Photo: Wikimedia/20th Century Fox Productions

8 Things You Can Only Understand if You're Austrian

Austria Student Work
by Klaus Komenda Jul 24, 2015

1. Nobody in Austria has seen The Sound of Music. Nobody.

Why the story of the Von Trapp family has become such a symbol for what living in Austria is like will be forever a mystery. Fact is not a single Austrian has seen this movie. Nobody. Nada. Zip. It feels like being confronted with a documentary about your country that everyone else seems to have watched and taken for face value. For the uneducated: There is no singing on hills. Period.

2. Desserts are a perfectly respectable lunch.

Austria has an affinity for the sweet. Ever set foot in one of the many traditional “Kaffeehäuser” (Viennese coffee houses) in Vienna? Chances are you had to be careful not to drool on the window of the refrigerated display case right at the entrance. Most certainly the mouthwatering Sachertorte and apple strudel were beckoning you.

We find it perfectly appropriate to eat a sweet dish for lunch. Famous examples would be “Palatschinken,” best described as somewhere in between a crepe and a pancake in terms of thickness. The circular piece of dough is then usually covered with jam, rolled up like a yoga mat, and covered in powered sugar. A date or apricot compote complements the dish, giving you plenty of calories to last until your next “melange” (cafe latte) and cake for your afternoon break. What are you looking at?

3. Taking a cab means you’re riding in style.

As a student you likely had a cash-flow shortage and daydreamed about one day owning one of those Mercedes Benz. However, the experience of being chauffeured around in one can just come at the price of a cab ride. Literally. Cabs in Austria are usually of the German luxury brand, just outfitted with a meter and neon yellow in color.

4. Understanding the importance of skiing to Austrian identity.

Still being nostalgic about that one time Austria beat Germany in a soccer world cup in Argentina in 1978? Agonized that Austria and “soccer nation” will most likely never be used in a respectable sentence? Fret not, if winter is around the corner, all is powdery and fine. With plenty of skiing to be done in the country and school kids making it a priority over doing their homework, Austria produces skilled ski racers on an ongoing basis. Despite its insignificance as a sport on a global scale, the Austrian does not mind. Because this is OUR sport. Eat that, Germany.

5. How common it is that everyone thinks you’re German.

Big brother next door has always cast a big shadow, whether in sports or in business. Going abroad, however, we feel a bit like Canadians.

The perk is, if you screw up, party until the wee hours in Ibiza a bit too loud, one will most certainly always take you for being German. There are benefits to being a rather small and inconspicuous country.

6. Sundays are for church and not for shopping.

The freedom to shop almost anytime anywhere hasn’t made its way into Austria yet. Growing up you most likely had to go grocery shopping with your parents Saturday morning and made sure to be done by noon, which is when most stores closed for the weekend. After that, good luck on getting some milk for your Palatschinken.

7. We observe strict punctuality on ending the workday.

The workday ends at 5pm sharp (drop your pencil). We are not a big fan of overtime, or rather staying in the office past 5pm. Getting in at 9am, leaving at 5pm, makes 40 hours per week. That’s what the contract says and that is what we are committed to. Work still gets done, albeit at a more leisurely pace. Maybe this is because you start off your first job with 25 days of vacation annually.

8. We have a strange attitude about fame.

Austrians have this notion of despising misfits and people who think differently in their lifetime. Once they become successful, they do earn a bit more respect. The biggest service to your own stardom, however, is death. Once you die, all your shortcomings will be forgiven, all the achievements (even if it was just one) will be blown out of proportion and you get an “Ehrengrab” (grave of honor) at the central cemetery. Weird, but that is the Austrian psyche for you. Doc Freud, anything to add?

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