There is a famous saying that what separates Austrians from Germans is their common language. Or in German: “What separates Germany from Austria is the common language.”
We have summarized the key differences for any German speaker planning to visit Austria.
Austrians are more formal
Austrian German is generally more polite and indirect than the German spoken in Germany.
For example, in Germany, people say Good day (good morning) or just Hello, in Austria Good day (God bless you) is a more standard way to greet someone.
The youngest of Austria and Bavaria can use the greeting Hello, which is common throughout central Europe. It comes from the Latin servus and means “I am your servant” or “at your service”.
In Austria it is not considered polite to say succinctly to a cafe waiter: Another coffee, please!“(Another coffee please!).
One should use subjunctive forms, modal verbs, and questions, asking instead “Excuse me, could I have another coffee please?“(Excuse me, could I have another coffee please?)
Some see this formality as charming, others find it a waste of time.
Most common differences
The best known vocabulary differences between Austrian German and German German are as follows.
- Tüte (German) vs Sackerl (Austrian)
If you ask for a bag (shopping bag) to carry your merchandise home from the supermarket in Austria, you will be met with a blank stare. In Austria a bag it’s an ice cream cone. What you want is a Sackerl.
- Staircase (German) instead of Stiege (Austrian)
When climbing the stairs, the Germans use the word stairswhile the Austrians say Stiege.
- Pillows or upholstery
Germans call a cushion Pillow, Austrians go for a pad.
Also, there are many different words for food in Austria compared to Germany. When Austria joined the EU in 1995, a list of 23 typical Austrian expressions for food was recorded.
These included cauliflower, what is it Cauliflower in Austria and cauliflower in Germany; apricots, what are Marille in Austria and apricot in Germany; and picadillo what is it? Mince in Austria and Mince in Germany.
Poetically, more than humble potato (potato), Austria has the Potato (land apple). And the prosaic Tomatoes (tomatoes) get romantic Paradeiser in Austria.
There are so many words for bread in Austria that it would require another article.
In Austria, you are more likely to drink a beer at your venue. Beige (a Yiddish word for pub) than in German Pub. If someone offers you a sandwich in Austria, they offer you a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack.
When you stagger home in the trolley car (tram) in Vienna, remember to call it Bim (word that recalls the sound the tram makes as it travels through the city).
What to avoid saying in Austria
You won’t be popular if you ask Scene (cream) in your coffee in an Austrian cafe, the correct term is Waiters or Whipped cream (whipped cream).
Similarly, when you finish eating in Austria, don’t describe the food as thecker (tasty). Many Austrians do not like this word. The Austrian way is to say I liked (it tasted good to me)
If you fancy a change from German Goodbye or goodbye (goodbye), try the Austrian Baba Bus, which translates to “kisses, goodbye”. Maybe not one to try with your boss.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism