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Austria History, Language and Culture

History of Austria

From the first human settlements in the Danube Valley, to the ensuing Celts, Illyrians, Romans and Bavarians, and then the noble Babenberg and the Habsburg dynasties, Austria is a land that has been ruled by many.

Perhaps the most influential of its rulers, however, was the noble Habsburg family, which used Austria as the cornerstone of their empire for an astounding six centuries. The first of many emperors from the house came to power in 1273, and by the 16th century, the Habsburgs’ holdings had expanded dramatically across continental Europe both through military conquests and marriages.

In the wake of the French Revolution in the late-18th century, a creeping nationalism spread among the people of Europe and the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved. Despite this new drive for independence among some of the empire’s ethnic groups, the Habsburgs managed to hold onto power.

In 1867, the dual monarchy of Austro-Hungary was created in an effort to avoid the secession of an increasingly dissatisfied Hungary. This meant that the Habsburgs agreed to share power with the Hungarian government, divvying up the territory of the old Austrian Empire between them. Though Austria and Hungary was still officially one unit bound by the same ruling emperor, in reality, they had begun to go down increasingly divergent paths.

The Habsburgs’ 640-year reign was finally ended by WWI. Even before the conflict was officially over, various groups began to declare independence and in 1918, the emperor abdicated. 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, which was formally established in 1955. Upon becoming an independent nation, the Austrian parliament declared permanent neutrality and, soon after, joined the UN. In 1995, Austria entered into the European Union, and also signed the Schengen Agreement, before adopting the Euro in 1999.

Did you know?
• Vienna is home to the oldest zoo in the western world, the Tiergarten Schönbrunn, which began as a royal menagerie for Holy Roman Emperor Francis I in 1752.
• Because of its permanent neutrality, Austria is not a member of NATO.
• Vienna is home to more dead people than living; there are an estimated three million plus buried in the city’s Central Cemetery, though the living population only numbers around 1.7 million.
• Austria boasts some strange place names including a town called Egg and a village called Fucking, which has been plagued by spates of signage theft.

Austria Culture

Religion in Austria

Approximately 64% of the population is Roman Catholic. As of January 2011, 64.1% of the population identified as Catholic. The most recent Church diocese figures indicated that almost 59% of Austrians attend the Catholic Church.

Social Conventions in Austria

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, i.e. 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 = Fünfzig
  • 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?
  • I'm very well = Mir geht es gut / Sehr gut, danke
  • I don't understand = Ich verstehe nicht
  • I feel ill = Ich fühle mich krank
  • Menu = Speisekarte
  • Monday = Montag
  • My name is … = Ich heiße …
  • Nine = Neun
  • Ninety = Neunzig
  • No = Nein
  • One = Eins
  • One Hundred = Einhundert
  • One Thousand = Eintausend
  • Open = Offen
  • Please = Bitte
  • Restaurant = Restaurant
  • Saturday = Samstag
  • Seven = Sieben
  • Seventy = Siebzig
  • Six = Sechs
  • Sixty = Sechzig
  • Sunday = Sonntag
  • Ten = Zehn
  • Thank you = Danke
  • Thirty = Dreissig
  • Three = Drei
  • Thursday = Donnerstag
  • Today = Heute
  • Toilets = Toiletten / WC
  • Tomorrow = Morgen
  • Tuesday = Dienstag
  • Twenty = Zwanzig
  • Two = Zwei
  • Wednesday = Mittwoch
  • Where is …? = Wo findet man …?
  • Wine = Wein
  • Yes = Ja


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