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CHRISTMAS

Nine festive foods and drinks that no Austrian Christmas is complete without

From the main Christmas meal to the traditional festive cookie selection and the street food favourites you can find at Christmas markets, here's everything you should eat and drink during the Austrian holiday season.

Gingerbread at Austrian market
Lebkuchen and more: here are our recommendations of what to eat and drink in Austria during the holiday season. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

Punsch

You’ll find all different flavours of punsch on offer: cherry, raspberry, orange, elderflower and more, and don’t forget the alcoholic versions which might add rum, amaretto or even orange liqueur. 

A similar popular drink is Jagertee, especially in apres ski venues, which is made with black tea, rum (usually the Stroh brand) and spices.

Two options for a new twist on the classic Austrian punsch in Vienna are Ramen Makotoya’s varieties with sake or Japanese plum wine (Reichsratsstraße 11, 1st district), or the pina colada punsch at cosy cafe Fett und Zucker (Hollandstraße 16, 2nd district).

READ ALSO: How to celebrate Christmas like an Austrian

Glühwein

A favourite in Austria as well as Germany, this mulled wine is usually spiced with cinnamon, cloves and citrus and served at Christmas markets in festive mugs (often shaped like a boot) for which you pay a deposit (Pfand). Either return your mug to get your deposit back, or keep it as a souvenir.

As with punsch, there are opportunities to branch out from the classics and experiment with white glühwein or fruity flavours.

And again, many bars and market stalls offer the option to add a Schuss or shot of rum or amaretto, for those times when you want an extra kick. Ever the masters of the literal, the translation of the German word “glowing wine” will add some colour to your cheeks.

Roast goose

Traditionally eaten with dumplings and red cabbage, roast goose is often the main event of the Austrian Christmas dinner, often following carp the previous day.

Goose is a popular dish throughout the whole winter, starting with the Martinigansl served around St Martin’s Day in mid-November.

READ ALSO: Where to find international food in Austria this Christmas

Bratkartoffel and Kartoffelpuffer

Two delicious ways of getting your potato fix this winter. Bratkartoffel are thin, crispy slices of fried potatoes are available through the winter at street food stalls in the Christmas markets as well as the roasted chestnut (maroni) stalls that pop up throughout Austria, while Kartoffelpuffer are potato pancakes usually made in a coal stove, which can be served with different toppings.

Raclette

A Swiss dish with a devoted fanbase in Austria, you’ll be able to taste this at Christmas market stalls. Melted cheese is used to top bread or potatoes, before adding extra fillings like meat, onions, and vegetables.

Lebkuchen

In the German-speaking world, gingerbread comes in several forms, though its often glazed with either a thin icing or chocolate. It’s less crispy than a gingerbread man and definitely more, well, bread like.

There’ll be no shortage of these during the festive season in Austria, as you’ll see hundreds of different designs hanging from stalls, often in heart shapes with festive messages iced on them. The perfect gift or edible souvenir.

Vanillekipferl

These delightful little crescent-shaped biscuits just melt in your mouth. They are normally made from ground almonds or hazelnuts, and then given a heavy dusting of vanilla sugar. These are a staple in the selections of Weihnachtskekse (Christmas cookies) that are available at most markets and stores selling food, and make great gifts, contributions to a holiday party, or just snack supplies for the holidays.

Recipe: Three seasonal twists on classic Kipferl cookies

Spekulatius

This is a Christmas cookie spiced with a combination of cinnamon and cloves. The biscuit is very thin, crunchy, slightly browned and usually has a Christmassy image or figure stamped on the front before baking. The bottom of the cookie is flat. Imagine a slimmed-down, spiced-up version of shortbread. Because they are so dry and brittle, they make a good companion to coffee.

Rumkugeln

Literally translated as ‘rum balls’, these are another fixture in the Austrian Christmas cookie box, small truffle-like chocolate balls with a hit of rum or brandy. They supposedly date back to the 19th century and are easy to make at home.

Useful links

Austrian Tourist Board – has recipes for several of these dishes including Lebkuchen, Vanillekipferl, Linzer Cookies and a boozy Punsch

Austrian Supermarket – order Austrian food with free shipping over a minimum spend throughout the EU

Austrian Food – order Austrian delicacies in the UK

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

Eight habits that show you’ve embraced life in Austria

Living anywhere as an international resident will have an impact on your life, but if you recognise any of these habits then you have truly embraced the Austrian lifestyle.

Eight habits that show you’ve embraced life in Austria

Life in Austria can be similar to many other European countries, but there are some aspects that are distinctly Austrian.

Here are eight habits that show you’ve integrated into the Austrian way of life.

FOR MEMBERS: 23 essential articles to help you navigate life in Austria

Indulging in coffee and cake

Coffee and cake is almost as integral to the food culture in Austria as the Wiener Schnitzel.

So say goodbye to the diet, ignore any thoughts of guilt and get stuck into a slice of Sachertorte, Punschkrapfen or Linzer Torte

Preferably with a delicious coffee on the side.

READ MORE: Caffeine, war and Freud: A history of Vienna’s iconic coffee houses

Participating in winter sports

Austria, especially the west of the country, is a winter sports enthusiasts dream.

The Alps offer an almost endless choice in ski resorts, gondolas and mountain huts, with winter sports options ranging from skiing and snowboarding to snowshoeing and Langlaufen (cross-country skiing).

Needless to say, if you live in the Alps, winter sports quickly become a central part of the lifestyle during the cold months. After all, it’s healthy, fun and even a bit dangerous (if that’s your thing).

It’s also a great way to explore the landscape of Austria and get a deeper understanding of the central role of winter sports in Austrian culture.

Downing tools for lunch

Lunch in some other countries (especially places like the UK) is often a sad sandwich while sitting at a desk. 

In Austria however, lunch is an important part of the day and many people sit down at midday with their colleagues or families to enjoy a proper cooked meal.

This is a prime example of the healthy work-life balance that residents in Austria enjoy, and is a much-better habit to embrace than working through a lunch break.

Wearing house shoes

In most Austrian households, people do not wear outdoor shoes inside. Instead, they opt for house shoes, otherwise known as slippers in English or Schlapfen in some Austrian dialects.

Also, many Austrian homes do not have carpet on the floor, which means walking around with bare feet or just socks in the winter can get cold – fast.

So if you’ve invested in a pair of house shoes or, even better, you have a backup supply for guests, then you have fully embraced life in Austria. 

READ ALSO: ‘I’ll probably return to the UK’: Moving to Austria as a Brit post-Brexit

Being punctual

Typically, Austrians are punctual people and don’t appreciate lateness.

For this reason, many international residents make an extra effort to be on time (or early), and it’s not uncommon to become stressed if you know you will be five minutes late.

As frustrating as this can be, it’s actually incredibly polite to be early for a meeting and not a bad habit to pick up.

sparkling water

(Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash)

Drinking sparkling water

People like to drink sparkling mineral water in Austria.

In fact, sparkling water is so popular that if you order a Mineralwasser (mineral water) in a cafe or restaurant, the sparkling variety is often served unless stilles Wasser (still water) is specified.

Want to be more Austrian? Then simply switch from still to sparkling water.

Stripping off

Countries in Central Europe are much more comfortable with nudity than other nations, and it’s no different in Austria.

The main place to expect an encounter with naked people in Austria is at the sauna. There are even some saunas that have a naked-only admission policy and won’t let people in if they are wearing swimming gear.

People also like to get naked at lakes – especially at the more remote or quieter locations – or at least go topless (for the women). 

The reality is, no one bats an eyelid. So put your prudish instincts aside and don’t be afraid to strip off.

READ ALSO: What are the rules on working overtime in Austria?

Taking sick leave

Employees in Austria are entitled to six weeks of paid sick leave (the number of weeks increases the longer the worker has been employed in the same company).

This means workers are more likely to take sick leave if they are unwell, rather than dragging themselves into the workplace and infecting their colleagues.

The downside though is that Austria has strict rules when it comes to taking sick leave with explicit orders to stay at home. Workers can even expect to be monitored by private detectives to make sure they really are resting at home, as reported by The Local.

For international residents in Austria, this can be hard to tolerate. But the upside is that you’re not expected to show your face in the office when sick, simply to comply with a culture of presenteeism.

And that’s a habit worth embracing.

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