With the increased emergence of the global economy, international cooperation is becoming a bigger part of the corporate world. Like professionals in any other nation, executives in Austrian companies have their own way of doing things, and you need to understand that if you hope to build rapport. Here’s a look at the business culture in Austria, and some advice to help you fit in if you’re ever visiting in this European nation.
General Austrian Culture
One of the most important things to know about Austrian culture is that Austrians are generally conservative in their lives. While many Americans choose to make flashy displays of themselves, an Austrian will usually be reserved in both behavior and appearance. Austrians are known for compartmentalizing their lives with clear divisions between work time, family duties and recreational activities. Families are normally small and tight-knit, and it’s relatively uncommon for members of a family to spread out over a large geographic area.
Austrian Business Culture
Much like the general approach to life in Austria, business practices lean toward the more conservative side. Austrians enjoy living in a wealthy and stable country that sits at the crossroads of Eastern and Western Europe, and that stability inspires people to stick with the ways that have worked for generations. While it may be tedious for a foreigner to navigate Austrian conventions, the nation’s prosperous track record makes it an ideal place to do business.
Punctuality Is Key
In a culture that places such a high priority on order, it makes sense that punctuality is one of the most important virtues to be observed in business. If you’re late for your meeting, it creates a chain reaction of delays that throws off your colleague’s entire schedule, so make sure you’re on time for everything on your calendar.
Meetings almost always happen by appointment and should be scheduled as far in advance as possible. Whenever you can, try to show up 10 minutes before all important appointments, and if you’re going to be late for reasons outside your control, always call to explain the situation.
Americans might embrace the idea of casual attire in the workplace, but don’t expect to see that in Austrian companies. Austrians take great pride in their appearance at all times, and you’ll need to follow suit if you hope to forge successful relationships. While sartorial formality is practiced, you should also take care to maintain a conservative business look:
- Men should wear dark-colored suits without a pattern.
- Dress shirts should be white and paired with an understated tie.
- Women should also wear either a conservative dress or fashionable business suit.
- Keep your suit’s jacket on at all times, unless your Austrian colleagues remove theirs due to uncomfortable temperatures.
- All attire must be neat and tidy, as sloppiness is frowned upon.
It can be common in other countries to shower business associates with gifts, but that isn’t done in Austria. Gifts are normally reserved for the holiday season and are generally exchanged between close friends and associates, but aren’t given out in the workplace. If you do choose to give a present, make sure it’s something modest and unassuming.
Austrians prefer to have introductions made by a third party, but when it’s time for a face-to-face meeting, it’s important to observe decorum. Exchange a handshake that’s firm and quick, but let the older or higher-ranking party initiate. Maintain eye contact throughout the entire greeting, keep your hands out of your pockets and maintain an arm’s length between you and your colleague.
When exchanging business cards, do it without pomp and circumstance, and have your information printed in German on one side. You should also take care to use titles and surnames, as first names are reserved for family and close friends.
Do Business the Right Way
This is just a brief overview of the business culture in Austria, but there’s no better way to learn than direct contact. If you’re an undergraduate or graduate student who’s hoping to work with Austrian clients, let International Business Seminars help you gain practical experience on a summer seminar abroad.