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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

Five things you will find in (almost) every Austrian home

From handy things that you will no longer live without to some head-scratching devices (not literally), here are a few things you will almost always find in Austrian homes.

Austrian breakfast with bread, boiled eggs and coffee
A simple and traditional Austrian breakfast with bread, boiled eggs, coffee and some very specific tools. (Photo: Amanda Previdelli / The Local)

For its size, Austria is a highly diverse country, with regions having their own dialects and traditions. However, certain things make an Austrian home very typically Austrian.

Of course, you might not find all of them in every single home, but take a closer look at your Austrian friend’s Wohnung. It might surprise you how many of these sometimes weird, sometimes extremely useful things you might find.

House shoes

This is a staple. Austria is one of the countries where people take their shoes off once entering their homes. It might seem strange for foreigners at first, but definitely a hygienic habit to have and one that many expats adopt in time.

Taking off your shoes also means that almost all households in Austria will have a pile of “house shoes”, slippers and comfortable socks that people wear once they are inside their homes. Many Austrians even have special guest house shoes for visitors.

READ ALSO: Eight signs you’ve settled into life in Austria

And since you can’t be expected to balance on one foot while removing or putting your shoes back on, they will always have schuhlöffel, the “shoe spoons”, to help you out.

Similarly, there will always be an area of the house by the entrance where people can leave their coats and jackets, though that might be a surprise only for immigrants coming from warmer countries.

House shoes are essential in Austria and should not be confused with shoe houses. 

A separate bathroom and toilet

Austrian homes will typically have a WC, with a toilet, and a Bad, where there is a washbasin and the shower or bathtub, and sometimes a washing machine. A typical (let’s say what we mean: a grandma home) might even have a peculiar decor piece: themed toilet seat covers.

You might find that the walls of Austrian bathrooms can keep you busy while you’re doing your business. They can hang calendars, funny paintings, and even family pictures on the WC walls.

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

No, those are not separate beds

Another thing that surprises many foreigners is the habit of having individual blankets in a couple’s bed, making it look like separate beds pushed together. It’s a convenient Germanic thing, and it helps with late-night blanket wars.

Although you can find many styles of architecture and decoration in Austrian homes, the very traditional one – one that you will find in huts and Austrian hotels too – will be heavy and good quality wood, perhaps a carpeted floor and some paper walls.

READ ALSO: Seven weird things about life in Austria you need to get used to

And if you open a closet, you’ll be sure to find traditional garments in German-speaking countries and regions, the Trachten, including Lederhosen and Dirndls. So, no, it’s not a myth that Austrians wear the clothes so much associated with the Oktoberfest – not all the time, but certainly for special occasions, including some weddings.

A bookcase full of binders

Austrians take their laws and regulations very seriously. Therefore, tax returns, invoices, and expense slips need to be saved for years, and they will have binders and binders full of all types of strange papers.

Sometimes, it might not even have to do with tax obligations. Still, you never know when you absolutely will need the guarantee for that table you bought six years ago, oder?

As most of the country still uses paper for everything (we mean everything: from getting access to important websites to sending passive-aggressive notes to a loud neighbour), you’re sure to find stamps and envelopes in some of those binders and shelves as well.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about paying tax in Austria

Eggs and water things

An Austrian kitchen will have many particular things, not the least traditional food, lots of glasses for jams, or even many different types of bread (really, there are so many that you will quickly forget the joy of learning the word Brot).

You will find devices that you never knew you needed. Austrian tap water is one of the best in the world, and they will drink it with pride. However, you might see devices to carbonate the water, as sparkling water is preferred by many people in the country.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about Austria’s world-class drinking water

There will also always be a kettle – not so much for tea purposes, as Austrians are big coffee drinkers. Still, they refuse to waste energy boiling water on the stove for cooking.

And then: the egg devices. A typical breakfast could contain bread and boiled eggs, and the preparation is methodic. There might be an egg boiler, for instance. And a separate egg cup with space around it to keep the shells.

However, my personal favourite is the (*inhales deeply*) Eierschalensollbruchstellenverursacher. It’s an absolutely crazy-looking device with the single purpose of helping you crack the egg with a perfectly clean cut.

We have two of them.

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WEATHER

Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

With violent storms becoming increasingly common in Austria, here’s how to protect yourself (and your home) this summer.

Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

Storms are a regular occurrence in Austria during the summer months, but the strength and frequency seems to be increasing.

Overnight on Tuesday, June 28th, both the Pöllinger and the Treffner rivers in Carinthia burst their banks causing widespread flooding, mudslides and damage across the region.

Reports on Wednesday morning said the villages of Treffen am Ossiacher See and Arriach (Villach-Land district) were still metres under water and several people had been rescued from the deluge.

READ ALSO: Who to call and what to say in an emergency in Austria

According to ORF, emergency services were still struggling to reach some areas and there were unconfirmed reports of missing people.

A Tweet from Unwetter-Freaks said: “Bad pictures from #Arriach in #Kärnten , which was hit by several storm cells last night. According to ORF, the place is currently cut off from the outside world and cannot be reached by the emergency services.”

Earlier this week, rural areas in Upper Austria were also hit by storms (overnight, June 27th) bringing torrential rain and hail the size of golf balls, which caused extensive damage to crops and grassland in the key agricultural state.

READ ALSO: 23 essential articles to help you navigate life in Austria

The Klaus reservoir had to be drained of 200 cubic metres of water to avoid flooding and trees were brought down across the province by wind gusts – some up to 91 km/h.

The Kronen Zeitung reports the storm caused damage to around 16,000 hectares of agriculture land, with insurers estimating the cost to be up to €6.5 million.

One Tweet showed the size of the hail on Monday night and read: “In the night we had ‘light’ hail.”

Storms then hit the region again on Tuesday night leading to a lightning strike on a hay barn in the Mühlviertel and the flooding of an underground car park in Linz.

With the summer season far from over and the possibility of more wild weather in the coming months, here’s how to stay safe during storms in Austria.

FOR MEMBERS: When and where to avoid driving in Austria this summer

Check the weather report

It might sound obvious, but checking the weather forecast should be at the top of the list of summer storm preparations.

Unlike in the past, weather reports are now typically reliable, and apps like Bergfex and Accuweather are well-known for providing detailed forecasts and weather warnings.

However, long-range forecasts can change quickly, so if you’re planning a camping or hiking trip, be sure to check the weather between 24 and 48 hours before to avoid being caught out.

Additionally, the Österreichischen Unwetterzentrale (Austrian Severe Weather Centre) has regular updates about storms and weather forecasts for Austria and users can sign up for email and SMS notifications.

Stay indoors

According to the organisation, Die Helfer Wiens (The Helpers of Vienna) one of the biggest risks during a storm is being hit by a fallen tree or flying debris.

For this reason, they advise people (and pets) to stay indoors during a storm and close all windows and doors. 

If staying in a tent or campervan, it’s also a good idea to seek shelter in a building (if possible) until the storm has passed.

However, if you are outside during lightning, the Austrian Red Cross says the best approach is to crouch down into a ball to reduce the amount of contact you have with the floor.

READ MORE: How to keep your apartment cool in Austria this summer amid rising energy prices

Stay away from the cellar

Cellars and underground car parks can quickly become flooded during heavy rain – as seen in recent storms in Upper Austria and Carinthia, and last year during violent storms across Austria.

Flash flooding can happen quickly (the clue is in the name), so stay away from cellars and underground spaces during a storm and call the emergency services if you suspect a flood in your home.

Remove plants and furniture from balconies

Having plants and flowers on a balcony is a lovely way to brighten up an outside space, but they risk being damaged during a storm.

To safeguard your pots and lovingly-planted flora, move them inside – especially during a thunderstorm with strong wind gusts and lightning.

The same applies to any outdoor furniture that could be damaged by wind or hail, like cushions, decorative objects and sun umbrellas.

Park cars under shelter

Hail is one of the leading causes of dents to bodywork on cars and damage to windscreens, both of which can be costly to repair.

If hail is forecast during a storm, park a car in a garage or under shelter, if possible. 

If strong wind is expected, then avoid parking a car under trees as debris, or even the tree itself, could end up landing on the vehicle.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: How Austria banned everyone from the forest for 123 years

Don’t go into the forest

Whether walking or driving, the best advice is to stay from the forest or areas with lots of trees during a storm.

While sheltering under a tree can protect from rain or hail, lightning or strong wind can bring down trees. This makes the forest a dangerous place to be in a storm.

But if you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of being in a forest when a thunderstorm hits, stay away from low branches and tree trunks and crouch down low. Place any walking sticks or metal poles away from you and stay away from metal fences.

Avoid risky activities

Certain outdoor activities are especially hazardous if there’s a lightning storm. 

Any activity in an open area or that puts you into contact with water or metal is strongly advised against. So that means fishing, swimming, boating, cycling and golfing are out until the storm is over. 

Keep torches and candles ready

Power cuts are common during storms, so keep a stock of candles and torches ready in case you end up without electricity for several hours.

It’s also a good idea to have a portable USB charger to make sure your phone doesn’t run out of battery during an emergency.

Who to call in an emergency

These are the numbers to call if you need help from the Austrian emergency services during a storm.

122 – fire service (Feuerwehr).

133 – police (Polizei).

144 – ambulance (Krankenwagen or Rettungswagen).

120 – ÖAMTC emergency breakdown service.

123 – ARBÖ emergency breakdown service.

140 – mountain rescue.

Finally, 112 is the single European emergency number, whose operators will direct you to the relevant services. This number can even be called on a locked mobile phone without needing the pin.

Find out more with The Local’s guide on who to call and what to say in an emergency.

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