Nationality: Austrian(s).

Population (2007): 8,199,783.

Annual growth rate (2007): 0,7 %.

Ethnic groups: Germans 91 %, Turks, Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, and Bosnians; other recognized minorities include Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, and Roma.

Religions: Roman Catholic 73,6 %, Lutheran 4,7 %, Muslim 4,2 %, other 5,5 %, no confession 12,0 %.

Language: German 92 %.

Area: 83,857 km2.

Cities: Capital – Vienna (with a population of about 1,6 million). Other cities – Graz, Linz, Salzburg, Innsbruck, Klagenfurt.

Terrain: Alpine (64 %), northern highlands that form part of Bohemian Massif (10 %), lowlands to the east (26 %).

Austria is a small, predominantly mountainous country geographically located in Central Europe, between Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia and Italy. It has a total area of 83,857 km², about twice the size of Switzerland.

The landlocked country shares national borders with Switzerland (164 km) and the tiny principality of Liechtenstein (35 km) to the west, Germany (784 km) and the Czech Republic (362 km) and Slovakia (91 km) to the north, Hungary to the east (346 km), and Slovenia (311 km) and Italy (430 km) to the south (total: 2563 km).

The westernmost third of the somewhat pear-shaped country consists of a narrow corridor between Germany and Italy that is between thirty-two and sixty km wide. The rest of Austria lies to the east and has a maximum north-south width of 280 km. The country measures almost 600 km in length, extending from Lake Constance on the Austrian-Swiss-German border in the west to the Neusiedler See on the Austrian-Hungarian border in the east. The contrast between these two lakes — one in the Alps and the other a typical steppe lake on the westernmost fringe of the Hungarian Plain — illustrates the diversity of Austria’s landscape.

Seven of Austria’s nine provinces have long historical traditions predating the establishment of the Republic of Austria in 1918: Upper Austria, Lower Austria, Styria, Carinthia, Salzburg, Tyrol, and Vorarlberg. The provinces of Burgenland and Vienna were established after World War I. Most of Burgenland had been part of the Kingdom of Hungary, but it had a predominantly German-speaking population and hence became Austrian. Administrative and ideological reasons played a role in the establishment of Vienna as an independent province. Vienna, historically the capital of Lower Austria, was a socialist stronghold, whereas Lower Austria was conservative, and both socialists and conservatives wanted to consolidate their influence in their respective provinces. Each province has a provincial capital with the exception of Vienna, which is a province in its own right in addition to being the federal capital. In Vienna, the City Council and the mayor function as a provincial parliament and provincial governor, respectively.

GDP (2007): $283,8 billion

Real GDP growth rate (2007): 3,3 %.

Per capita income (2007): $39,000.

Natural resources: Iron ore, crude oil, natural gas, timber, tungsten, magnesite, lignite, cement.

Agriculture (1,7 % of 2007 GDP): Products - livestock, forest products, grains, sugarbeets, potatoes.

Industry (30,7 % of 2007 GDP): Types - iron and steel, chemicals, capital equipment, consumer goods.

Services: 67,6 % of 2007 GDP.

Trade (2007): Exports - $129,7 billion: iron and steel products, timber, paper, textiles, electrotechnical machinery, chemical products, foodstuffs. Imports - $130,3 billion: machinery, vehicles, chemicals, iron and steel, metal goods, fuels, raw materials, foodstuffs. Principal trade partners - European Union, Switzerland, U.S., and China.

Austria has a well-developed social market economy with a high standard of living in which the government has played an important role. The government nationalized many of the country’s largest firms in the early post-war period to protect them from Soviet takeover as war reparations. For many years, the government and its state-owned industries conglomerate played a very important role in the Austrian economy. However, starting in the early 1990s, the group broke apart, state-owned firms started to operate largely as private businesses, and the government wholly or partially privatized many of these firms. Although the government’s privatization work in past years has been very successful, it still operates some firms, state monopolies, utilities, and services. The Schussel government’s privatization program further reduced government participation in the economy. The Gusenbauer government will not reverse privatizations, but does not plan to undertake any further privatizations. Austria enjoys well-developed industry, banking, transportation, services, and commercial facilities.

Some industries, such as several iron and steel works and chemical plants, are large industrial enterprises employing thousands of people. However, most industrial and commercial enterprises in Austria are relatively small on an international scale.

Austria has a strong labor movement. The Austrian Trade Union Federation (OGB) comprises constituent unions with a total membership of about 1,2 million - about 31 % of the country’s wage and salary earners. Since 1945, the OGB has pursued a moderate, consensus-oriented wage policy, cooperating with industry, agriculture, and the government on a broad range of social and economic issues in what is known as Austria’s "social partnership." The OGB opposed the Schussel government’s program for budget consolidation, social reform, and fiscal measures that favor entrepreneurs. However, because of a scandal involving a bank the OGB owned, the OGB lost much of its political influence in the Social Democratic Party (SPO).

Austrian farms, like those of other west European mountainous countries, are small and fragmented, and production is relatively expensive. Since Austria became a member of the EU in 1995, the Austrian agricultural sector has been undergoing substantial reform under the EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP). Although Austrian farmers provide about 80 % of domestic food requirements, the agricultural contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) has declined since 1950 to about 2 %.


Agriculture - source

Austria has achieved sustained economic growth. During the 1950s, the average annual growth rate was more than 5 % in real terms and averaged about 4,5 % through most of the 1960s. In the second half of the 1970s, the annual average growth rate was 3 % in real terms, though it averaged only about 1,5 % through the first half of the 1980s before rebounding to an average of 3,2 % in the second half of the 1980s. At 2 %, growth was weaker again in the first half of the 1990s, but averaged 2,5 % again in the period 1997 to 2001. After real GDP growth of 0,9 % in 2002, the economy grew again only 1,1 % in 2003, with 2001-2003 being the longest low-growth period since World War II. In 2004, Austria’s economy recovered and grew 2,4 %, driven by booming exports in response to strong world economic growth, but it declined to 2,0 % growth in 2005.

Primarily due to higher growth in Europe and continued export growth, Austrian GDP was a higher-than-expected 3,3 % in 2006. Prediction is for the economy to grow 2,5-2,8 % in 2008.

Austria became a member of the EU on January 1, 1995. Membership brought economic benefits and challenges and has drawn an influx of foreign investors. Austria also has made progress in generally increasing its international competitiveness. As a member of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), Austria has integrated its economy with those of other EU member countries, especially with Germany’s. On January 1, 1999, Austria introduced the new Euro currency for accounting purposes.

In January 2002, Austria introduced Euro notes and coins in place of the Austrian schilling. Economists agree that the economic effects in Austria of using a common currency with the rest of the members of the Euro-zone have been positive.

Trade with other EU-27 countries accounts for about 73 % of Austrian imports and exports. Expanding trade and investment in the new EU members of central and eastern Europe that joined the EU in May 2004 and January 2007 represent a major element of Austrian economic activity. Austrian firms have sizable investments in and continue to move labor-intensive, low-tech production to these countries. Although the big investment boom has waned, Austria still has the potential to attract EU firms seeking convenient access to developing markets in central and eastern Europe and the Balkan countries.

Austrian history dates back nearly 2,000 years, when Vindobona (Vienna) was an important Roman military garrison along the Danube. The city grew through the Middle Ages and in 788, the territory that is present-day Austria was conquered by Charlemagne, who encouraged the adoption of Christianity. In 976, Leopold von Babenberg became the first in his family to rule the territory; the Babenberg line of succession lasted until the death of Frederick II in 1246. There was a brief interregnum when the territory was ruled by Otakar II of Bohemia, but in 1276 Rudolf I defeated Otakar II at Durnkrut and became the first Habsburg to ascend to the throne.

The Habsburg Empire

Although never unchallenged, the Habsburgs ruled Austria for nearly 750 years. Through political marriages, the Habsburgs were able to accumulate vast land wealth encompassing most of Central Europe and stretching even as far as the Iberian Peninsula. During the 16th Century, the Ottoman Empire gained strength and in 1529, the Ottoman army surrounded Vienna. The Habsburgs held their ground and the Ottomans retreated, to return again in 1683. This time, Vienna was successfully defended by Polish King Jan Sobieski III. To this day Austrians are still proud of defending their territory from the invading Ottomans.

Battle of Wiena 1683

Battle of Wiena 1683 - source

Habsburg rule in Europe was particularly unsettled in the 18th and 19th Centuries, when various wars were fought over their landholdings. Emperor Charles VI (1711-1740) and his daughter Maria Theresa (1740-1780) ruled the Empire during these tumultuous times. Maria Theresa was only able to take the throne as a result of the Pragmatic Sanction, which allowed a female to ascend when there was no male heir. She became a great reformer within the Empire, advocating many changes, most notably in the educational system. Maria Theresa’s son Josef II (1780-1790) continued many of her reforms and he himself has been described as an enlightened absolutist.

In 1848 Franz Josef I ascended to the throne and remained in power until his death in 1916. With a reign spanning from the Revolutions of 1848 to World War I, Franz Josef saw many milestones in Austrian history. The Compromise of 1867 allowed some minor sovereignty to the territory of Hungary and created what became known as the Dual Monarchy. Under the new system, Franz Josef remained the head of state (Emperor of Austria/King of Hungary), but the Hungarians were now permitted to have a parliament and legislate on their own.

Franz Josef I.

Franz Josef I. - source

The old Habsburg Empire slowly began to deteriorate in the beginning of the 20th Century. This deterioration culminated in the June 28, 1914, assassination of Archduke (and heir to the throne) Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophia. This incident sparked the beginning of World War I and assured the end to the Habsburg domination of Central Europe. In 1919, the Treaty of St. Germain officially ended Habsburg rule and established the Republic of Austria.

Political Turmoil During the Inter War Years Leads to Anschluss

In the years leading up to the Nazi period, Austria experienced sharpening political strife among the traditional parties, which since 1918 had created their own paramilitary organizations. By the late 1920s and early 1930s, these organizations were engaged in strikes and violent conflicts. Unemployment rose to an estimated 25 %. In line with similar trends among other Central European countries, a corporatist and authoritarian government came into power in Austria under Engelbert Dollfuss, who abolished existing political parties and Austria’s Constitutional Court. The Social Democrats, now excluded from the political process, took up arms, and a brief civil war ensued in February 1934. Austrian National Socialists (NS) launched an unsuccessful coup d’etat in July 1934 and murdered Dollfuss. The Nazi leaders were, however, arrested, tried, and received death sentences. Following this unsuccessful coup, the Austrian President asked an ultra-conservative Christian Social leader, Kurt Schuschnigg, to form a government. Like Dollfuss, Schuschnigg sought to appease his neighbors and, at the same time, obtain support from Britain and France against pressures from Hitler’s Germany, but without success due to the authoritarian trends in Austria and Austria’s poor image in the West. In February 1938, under renewed threats of military intervention from Germany, Schuschnigg was forced to accept Austrian National Socialists (Nazis) in his government. On March 12, Germany sent its military forces into Austria, an action that received enthusiastic support among most Austrians, and Schuschnigg was forced to resign. He and many other political leaders were arrested and imprisoned until 1945.

The Holocaust in Austria

The dissolution of the Austrian Empire and consequent loss of territory following World War I, as well as the political strife of the 1930s, set the stage on March 13, 1938, for Germany’s Anschluss ("Annexation") of Austria and the beginning of the Nazi period, the darkest chapter in Austria’s history, during which most of the Jewish population of the country was murdered or forced into exile. Other minorities, including the Sinti and Roma, homosexuals, and many political opponents of the Nazis also received similar treatment. Prior to 1938, Austria’s Jewish population constituted 200,000 persons, or about 3 to 4 percent of the total population. Most Jews lived in Vienna, where they comprised about 9 percent of the population. Following Anschluss, the Germans rapidly applied their anti-Jewish laws in Austria. Jews were forced out of many professions and lost access to their assets. In November 1938, the Nazis launched the Kristallnacht pogrom in Austria as well as in Germany. Jewish businesses were vandalized and ransacked. Thousands of Jews were arrested and deported to concentration camps. Jewish emigration increased dramatically. Between 1938 and 1940, over half of Austria’s Jewish population fled the country. Some 35,000 Jews were deported to the Ghettos in Eastern Europe. Some 67,000 Austrian Jews (or one-third of the total 200,000 Jews residing in Austria) were sent to concentration camps. Those in such camps were murdered or forced into dangerous or severe hard labor that accelerated their death. Only 2,000 of those in the death camps survived until the end of the war.

Austrian Jews

Austrian Jews - source

Austria Post World War II

At the Moscow conference in 1943, the Allies declared their intention to liberate and reconstitute Austria. In April 1945, both Eastern and Western-front Allied forces liberated the country. Subsequently, the victorious allies divided Austria into zones of occupation similar to those in Germany with a four-power administration of Vienna. Under the 1945 Potsdam agreements, the Soviets took control of German assets in their zone of occupation. These included 7 % of Austria’s manufacturing plants, 95 % of its oil resources, and about 80 % of its refinery capacity. The properties returned to Austria under the Austrian State Treaty. This treaty, signed in Vienna on May 15, 1955, came into effect on July 27, and, under its provisions, all occupation forces departed by October 25, 1955. Austria became free and independent for the first time since 1938.

Austrian Compensation Programs and Acknowledgment of its Nazi Role

During the immediate postwar period, Austrian authorities introduced certain restitution and compensation measures for Nazi victims, but many of these initial measures were later seen as inadequate and containing flaws and injustices. There is no official estimate of the amount of compensation made under these programs. More disturbing for many was the continuation of the view that prevailed since 1943 that Austria was the "first free country to fall a victim" to Nazi aggression. This "first victim" view was in fact fostered by the Allied Powers themselves in the Moscow Declaration of 1943, in which the Allies declared as null and void the Anschluss and called for the restoration of the country’s independence. The Allied Powers did not ignore Austria’s responsibility for the war, but nothing was said explicitly about Austria’s responsibility for Nazi crimes on its territory. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, greater attention was given in many countries to unresolved issues from World War II, including Austria. On November 15, 1994, Austrian President Thomas Klestil addressed the Israeli Knesset, noting that Austrian leaders "... spoke far too rarely of the fact that some of the worst henchmen of the NS dictatorship were in fact Austrians. .... In the name of the Republic of Austria, I bow my head before the victims of that time." Since 1994, Austria has committed to providing victims and heirs some one billion dollars in total compensation.


System of government: Federal Parliamentary democracy.

Constitution: 1920; revised 1929 (reinstated May 1, 1945).

Branches: Executive - federal president (chief of state), chancellor (head of government), cabinet. Legislative - bicameral Federal Assembly (Parliament). Judicial - Constitutional Court, Administrative Court, Supreme Court.

Political parties: Social Democratic Party, People’s Party, Freedom Party, The Greens, Alliance for the Future of Austria.

Suffrage: Universal over 18.

Administrative subdivisions: Nine Bundeslander (federal states).

Defense (2007): 0,8 % of GDP.

The Austrian president convenes and concludes parliamentary sessions and under certain conditions can dissolve Parliament. However, no Austrian president has dissolved Parliament in the Second Republic. The custom is for Parliament to call for new elections if needed. The president requests a party leader, usually the leader of the strongest party, to form a government. Upon the recommendation of the Federal Chancellor, the president also appoints cabinet ministers.

Austria Parlament

Austria Parlament - source

The Federal Assembly (Parliament) consists of two houses - the National Council (Nationalrat), or lower house, and the Federal Council (Bundesrat), or upper house. Legislative authority resides in the National Council. Its 183 members serve for a maximum term of four years in a three-tiered system, on the basis of proportional representation. The National Council may dissolve itself by a simple majority vote or the president may dissolve it on the recommendation of the Chancellor. The nine state legislatures elect the 62 members of the Federal Council for 5 to 6-year terms. The Federal Council only reviews legislation passed by the National Council and can delay but not veto its enactment.

The highest courts of Austria’s independent judiciary are the Constitutional Court; the Administrative Court, which handles bureaucratic disputes; and the Supreme Court, for civil and criminal cases. While the Supreme Court is the court of highest instance for the judiciary, the Administrative Court acts as the supervisory body over government administrative acts of the executive branch, and the Constitutional Court presides over constitutional issues. The Federal President appoints the justices of the three courts for specific terms.

The legislatures of Austria’s nine Bundeslander (states) elect the governors. Although most authority, including that of the police, rests with the federal government, the states have considerable responsibility for welfare matters and local administration. Strong state and local loyalties have roots in tradition and history.

Political Conditions

Since World War II, Austria has enjoyed political stability. A Socialist elder statesman, Dr. Karl Renner, organized an Austrian administration in the aftermath of the war, and the country held general elections in November 1945. All three major parties - the Conservative People’s Party (OVP), the Socialists (later Social Democratic Party or SPO), and Communists - governed until 1947, when the Communists left the government. The OVP then led a governing coalition with the SPO that governed until 1966.

Between 1970 and 1999, the SPO governed the country either alone or with junior coalition partners. In 1999, the OVP formed a coalition with the right wing, populist Freedom Party (FPO). The SPO, which was the strongest party in the 1999 elections, and the Greens formed the opposition. The FPO had gained support because of populist tactics, and many feared it would represent right wing extremism. As a result, the European Union (EU) imposed a series of sanctions on Austria. The U.S. and Israel, as well as various other countries, also reduced contacts with the Austrian Government. After a period of close observation, the EU lifted sanctions, and the U.S. revised its contacts policy. In the 2002 elections, the OVP became the largest party, and the FPO’s strength declined by more than half. Nevertheless, the OVP renewed its coalition with the FPO in February 2003. In national elections in October 2006, the SPO became the largest party, edging the OVP domination. On January 11, 2007, an SPO-led Grand Coalition took office, with the OVP as junior partner.

The Social Democratic Party traditionally draws its constituency from blue and white-collar workers. Accordingly, much of its strength lies in urban and industrialized areas. In the 2006 national elections, it garnered 35,3 % of the vote. In the past, the SPO advocated state involvement in Austria’s key industries, the extension of social security benefits, and a full-employment policy. Beginning in the mid-1980s, it shifted its focus to free market-oriented economic policies, balancing the federal budget, and European Union membership.

The People’s Party advocates conservative financial policies and privatization of much of Austria’s nationalized industry. It finds support from farmers, large and small business owners, and some lay Catholic groups, mostly in the rural regions of Austria. In 2006, it received 34,3 % of the vote. The Greens won 11,1 % of the vote in 2006, becoming the third-largest party in parliament. The rightist Freedom Party traditionally had a base in classic European liberalism. However, after losing much of its support in the 2002 elections and suffering a split, the FPO won slightly more of the vote in 2006 - 11% - than it did in 2002, due to a populist, anti-immigration theme. The Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZO) split from the FPO in 2005. All the FPO’s Federal Ministers and most of its parliamentarians joined the BZO, and that party formally became the junior partner in the governing coalition. The BZO was unable to draw significant popular support away from the FPO, but managed to enter parliament in 2006 with 4,1 % of the vote.

Present circumstances: Head of state: Heinz Fischer (SPÖ) - President

Head of Goverment: Werner Faymann (SPÖ) - Federal Chancellor

Governing parties: SPÖ, ÖVP

Last national elections: 2008

Last national elections: 2008

Last European Parliament election June 2009



Austrians are a homogeneous people; 91 % are native German speakers. However, there has been a significant amount of immigrants, particularly from former Yugoslavia and Turkey, over the last two decades. Only two numerically significant autonomous minority groups exist - 18,000 Slovenes in Carinthia (south central Austria) and about 19,400 Croats in Burgenland (on the Hungarian border). The Slovenes form a closely-knit community. Their rights as well as those of the Croats are protected by law and generally respected in practice. Some Austrians, particularly near Vienna, still have relatives in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. About 74 % of all Austrians are Roman Catholic. The church abstains from political activity. Small Lutheran minorities are located mainly in Vienna, Carinthia, and Burgenland. Small Islamic communities have arisen in Vienna and Vorarlberg.

One of the great ages of Austrian music was the Vienna classical era. Vienna was the home of Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms and Anton Bruckner. Gustav Mahler’s symphonies broke down the tonal structure of western music.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - source

The "Second Viennese School" was made up of Arnold Schönberg (founder of twelve-tone music), Alban Berg and Anton Webern. Vienna was also a centre of the operetta whose exponents included Johann Strauss Junior, Karl Millöcker, Karl Zeller and Franz Lehár.

Austria owes its reputation as a land of music to such institutions as the Vienna State Opera but also to its countless festivals throughout the country, from Lake Constance in the far west (Bregenz Festival) to Lake Neusiedl in the far East (Mörbisch operetta festival). Every summer Salzburg hosts this country’s most prestigious arts festival, founded in 1920.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Johann Strauss Jr. (1825-1899)

Johann Strauss Sr. (1804-1849)

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)


Falco (1957-1998)

DJ Ötzi (1971- )

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The Jugendstil movement, pioneered by Gustav Klimt, flourished in Vienna around the turn of the century. Other important twentieth-century artists from Austria are Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka. In the years after the second world war Albert Paris Gütersloh founded the Viennese School of Phantastic Realism. Max Weiler is one of today’s foremost painters. The sculptors Fritz Wotruba, Wander Bertoni and Alfred Hrdlicka have also established international reputations.

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Religion of Austria is largely Roman Catholic in nature with staunch orthodoxy prevailing in the lives of the countrymen for long period of time. Its history can be traced back as early as 16 th and 17 th centuries in the Habsburg Dynasty when severe conflict existed between the two main Christian communities – the Roman Catholics and Protestants. The Habsburg monarchs were strong supporters of Catholicism, which helped it to continue as the principal religion of Austria. In spite of being ardent followers of Catholicism, the Habsburg rulers showed tolerance for all religions.

More about religion:


1. It’s a beautiful and civilized country

2. It has a good public transport system

3. Austrian people are not superior-minded, they are polite and the service is efficient

4. Austria has a high standard of living

5. Austrian beer and wine are excellent

6. Austrian food is fantastic, specially the pastries. They are absolutely delicious

7. There are lots of treats like the "Sachertorte"

8. Austria has a low crime rate

9. The capital, Vienna, is very cosmopolitan

10. The young Austrians are friendly

11. The older Austrians are old-fashioned

12. Shopping in Austria is great

13. Austria has beautiful mountains and scenery everywhere

Vienna is old and new, classical and trendy, nostalgic and dynamic.

NIGHTLIFE in Austria

In Austria you will find many reasons not to go to sleep - life after sunset fulfils almost every wish. Visit one of the many festivals; enjoy an evening at the opera, a theatre performance or a concert, and afterwards a refined dinner. If you like to party, dance or just sit in a bar, with live music or a live DJ, there are many places to go to, with a wide range of different music styles, from chart music, to electronic beats and jazz sounds. We understand that not everyone has the desire nor the energy to dance the night away, so do not forget that there is always the possibility to spend a very civilised evening in a hotel bar, typical Viennese restaurant or one of the many fantastic coffeehouses dotted around the city. Vienna offers a varied nightlife with a lot of clubs and bars for every music taste, so there is no need to go to bed, but many reasons to stay up all night.

The true test of a strong ski/party resort is its post-slopes bar. There is a national pastime that follows, sometimes overlaps and occasionally replaces the skiing – après ski! Resorts such as Mayrhofen, Saalbach and Solden offer some of the best après ski to be found anywhere. St Anton and Ischgl are not far behind and most resorts in Austria celebrate the end of a ski day with schnapps and a dance in ski boots.



You are expected to be on time in Austria. When your appointment or invitation is at 10.30, then it is at 10.30, don’t keep people waiting without a very important reason. If you cannot keep an appointment, it is very important to inform the other person immediately. If you missed an appointment it is a must to apologize and/or explain.


Austrians often say things in a humorous way. They like to make fun of people who think that they are better than anybody else. They also like to tease others, don’t be offended, it is just another way to show you that you are liked and accepted. If you feel offended tell them and explain why.


When Austrians enter a room or a shop or when they meet someone they know in the street they greet. They also use polite phrases a lot, like "I’ll call you some time", or "Let’s meet some time". Don’t take this too seriously, it might be only a polite phrase. It is not common to address tutors, teachers or administrative staff at the University with their first names. Unless the respective persons offers you to use the first name and to say "du", you have to use the last name and "Sie". Austrians also love titles (even though they joke a lot about it). So when you know that a person has an academic degree, use it until the person tells you to omit it.


You will notice at once that the German the Austrians speak is quite different to the German you may have learned at school. Austrians use regional informal dialects which are not always easy to understand, it is mainly a change of vowels. They also use different expressions for things which you will not find in a dictionary. So if you have problems understanding ask people to talk slowly or to repeat and ask them to use "High-German": "Bitte sprechen Sie Hochdeutsch". Don’t use the dialect when you talk to superiors.

The University offers German courses at beginner’s and intermediate level. Try to talk to your fellow students as much as possible and don’t stick to people from your home country.


Every culture has certain ways of standing, moving, using hands, eyes, arms, nodding the head, etc. There may be meanings associated with these movements or gestures, and the meaning may be different in Austria from the meaning in your culture. In Austria it is usual to look someone in the eye when you are talking with them. Eye contact means directness, attentiveness and sincerity. Averting the eyes is considered to be impolite. In some cultures it is an insult if someone gives you something with the left hand – in Austria it makes no difference. Austrian people also touch others when they are talking to them but they don’t like it when you stand too close to them. It is also quite common to pat little children’s heads. After you have spoken to a number of Austrians you will soon notice these differences.


People usually shake hands when they meet. "Guten Morgen", "Mahlzeit" and "Guten Abend" are formal greetings in the morning, at noon and in the evening. You can use "Grüß Gott" at any time, and when you leave say "Auf Wiedersehen". Students and young people often just say "Hallo", "Servus" or "Grüß dich". The American "Hi" is also quite common. People also appreciate it if you add their name, eg. "Grüß Gott, Herr Moser".


You are expected to contribute to the conversation. Your host will understand that your German might not be so fluent. If they speak too fast, ask them to speak a little more slowly.

Questions about a person’s age, how much someone earns, the cost of a persons house or the land on which the house is built, and the costs of various things in the home are considered to be impolite. If you would like to know the cost of something, ask the question in a non-personal way, eg.: "How much does the average house in Leoben cost?"


It is important to carry a plentiful supply of business cards when doing business in Austria. Not only will you want to exchange them with your Austrian counterparts upon your initial meeting but you will also be expected to offer them to everyone you meet including administrative personnel, such as receptionists and secretaries.

It is essential to arrive on time for meetings. The German for ’late’ is zu spät, which translates literally as ’too late’; 5-10 minutes is ’too late’ for a subordinate and 15 minutes’ lateness will constitute a shaky start to any business relationship.

Meetings with Austrians typically begin with some brief, preliminary ’small talk’ so you should be prepared to discuss your journey, your hotel, what you did the previous evening etc. and to ask equivalent questions in return. At a more serious level, you should also aim to be up-to-date on current affairs [especially if local and uncontroversial] or perhaps display some knowledge of Austrian culture. Such light social conversation is not just a polite convention, and certainly not an excuse for not getting straight down to business, but serves an important purpose; because there is little socializing amongst colleagues outside the office, this may be one of the few opportunities for the parties to get to know one another. It is, therefore, strongly recommended that you make a good impression as an intelligent and agreeable conversationalist.

It is vital to be thoroughly well prepared for all meetings. All punctual people hate wasting time and Austrians are no exception.

Austria has a formal, structured and conservative business culture; it is less flexible, more ritualised and more ’old fashioned’ [or, at least, very attached to the ’old’ way of doing things] than most Western European countries. Change is not thought to be implicitly good for its own sake, and the reasons for doing things differently from the way they have been done, unless obvious, must be set out clearly. Indeed, Austrians can become very uncomfortable, even emotional, if their sense of normal service, order and organisation is threatened.

Decision-making can be slow and a potential cause of impatience because Austrians tend to be risk-averse and make decisions methodically and with tremendous precision. However, precisely because responsibility for decision-making lies only with those at the very top, it does mean that any action plan is likely to be implemented immediately. Plain-speaking, open negotiations that end in agreement deliver prompt results. Austrians aim for mutual benefit in their business dealings and expect their respect and trust to be reciprocated. Agreements are solid even in their pre-contract stage and there should be no need to chase them up. (Part 2)


Respect, conservatism, and a respect for conservatism are the keys to business success in Austria. As befits a highly traditional nation, Austrians conduct themselves in public with a tremendous amount of polite formality. Courtesy and an almost exaggerated politeness are integral features of Austrian behaviour.

In accordance with Austrian etiquette, you should acknowledge people with a formal greeting before jumping into conversation; the most common salutation is Grüß Gott. This includes everyone in the room [and applies equally to café staff, shop assistants, receptionists, indeed anyone you meet in whatever context] and not just your primary contacts. If you know the positions of the people you are meeting, extend your hand to the most senior individuals first. When shaking hands, be sure to give a quick yet confident handshake.

As in most European countries, a handshake should be extended when leaving as a way of confirming what has been discussed and solidifying your friendship. Again, it is impolite to take one’s leave from any room or building without saying Auf Wiedersehen or Auf Wiederschauen to all those present.

Women are often still treated with a greater degree of ritualised respect by men. Some older Austrians, in fact, may take the woman’s hand [always after she has offered it] and raise it towards their lips as they bow from the waist saying küßdiehand, gnädige Frau. It is important that the hand does not actually touch the lips and that the ’kiss’ is merely symbolic.


Austrians plan their schedules weeks, even months, in advance and try to follow what they have pre-arranged in their appointment books. If it is absolutely necessary to reschedule an appointment, you should ensure that you do so as soon as you know of the change.

Austrians are scrupulously punctual and expect others to observe the same courtesy at all times. It is therefore essential to arrive on time for all meetings and other engagements [especially if you are invited to a prestigious concert or opera in Salzburg or Vienna]. Austrians view people who can manage time as also being able to handle business projects with punctilious attention to detail. These qualities are of tremendous importance to them.

The Austrian transport system is efficient and reliable [even during alpine winters] so there should be no excuse for being late.

You should avoid planning business meetings for August or any time near the Christmas holidays when many Austrians schedule lengthy trips. Similarly, good snow at any time between December and April is likely to tempt a nation of enthusiastic skiers to head for the Alps.

Tourism is an important part of Austria’s services sector. In 1991 foreign tourists accounted for earnings of $192,4 billion, almost offsetting the negative trade balance and deficits in services or other accounts. Tourism is a principal industry and source of foreign exchange. In fact, Austria’s per capita tourist revenue is the highest in the world. Foreign overnight stays in Austria have risen consistently since World War II, from 50 million in 1950, to 59 million in 1970, and to 95 million in 1990. With 20 million visitors in 1990, Austria was fifth in the world in tourist revenues, surpassed only by the United States, France, Italy, and Spain. Most tourists come from European countries. Almost two-thirds come from Germany, followed by the Netherlands (10 percent) and Britain (5 percent).

Austria’s largest tourist attraction has long been the Alps - for skiing in the winter and for hiking and camping in the summer. For this reason, the mountainous provinces of Tirol, Carinthia, and Vorarlberg produce the greatest tourist revenues. Salzburg is an important tourist attraction in the summer. Vienna remains a tourist center all year but does not generate as much tourist revenue as the mountain areas.

Tirol´s valley

Tirol´s valley - source

Austria has 20,000 hotels and pensions, as well as an additional 50,000 private rooms available to house tourists. In addition, there are thousands of simpler accommodations, such as youth hostels, mountain huts, and campsites.

Austria has also made significant progress in becoming an international conference center. The so-called United Nations City, located outside Vienna, contains the headquarters of a number of major United Nations (UN) organizations. Vienna also has an international conference center. Taking advantage of Austria’s neutral status, Vienna has hosted numerous East-West negotiations and is the permanent seat not only of such longestablished organizations as the International Atomic Energy Agency but also of the newer Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The opening of Eastern Europe is likely to make Vienna an even more important center for East-West travel.

Places to visit in Austria

Visits to Austria mostly include trips to Vienna with its Cathedral, its "Heurigen" (wine pubs) and romantic Waltz music flair. Worth a visit are Salzburg, birthplace of Mozart, Innsbruck, capital of Tyrol surrounded by the Alps, and the Danube valley with its vineyards, for example the Wachau or Dunkelsteinerwald, which are between Melk and Krems. In the western part of the country the province Vorarlberg reaches the Lake Constance, in the eastern part Neusiedler See.

Of great touristic importance are the Austrian skiing, hiking and mountaineering resorts in the Alps as well as family-friendly recreation areas (e.g. the Witches’s Water in Tyrol). The same applies to the numerous Austrian lakes (e.g. Wolfgangsee and other lakes in the Salzkammergut east of Salzburg or Wörthersee in Carinthia).

For visitors interested in Media Art, there is the Ars Electronica Center in Linz. Since 1979 this center has organized the Ars Electronica Festival and presented the Prix Ars Electronica, the worldwide highest-ranked prize for media art.

If you have an interest in architecture then you will love Austria. Austria has always been a melting pot of creative ideas and various artistic and architectural styles. Drawing both from the rich local cultural legacy and a thriving art scene, Austria in recent years recaptured its role as a leading art center in Europe. Museums, galleries and spectacular exhibitions make Austria a favorite destination for every art lover.

Architecture of Austria is marked by a great variety of styles and traditions ranging from ornate baroque buildings to modern innovations which reflect different periods in history of Austria. The centuries of Habsburgs’ rule, for example, have left an impressive number of beautiful constructions testifying to the land prosperity and the power of the royal family.

The land has quite a number of sightseeings and attractions luring tourists from all over the world to travel Austria. Historic centers of Vienna, Graz and Salzburg, palaces and gardens of Schönbrunn, Innsbruck and many other sites are included in the World Heritage List among other 830 properties as they are considered to have immense universal value.

Austria is famous for its ancient castles, gorgeous palaces, and solemn cathedrals. Among most prominent works of architecture to see when you travel Austria we could probably single out such castles as Burg Hohenwerfen, Liechtenstein Castle, palaces like Schönbrunn and the Belvedere, cathedrals including the Minoritekirche in Vienna, the Melk Abbey, and even the Imperial Crypt cemetery. Some of them will be described in more detail below for you to know the best places to visit while you travel Austria.

Schönbrunn Palace with its surrounding buildings and the huge park is one of the most significant cultural monuments in Austria. The castle was built to rival French Versailles in Baroque beauty and importance, but the House of Habsburg lacked funds to outdo its rivalling nation France.

The Prater is Vienna’s most popular fun fair. Enjoy a great view over Vienna from the Giant Wheel, or do some sports and relax in an expansive area of parks, forest land and fields. The Prater is situated near the city centre and is ideal for walking, cycling, jogging or just lying in the grass after an exhausting sightseeing tour of Vienna.

Two further attractions in the Prater are the Vienna Wurschtlprater, an amusement park with the Giant Wheel (Riesenrad), where one can enjoy a terrific view over Vienna from 200 feet altitude, and the Lilliputian Railroad (Liliputbahn), a 2.6 mile railway line with age old steam locomotives, providing transportation to the Trade Fair grounds and to the Stadium. The Giant Wheel was erected in 1897 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph I. The wheel itself spans 200 feet (about 60 m.). 15 cabins and the upholding structure weigh a total of 430,5 t and rotate at the speed of 0,65 m/sec.

It was originally a medieval castle, but today only the kastle chapel (’Burgkapelle’) demonstrates its medieval past. The Hofburg was extended to a magnificent residence when the power of the Habsburgs increased. That’s why one can find almost any architectural style, from gothic to art nouveau. Nowadays this enormous komplex is home to the "Österreichische Nationalbibliothek" (National Library) and the "Schatzkammer" (Imperial Treasury). It houses a collection of musical instruments, another collection of weapons, the "Museum für Völkerkunde" (Museum of Ethnography) and the world-famous "Spanische Hofreitschule" (Spanish Riding School).

It is the oldest and last Riding School in the world where classic dressage is still practised in its purest form. This Institute was founded in 1572. Its name refers to the fact that the horses were of Spanish origin. The Lipizzaner is regarded to be the oldest classic race horse in Europe. The horses used to be bread in Lipizza in Slovenia. Today, there is a stud in Piber, close to Graz. Young Lipizzaner are black and only turn white when reaching maturity.

Austria is a country full of interesting cultural centers. Some of the more prominent ones include the Schönbrunn, historic Vienna, Salzburg, and Graz. Heading outside the cities one can enjoy the incredible beauty of Lake Neusiedl, the Wachau Valley, and the mountain vistas of the Hallstatt, Dachstein, Salzhammergut regions.

A point of pride for Austria is Graz. In 2003 this city was designated the "Cultural Capital of Europe".