Getting touchy-feely in Austria

Quite seriously, one of the hardest things to adapt to since moving to Austria, a mini culture shock if you like, is the greeting. Not the verbal greeting, which is a minefield in itself (having to consider how well you know the person, how old they are compared to you, whether you’re talking to one or more people, which dialect you or they speak; those two phrases, one for ‘hi’ and one for ‘bye’, depend on all of these factors. Apparently, you always duzen, that being to refer to someone in the informal, friendly way, above a certain height in the mountains anyway, as when you’re up that close to God, everyone is your friend), but the physical greeting.

This is my big problem. On home soil, I normally choose between the big hug or, a personal favourite, the awkward wave. So all this kissing-on-each-cheek business has really caught me out. Handshakes, sure, I can deal with them, but will it be a handshake that pulls you in for a kiss? And will what looks like a hug actually be a grab on the shoulder and kiss on each cheek?

Is there an etiquette manual somewhere? I’ve already face-smooshed one guy who went for kissing while I went for a hug, and I’ve touched one poor girl inappropriately when I opted for the handshake vs. her shoulder-grab-kiss-on-each-cheek. I’m a newbie, help me out.

You know what I think? I think we should all learn from the Thai and just put your hands together and bow your head; no touching of hands, cheeks, bodies, no hierarchy of what you do to whom in whichever situation. Something universal like that would save me a whole load of trouble and embarrassment.

Generic view - bored of it yet?

Generic view – bored of it yet?


One response to “Getting touchy-feely in Austria

  1. Haha great reading someone else struggling to process all the types of greeting in the split second it takes before someone has already passed by and thought you were rude! Nightmare. I’m living in Bayern in south Germany at the moment, and it’s much more troublesome than the rest of Deutschland for greeting. Cool fact about the greetings above a certain height though- I wonder what height? We were on a relatively small mountain the other weekend and I only got ‘Gruess Sie’. (and they only got panting in reply haha).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s