How to Do Business in Austria
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Austrians are proud of their contributions
to world civilization. They see themselves as modern, liberal
and cultured. Austrians have a great love for the outdoors
(i.e., walking, skiing, climbing, etc.). Although predominantly
Catholic (89%), traditional family values have been weakened
by modern life and government legislation. The rate of women
working outside the home is one of the highest in the industrialized
Meeting and Greeting
- Shake hands with everyone present—men,
women and children—at a business or social meeting; shake
hands with women before men. Women should offer their
hand first. Shake hands again when leaving.
- Viennese men may kiss the hand of a woman.
Accept this tradition graciously. A foreign man should
not kiss the hand of an Austrian woman, since it is not
expected and may come as a shock.
Names and Titles
- Titles are very important. Use last names
and appropriate titles until specifically invited by your
Austrian host or colleagues to use their first names.
- Herr/Frau + professional title
+ surname are used when initially addressing someone.
Example: Herr Doctor Bauer. Frau + professional
title + surname are also used when addressing the wife
of a professional. Example: Frau Doctor Bauer.
All women over 18 are Frau, even if they are not married.
- After you initially meet someone, you
can drop his/her surname and address the person using
Herr/Frau + professional title alone. Example:
Herr Doctor or Frau Doctor.
- Austrians are reserved and formal. Kissing,
hugging, touching and physical closeness in public are
- Eye contact is very important to Austrians.
- Austrians take punctuality for business
meetings very seriously and expect that you will do likewise;
call with an explanation if you are delayed. Never cancel
an appointment at the last minute.
- Light conversation usually precedes business.
- Rank and title are very important in
business. Power is held by a small number of people at
- The business community is very political.
Everyone is careful about what they say to or about anyone
- Business is conducted at a slow pace.
Dining and Entertainment
- Austrians insist on punctuality for social
- The host gives the first toast, then
the honored guest returns the toast later in the meal.
Maintaining eye contact during a toast is very important.
- Never cut a dumpling. Instead, hold the
dumpling with your knife and break it apart with your
- When finished eating, place your knife
and fork side by side on your plate at the 5:25 position.
An open knife and fork on your plate means you would like
more food or that you are not yet finished eating. Do
not leave any food on your plate at a dinner party.
- The person who extends the invitation
pays the bill in a restaurant. Austrians will not appreciate
a struggle over the bill. Reciprocate with a lunch or
dinner invitation before you leave the country.
- Do not discuss business during a meal
unless your host initiates the conversation.
- Austrians take pride in dressing well,
regardless of where they are going or what position they
hold. Avoid wearing shorts in the city, especially when
- Gifts are opened immediately upon receipt.
- When invited to someone's home, always
bring a gift for the hostess. Give: flowers (in odd numbers
only, except for the dozen—an even number means bad luck—and
unwrap before giving to hostess), wine, pastries, chocolates,
brandy, whisky. Do not give: red roses, unless romance
is intended, red carnations (official flower of the Social
Democratic Party), perfume.
- Gifts are generally not expected in business,
but come prepared in case a gift is presented. Give: desk
attire, books, music, a regional or country gift. Do not
give: personal gifts, gifts with sharp edges, gifts with
company logo (unless very subtle) or a very expensive
- Austrians are not Germans. Austria and
Germany have very different customs. Never refer to an
Austrian as a German.
- Greet salespeople when entering and leaving
- Austrians may find personal compliments
- Do not put hands in your pockets while
speaking to anyone.
Especially for Women
- Foreign women will have no problem How to Do Business in Austria.
- Lunch is the most common setting for
business discussions. Women should stick to inviting male
colleagues to lunch until they get to know them on a more
- Men enter restaurants before women.
- Offer your hand first upon meeting or
greeting a man.
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