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‘They’re like Schnitzel’: What to expect when dating an Austrian

Dating someone from another culture can be exciting, but also confusing. Here’s what readers of The Local had to say about dating an Austrian.

'They're like Schnitzel': What to expect when dating an Austrian
Image by Tirachard Kumtanom via Pexels.

Whether you moved to Austria for love or met an Austrian partner after already living in the country, no doubt you have come across some cultural differences.

To find out more, we asked international residents in Austria to share their experiences of dating an Austrian and what others can expect.

Here’s what they had to say.

This article is based on the results of a survey by The Local and includes both positive and negative experiences. Most respondents were from Vienna, Salzburg and Graz.

READ MORE: Vienna vs Graz: Which city is better for foreign residents?

More traditional expectations of women

In Austria, traditional expectations of women are still quite deeply ingrained in society compared to other countries, which can lead to conflict within multicultural relationships.

Kathryn, who is living in Upper Austria, told The Local: “Expect them [Austrian men] to be a generation behind when it comes to emancipation and being independent.”

Another, who declined to give her name, said: “Just be yourself but accept they may be more traditional when it comes to women and their role.”

A different sense of humour

This is an observation that came up several times from British readers who are well-known for having a sarcastic sense of humour.

Bexi Ebraheim, from the UK, advises anyone dating an Austrian to be aware of cultural differences when it comes to a sense of humour.

Speaking about her Austrian husband, Bexi said: “Be careful with sarcasm at the beginning. After four years he’s just as sarcastic as me but at the beginning he thought I was just mean.”

Or, as Christoper Hone put it: “Disarm with charm before introducing the sarcasm, for sure.”

FOR MEMBERS: Where in Austria do all the Americans live?

However, differences in a sense of humour can work both ways, as explained by Linda Wright, a British woman who has been living in Vienna with her Austrian husband for almost 14 years.

Linda said: “The Viennese have a wonderful sense of humour that to some takes a little understanding.”

Alternatively, you can follow the approach taken by Susie in Burgenland, who said: “Avoid jokes.”

The importance of family

For international residents, a common cultural difference is the central role of family in Austria.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for adults to continue living in the family home into their 20s – or in some cases, even into their 30s and beyond. Often this is due to economic situations, but sometimes not.

Then there is the issue of the mother, and the perception that Austrian men maintain a strong connection with their mothers well into adulthood.

A woman living in Vienna, who asked to remain anonymous, even blamed the failure of a relationship with an Austrian man on the fact that he “was too attached to his mother”.

There is some hope though for international female residents looking for love with an Austrian man.

Another woman from Vienna told The Local: “Be patient, give them time. Sometimes it’s good to take a slower pace. Take the time to communicate about your differences in dating.”

READ ALSO: 13 ways to make your life in Austria easier without really trying


Austrians are known for being honest and direct people, which was noted by several respondents in The Local’s survey.

For most international residents, this is simply something to get used to, and after a while most people no longer find it offensive.

But for newcomers to the country, or those dating an Austrian for the first time, it can be a shock.

Kim from Vienna said: “Talk directly, don’t beat around the bush.”

A respondent in Graz said: “Prepare for direct conversations.”

Tess in Vienna, who dated an Austrian man, said: “Understand that abruptness is not a sign of their personality.”

However, one British woman, who is married to an Austrian man, summed it up with a metaphor inspired by Austria’s national dish.

She said: “Austrians are like Schnitzel. Quite crispy on the outside, but once you get in they are very sensitive.”

READ MORE: Tips for how to make friends in Austria from those who have done it

Different communication styles

Due to the aforementioned direct communication style, you can expect conversations – or even disagreements – with an Austrian to be different.

Speaking about an experience of dating an Austrian man, Diane Schmallegger in Vienna said: “He would say, ‘We need to talk’. I’d always think something like, ‘Oh no, what happened? Do you want to break up? Did someone die?’ When all he really meant was that he wanted to talk to me.”

Fazil in Salzburg offered some advice on how to handle this from the perspective of an Asian man.

He said: “As someone from Asia we need more time to adopt and adjust ourselves. Be honest, stop putting all the minor disagreements on the table all at once. Instead, I suggest to talk about it gradually.”

What about the positives?

Despite some negative experiences, readers of The Local also had a lot of nice things to say about dating an Austrian.

Jimi in Vienna simply said: “Austrian girls are lovely.”

Linda Wright from the UK told The Local: “Because of my Austrian partner I’ve not regretted a moment. He makes me smile/ laugh most days.”

Iris in Lower Austria said: “Tell them what you are looking for – they will appreciate it.”

And finally, Annette Haiml added: “Just don’t call a Krapfen a doughnut.”

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For members


‘To completely integrate in Austrian life you need German, but it takes time’

Knowing German can help you integrate in Austria, but to what extent depends on where you want to live in the country and what you define as being integrated, writes Vienna-based journalist Julia Jakobsson.

'To completely integrate in Austrian life you need German, but it takes time'

The worst possible place to integrate with Austrians must be at a local festival in the middle of nowhere, outside a city with a name you have no idea how to pronounce.

People are probably drunk, speak their own local dialect, and connect over songs you have never heard before.

I have always been eager to experience Austrian culture, so I decided to take my chances. Surprisingly, it didn’t work out as I had hoped. I spent the evening working out my neck muscles by fiercely nodding my head at whatever was being said. If people reacted in a confused way to my nods, I would change the direction from vertical to horizontal and hope for a better response.

I moved to Austria for the first time in 2019 to study a master’s degree in Klagenfurt, the capital of the Carinthian region.

My German was very limited and when I tried to hang out with the locals outside of university, I often had similar experiences to the one at the festival. I met friendly people making their best efforts to adapt to my language limitations, but while hanging out with groups of only Austrians, the language of conversation logically ended up being German. I struggled to take part in the conversation and show my true personality.

READ ALSO: Why do foreigners find Austria such a difficult country to settle in?

Vienna is different to rural Austria

In other aspects, being able to speak German felt like a necessity in Carinthia. While dealing with daily tasks like grocery shopping or going to the doctor, my international friends and I experienced that at least basic German was often necessary to be understood and receive proper help.

A person studying

Learning languages can be tricky. Photo by lilartsy on Unsplash

After finishing my studies at the university, I tried to find a job in English to be able to stay in the region. I looked for a job in communications but realised very quickly that it was not going to be easy.

My international friends with similar language limitations experienced the same issue, and we all started searching for options in other places. That is how I ended up in Vienna. Given the Austrian capital is far more international with 42 percent of the inhabitants being of foreign origin, I felt like it was more acceptable and easier to get by with my limited German language skills. I found a job in English at an international company and gained friends from all over the globe.

What does integration in Austria mean?

As foreigners in Austria we all have different perspectives on what integration means and what we need to feel integrated.

One friend first felt properly integrated after learning the language fluently, obtaining a full-time job in German, and having an Austrian partner. For me, I feel somewhere in between feeling integrated and still being kind of an outsider. I have Austrian friends, I studied here, and I worked here, and I can get by with my German. But sometimes I feel left out, I still struggle in groups of Austrians, especially with the different dialects. While sorting out bureaucratic matters I sometimes feel like I get negative reactions to my accent and incorrect grammar.

READ ALSO: ‘Brutal’ – what it’s really like to learn German in Austria

One example of my struggles is when dealing with governmental offices, which is unavoidable if you want to live in Austria given it is where you do the official registration of your address and other tasks.

Every time I call them about something a little complicated, I ask if it is possible to have the conversation in English to ensure I don’t  miss out on essential information. The answer is most of the time a simple and rather unfriendly “no.” One time, the person on the other end of the line pointed out that the official governmental language in Austria was German and that I should have been aware of that.

In the long run, learning German is necessary

To sum it all up, if you intend to get by mainly with English in Austria then a bigger city is a better option in my experience. But if you want to live in a smaller place, taking time to work on your German is a good idea.

In the long run, I believe that learning German is essential for complete integration. To feel a sense of belonging in a new country, understanding its culture, inside jokes, and common references is essential.

But moving here, having a full-time job and other obligations, means that learning German and its grammar might be a challenge.

So, give yourselves a break, or cut your international friends and colleagues some slack; it is all a process, and most of us will improve our language skills with time.

It took me a few months to remember how to say that I am going to the toilet (Ich gehe auf die Toilette) and not inside of it (in die Toilette). And maybe in a few years, I will not be the person awkwardly nodding during local festivals anymore.

Do you agree with Julia’s views? Share your own thoughts and experience of learning German and integrating in Austria in the comments section below. Or alternatively if you’d like to offer your own thoughts for publication emails us at [email protected]