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Austrian habits For Members

How to greet people like a local in Austria

Hayley Maguire
Hayley Maguire - [email protected]
How to greet people like a local in Austria
There's more than one way to say "Hallo" when greeting people in Austria. (Photo by Cytonn Photography / Pexels)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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”.

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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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