9 Things About Work Culture in Austria

  • Mountains and the Lake
  • You can starve on Sundays if you didn’t prepare ahead of time. Basically, all stores and grocery stores are closed on Sundays except for a rare few (for example, little convenience stores at big railway stations or gas stations). You have to make sure you have enough food for Sunday by shopping ahead on Friday or Saturday. If you think you could go out to eat, many restaurants are closed or will close right after lunch on Sunday. The no-work-Sunday law (yes, it’s a law) forces Austrians relax, enjoy outdoors, and spend time with their families. But if the weather is bad, you have only a few options left to do (visit friends or relatives or go to movies).
  • You can taste wine at 7:30 am.Work culture in Austria dictates the schedule. On our recent trip to Austrian Wine Country, these were the opening hours of one of the tasting rooms. Monday through Thursday: 07:30 am – 3:00 pm, Friday: 07:30 pm – 13:30 pm, weekend – closed. Every business in Austria starts working earlier and closes earlier than in the United States. Usually, all grocery stores are open by 7 -7:30 am and close at 6 pm, at least in smaller places in Austria. In nearby Germany, a few years earlier stores started staying open till 8 pm. I really don’t like to spend my prime daytime hours grocery shopping but that’s what I have to do.  I always wonder, if you work full-time, that only leaves Saturday afternoon for shopping?
  • You have to vacation for at least five weeks in a year. Most Austrian work contracts have five weeks annual leave built in. Add to that the many public holidays throughout the year and you have one very relaxed country.  And if you are not in the mountains already, you are in the center of Europe and can reach any European destination within a few hours on a plane or drive.
  • You bug your banker or real estate agent about that important e-mail that you sent them yesterday and they look offended and annoyed. Things are not done very quickly in Austria. To get a response to an e-mail, it might take three of more days. You won’t get any acknowledgement that recipient received your e-mail or that they will get back to you ASAP. Austrians love personal contact, so most of the time you need to make an appointment to get the things done (in the U.S. they would be handled online).
  • You go drop by to have a lunch at a local restaurant and it’s closed for vacation. Despite all the warnings, you forgot to stockpile your food for Sunday, and decide to stop at your favorite restaurant. Guess what? There is hand-written notice on the door that the place is closed for 2-3 weeks due to owners taking a vacation.  Last year I visited quite a tourist town Hall-in-Tirol in the middle of August, the midst of the tourist season. Half of the restaurants in historical downtown were closed for vacation.
  • You run to the pharmacy to get that fever medication for your child, and they are closed for a two-hour lunch break. Not only all the Austrian businesses are closed on Sunday, but smaller ones also like to close for lunch. I would say 80% of the stores will close for lunch from 12 to 2 pm.  Most doctors, public services, and government institutions will only stay open till noon. Austria has great government sponsored daycare facilities but most of them are open only till 1 pm because mothers usually don’t work full time.
  • People drink beer all the time, even on their lunch break from work. These two-hour lunch breaks give Austrians enough time to enjoy a 3-course lunch washed down with a local beer.
  • Austrians spend most of their free time in the mountains. Austrians love a good hike or mountain bike or rock climbing. Mountain tours normally last for hours, a typical hike will take you about five hours with an elevation gain anywhere from 300 meters (1,000 feet) to over 1,000 meters (over 3,200 feet). Then in winter there’s skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, or “ski touring” which is hiking on your skis up and skiing down after, and plain old hiking in the snow.
  • There is no air conditioning in most places, including apartments.  Although it rarely gets too hot in Austria, sweating in summer in a gym with no air-conditioning is no fun. A lot of smaller stores will turn no lights on during the day or keep the lighting to the minimum. If unsure, try the door and most likely they are just saving energy.

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