People in Vienna adhere stictly to the rules concerning street-crossing. You will not see people cross against the light, even if there are no cars or trolleys in sight for miles. They all just stand there on the curb patiently.
Coming from New York and Boston, this was hard to get used to, and it did involve a couple incidences where my sister and I crossed anyway and were given quizzical looks.
Austrians get offended easily if the Unspoken Public Rules of Etiquette are broken. Thus, if you want to avoid being an offensive tourist, it's best to know of these rules.
1. NEVER EVER put your feet on a seat in ANY public transportation. Even if you've been walking for days and are totally exhausted, resist the tempation to put your feet up on the seat in front of you. It will only shock and upset the locals around you. Even if you do try, I can bet that a local will be prompt to tell you to put your feet back on the floor.
2. ALWAYS ALWAYS stand on the right side of the escalator and pass on the left side. It's like the "driving on the autobahn" rules but on escalators. When I lived in Vienna it took me awhile to get used to this concept but when I did, I found myself getting EXCESSIVELY frusterated when I would be in a hurry and a crowd of tourists would be blocking the escalator not having read the sign at the bottom that says "Pease stand right."
3. If you're in a group and not speaking german, keep the conversation noise level down. This isn't imperative, but don't be surprised if you get looks of disgust from older Austrians and you're speaking too loudly.
Since times unknown Viennese people stand on the right side when using an escalator and walk on the left side.
This is an ancient custom inherited from the Romans who founded the Roman camp Vindobona, who in turn took it over from the Greeks, who had it from the Phoenicians, who had shipped it to Greece from somewhere in the Near East, trading it for olive oil and Retsina.
If you stand, stay right, so people not as lazy as you can walk past you on the left side. I mean it, stay on the right side! If you have a suitcase, a baby buggy, a lover, a violin case, a child, shopping bags or who-knows-what-stuff with you, don't place the useless things on your left! Put in on the step above or below you!
If you are so overweight nobody can walk past you because you take up all the width of the escalator, don't use it. Else everyone who wants to use it in the intended way (i. e. speeding up transport by faster stairclimbing, not supporting laziness by pushing around stationary people) will hate you! By the way, you should use the stairs then anyway, in order to put off some superfluous kilograms.
A lot of people I have spoken to say that the Viennese are unfriendly. I have not found this to be true as a rule. I have encountered a few rude or unfriendly people in Vienna but these have either been people in a hurry, arrogant shop assistants in tourist areas or people responding to my own behaviour. One of my Australian friends complained that the checkout operators in the supermarket did not chat with him. Personally, when I go to the Merkur to buy Manner Schnitten, I do not expect to make life-long friends with the person checking my purchase through. I suggest looking elsewhere for friends. I have found people to be quite polite and friendly and whilst having a coughing fit on the U4 one older lady even insisted that I take a packet of mints from her to help my cough. This has never happened to me in Australia.
In Austria, it is impolite to begin eating before others are ready. Also, punctuality at business meetings is expected.
Tips for the Traveler
Visas : U.S. citizens do not need a visa for tourist or business travel to this country for stays up to 90 days. Any U.S. citizen who wishes to travel to Austria for any purpose other than tourism or business negotiations (e.g. work, study, adoption, immigration, or stays longer than stipulated in the entry requirements) should contact directly, the embassy or nearest consulate.
Health risks: See your doctor at least 4–6 weeks before your trip to allow time for shots to take effect.
Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG).
As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria. Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11–12 years who did not complete the series as infants
Time: Austria operates on Greenwich mean time (GMT) plus 1 hour (GMT + 2 during daylight saving time). The country is 1 hour ahead of London, 8 hours behind Tokyo, 6 hours ahead of New York and Montreal, and is in the same time zone as Paris, Berlin, and Rome.
Electricity: Electric current in Austria is 220 volts AC, 50 Hz. Plugs are round. Visitors from abroad who wish to operate personal small electronic items should bring a plug adapter and a transformer.
Weights & Measures: The metric system is used throughout the country.
Tourism: Austria is one of the world's top tourist destinations, with its famous Alps and a wealth of cultural and recreational facilities. A premier winter sports area, the country also has summer music festivals (including the famous Salzburg Festival), lake resorts (especially in Kärnten), medicinal spas, and many museums and other attractions.
Learn a few phrases of German. The Viennese like any other people anywhere are charmed when people attempt to converse in their language and most are bi-lingual and many multi-lingual so it can lead to some friendly exchanges.
You should dressed in smart casual! I rarely see Viennese in ugly dress :). By dressing smart casual, you could enter almost every night life places there.. no need to ask that sport shoes are out of questions.. it's a no no. Unless you only want to walk around.
Tipping is about 20% from the total bill and it's common to pay separately. Oh ya.. all the waiters have their own wallet to give changes on your table.
Bitte rechts stehen. I was wondering what's the meaning of this sentence that I often saw near the escalator on the subway stations. But everytime I was on an escalator, I automatically follow what everybody did - stand on the right. And that is exactly the meaning of that sentence Please stand on the right. The escalators can accomodate two lines of people. Those in a hurry may get on the escalator and continue walking, while those wishing to ride should stand to the right and leave the left aisle open. Don't stand two-by-two to talk with a friend. This is not acceptable behavior and people will often bump right into you and demand you move over. Be polite and respect this aspect of culture. -thanks to Bob Corbett at Webster Uni.
I speak a few languages, but none of them German, so a phrase book is useful. Most menus etc seemed to be in German only, but a lot of waiters spoke English, But very few French (I tried in both languages!)
Biggest tip: Stay longer than one day!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There is so much to see, I will have to come again!
When visiting Vienna, make an effort to learn a few basic german phrases. The locals will be most appreciative. Just saying simple things as hello, goodbye, I'm sorry, thank you will help make an easier transition into their culture. (FYI - this site has a basic language tutor to help you with these phrases.)
If you speak german that a big plus, but you'll get around fine with just english too, so don't sweat it. Running around with a parlor, screaming 'Nein nein ich sprechen nich nein deutche nein nein' won't help you either. Just so you know.
In a pub (Gasthaus/Gasthof)
Here are three things to be aware of:
The number '00' on a door. This is often used in pensions, too, where the toilet is down the hall.
Damen = Women Herren = Men
Pissoir Another term often applied to the facilities, especially in Austria or Bavaria
Stammtisch -- If you see this word on a sign on a table, it indicates that the table is permanently reserved for the owner/publican and his own special friends. You must be invited to sit there.
Bread baskets -- Be aware that any bread brought to the table when you sit down is not free. If you eat any, you will be charged for it. When you ask for your bill, the waiter or waitress will ask you if you have had any. Usually they'll just say, 'Brot?' or maybe 'Brötchen?' with a questioning intonation.
Finding a table -- In a pub it's quite unusual to be seated by a waiter. If you look around and discover no completely free tables, feel free to ask someone who is seated alone if you can sit at his/her table. Just ask, 'Darf ich?' and point at the seat. They'll understand what you mean. Usually you will be permitted to sit down.
The Viennese have their own style, it's hard for me to describe, it's both warm and proud at the same time.
Many people in customer service jobs are just plain rude. Just shrug it off and don't let it spoil your trip to this wonderful city.