a traditional culture, many superstitions in Austria have a long history. 

And even the most modern Austrians you meet are likely to follow one or more of these superstitions – even if they don’t care to admit it. 

Here are eight common Austrian superstitions. 

Garlic luck

Eating raw sliced garlic mixed with yoghurt is believed to bring you good luck. 

We’re not sure this would have the desired effect if taken before a first date though. 

It’s also thought to be a powerful cold remedy – which makes more sense, as garlic is believed to stimulate the immune system.

Garlic. Good luck in Austria. Photo by Michele Blackwell on Unsplash

Dreams can wait

People learning German and German speakers occasionally think the word for nightmare – Alptraum – is a combination of ‘Alp/alps’ and ‘Traum/dream’, but they’d unfortunately be mistaken. 

Alp – otherwise known as Alb – means ‘elf’, which refers to a mythical creature from Germanic folklore that comes in and sits on people’s chests as they sleep. 

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

Anyway, the superstition here relates to the morning after a nightmare – and specifically when you decide to tell someone about it. 

If you tell someone about your nightmares in Austria, make sure to let them have a glass of water first, otherwise it is believed to bring bad luck. 

Sit down, be humble

When arriving in Austria, it’s often surprising how hard people try to be modest – particularly for anyone arriving from the USA, where modesty was removed from the dictionary a long time ago. 

But not only do Austrians try to be modest and avoid bragging about their wealth, good fortune or anything else positive that may have befallen them, but they believe to do so is bad luck. 

Why did no-one come to my party? Didn’t I tell them how rich I was? Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Sneeze-perstiton 

For a country that loves putting pepper on things, it’s perhaps surprising the amount of sneeze-related superstition that exists in Austria. 

Austrians believe that bad things will happen to you if you sneeze when looking at the new moon. It’s also considered bad luck to sneeze before breakfast – so remember that when peppering your eggs. 

Head-to-tree recuperation

Forests occupy an important position in the Austrian psyche, with few worries or concerns unsolvable by a quick walk in the woods. 

READ MORE: Waldeinsamkeit and five short walks near Vienna 

According to superstition, resting your head against a tree when you have a headache will make the headache go away. 

Be aware of the white cat/dog/cow/horse/umbrella

For most of us, black cats are considered to be bad luck – but in Austria, white is the unlucky colour. 

According to Vienna.net, nobody goes near white animals out of fear they are bad luck – and if you’re carrying a white umbrella, they’ll give you the same treatment. 

I was right all along

When entering a house or any other form of building, its believed to be bad luck to put your left foot first – no matter whether you’re right or left handed. 

Weddings

There are a number of strong superstitions surrounding weddings in Austria, many of which are weird and most of which will spoil the process of proposing. 

According to tradition, when a man wanted to marry a woman, he would send his friends and family to represent himself to the bride. 

On the way, they were told to keep their eyes peeled. If they saw a blind man, a pregnant woman or a monk, the wedding was considered doomed and it should be called off. 

If they saw a pigeon, a goat or a wolf, then these were considered good omens and everything could go ahead as planned. 

Photo by Marek Szturc on Unsplash
Austria might be the only country where being chased by a wolf on the way to propose to your girlfriend is good luck. Photo by Marek Szturc on Unsplash

Fortunately, that kind of stuff is rare these days – or at least rarer than it was. 

In the old days it was considered unlucky for a woman to marry a man with a surname that started with the same letter as hers. 

A rhyme mothers would tell their daughters went: “To change the name and not the letter, is to change the worst and not the better.” An Austrian bride was not even supposed to practice writing her new name before the wedding

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Vienna legally

Got an unwanted mattress, fridge, or sofa? Here’s how you can legally get it off your hands in Vienna.

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Vienna legally

If you find yourself with a large piece of furniture or big household appliance that has seen its prime and is not bound to the trashcan, then you might be wondering where to dispose of them – legally, that is.

Even if it is not uncommon to see furniture or appliances next to the big trashcans often placed near households and apartment complexes, it is illegal to leave them there.

Different cities have different methods – some will even pick up trash at specific times and places. To know how your city deals with bulky waste (Sperrmüll), you can google “Sperrmüll + the name of your city”.

READ ALSO: Why does Vienna’s waste department have a helicopter and a military plane?

Vienna has several waste collection points where you can leave bulky waste, electrical appliances, hazardous waste (in household quantities) and other old goods for no charge.

The use of the Wiener Mistplätze is subject to certain quantity limits and requirements, but they are to avoid industrial use. Therefore, most households will have no problem with the limitations.

Here you can find several collection points in Vienna.

It is worth pointing out that delivery to those sites can only be made by cars with Viennese license plates, on foot or by bicycle. Furthermore, no trailers or company cars are allowed to leave trash at these collection points.

What can you bring to the collection centres?

This is the place to bring large sheets of plastic foil, bulky or large metal parts and electrical appliances, for example.

Additionally, you can bring small amounts of bulky waste, wood, styrofoam, large cardboard boxes, green waste and used tires to any waste collection centres.

Depending on what you are disposing of, you might need to go to the Rinter centre, one of the larger ones.

READ ALSO: Hasta la mista, baby? How to vote for your favourite Vienna trash can joke

The centres also have a separate division where it is possible to donate old items still in good condition, the so-called 48er-Tandler-Box.

Tableware, small furniture, electrical appliances, clothes, toys and other items can be reused and bought at a low price at the 48er-Tandler reuse shop.

Most centres are open only from Monday to Friday during business hours, but others are also available on Saturdays.

What to do if I don’t have a car?

If you don’t need a car but still need to dispose of a large appliance, the Viennese solution varies.

Some will take public transport with a couple of friends trying to help them carry an old sofa via the u-bahn, although that can get a little tough at peak hour. 

Alternatively, you can borrow or rent a vehicle to try and save costs.

READ ALSO: The downsides of Vienna you should be aware of before moving there

But Vienna City also has a service that will pick up the trash for a low fee – even if it is located in the attic, a basement or a courtyard.

It’s the Entrümpelungsdienst und Sperrmüllabfuhr der MA 48. You can also ask for the “dump service” when the city of Vienna brings a trough (the smallest can fit 12 cubic meters).

Once you fill it up, they will remove it and take it to the appropriate place.

Costs will depend on the amount of trash, the size of the appliance, and where in the household it is located.

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