“Logic is a poor guide compared with custom” -Winston Churchill

2 Feb

Logic IS a poor guide. I’ll be honest – there are a lot of differences between Austrian/Europeans and Americans. Some of it doesn’t seem logical! (Although I’m sure there are a LOT of things Americans do that don’t seem logical! Here are a few stereotypes as well as things I have noticed about Austrians:

Before I came to Austria, my sister said, “So, my friend tells me Austrians are all really unfriendly and kinda weird. She went to Austria for two days, so she knows.” Yeah, right. Austrians are very nice, and extremely friendly! And I mean, isn’t everyone weird in their own way? I don’t think Austrians are out of the normal! Let customs guide you, and not logic, dear Emma! I made myself go into this program with an open mind, and I know for a fact that it helped immensely! During my first hour in Vienna, I had multiple people help me with my bags and holding doors for me! It was wonderful! Luckily, I knew the phrase, “Danke schön!” which means “Thank you very much!” in German! I used it quite a bit!

The number one thing that Austrians do that freaks me out a little bit – they stare. They stare a lot. I was told this before I even came to Austria, and it still took me off guard. My first encounter was as soon as I stepped onto my first train. There were a group of us loud, obnoxious Americans all with 100 pounds of luggage shoving ourselves onto trains trying to get to a hostel, so I can definitely see why there was staring. It didn’t bother me there, because I would have stared too if I were in that situation! The next instance, though, was at the hostel’s bar later that night. My friend and I were talking, and he looked away for a second and said to me, “Whoa. ALL of those people are really staring at us. A lot.” I turned to look, and sure enough, there was a table of probably 5 or 6 people all looking directly at us and talking! We looked at ourselves, making sure our flies weren’t down and we looked okay (well, we hadn’t slept for a long time and just got off an 8 hour plane ride, so we weren’t looking our best, to be honest!). Austrians were never taught not to stare, like Americans were. It is definitely different from America, where people divert their eyes and seem to avoid eye contact at all costs. My plan? Stare back. It seems to work pretty well!

Austrians cut in line. Everywhere. That’s one of the first things I had to learn here. There is no such thing as a line. While that might seem rude to Americans, that’s just the way they were raised! They aren’t trying to be rude! So be ready to push and shove if you’re coming to Austria!

And to clear a few things up:

1. Not all Austrians have blond hair and blue eyes.

2. They don’t all wear Lederhosen. Especially while hiking in the Alps.

3. They aren’t all opera singers nor do they go to the Opera every night.

4. They don’t live in Cafes.

5. Although there are many, they aren’t ALL musical geniuses.

6. They aren’t ALL Catholic.

7. They don’t sing in the streets of Salzburg.

8. They don’t sing in the streets of anywhere. (though that would be really fun!)

Austria is a great country. I encourage anyone going to any foreign country to keep an open mind. It helps SO much!


2 Responses to ““Logic is a poor guide compared with custom” -Winston Churchill”

  1. Russ February 4, 2010 at 1:15 pm #

    Great posts, Tia! Keep ’em coming. This is the closest many of us will ever get to Austria – you are doing a great job of being our tour guide!

  2. Lisa September 24, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    I have lived in Austria for about 10 years and you are totally right, they have never been taught not to stare. I don’t care what anyone says about cultural differences, to stare at somebody for an extended period of time and make that person feel uncomfortable is extremely rude. You don’t have to be a Brit or American or taught that as a young child to figure that out. It is common sense and common courtesy, manners and respect for other people around you. The same goes for line cutting (if they think they can get away with it, they will do it – an extra checkout is opened in a supermarket, everybody from the back of the first line rushes to the now open one, leaving people who have been waiting 20 minutes to wait even longer), invading personal space, and whispering about people right in front of them. The Austrian mentality seems to be: put yourself first, it doesn’t matter how your actions impact on others or whether you insult someone, as long as you are happy. They are also incredibly insecure and jealous people. Most people, in other parts of the world, grow out of gossiping about people’s personal life or clothing choices in high school, not the Austrians.. If it helps them get ahead in some way they will also think nothing of spreading rumours about a person to destroy them professionally and socially. You have to be very very careful around them. This was the advice given to me by a very successful older friend. The problem is that (Vienna especially) is a little bubble, they embrace their traditions and are resistant to change and unwelcoming to foreigners. They would happily live in the 1940s era forever. That’s just how it is. Obviously there are some very nice, well mannered and intelligent Austrians, but the general public in Austria..the masses.. are intolerable. That’s an honest opinion of somebody who has lived in the country for a long time, speaks German fluently and is integrated in society.

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