14 Things to Know Before You Go to Austria

Just to make sure we are all on the same page here, we are talking about Austria, you know, the small alpine country in the heart of Europe? If you are looking for the big Island with the many kangaroos you have come to the wrong place. There are no kangaroos in Austria. That’s Australia mate!

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Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get to our list!

1. Sunday is a Day of Rest

Austrians really take their day of rest seriously and the majority of businesses are closed on Sundays. So please, try to forget about the consumer lifestyle for this ONE day and enjoy a day without shopping.

2. Austrians Are Not Germans

It’s like comparing cats with dogs, or Canadians with Americans. They might have some similarities but they are not the same. Austrians are a proud bunch and put a lot of value on their own heritage. So for your own sake, refrain from calling them Germans or you won’t hear the last of it. You have been warned!

3. Sound of Music, What is That?

Most Austrians have never seen the Sound of Music nor do they give a rat’s ass about it. The Sound of Music is just a Hollywood movie that distorted the story of the Von Trapp Family. Sorry to burst your happy bubble.

4. You Can Drink the Water Straight From the Toilet

Okay that is kind of gross, but that is how good the quality of water is there (please don’t drink from the toilet). Austria’s water is rated among the top 5 best drinking water in the world. So yes, if you are thirsty you can walk into a bathroom and drink from the SINK, unless of course you see a sign that reads “Kein Trinkwasser” (no drinking water).

5. It’s Totally OK to Eat Dessert As a Main Dish

Austrians love their sweet stuff just like the next person. So mommy’s rule, of no sweets before dinner, can go kick rocks when you are in Austria. Here are a few dessert we have eaten as a main dish: Mohnnudeln, Palatschinken, Germknödel, Apfelstrudel and Kaiserschmarren.

6. No Hidden Fees

Unlike in the USA, taxes are included in the displayed price. That includes restaurant menus, stores, supermarkets and so forth. What you see is what you pay.

7. Get Your Buzz On

Soft Alcohol (beer and wine) is legal at 16 and it is legal to drink in public. So if you really want a Sweet Sixteen birthday come to Austria ;). Oh and hard liquor is legal at 18.

8. Don’t Speak German? No Worries!

Most Austrians speak basic English as it is taught in school. But that is not to say that you shouldn’t put in a little effort to learn some basic words in German, such as Thank You (Danke), Please (Bitte) or Hello (Hallo! / Grüss Gott)

9. Wow, Free Public Transport! Think Again!

You might think Austrians’ public transportation is free since it seems as though everyone gets on and doesn’t pay but it is actually operated on an honor system. So yes, you have to pay! If you are caught without a ticket you might pay a fine of around 80 Euros. Not worth it buddy!

Insider Tip: If you want to save a few bucks, buy your transportation pass ahead of time at a “Trafik” or at a ticket machine where tickets usually cost less than on the bus or train.

10. Austrians Eat More Than Just Schnitzel

If you think Schnitzel is the best or only good dish in Austria you have a lot to learn my friend. There are over a 100 must try dishes in Austria. To name a few: Käsespatzle, Tafelspitz, Gulasch, Speckknödel, and Schweinsbraten.

11. Smokers Heaven – Non-Smokers Nightmare

Don’t inhale too much of the Austrian air or you might get second hand smoke (just kidding, but they do love to smoke). Unfortunately, many Austrians like to smoke and though restaurants and bars have designated smoking areas called “Raucherbereiche” it’s impossible to really be in a smoke free zone.

12. 20% Gratuity is a Thing of the Past

Tipping in the service industry is by no means compulsory (we are looking at you, USA) as waiters here actually get paid well and not below minimum wage. Most Austrians just round up to the nearest Euro.

13. If You Eat the Dough You Pay With Dough

Speaking of restaurants, sometimes bread is placed on the table while you wait for your meal. And if you are a foreigner like myself you will eat it thinking it is a complimentary snack before the meal, but it’s not. You pay for every piece you eat. Of course this is not at all restaurants but you should ask before chowing down.

14. Obey the Green Man

Austrians strictly observe traffic regulations which means no jaywalking even if there are no cars in sight. Follow the traffic regulations (I am looking at you New Yorkers) or you might end up paying a pretty hefty fine if a cop sees you.

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