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Living in Austria For Members

'Cows with bells on': What to expect from Austria’s most Austrian region

Hayley Maguire
Hayley Maguire - [email protected]
'Cows with bells on': What to expect from Austria’s most Austrian region
Coming across cows with bells on is an Austrian cliche. But just how true is it? (Photo by Tim Klump / Pixabay)

Every country has a place where all the cliches and stereotypes seem to be on display. We asked readers of The Local to tell us where that is in Austria.

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Ask anyone what comes to mind when they think of Austria and they will probably say mountains, schnapps and Mozart. Maybe the Sound of Music, especially if you speak to a British person.

It’s the same if you ask people what they think of neighbouring Germany. No doubt images of Oktoberfest- style drinking halls, pretzels and sauerkraut will appear. 

READ MORE: 10 signs you’ve become more Austrian than the Austrians

The reason for this is that they are stereotypes of a nation, but even stereotypes have to originate from somewhere, right? 

We took a closer look – and asked readers of The Local – to discover more about Austria. 

Lederhosen, cash and schnitzel

So what are the cliches and stereotypes most associated with Austria?

The obvious one is that people wear Lederhosen (leather trousers) and Dirndls (a dress with a bodice) all the time. And especially while drinking beer after a hard day of working on a mountain farm.

For most Austrians, this is simply not true, although many people do wear them for special occasions like weddings, working in traditional restaurants or even visiting Vienna’s wineries in the autumn months.

READ ALSO: Austrian clichés: How true are these ten stereotypes?

Another stereotype is that Austrians don’t like change. Or, perhaps more correctly, that things don't change fast enough in Austria.

This is summed up by Austrian composer Gustav Mahler who famously said of Vienna, “If the world ends tomorrow, I would go to Vienna. Everything happens 50 years later there."

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With its ongoing reliance on cash payments, Sunday shop closings and some old-fashioned attitudes, Austria can (at times) seem like a place that is slow to adapt to change. Something that many newcomers to the country struggle with.

Then there is the local cuisine that most people assume is solely made up of schnitzel, sausages (or some kind of pork product), potatoes and strudel. 

Sure, the Austrian diet is heavily influenced by meat and potato dishes with a side of beer, especially in more rural areas. But if you venture into the bigger cities you can find cuisine from all over the world.

So what does this all mean in day-to-day life in Austria? Where do these stereotypes actually show up? And where is the most Austrian region of Austria?

To find out, you need to head west to the mountains.

FOR ALSO: REVEALED: The best and worst districts to live in Vienna (as voted for by you)

Sepp Rieser, owner of the herd watches his workers decorating cows with bells and flowers before leaving their summer pastures during the annual ceremonial "cattle drive" (Almabtrieb), on September 18, 2020 at Gramai-Alm in Tyrol's Karwendel Alpine nature park near Pertisau, Austria.  (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

'Have you met a Tyrolean?'

We asked readers of The Local to tell us where the most Austrian province is in Austria and 53% of respondents said Tyrol. This was followed by 20% who said Salzburg (which borders Tyrol) is the most Austrian place.

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The results come as no surprise as both provinces have retained their traditional cultures, from Lederhosen to alpine huts and folk music – “cliches” that many people would expect of life in Austria.

When asked why they thought Tyrol was the most Austrian region, Jim from Arizona, in the US, said: “The Alps, the music, the farms, the people.”

Similarly, Emma from the UK said: “It has mountains, cows with bells on, and plenty of traditional festivals and events. Many places are as they were many years ago, plus others are updated with traditions kept. Restaurants often serve traditional food. You can see the real Austria in Tyrol.”

And Jimi from Australia simply said: “Have you met a Tyrolean?”

READ ALSO:  The downsides of moving to the Austrian mountains

Basically, the stereotypes highlighted above – mountains, traditional culture and a lack of change – can be found in Tyrol, which makes it feel very Austrian. Or what we expect to be Austrian, anyway.

But not everyone agrees that Tyrol and Salzburg are the country’s most Austrian regions.

Clare from the UK said Upper Austria was the most Austrian province, mostly for the “lakes, mountains and culture” – again reflecting those stereotypes of what is Austrian.

Whereas Philipp from Australia voted for Lower Austria and said: “This is where it began, centuries ago…”

However, it’s worth noting that only one person voted for Vienna as the most Austrian place, and no one voted for Burgenland, Styria or Vorarlberg.

It seems that when people think of Austria, it’s the traditional elements of the culture that spring to mind, and these can actually be found in the mountains of Tyrol and Salzburg.

What do you think? Do you agree that Tyrol is Austria’s most Austrian region? Get in touch at [email protected].

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