Tips for new expat arrivals in Austria

Posted on 6 Dec at 6 PM in Europe News
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Tips for new expat arrivals in Austria

Tips for new expat arrivals in Austria

If you’re heading to Austria on reassignment, watch out for a few local habits which drive expats crazy.

Generally speaking, expats in Austria are happy with their choice of destination but, as with many overseas locations, some local behavioural traits make even experienced long-stayers hot under the collar. One of the most annoying for expats and also one of the most controversial is that Austria’s ban on smoking in public is loosely interpreted at best and totally ignored at worst. Smoking still goes on in bars, eateries, clubs and cafes, and even in some offices or on station platforms.

This next issue is far worse for American expats than for any other nationality, and is known as the ‘grumpy waiter syndrome’. The customer is definitely not always right, and dying of starvation whilst waiting to be served is a risk. You’ll also need to wait for the opportunity to settle your bill! Austrians are terrifyingly direct as well as cutting the small talk wherever possible, even if the question involves the present day Brexit controversy. British expats tend to see this trait as rudeness, but it’s simply the Austrian way to get to the nub of whatever’s being discussed.

Another Austrian speciality is telling strangers off if they’ve contravened a rule unknown to them. Newly-arrived expats will find they’re reprimanded for jaywalking, crossing the road against the red light and other trivial mistakes. Getting used to it is the only answer. Another cause for expat concern is that Austrians love to stare at those they find interesting, for whatever reason. Smiling sweetly causes discomfort to the starer, meaning you’ve won that one.

Political incorrectness seems to be the norm in Austria, meaning you’ll see black-face and Red Indian costumes in fancy dress stores and read suspiciously politically incorrect names on menus. It’s not that Austrians are totally insensitive to political correctness, it’s just that they’ve always used outdated words without considering their modern-day meanings.

As in many expat destinations, the scariest aspect of life in Austria is contact with the authorities, especially those involved with visa and registration issues. Bureaucracy here is fine-tuned to spread terror, especially if you’ve forgotten to pay a fine or bill. Having said that, the vast majority of expats living and working in Austria have learned to deal with negatives as they occur, whilst taking full advantage of the positives.

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