Prepared by Bob Corbett
April 2001

Recently I sat down with a significantly large group of Austrian and other European students to ask: what are some key things you would recommend to Americans who are coming to Vienna which would be those things to do and those things not to do. I ask them to concentrate on things which particularly stood out with Americans, or things that would likely be overlooked.

Here is my beginning list. I will add to them as I get more.

There were three which stood out much more than any others. These were:

  1. Americans are very often much too loud and boisterous. Viennese tend to be more reserved and find the loud and raucous behavior very offensive.
  2. This is a German speaking nation. Americans are notorious (and regarded as extremely obnoxious) in expecting that people will speak English. In the first district of Vienna, a major tourist area, many people do in fact speak English. But outside that district most shop people, even restaurant people do not, or speak very little.

    What bothers people is not the difficulties of communication, but the arrogant attitude of Americans that people SHOULD speak English. Again, this is a German speaking country and it would be very useful to put aside the "everyone speaks English" attitude. They don't. It would also be quite useful to pick up a handful of key German words such as Bitte (please), Danke (thank you), Enschuldegung (excuse me, pardon me) and the general daytime greeting Guten Tag (good day) or Gruss Gott (God's greeting). Guten Abend is for the evening.
  3. The third specially grating fact was tennis shoes and white socks. This makes American stand out even more and is just not done here. Students pointed out that in many of the clubs here in Vienna one cannot even get in with tennis shoes on and current American students living here in the Webster U. dorms confirm this.

    Viennese do wear jeans now and again. But this is a rather dressy culture and most people do not, or do so only now and again. However, it is the tennis shoes and white socks which seem outlandish to the Viennese.

Other items: I met with different groups at different times and asked the same questions. All of those items listed below came up several times in different groups, thus they are clearly not isolated views.

These are not in any particular order; just bits of advice.


Bob Corbett