I learned the "Gruss Gott" when I made a stay in a factory of the (catholic) southern Germany i.e. Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. That was half century ago and it seems to me that in Austria as well as in Southern Germany this way of greeting is disappearing.
Last year there has been some uproar in Baden-Württemberg because it was said that the Muslim community wanted to forbid this expression in the public schools!
The "Gruss Gott" is a contraction of "Es Grüsse dich Gott" and used in Austria, Baden Württemberg and Bavaria. It means "God bless you".
I must say that the first time I was greeted in this way I was surprised. Even in countries with a strong catholic tradition like Italy or Spain they say "Bon giorno", "Buenos dias" = good day. It's only when saying farewell that they refer to God like "addio" or "adiós", in French "adieu".
On my last stay in Vienna I got only one "Gruss Gott" although I don't look much different from the autochthones and speak some German. What a deception!
Can there be anything more tempting to the average put-upon pedestrian than a really busy road that suddenly, inexplicably becomes emptied of traffic and seemingly safe to cross? Is there anything more pleasing than a solid stream of motor vehicles that momentarily parts offering the hitherto reluctant road crosser a chance - albeit a fleeting one - to vault from pavement A to pavement B? Here in the UK, risky road crossing is a national pastime. Rather than walk a few extra yards towards an official crossing point, your average man or women in the street will hurl themselves into any narrow gap that might form between adjacent moving lumps of pointy metal.
As for proper UK crossings - well the symbols are as follows:
GREEN MAN: Official meaning: Cross. Go on. You know you want to.
UK PRACTICE: Cross whilst dawdling. Pause to light your cigarette NOW (please ensure you use your mobile phone simultaneously)
RED MAN: Official meaning: Don't Cross
UK PRACTICE: Cross as exactly as before, move very slightly faster but feel free to argue with your boyfriend on the mobile.
Here in Vienna I strongly suggest you leave such temptations behind and stay rooted to the pavement until the Green Man beckons. Even if the approaching traffic is sucked into a giant spaceship and taken off to the Planet Quark, DO NOT CROSS ON RED! If you do so, you will be surrounded by more 'tuts' than a tourist in the Valley of the Kings. And, you know, it's all rather refreshing! You have been warned!!
1.) Tipping: We usually give a tip of 10 % in restaurants, but also to other service staff, like hairdressers, taxidrivers... . In less formal restaurants or in cafés the easiest way to tip is just to round up. For example if the bill is EUR 5,50 in a café you just say 6 to the waiter while giving him the money. If you don`t do this and let the waiter give you the full change with the intention to leave a tip on the table you might risk an irritated look :). In more formal restaurants you leave the tip in the wrapper on the table.
2.) Bread in restaurants: is only free if it is mentioned in the menue that your meal comes with bread. Otherwise you pay per piece, if you don`t have a cover charge anyway.
3.) "Zusammen oder getrennt": If the waiter asks you this he wants to know if you pay the bill seperately (which is very common and no problem at all) or if one person pays for everybody on the table.
4.) Handshakes: This is what we usually do to say hello. Friends greet each other with a kiss on both cheeks (more touching the cheek and kissing in the air, not a real smacker :)) while giving a hug or shaking hands as well. If you are introduced to the friends of your friends you usually do just do a shakehands. At the farewell (in case you find the other person likeable :)) or when you see him/her the second time you could give him/her 2 kisses as well.
5.) The "kiss on the hand" you see in old films is not that common anymore :)... though some elderly gentlemen still practise it sometimes. It is not a real kiss on the hand anyway, just taking the hand and indicate to give a a kiss on it. You can still hear people just saying "Kuess die Hand" as a salutation, without actually doing it- this is a very nice old fashioned way to greet.
6.) Titles: In Austria we have a lot of titles, these could be for example academic degrees like "Doktor", "Magister" or "Diplomingenieur". If you are in a formal conversation, many people set value on being addressed with this title instead of saying only Mr. or Mrs. and the name.
Here, the local Austrians would greet each other whenever they enter or leave a premises, no matter if they know each other or not. They would say "Gruss Gott" (Hello) or "Guten Tag" (Good Day) and "Wiedershen" (Goodbye or See you again). I think it is a nice and polite custom to greet or bid farewell to each other; it is being courteous.
Another 2 words I often hear are "Bitte" (Please) and "Danke" (Thank you).
When I first came to Vienna, I didn't know that I was being greeted. Now that I've realized it, I got into the habit of greeting or bidding farewell too. As visitors to Vienna, I believe you should also learn these basic words for courtesy reasons.
Vienna is a clean city and also a safer city than many other European capitals.
On a Sunday the Michaelerplatz was cleaned with the machine. And also the yard in front of the Parliament.
I like to go to Vienna because it appears so much more civilized than my own city of Brussels.
These seem completely obvious to me (and my acquaintances in Austria), but apparently not to everyone:
1) When talking in public (say, on a metro train), keep your volume in check. No need to whisper, but talking so loudly that absolutely everyone on the car can hear you over the train noise - whether it's on the phone or with each other - is considered very rude and will draw angry looks. Somehow this seems to apply mostly to tourists from Italy and the US, although the phone-yelling thing is done mostly by locals.
2) Many Austrians (and other nationalities, for that matter) understand English quite well, but they may not be accustomed to your specific accent or local phrases. No need to yell or talk as if you're addressing children - just try to speak clearly, in standard English, and give people a little time to respond.
I found the rudeness of some tourists who expected everyone to understand their variant of English and respond within a split-second just amazing. I suppose it's mostly those who have never bothered to learn a second language themselves.
The Austrian's don't greet each other like Germans with "Guten Tag", instead you will hear a hearty "Grüß Gott!" (it means "Greet God") when entering any shops or premises.
If you do not want to "Greet God" you can answer with a "Hallo!" which is also used as a greeting, especially by younger shop staff.
"Danke schön" and "Vielen danke" are typical "Thank You's". You might hear a "Danke auch" when you've thanked somebody, it means they're saying thanks to you too.
"Auf Wiedersehen" or simply "Wiedersehen" means goodbye (literally "Until we see again") and is typical when leaving somewhere.
The Viennase are friendly and you will be verbally greeted everywhere you go. It is considered bad from not to answer so a Grüß Gott! will go a long way, look the person in the eyes as well.
In most shops an assistant will approach you with the usual "may I help you" but if you say (in English) "I'm just looking, thanks" they will leave you alone immediately. They are available as soon as assistance is required and will do their best to help you.
Just some things that I picked up when I was there, things I read in travel books, and tips I found through VT:
- When you're on the escalator - stand on the right. There are signs to remind you to do it and if you don't, you'll have some annoyed people behind you trying to get by.
- When you're walking around town and want to cross the street, pay attention to the pedestrian light. If it's red, stay put. Even if you don't see a car anywhere in sight. It took a good day or two to get used to that. In the States, we're so used to crossing even if a car is coming!
- Don't stand on the grass. You'll see signs everywhere stating this. If I had grass that looked like Vienna's I'd be having signs in my lawn too!
- Starting to eat or drink before others are ready is impolite.
- Austrians eat in the continental style, with the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right. I tried to practice that before I came out to Vienna and failed miserably!
- It is polite to say cheers (prost in German) and clink glasses before taking a drink when you are having wine or beer. It's considered rude to not make eye contact with the person that you are clinking glasses with as you are saying cheers.
For many tourists in Vienna (particularly Americans), there is sometimes uncertainty about how much tip to leave in a restaurant. Tips are not left on the table like in the states. Instead, one generally rounds it up to the next few "cents" or "euro" when paying the waiter. Also... there's already a "tip" built in to the prices so there's no need to round it up 15% like one might do in the states. Don't fear that you're insulting the waiter by leaving a smaller tip, that's just how it's done in Vienna. Guten Apetite!
Everybody is polite. So be too. Dont be loud ... especially not in the coffee houses. Keep too yourself ... everybody does.
If you speak german : Dont use "Hi" or "Wie gehts" (How are you) as greeting ... but use the old "Grüss Gott" (means God greets you). Its just used in Austria and parts of Bavaria but it will open doors if you you do it.
If you write down your name in a guest book as "Dr. XXX" expect that you will be greeted as "Dr XXX" the next time (especially in the higher calss hotels)
We love titles. A Titel (may it be honorary or earned) opens doors and will make waiters more polite (especially at traditional hotels and coffee houses)
What I committed in Vienna, that lot of Viennese are fair. It is strange for me to see newspapers put into box (and not locked) and it is written: "put 1 euro there and bring newspaper". It means people there do it without any steals; they honestly put money into the box. Why it is so strange for me?
In Lithuania there are no such traditions to do business without any person who brings money and gives a good. Another one opinion that Viennese like green places a lot, there were lot of people sitting on the benches, reading magazines.
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.
Even though Austria has not implemented with the EU-wide ban of smoking in public places, some restaurants in Vienna has started to divide their dining spaces to Smoking and Non-Smoking areas.
Therefore, if you are a smoker and was placed in a non-smoking area of the restaurant, it is prudent not to light up a cigarette. OK, why would I say this? It's because I've seen this happened. To be sure, you can ask the restaurant if you are allowed to smoke there. It's better to know than to get angry glares or nasty comments from neighbouring diners.
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.
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.