Austrian Communication Styles


Communication can seem a little formal to those cultures who are accustomed to using the more informal convention of addressing colleagues by their first names within the business environment. It is still customary in Austria to use family names in the workplace — even with quite close colleagues. Although there is some evidence that the younger generation are moving away from this convention towards the use of first names, it is still probably wise to use family names with when meeting new business colleagues - until asked to switch to first name terms. (It is not unusual to hear Austrian business people addressing each other by first names when speaking English in a meeting and then changing immediately back to family names when the language switches back to German.)

It is also common for people to be addressed by their titles — either academic or professional as great store is placed on academic qualifications and the prestige they bring. When working with Austrians (and many other European countries) it is a good idea to ensure you have all your academic qualifications visible on your business card.

As with all German-speaking countries, direct communication is appreciated. Lack of directness in discourse can be mistaken for lack of clarity of thought or, at the extreme, dishonesty. Thus those cultures which tend to be more diplomatic and worried about causing offence by being too direct should try hard to ensure the use of a literal form of communication. Ensure that what you say relates to what you mean.

As has already been stated, charm and old-fashioned courtesy are much in evidence and are highly-prized qualities. Warmth and a genuine sense of hospitality await the business traveller to Austria.