In my recent obsession with travel guides, old and new, I purchased this gem of a book from 1992: Europeans Customs and Manners: How to Make Friends and do Business in Europe by Nancy L. Briganti and Elizabeth Devine. It is a fascinating look at an American view of Europe in the wake of the Iron Curtain’s fall.
It’s everything you would expect–condescending, full of stereotypes, although containing (at least in the case of Ireland, where I have lived) a few nuggets of truth. Reading it has occasioned a lot of laughter and head-shaking, both at the stereotypes and the 20 year old references to technology.
As I am officially three months away from moving to Austria, I thought I would share with the Internet some of the valuable friend-making advice I have received. You’re welcome.
Don’t tease anyone playfully. Austrians won’t understand what you’re doing and might be offended.
Apparently all that fresh mountain air blew away an entire nation’s sense of humor.
If you’re staying with a family, bring gifts from the U.S., such as records, calculators, portable cassette players with headphones and flannel shirts for men to wear while hiking. If you’ll be giving the gift shortly after you get off the plane, consider bringing lobsters or steak; have them packed securely in dry ice and check them through as baggage so they’ll be in the coldest part of the plane.
You know those Austrians, never prepared for cold weather. Better get them some flannel shirts so they can be warm during the six mile snowy hike up the Alps to work each morning! Also, steaks.
In a new country, you always need to know some good topics for small talk, so don’t worry. Got you covered.
Good topics of conversation: what you like about Austria, American technology (Austrians are interested in and impressed by it), professions, families, cars, music (Austrians know a lot about classical music), hiking, or skiing (people will be impressed if you know about Austrian skiing champions).
Ah, the things Austrians know: classical music, hiking and skiing. But they forgot marionettes and lederhosen!
Finally, my very favorite note on the Austrian people, whom I will easily befriend with this advice:
Key Phrases: See Germany.