From the first human settlements in the Danube Valley, to the ensuing Celts, Illyrians, Romans and Bavarians, and then the noble Babenburg and the Habsburg dynasties, Austria is a land that has been ruled by many.
The 640-year reign of the Habsburgs - creators of the Austro-Hungarian Empire - was ended by WWI; 20 years later, WWII saw Hitler invade and occupy Austria, persecuting the country's Jewish community. Post Holocaust, Austria's Jewish community rebuilt itself, but to this day the Jewish population remains much smaller than before WWII. After Austria's liberation by the Allies in 1944, foundations were laid for the Second Republic. Austria joined the European Union, and also signed the Schengen Agreement, in 1995.
The current president of Austria is Heinz Fischer, who has been in office since 2004.
Over 70% of the population is Roman Catholic.
Austrians tend to be quite formal in both their social and business dealings. They do not use first names when being introduced, but after the initial meeting first names are often used. Handshaking is customary when saying hello and goodbye. It is considered impolite to enter a restaurant or shop without saying Guten Tag (good day) or, more usually, Grüss Gott (common greeting which literally means 'greet God'); similarly, to leave without saying Auf Wiedersehen (goodbye) can cause offence. If invited out to dinner, flowers should be brought for the hostess. The Church enjoys a high and respected position in Austrian society, which should be kept in mind.
Language in Austria
German is the official language. Regional dialects are pronounced and within the different regions of the country one will encounter marked variations from Hochdeutsch, ie 'standard' German. There are Croatian and Slovene-speaking minorities in the Burgenland and southern Carinthia respectively.
Beer = Bier
Closed = Geschlossen
Danger = Achtung
Do you speak English? = Sprechen Sie Englisch?
Doctor = Arzt / Ärztin
Eight = Acht
Eighty = Achtzig
Entrance = Eingang (Einfahrt for vehicles)
Exit = Ausgang (Ausfahrt for vehicles)
Fifty = Funfzig
Five = Fünf
Forty = Vierzig
Four = Vier
Friday = Freitag
Goodbye = Auf Wiedersehen / Auf Wiederschauen / Servus
Hello (formal) = Grüß Gott
Hello (informal) = Servus / Grüß dich
Hotel = Hotel
How are you? = Wie geht es Ihnen? (formal) / Wie geht's? (formal)
How much does it cost? = Wieviel kostet das? / Wieviel macht das?