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LEARNING GERMAN

8 TV shows you should watch to learn about Austrian culture

If you want to learn about Austrian culture, forget the classroom - the television is where the true lessons are learned. Here are eight shows you should watch to learn about Austrian culture.

What better way to learn about Austria than through these programs? Photo by Nicolas J Leclercq on Unsplash
What better way to learn about Austria than through these programs? Photo by Nicolas J Leclercq on Unsplash

You’re immensely curious about Austrian culture, but you’re also looking for that next bingeable series to curl up to on the couch. 

Whether you’re a local newcomer wanting to experience classic Austrian television or a global citizen just hoping to learn something new, look no further. 

One of these shows is bound to capture your intrigue—and you might even learn some German along the way.

What the Austrian locals are watching

Here are some quintessential shows for viewers with some German under their belt.

1. Schnell ermittelt: classic Austrian “Krimi”

No list of Austrian television would be complete without at least one “Krimi”, which is an entire genre of books, films and shows that revolve around fictional crime stories, solved over the course of the plot.

Schnell ermittelt, German for “quickly investigated,” follows chief inspector Angelika Schnell of the Vienna homicide department as she and her team solve murder mysteries with often unconventional methods.

Full of laughs and thrills, this sixty-episode series was described by Austrian newspaper Der Standard as “CSI in good Viennese dialect.”

COMPARE: Which is Austria’s best streaming service?

2. Vorstadtwieber: comedy-drama set in posh Vienna

One of the most successful shows on Austrian television, Vorstadtweiber (“Suburban Women”) has just finished airing its sixth and final season.

Modelled after the US’ Desperate Housewives, this drama-packed satire of upper-class Austria leads viewers behind the shiny facade of Vienna’s suburban elite to the web of secrets, corruption, and lies surrounding five women bent on orchestrating their own financial liberation.

3. Braunschlag: bleak comedy in rural Austria

Out of the big city and into the fictional Lower Austrian village of “Braunschlag,” this critically acclaimed series from 2012 will give you a deeper understanding of Austria’s varying regions and dialects while you laugh along to its absurdist humour.

In order to bring an influx of business to his bankrupt town, the mayor of Braunschlag fakes a supernatural apparition of the Virgin Mary, but the lie runs quickly out of hand, devolving into a crazed cascade of sarcasm and greed that culminates in just eight episodes.

Multicultural understanding

For Austrian residents interested in ethnicity and human rights, consider this weekly update geared toward the country’s cultures in the minority.

READ MORE: 11 maps that help you understand Austria today

4. Heimat, fremde Heimat: weekly inclusion “magazine”

The odd one out on our list, Heimat, fremde Heimat (“Homeland, foreign homeland”) isn’t a bingeworthy serial, but rather an informative weekly TV program focused on minority and immigrant groups in Austria.

In production since 1989, the show covers such topics as human rights, ethnic issues, cultural diversity and coexistence in German and several other languages.

Viewers watching the broadcast on television will have access to subtitles on the ORF Teletext Deaf Service.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

An English-friendly look at Austrian culture

For anyone who wants to get a glimpse without being tossed into the deep end of a new language, these shows offer an English language option.

Austrian clichés: How true are these ten stereotypes?

5. Vienna Blood: period crime drama

Set in 1900s Vienna but produced completely in English, this series depicts a rich, fictionalised Austrian past that goes down easy for English-speakers—if they can handle the psychological twists and turns of a thrilling crime-solver.

Currently in its third season, Vienna Blood follows medical student Max Liebermann and detective Oskar Rheinhardt as they investigate harrowing murders in famous Viennese locales, including the state opera house, the natural history museum, traditional cafés and Burggarten Park.

6. Kitz: teen soap-opera set in a ski resort town

In a contemporary narrative aimed at international youth, this 2021 teen soap shines for its exaggerated drama and picturesque Austrian landscapes, and if that’s all you’re looking for, stop here.

Set in the Tyrolean ski resort town of Kitzbühel, the story centres around nineteen-year-old waiter Lisi Madlmeyer and the gilded Munich vacationers who come for a visit.

With a range of language dubs and subtitles, this show provides a look into Austria’s ski resort tradition, even if the accents and local flavour don’t quite match up.

Cash and Schnapps: A guide to visiting pubs and cafes in Austria

7. Freud: fictionalised period thriller

If it isn’t clear by now, Austrians love to watch a criminal mystery unfold on television. In this dark 2020 crime series, famed Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud is reimagined as a drugged-up Viennese Sherlock Holmes whose only path to solving a warped criminal conspiracy is through the use of his psychoanalytic prowess.

Available with English subtitles, Freud is a macabre trip through 1880s Vienna, with a fair share of visions, nightmares and bare skin.

8. The Empress: historical drama (Coming in 2022)

Viewers looking for a more accurate depiction of Austrian history on television will have to wait—but not for long.

Slotted for a 2022 spring release and rumoured to be Austria’s answer to the UK’s international hit The Crown, The Empress (working title) is set to depict the early days of one of Austria’s most celebrated figures: Duchess Elisabeth of Bavaria, or “Sisi,” as she is called, alongside her husband-to-be, Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph I. If the title and news release are any indication, the show will likely offer an English-language option.

So turn on the TV, settle in and get ready to learn about Austrian culture the easy way—and if we missed a show that gave you a better understanding of Austria, leave us a comment below.

Member comments

  1. Fans of Braunschlag will also like Boesterreich – which is like a darker Austrian equivalent of Little Britain.

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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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