Austrain business culture guideAustrian business culture

Did you know about business culture in Austria? Watch this video animation to find out some interesting facts:

Business Culture in Austria is characterised by: business communication, business etiquette, business meeting etiquette, internship and student placements, cost of living, work-life-balance and social media guide.

Here you will find a very short introduction to Austria. External links at the end of this page offer more in-depth information concerning different topics.

Austria is one of Europe’s smaller countries, but also one of the richest and most stable in the EU. Its location at the heart of Europe has traditionally made it a hub of East/West relations. As a landlocked country in central Europe, Austria borders Germany and the Czech Republic to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The Danube River, Austria’s only navigable waterway, flows from south-eastern Germany across northern Austria.

Austria has a population of nearly 8.5 million, more than 90% of whom are Austrians, only 10% being foreigners mostly from Serbia and Montenegro, Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Germany and Croatia. Austria is the only country other than Germany where the official language is German, and approximately 98% of the population speaks German or a dialect of it. Austrian German sounds “softer” than that spoken in Germany and German speakers can easily discern the difference. Austria’s Slavic minority, located mostly in the south and east of the country, speak Slovenian and Croatian as their first language.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed in Austria. About three-quarters of Austrians are Roman Catholic. Many practice “baptismal certificate Catholicism” in which they are Catholic by baptism and religious formality but do not hold Catholic beliefs on central issues. Another major religion in Austria is Protestantism, and many foreign workers are Muslim or Serbian Orthodox. You will also find a small community of Jews in Austria. Most of them are immigrants from World War II.

Austria is in the time zone of UTC+1. However, during summertime (March to October) the clocks are changed to summer time which is UTC+2.

The greater part of Austria lies in the cool/temperate climate zone in which humid westerly winds predominate. As over half of the country is dominated by the Alps, an alpine climate is the predominant one.

Vienna is both a province and the Austrian capital and is also a major river port on the Danube. The population of Vienna, is around 1.7 million at the time of writing in 2013 (rising to nearly 2.5 million if you include the  suburbs), and represents about a quarter of the country’s population; it is said to constitute a melting pot of citizens from all over Central and Eastern Europe. In contrast to the capital, other cities in Austria do not exceed 1 million inhabitants: the second largest city, Graz, is home to around 260.00 people, followed by Linz, Salzburg, and Innsbruck which are smaller.

Austria is divided into nine provinces, (1) Burgenland, (2) Carinthia, (3) Lower Austria, (4) Upper Austria, (5) Salzburg, (6) Styria, (7) Tirol, (8) Vorarlberg, and (9) Vienna.

For further information about Austria, please see below:

Xenophobia: being a foreigner in Austria

Austrians are generally conservative people who place a strong value on hospitality, nostalgia, cleanliness, charm, traditions, the love of nature and the outdoors, romance and style. However, work and personal lives are rigidly divided, and Austrians subscribe to the ideal that there is a proper time for every activity. The home is the place where people relax. Only close friends and relatives are invited into the house, so this is the place where more informal communication may occur.

However, in general, people are very friendly and hospitable in Austria and treat everyone with respect.

International Business

When doing business in Austria it is essential to appreciate that business etiquette is of great importance to your Austrian counterpart. Austria is a nation that is strongly individualistic and respectful and in turn it expects high standards of its business partners. Any unethical behaviour will seriously diminish all future business negotiations.

General Education

As stated above, Austria’s education system is one of the world’s best and the country has a literacy rate of 99%. Children have an equal right to free education, with free transport to and from school and free textbooks provided by the government. The primary school is for children between the ages of six and ten.  After that, there is a choice of two pathways. Some pupils will attend a general secondary school for four more years, whilst others go to an upper-level secondary school until they are eighteen.

After secondary school, students can choose to go to a university or vocational college to pursue a specific career. All universities in Austria are free. Twelve universities and six academies of music and art enjoy a high degree of autonomy and offer a full spectrum of degree programs. Established in 1365, the University of Vienna is Austria’s oldest and largest university.

The educational levels of the general and the working population in Austria are very high; this might be as a result of the high quality education system. Qualified workers and graduates are available for every possible job opportunity. The so-called dual education system is a special feature and vocational training (apprenticeship) in Austria is based on this principle. Whilst training is concentrated within the firm, it also takes place in parallel to a course in a vocational college. This ensures that two important objectives are met: Guaranteed high qualification standards for Austria’s skilled workers and also youth employment.

Further information regarding the dual education system can be obtained at Aeiou: [de]

Educational standards

Austria’s education system is counted amongst the best in the world and is quite business oriented offering the possibility of specialisation.

All the higher technical and commercial colleges provide specialised training. For instance, higher technical colleges for mechanical engineering offer more than ten different forms of training. Almost three quarters of all Austrians take advantage of this unusually wide choice and complete a higher general secondary, or higher technical or vocational college education. The Austrian education system has exceptionally close links with industry.

For further information, please see below:

Other Issues such as transportation infrastructure

When setting up a business in Austria, it is imperative to be aware of all the relevant distribution channels, transport options and accommodation choices. Austria is located in the heart of Europe and is therefore an important transport hub for north/south and east/west routes. The transport infrastructure is well developed and Austria plays an important role in the creation of trans-European networks. You can travel to Austria by car, rail, aircraft or ship. Within Austria, travel is best undertaken by railway or by car.

Local Transportation

There is a direct train connection from Vienna Schwechat airport to the city centre. Further information and the timetable are available at: [en] [de]

In addition, a local train runs between Wien Mitte and VIE. Further information is available at: [de] [en]

Buses run every 30 minutes from VIE to the Westbahnhof and the Südbahnhof and to the Vienna City Terminal at the Hilton Hotel. The timetable is available at: [de] [en]

Road Transport

Austria is an important transit country and therefore it has a well-developed road network with motorways and highways. A toll, based on kilometres travelled, is levied on all vehicles exceeding 3.5 tonnes in weight. The following link gives further information on this: [de] [en]

Rail Transport

Austria also has quite a good rail network and around 30% of all goods are transported by rail. The largest rail transport service is the Austrian Federal Railways, (Die Österreichischen Bundesbahnen AG), [de] [en] and its subsidiary company Rail Cargo Austria AG [de] [en]

Sea Transport

Even though Austria is a land-locked country it has considerable inland marine traffic. Waterways include the Danube and the Rhine-Main-Danube canal which enables goods to be transported by ship from the North Sea to the Black Sea. Contact addresses of shippers are available on the website of the Wirtschaftskammer Österreich/Fachverband für Schifffahrt (shipping section) at [de]

Air Transport

The most important airports are in Vienna, Graz, Linz, Salzburg, Klagenfurt and Innsbruck.

The largest Austrian airline is called Austrian (the conglomerate of Austrian, Lauda Air and Austrian Arrows). Flights within the country are predominantly provided by Austrian Arrows. Further information and timetables can be found at [de] [en]

Cultural taboos

There are no real taboos in Austria that do not apply in other Western countries. However, there are a number of taboos and issues that are considered inappropriate when dealing with your Austrian counterparts and you should observe these so as to avoid any inference of disrespect to views and ideals. Being aware of these will make your business dealings more pleasant and will assist you in building strong relationships with Austrian business people.

  • Do not discuss  World War II or criticise Austria in general
  • Austrians are not Germans, even if they speak the same language! This is very important. Austria and Germany have very different customs.
  • The Austrians value their privacy and personal space immensely. Do not ask personal questions related to occupation, age, family or children if your relationship is in its infancy. Once you have a well-established relationship, those topics are okay. However, never speak about salary. Salary is an absolute taboo topic for Austrians.
  • Austrians are more formal and punctual than most of the rest of the world. They have prescribed roles and seldom step out of line.
  • Compliment carefully and sparingly – Austrians may find personal compliments embarrassing.
  • You should not lose your temper publicly. This is viewed as uncouth and a sign of weakness.
  • Stand up when an elder or higher ranked person enters the room.
  • Do not shout or be loud; do not put your feet on furniture
  • When making or answering a phone call, first introduce yourself by saying your name (most people use their last name, but you can also use your first name if you prefer). It is considered impolite if you don’t say your name even when you use other polite greetings such as “hello” or “good morning”.
  • It is impolite to cross your arm over people who are shaking hands.
  • It is rude to chew gum in public.
  • Talking while your hands are in your pockets is also considered impolite.

Understanding and respecting these issues will make a significant contribution in understanding Austrian culture and building and maintaining strong and solid business relationships.

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