Austrian culture VS American culture – if you are relocating to Austria, what do you need to know about their culture and way of life before planning your move.
Are you relocating to Austria? Has your employer asked you to move to Europe, and you’re trying to decide if Austria is a good fit for your family? Are you looking to retire in Europe and seeking a country with a culture and way of life where you will be comfortable?
Austria will be an excellent choice for many Americans. Many SDC International Shipping clients choose to move there each year. And for a good reason, the country abounds with culture and history.
What’s on this page?
01 | Austrian Basics
02 | Basic Austrian Geography
03 | Life in Austria
04 | Austrian Culture
05 | Austrian Food
06 | Austrian Sports
07 | Public Transportation
We call it Austria, but they call it Österreich. The German name means “the eastern realm.” The original name probably predates Germanic tribes, denoting Gothic tribes that remained in the east, as opposed to Visigoths who move westward and eventually settled in the Iberian peninsula.
There is no substantial difference between the German spoken in Austria and the dialects spoken in Switzerland and Germany. If you are moving to Austria, you might be able to get along in parts of Vienna in English, but if you are moving there, even if for only a few years, we highly recommend that you learn German.
About a third of the country’s population lives in or around Vienna.
The money used in Austria is the Euro, the same currency used in most of its neighbors. If you enjoy traveling around Europe on weekends and vacations, you’ll find that Austria is a great location.
Basic Austrian Geography
Austria is a land locked country. Most European countries have at least one ocean shore. Austria doesn’t, but for most of its history, it did. You probably remember how in The Sound of Music how Captain von Trapp was an Austrian naval officer that the Germans wanted to draft. Well, for centuries, Austria was at the heart of the Hapsburg Empire, and later the Austro-Hungarian. These empires ruled large portions of Europe and had access to many shores. Today Austria does not have a navy, and most of its military deals with peacekeeping missions.
This doesn’t mean that Austria is now a stranger to water. The Danube River that runs west to east through the heart of Austria and its capital Vienna is arguably one of the most important rivers in European history. The Danube was the northern border of the Roman Empire and the de facto border between Catholic and Protestant Europe. In addition to the Danube, there are many north flowing tributaries flowing into it. Beautiful lakes with dramatic mountain views abound. If you like water sports or fishing, you will find plenty to like in Austria.
Throughout the Cold War, Austria was surrounded by communist neighbors, mainly from countries that longer exist like Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. Today Austria enjoys peaceful borders on all sides.
The Alps mountain range is the defining geographic feature of Austria. Austria’s borders with Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and Slovenia all run through this mountain range. Austria also shares a border with Liechtenstein, a small country that will let you visit but will not accept immigrants from anywhere. Many people who work in Liechtenstein will live in the Western Austrian town Feldkirch.
Life in Austria
Austria has a reasonable cost of living compared to some European countries. Most places might be slightly more expensive than the United States, but not significantly.
Unlike the typical situation in most of the USA, Austrians do not shop on Sundays or at night. Expect to see shops close early. Live in Austria is also far more relaxed than in the states. People do not work long hours and are not in a rush. Though you might find an occasional fast food restaurant or Starbucks, do not expect a quick in and out of Austrian restaurants.
You should expect Austrians to be welcoming and gracious. Gemütlichkeit is a way of life that defies translation. Austria is a country for people who like people.
Austria is very much a Roman Catholic nation. You should never be surprised to see public displays of religious festivals. In America, most national parks and museums are open 364 days a year, closing only for Christmas. In Austria, expect to see closing for Catholic Holy Days of Obligation.
America has contributed much to the world’s culture, and around the world, the last century has been dominated by American culture.
Austrian culture is a little older. And while it, of course, can boast of theatre, opera, architecture, and art, Austria’s greatest contribution to world culture is classical music. Vienna is to music like Paris is to painting. It was not only the home to the world’s greatest composers, it was the magnet to all of the world’s brilliant musical minds. Baroque and classical music could not have existed without Vienna and Salzburg. While other countries created collections of stories like The Decameron, in Austria, they were busy creating variations like the Vaterländischer Künstlerverein, a collaboration of 51 Austrian composers.
This legacy of music continues in Austria today. Expect to see a ballet or an opera performed in Vienna almost every day of the year (outside of Sundays and Holy Days). Expect to hear music both in great concert halls and in the streets.
If you are more in to nightclubs and bars, you’ll find those as well.
You might not find quite the variety of international cuisine in Austria as you can in the USA. You’ll have a hard time finding a Mexican restaurant there, but you will find plenty of Viennese Cuisine. Have you ever heard of Wiener schnitzel? It is a thinly sliced piece of veal, coated in breadcrumbs and then deep fried. This is the quintessential Austrian dish. It is frequently served with sauerkraut, a salad well known to most Americans.
Common deserts include apfelstrudel, very similar to the American favorite of apple pie.
As is the case in most of Europe, football is very popular in Austria. The Bundesliga is widely followed, as is the action in the leagues of neighboring nations. European Cup and World Cup tournaments are closely watched. The professional ice hockey league is very popular. If you are a fan of hockey, you will find plenty of excitement in Austria.
Austria is the Alps, so it should come as no surprise that Alpine sports are very popular in the country. In the USA these competitions are popular mainly in the Olympics, in Austria they are always popular.
Skiing is far from only a spectator sport in Austria. The country enjoys a long ski season. In the highest Alps, near the Italian border, you can ski on glaciers even in summer. Skiing is affordable compared to other European countries and even compares favorably to locations in the United States. There is also a large variety of skiing regions, with both very large and small, intimate ski resorts.
In the USA, most people only use public transportation in the center of large cities. If you live in a suburb or a small town, or the countryside, you will probably rely upon an automobile or truck. In Austria, public transportation is excellent. Trains run often and on time and go everywhere. Closely coordinated with modern and comfortable buses and inner city transportation, public transportation is reliable and a viable alternative to private automobiles.