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, it is still probably wise to use family names 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.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Austria

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Although Austria is a landlocked country, its geographic position brings certain advantages as it is perfectly positioned between the countries of western Europe and the former Soviet satellite countries to the East. Thus, Austria is able to command centre stage in central Europe and is often seen as the bridge between the two areas.

Austria is also a very successful exporting nation with strong links to, not only its largest trading partner Germany, but also into the Middle East and Asia. Austria is at the same time traditional and outward looking. The country realises that it must trade internationally if it is to be able to continue to compete globally and maintain its current high standard of living.

All of this points to the fact that doing business in Austria could very well be a good idea for your business. If you are not currently doing business in Austria, we would recommend that you take a serious look at the market – you might be surprised by the opportunities you uncover and you might even start to see a commercial opening into some Eastern European neighbours.

If you do decide to do business in Austria make sure you take a little time out in advance to study the business culture you are likely to meet when you arrive. All countries develop their own unique approach to the way in which business is conducted and Austria is no exception. Austria is quite traditional and formal and you would do well to understand how these formalities play out in day-to-day business activities.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Austrian business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips