Schnitzel and Sachertorte are not everything, and they aren’t even the best of the typical Viennese specialities. There are also countless delicious desserts; you have to try the "Maroniblüte" at Café Landtmann at least once: www.landtmann.at. The meat-eaters amongst you should try the "Stelze" at Luftburg in the Prater or the "Tafelspitz" at Plachutta: www.plachutta.at
(2) Getting around
Vienna has an excellent network of underground and mainline trains, trams and buses. A standard ticket (€2.20) is always only valid in one direction. Highly recommended and inexpensive are the monthly ticket (€ 48.20) and the annual travel card (€375). The semester ticket for students costs €75. www.wienerlinien.at When taking an escalator always keep to the right, leaving the left side free for the people in a hurry to rush past. Something else well worth doing, is hiring a City-Bike. After an initial registration (with a credit or debit card) you can ride for an hour free of charge, and the second hour only costs €1. At the time of writing there are 120 stations in Vienna, where you can borrow and return City-Bikes: www.citybikewien.at It is great fun to cycle alongside the Donaukanal (Danube Canal) or around the Donauinsel (Danube Island).
(3) Making friends
Many expats who have lived in Vienna for a while complain about how hard it is to meet people. This is nothing against foreigners; Austrians have the same problem. In Vienna it is very uncommon to meet new people in a café or a bar, or even the neighbours in your house. It is often hard to have anything more than a superficial relationship with work colleagues or fellow students. Most people do not like to talk about their private lives, particularly with people who they have only known for a short time. The most important values are mutual consideration and respect, not partying and having fun. Viennese people also like to go alone to a Kaffeehaus (coffee house) and don’t feel lonely there. So how do you get to know new people? The answer is simple: by joining a club or society, that is to say, somewhere where people with common interests meet. It could be a sports club, a dance course, a theatre group, a choir, a Greenpeace group or whatever else takes your fancy. There you can make new contacts and friends, just like the locals do.
(4) Greetings and Goodbyes
The most common greeting to be heard in Austria is "Grüß Gott". It means “May God greet you” and is used in Austria as well as in Bavaria. The greeting belongs to the Austrian Catholic tradition and was brought to Southern Germany by Irish monks in the 5th century. It is mostly used in official situations: in shops, restaurants and offices. People who say "Grüß Gott" often and with a great deal of emphasis want to demonstrate that they are real, traditional and proud Austrians. Instead of "Grüß Gott", you can also say "Guten Morgen" (from 6-9am), "Guten Tag" (9am-6pm) und "Guten Abend" (6-10pm). Around lunchtime, so 12-2pm, work colleagues usually greet each other with “Mahlzeit” (“[enjoy your] meal”) which actually means "gesegnete Mahlzeit" (“[enjoy your] blessed meal”).
The formal way of saying goodbye is "Auf Wiedersehen" or "Auf Wiederschauen", "schauen" being the Austrian word for „to see“ and “wieder” meaning “again”. In Vienna, friends usually greet each other by saying “Servus”, “Ciao”, “Grüß dich” or the German “Hallo”. In order to say goodbye, you can say “Servus” and “Ciao” as well as “Tschüss, Baba” (pronounced like Papa) and the regularly-used dialectic expression “Pfiat di”. Whereas the Germans tend to say simply “Tschüss“ to say goodbye, as a rule Austrians usually need to string several words together, for example, "Ciao, Servus, Pfiat di!"
(5) Service in Cafés
Vienna has a longstanding café tradition. The original Viennese Cafés are called “Kaffeehäuser” (coffee houses). All Viennese are very proud of them, although you can encounter astonishingly slow and unfriendly waiters in them. How does this combination work? The idea behind it is that the waiter is a small king in his kingdom. He sets the rules, which the guests should obey in order to have a pleasant stay. Rule number one: the waiter decides when to bring the menu, take the order, serve the drinks, present the bill and, when he feels like it, when to take your money. In his eyes, it’s the only way to ensure everything in the café keeps running smoothly. In return, the guest has the pleasure of being spoken to in the third person with "der Herr" or "die Dame", such as "Bitteschön, der Herr!" meaning “There you go, Sir!”
It is a bad idea to go to a Viennese café when in a hurry, as you are supposed to come and relax, hang out with friends or enjoy a book or newspaper. After graciously placating the waiter with a couple of friendly words, do not forget the 10% tip that he is owed. Although dogs are welcome and even get a bowl of water, children are not, as they disturb the peaceful “living room” atmosphere.
Typical Viennese “Kaffeehäuser” include the Café Ritter on the Mariahilfer Straße, the Café Westend at Westbahnhof and the Café Prückel at Stubenring. The Café Central in the first district did indeed used to be famous, however these days it is very touristy and therefore no longer authentic.
If you prefer a more customer-orientated service, I would recommend you to try the numerous excellent Italian cafés in the first district, whose owners are Italian and where the waiters are mostly from Slovakia or Hungary. Here everything is quick, the service is friendly and straight-forward and you can get a coffee even when you’re short on time. Examples of these cafés include the Castelletto at Schwedenplatz, the X-Celsior opposite the National Opera or the Zanoni on the Rotenturmstraße.
(6) Finding a room or an apartment
How can I find a room or an apartment/flat? The rent prices in Vienna are roughly in-between those of Berlin and Munich, and definitely cheaper than in Paris or Rome. You can find a room in a WG (Wohngemeinschaft - shared apartment) on the website jobwohnen.at. Of course, it is best to try to live with Austrians or Germans. It might not be as fun as living with Spanish or French people, but you can practise your German for free in the kitchen.
To people looking for an apartment, I would recommend websites such as willhaben.at or bazar.at. Both private persons and estate agents post their adverts here, which are always fairly up-to-date. With a bit of luck, you can find a privately rented apartment and save on the agency fees. As a rule, however, in order to rent an apartment, you will usually need to pay the agency a “Provision” (commission) which amounts to three months’ rent. All the agency basically does, is show you the property once. Furthermore, you will need to pay a cash deposit of three months’ rent to the landlord, which you will hopefully get back when you move out.
Which district somebody wants to live in depends on personal taste. The first district is only a possibility if you have a lot of money, and in any case, it is more like a big museum. Most locals think that you can only live within the ringroad “Gürtel” (or “Belt way”), which includes districts 4 to 9. Here, there are lots of nice restaurants, stylish apartments in old buildings, a traditional Austrian life-style – for example, on Sundays everything is closed – and very few immigrants.
People, who prefer more noise and a livelier atmosphere with lower living costs, tend to live in the 10th, 15th or 17th districts, which are the classic immigrant areas. One of the most recommendable yet underrated areas is the 2nd district, in-between Prater, a large park, and the Danube. Here it is very green, with trees growing in every street.
(7) How can I attract an Austrian guy or girl?
I often hear from my international friends and acquaintances that it is complicated to get to know someone in Austria. The men from here rarely chat women up, hardly ever pay you compliments, do not pay on the first date in a café and do not really make it clear that they are interested. As a rule, Austrian women avoid flashy clothes, always want to pay their own way and often react impolitely or dismissively when complimented. What causes that? The flirting routine between men and women which is popular in many countries has practically fallen into obscurity due to modern social developments such as feminism and the pursuit of equality. Furthermore, there is the assumption that gender differences between males and females are a result of education rather than biology. A modern woman in Austria is therefore proud of being able to put up a shelf herself and similarly, a man is keen to emphasise his fantastic cooking skills.
So what should you do if you have fallen for an Austrian guy or girl? Tip 1: Start off by asking what he or she does/studies/works as; what kind of hobbies s/he has and so on.
For example, a female Romanian Music student, whose boyfriend is Austrian, told me that he was the first guy to say he liked her playing (he also studies Music) instead of just complimenting her on her appearance. In Austria and Germany, it is initially important to show that you like the person’s character and then, maybe later, compliment their appearance.
Tip 2: Become “good friends”. Over here, it is not unusual to get on as “very good friends” for quite a while before the friendship leads to a relationship. The idea behind it is that if you have already known each other for a long time when you hook up, then you know a lot about your partner, including their character, interests, flaws etc. This provides some degree of certainty and guarantees that it’s not over after just a week.
Tip 3: Stay true to yourself and explain to the locals what is normal in your own culture. Things Austrian women would not permit local men to do (such as paying them passionate compliments during the first date), they find very attractive or “latino” when men from Spain or South America do it. And Austrian men are definitely prepared to pay for a woman’s coffee on their date if you explain to them that that is usual in Eastern Europe. I know many bi-national couples in Vienna and nearly all of them – precisely thanks to some cultural differences - seem very happy.
(8) Shopping on Sundays and Public Holidays
For people who have recently come to Vienna, it is particularly difficult to understand that all shops are closed on Sundays and public holidays. So if you have not managed to get your shopping done on time, you may have an issue. When one of the many Catholic public holidays falls on a Saturday, the problem is even worse. As not even most locals understand the meaning of most public holidays, such as “Mary’s Conception” on the 8th of December, it is important to know where you can get something to eat and drink on a Sunday.
The most important places are the Billas at Praterstern and Franz-Josefs-Bahnhof as well as the Spar supermarkets at Landstraße and at the main train station. However, it is not recommended to come in the afternoon because then you can definitely expect long queues. The Okay supermarkets found in most train stations, such as at Praterstern, Westbahnhof und Schottentor, are another option. Admittedly, they are a bit more expensive but they have all the important things (such as toilet roll and shaving cream).
Near the subway station Museumsquartier there is a Spar which is also open on Sundays. Furthermore, many Turkish shops open illegally on Sundays. If during the week there is a supermarket behind a Döner-Stand, on Sundays you will be able to access the supermarket via the back entrance. Give the owner a friendly smile so as to show that you are not from the tax office.
Many Russian shops are also open on Sundays, for example at at Mexikoplatz (U1 Vorgartenstraße). So if on a Sunday you find yourself in urgent need of a jar of caviar or Russian ice-cream, you will be in luck here.
Otherwise, it is recommended to plan a bit further in advance, like the locals: shop at one of the many markets in Vienna on Saturday and then on Sunday your fridge will not be empty.