Attitudes and values are the foundation of every country’s culture, and are the building blocks for developing a business culture. Cultural influences, attitudes and behaviours vary within and across nations and within and across ethnicities, and they are strongly embedded in communities.
Business executives who hope to profit from their travels in Europe should learn about the history, culture, and customs of the countries that they wish to visit. Flexibility and cultural adaptation should be the guiding principles for doing business in this country. Business manners and methods, religious customs, the importance of family, are all covered in the following sub-sections. Some of the cultural distinctions that business people most often face include differences in business styles, attitudes toward development of business relationships, attitudes toward punctuality, negotiating styles, gift-giving customs, greetings, significance of gestures, meanings of colours and numbers, and customs regarding titles. The following sub-sections give insights into the values, attitudes and culture of Austria.
Perhaps because of its geographical and linguistic proximity to Germany and because it is a very small country with less than 10 million inhabitants, Austria and Germany have similar cultures and business etiquettes. However, you should never think of them as being exactly the same and should make sure to distinguish between them as separate countries and cultures.
For further information see the sub pages of this topic and referred links:
- eDiplomat: http://www.ediplomat.com/np/cultural_etiquette/ce_at.htm [en]
- Wolrdwide-Tax: http://www.worldwide-tax.com/austria/auspractice.asp [en]
- WorldBusinessCulture: http://www.worldbusinessculture.com/Business-in-Austria.html [en]
- Vacation in Austria: http://www.austria.info/us/1096451/austrian-etiquette-1138905.html [en]
Corporate Social Responsibility
Strict environmental regulations have ensured that Austria remains exceptionally clean and environmentally intact. The protection of the environment is not the sole responsibility of one legislative body in Austria, but is part of numerous competences of the federal state (e.g. trade and industry, water, forest, dangerous waste and most aspects of air and traffic) and the provinces (e.g. nature protection, land-use planning, construction, non-dangerous waste).
Current environmental issues affecting individual states in Austria include: some forest degradation caused by air and soil pollution. Soil pollution is the result of the use of agricultural chemicals. Austria is also concerned about the level of air pollution which is a result of emissions by coal and oil-fired power stations and industrial plants and from trucks transiting Austria between northern and southern Europe. Overall, there is rigorous pollution control in Austria and there is also a ban on atomic energy.
You will find numerous companies in Austria with a clear orientation on sustainability, as well as environmental issues. They also focus on topics like conditions in the workplace and real social engagement. For examples please visit:
- Crossing Borders (also by Omicron): http://crossing‐borders.at/?page_id=103
- Rhomberg Bau: http://www.rhombergbau.at/en/start_page/allgemein_informationen/sustainability.html
Further can find further information on sustainability in Austria here:
Punctuality in Austria, as in Germany, is renowned throughout the world. Time, therefore, is managed carefully, and calendars, schedules and agendas must be respected. Trains arrive and leave on time to the minute, projects are carefully scheduled, and organisation charts are meticulously detailed.
Do not turn up late for an appointment or when meeting people. Austrians are extremely punctual, and even a few minutes delay can offend. If you are going to be even slightly late, call ahead and explain your situation. Be five to ten minutes early for important appointments.
For further information visit:
- Executive Planet – Appointment Alert! http://www.executiveplanet.com/index.php?title=Austria:_Appointment_Alert! [en]
In Austria it is not usual among business associates to give gifts. However, for social occasions like birthdays, gift giving is more common. The following issues are important to note when considering giving a gift:
- Gifts are not expected in business. Austrians sometimes give gifts to close business colleagues at holiday-times or to celebrate the completion of an important and successful business deal.
- Gifts should be moderate and unassuming. Suitable gifts include brandies, spirits, or something that reflects your homeland or the personal tastes and preferences of the recipient, as long as the gift is of high quality and not normally obtainable in Austria.
- Do not give personal gifts, gifts with sharp edges, gifts with your company logo on (unless very subtle) or a very expensive gift.
- It is very unusual for an outsider to be invited into an Austrian’s home but, if you are, you should go with gifts for your host, his or her spouse and their children.
- A bottle of vintage wine, (French) champagne (not German Sekt) or brandy would make a good gift for your host and high-quality chocolates or a spray of flowers are suitable gifts for your hostess.
- If giving flowers, give in odd numbers only – an even number means bad luck in Austria.
- Red roses are the sign for love, red carnations the official flower of the Social Democratic Party and lilies are for funerals,
- Un-wrap the flowers before giving them to your hostess unless they are in transparent plastic foil wrapping.
- Gifts should be attractively wrapped.
- Children receive gifts on December 6th, the feast of St. Nicholas.
- Recommended gifts for children might include confectionery, electronic gadgets or anything foreign (and therefore “cool”) depending on their age.
If you have time, check your selections with a representative from the Austrian embassy. Austria generally has the same basic traditions as most other European countries in terms of gift giving.
For further information, please see below:
- Executive Planer – Gift Giving: http://www.executiveplanet.com/index.php?title=Austria:_Gift_Giving [en]
- World Global Gift: http://www.1worldglobalgifts.com/austriagiftgivingetiquette.htm [en]
Business Dress Code
Austrians take great pride in dressing well, regardless of where they are going or what position they hold. Appearance and presentation is very important to Austrians, particularly in business. Even when dressed informally, they are neat and conservative and their clothes are never ostentatious. The following gives an insight into the correct dress code for conducting business in Austria:
- There is strict protocol for dressing appropriately in different situations: use formal clothes for the theatre or a concert, and semi-formal for high end restaurants. Most cultural events and restaurants have a dress code and will turn away patrons who are not dressed accordingly.
- Business dress is understated and conservative and follows most European conventions.
- Businessmen should wear dark coloured, conservative business suits; solid, conservative ties, and white shirts. This form of dress is observed even in comparatively warm weather. Do not remove your jacket or tie before your Austrian colleague does so.
- Business-women should wear either fashionable business suits or conservative dresses, complemented with elegant accessories. Loud clothes are not acceptable.
- Most Austrian women dress up to go shopping, since they dress elegantly, if conservatively, at all times, especially when they will be seen in public.
- Casual or sloppy attire is frowned upon.
- Avoid wearing shorts in the city, especially when shopping.
For further information, please see below:
- Executive Planer – Business Dress: http://www.executiveplanet.com/index.php?title=Austria:_Business_Dress [en]
- eDiplomat: http://www.ediplomat.com/nd/protocol/dressing.htm [en]
Bribery and corruption
Austria has taken a strong stance in the fight against corruption and bribery. However, while Austria remains ahead of the fight; there are still issues to be dealt with. According to the Corruption Perception Index (www.transparency.org/country#AUT) Austria is ranked number 25 out of 176.
Steps are being taken by Austria to implement and enforce the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. Austria also ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption in November 2005 and signed the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption in 2000. At an EU-level, Austria has signed, ratified and implemented the (first) protocol to the Convention on the Protection of Financial Interests and the Convention on the fight against corruption involving officials of the European Communities or officials of Member States of the European Union.
In Austria, the further training of Ministry of the Interior and police experts in countering corruption is the responsibility of the Bureau for Internal Affairs (BIA). This is an autonomous service department of the Ministry of the Interior and stands aside from the classical police structure. BIA officials are not obliged to accept orders from outside when conducting investigations. They operate directly in conjunction with the state prosecutor’s office and the courts.
Interpol, the international police organisation, has established the world’s first anti-corruption academy in Austria, Vienna (http://www.iaca.int/). On top of this Vienna has traditionally established itself as an attractive location for international organisations.