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Eight signs you’ve settled into life in Austria

Whether it has been five weeks or five years, Austria can sometimes feel a little strange as a foreigner. But if you recognise any of these eight signs, you might be a little more integrated than you think.

A hot dog stand in Vienna late at night. Photo by Alex Rainer on Unsplash
A hot dog stand in Vienna late at night. Photo by Alex Rainer on Unsplash

For people who live in a different country to the one they’ve grown up in, you feel like a foreigner in a strange land up until you return home. 

At this point, your old friends might tell you how ‘foreign’ you now are. 

While it never stops feeling odd to be between two worlds, if you recognise any of the behaviours from this list below, then you might be a little more Austrian than you think. 

You’re a coffee person now

OK so this doesn’t apply to Americans and most likely wouldn’t apply to Australians, but for people originally from the British Isles, the shift from tea to coffee can often happen seamlessly and without you even recognising it. 

Upon returning home, you might find yourself longing for a Melange or even a Einspänner, when a cappuccino will have to do. 

And when the coffee is served, you’ll look at the plate for the accompanying thimble of water and wonder what’s wrong with the waiter, before realising that the shot glass-of-water-with-coffee phenomenon hasn’t made it too far from Austrian shores (or at least outside of German-speaking Europe). 

Several coffee cups sit next to a plate with cakes at a coffee house in Vienna. Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

Several coffee cups sit next to a plate with cakes at a coffee house in Vienna. Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

You’re stunned that everything is open on a Sunday

Sundays are slow in Austria by design.

And while it can be difficult to get used to at first, before too long you’ll get used to the slow pace of that Sonntagsgefühl (Sunday feeling). 

You’ll even get used to doing all your shopping by Saturday evening (no, really).  

Titles suddenly matter

A sign of the pervasive nature of tall poppy syndrome in English-speaking countries is how we will often shy away from achievements rather than celebrate them. 

While false modesty is in short supply in Austria – another cultural quirk which can be difficult to get used to – there is also a desire to recognise when someone has accomplished something (particularly when that involves years of study). 

In Austria, it is not only common but is expected to address someone with their titles. Hearing “Herr Doktor” or “Frau Magister” is therefore relatively common, even when speaking in English. 

Waiters are often addressed “Herr Ober”, a sign of how common place titles are. 

READ MORE: 11 surefire signs your kids are becoming Austrian

Where titles aren’t used, the use of Mr and Mrs/Ms in conjunction with a person’s last name is the done thing in Austria in almost all business communications, or even making reservations at a restaurant. 

If you start sending emails with “Dear Mr Smith” rather than “Dear David” or introducing yourself over the phone as “Ms Fleming”, you’ll know you’re settling into life in Austria nicely. 

Friendly service makes you stunned and suspicious 

While Austrians aren’t exactly unfriendly – and many bartenders and waiters will try and make you feel welcome – heading back to America, the United Kingdom or Australia will be quite a shock for anyone who’s spent a fair bit of time in Austria. 

The friendly, attentive service that is common place in English-speaking countries not only isn’t common in Austria, but it isn’t well received – with plenty of locals likely to get suspicious rather than tip happy. 

This extends beyond bar/restaurant culture and also into formal encounters, including police and other officials. 

Waiters prepare drinks at a bar. Black and white picture. Photo: Pixabay

Waiters prepare drinks at a bar. Photo: Pixabay

One reader told us about returning to the UK for a football match and being told by a border guard his re-entry was conditional on which team he supported. 

Such interactions are almost non-existent in formal situations in Austria, so if you find it weird to have a chat about your personal life with an airport border guard you’ll never see again, then you might be getting a little more settled in Austria than you think. 

Nudity is fine – and those who don’t think so are the real weirdos

The reasons are too many and too deep to go into here, but for some reason English-speaking cultures have a tendency to restrict the wearing of one’s birthday suit to the bedroom and solo showers. 

Austrians – as any foreigner or even tourist may be aware – tend not to have the same reservations. 

A naked man stands on the ledge of a pool. Photo by FRED DUFOUR / AFP

A naked man stands on the ledge of a pool. Photo by FRED DUFOUR / AFP

Whether you’ve been visiting the sauna, take part in organised sport or even just swimming at a lake, there’s a good chance you’ve seen more than your fair share of nude Austrian bodies. 

As a result, from swimming to visiting your doctor, you might find yourself far less reluctant to nude up – which may force a few of your old friends to clutch their pearls if you do it in their presence. 

You’re a social smoker

OK, so things are gradually changing, but the prevalence of smoking in Austria can be infectious and at the very least is quite hard to avoid. 

Plenty of internationals will now take part in the unique phenomenon of never buying a packet but smoking whenever the beer/wine or schnapps is a-flowing. 

If this is you, then you’ll know the Austrian ways are seeping in and you’re slowly becoming a little more settled – but no matter how much of a social smoker you are, you’ll love being in smoke-free bars again. 

A cigarette burns down in an ashtray which sits inside a bar in Vienna. Photo: AFP

A cigarette burns down in an ashtray which sits inside a bar in Vienna. Bars in Austria still have inside smoking, despite rules against it. Photo: AFP

You meet at the Würstel stand without thinking

The advent of smartphones has meant that most of us no longer organise set meeting spots and stick to them, it’s much easier to call when we get there or drop a pin. 

But if you’re really integrated in Austria, you’ll meet a friend at your favourite Würstel (hot dog stand) without even thinking about it, before heading off into the night (or simply sticking around until it closes). 

House shoes

While taking your shoes off before you enter someone’s home or apartment is entry-level Austrian, you know you’re there if you are quietly building a collection of Hausschuhe (house shoes) and think it weird not to have any. 

You’ve reached top-shelf Austrian integration if you visit another person’s house and ask where the house shoes for visitors are kept. 

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Austria’s civil defence alarm: What you should know about the warning siren system

Austria will carry out its annual civil defence test alarm on Saturday, October 1st. Here's what you need to know about it.

Austria's civil defence alarm: What you should know about the warning siren system

It’s going to be loud, but don’t get scared: the alarm sirens will ring all over Austria this weekend as part of the country’s yearly alarm check when it tests the alert system.

Every year, on the first Saturday of October, thousands of sirens sound alarms all over Austria. For those who live outside of Vienna, that may not be particularly eventful, as sirens get tested more often than in the capital city.

READ ALSO: What is Austria’s official emergency-warning phone app and do I need it?

However, the annual country-wide check also means that the federal government will sound all alarms in a 45-minute event to remind the population of the signals of warning and alert.

What happens during the civil protection test alarm?

When sirens are being tested, they ring for 15 seconds only – and this doesn’t happen everywhere in Austria. However, once a year, the tests take on a larger scale.

This Saturday, October 1st, all the sirens will be tested between 12 pm and 12:45 pm. In the Austria-wide event, they will sound alarms on four occasions so people can familiarise themselves with the different signals.

READ ALSO: The smartphone apps that make living in Austria easier

At around noon, the first test will start with a 15-second alarm. Then, at 12:15 pm, the warning signal, followed by the alarm signal at 12:30 pm and the “all clear” sign at 12:45 pm.

Additionally, the governments will test their app systems, including the KAT alert and the Stadt Wien app – so you should receive test notifications if you have any of these apps.

What is the Civil Protection System?

Austria has a comprehensive warning and alarm system with over 8,000 sirens (180 of them are in Vienna) spread throughout the country. It serves to alert the population in the “event of a disaster”, according to the Ministry of the Interior.

The federal government operates the system along with provincial governments. The signals can be triggered centrally by the Federal Warning Centre in the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the Provincial Warning Centres of the Federal Provinces, or the District Warning Centres, depending on the dangerous situation.

READ ALSO: Ten essential apps to download for living in Vienna

Different types of alarms mean different things:

  • TESTING (15 seconds continuous tone): A quick continuous tone to test if sirens are working correctly.
    What to do: don’t panic; this is only a test. You can check ORF on radio, TV or online to confirm this.

  • WARNING (3 minutes continuous tone): A constant continuous tone with a length of 3 minutes means “warning”. This signal is triggered when the population is warned of approaching danger.
    What to do: Switch on radio or TV on public broadcaster ORF, or check and follow the rules of conduct.

  • ALARM (1 minute rising and falling wailing tone): An ascending and descending wailing tone of at least 1-minute duration means “alarm” and alerts that the danger is imminent.
    What to do: Switch on radio or TV on public broadcaster ORF, or check and follow the rules of conduct. Look for protective areas or rooms.

  • ALL CLEAR (1-minute continuous tone): A constant continuous tone of 1 minute (only after the alarm signal) means “all clear”, i.e. end of danger.
    What to do: Continue to pay attention to the announcements on the radio, TV or ORF online, as there may be certain temporary restrictions.