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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

What you should know about Austria and Germany’s ‘Stammtisch’ tradition

Friends, conversation, hearty meals and Gemütlichkeit: if you've ever been to an old beer hall in Austria or Germany, you may have come across the spirit of Stammtisch. Here's what you need to know about this storied tradition.

The word Stammtisch written on a table in an outdoor beer garden in Bavaria. Photo: DPA/Picture Alliance
The word Stammtisch written on a table in an outdoor beer garden in Bavaria. Photo: DPA/Picture Alliance

Maybe you’ve seen them — or maybe you’re one of them: the regulars at a pub, café or restaurant, always sitting in the same seats, ordering another drink, giving the owner a hard time and chatting with locals who walk through the door.

If that sounds familiar, you’ve likely gotten a glimpse into the meaning of “Stammtisch.”

Found throughout Austria and Germany, a “Stammtisch” is a regular meeting of friends coming together to enjoy a comfortable atmosphere and talk idly about anything and everything, typically beer-in-hand.

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The word literally translates to “clans’ table,” and while its meaning has changed over time, at its core is a certain sense of belonging that can be returned to again and again.

What is the history of Stammtisch?

Though you might be able to find a Stammtisch table at any typical tavern, brewhouse or beer hall across Germany and Austria (you may even spot an ornate “Stammtisch” sign signalling who’s who), the tradition isn’t always tied to a physical location. It’s more about the group itself, rather than the table where they meet.

Like any centuries-old tradition, it’s not entirely clear where the practice originated. Researchers Franz Dröge and Gudrun Schwibbe told science magazine Bild der Wissenschaft that it likely began in the 17th and 18th centuries, when artists, writers and thinkers across Europe would congregate in various cafés and bars to exchange ideas and discuss their work.

Later on in the 19th century, the researchers argue, it was the subversive politicians and union organisers who would gather around the table and talk over actions and political problems. The term “Stammtischpolitik,” or “pub politics,” was coined to cast these political discussions in an unfavourable light.

These days, convening at the Stammtisch is simply about joining in community for a good conversation, a game of cards or a drink. The regular tavern-goers of the older generation still exemplify its traditional roots better than anyone else, and many of today’s Stammtisch gatherings harken back to that era.

But the Stammtisch idea has also grown to encompass a wider range of gatherings, often open to the public, that are centred around a specific topic of interest. You might find, for example, a weekly Stammtisch for avid hikers, football players or foreign-language speakers, or a university program that hosts a monthly Stammtisch for its students to attend.

Why do people enjoy the Stammtisch tradition?

A Stammtisch provides a casual setting for people to connect despite ideological differences, where attendees have the opportunity to talk about what interests them. Altogether, it creates a sense of belonging without too much commitment: you don’t have to show up every single week. 

Regulars might likewise appreciate the social outlet that a Stammtisch provides. They may attend in order to practice a new language—or to pick up the latest community news and gossip. There’s nothing quite like a full stein to get the chatter flowing!

Whatever the reason for gathering, the communal spirit is at the heart of this tradition. Good food and drink contribute to the comfortable atmosphere, creating that warm feeling of “Gemütlichkeit.”

READ MORE: The best places to live in Austria that are not Vienna

Can anyone participate in a Stammtisch?

Though you’re likely to receive a volley of confused stares if you try barging your way into a long-running Stammtisch at the local tavern — the truth is, anyone can participate in this tradition.

If you’d like to join a Stammtisch group, try finding one in your area that’s open to the public and focused on a topic you’re interested in. German-learners will find that there are “Stammtische” (the plural) all over the world meeting to practice and perfect their language skills. Meetings are often advertised online, through social media or even posted at the restaurant in question. 

If there’s not a gathering in your city or town, consider grabbing some friends or colleagues and starting your own “regulars’ table.”

The table part isn’t so important — all you really need is the people.

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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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