Do you make frequent business trips to Austria or does your job involve contact with Austrians? There are a few key things you should bear in mind. Our business etiquette guide offers several tips that will help you avoid putting your foot in it while there on business.
Titles are important
If your opposite number has a title, then you should use it when communicating with them. We are not just talking about honorary or aristocratic titles but academic titles such as doctorates, master’s, professorial or engineering titles, etc. Austrians are proud of their titles which is why you should find out beforehand whether the person you are meeting or dealing with has a title or not, and make sure you use it in emails and letters as well.
Use the formal form of you
Formal address is not just limited to the use of the person’s title. When speaking German, you should make sure you use the formal ‘Sie’ form throughout the conversation. It usually takes a while for Austrians to offer the less formal ‘du’ form. You should always wait for the person you are conversing with to offer the ‘du’ form of their own accord. If your meeting is conducted in English, you should adopt a more formal register.
Dress up to the occasion
A more relaxed business dress code is becoming much more commonplace. In Austria, however, you should err on the side of formality. Men should wear a suit and women should wear formal trousers and a blouse, or even a skirt or trouser suit.
Don’t be late
When a meeting has been arranged, you can be sure it will start at exactly the time agreed. Do your best to avoid being late and always let the other party know if you have been held up by heavy traffic or a delayed train.
Select the appropriate topics of conversation
It goes without saying that the fact that Hitler was Austrian is not a good subject for small talk. It is generally advisable to avoid the subject of the Nazis and the Second World War completely. Austrians also tend not to want to talk about their private lives in business situations, which is why it is better to start off with the following subjects to get the ball rolling:
• Winter sports
• Football (FC Bayern Munich is very popular for example!)
• The Austrian countryside and its typical architecture
• Culture, traditions (e.g. national costume)
Don’t be afraid of compromises or interim solutions
Making a quick decision that will put the whole issue to bed? Austrians generally prefer to settle on an interim solution in which certain initial decisions are made before seeing how they pan out. In a business context, you should be happy with a compromise. Those who insist on a final decision there and then run the danger of going home empty-handed.
Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by an informal setting
It is not unusual for meetings to be held in a café. Don’t make the mistake of not taking such meetings seriously just because they are not taking place in a boardroom. Even in an informal setting it is possible to conduct a professional and productive meeting. Make sure you are appropriately prepared.
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