Vienna is known for its amazing art scene, cultural activities, and polite people. While this politeness can sometimes be misconstrued by visitors as unfriendliness, the people who live here know that the Viennese have a zest for life in their own way and that onlookers are just treated with cordialness. The majority of people I have met during my time abroad have been kind and helpful, but there will be the Oma who gets angry in German at you for one reason or another. Everyone beginning their study abroad journeys will face bumps in the road, but here are a few tips to get you started on the right track in Vienna...
- DO: Stand on the right side of the escalator. It is seen as a big faux pas in Vienna if you stand on the left side of the escalator. The left side of the escalator is for those in a hurry (which, I’ll admit, has been me more than a few times) who need to walk up instead of stand. If you accidentally stand on the left side, people will get mad, sometimes pushing their way past you or grumbling a frustrated “Entschuldigung.” If you forget this etiquette, it's ok—it happened to me as well, but you quickly begin to understand how the Ubahn works and the whole list of do's and dont's that correspond with it. When I traveled to other countries, I began to expect that same etiquette, and it's not the same outside of Vienna. It makes me wish the whole world followed the rule of stand on the right side!
- DON’T: Mistake a melange for a cappuccino. While they may be similar in composition: espresso, milk, and foam, there is a difference in the type of espresso used to make a traditional melange versus a cappuccino. I’ve seen servers at traditional cafes like Cafe Central or Cafe Schwarzenberg roll their eyes at unknowing tourists who mix up the two. In reality, there isn’t much difference, besides the espresso, there is less foam and more milk in the melange, and a melange is usually served in a smaller cup. I tended to order more melanges than cappuccinos while studying abroad, since I am not a fan of chocolate, and the majority of places top their cappuccinos with chocolate for some odd reason.
- DO: Go to a ball. Vienna is known for its annual ball season, where it put on over 400 Bridgerton-like balls during the months of November-February. I studied abroad in the fall, so the peak of the ball season (around late January/early February) is something that I have yet to see. It just gives me a good reason to come back to Vienna again! You will need formal attire (often a floor-length dress for women and a dark suit or tuxedo for men). It is so much fun to get dressed to the nines (I recommend thrifting or going to Peak and Cloppenburg to find formal attire, but there are also formal wear stores all over the city, so you will have no trouble finding the attire necessary)!
- DON’T: Forget your tickets and your mask for rides on public transit. While the system that exists in Vienna is an honor system, where they don’t check every time you go on the Ubahn or Strassenbahn, there are occasional times when authorities will be at certain stations checking for tickets and masks. If you don’t have one or either, you can be fined starting at fifty euros! So be careful!
- DO: Have the time of your life! Vienna has been voted the most livable city for several years in a row now, and it is for a good reason! This city has become my favorite city that I have ever visited, for its safety, beautiful architecture, delicious food, and more. Studying abroad in Vienna is the best decision I have ever made, and I highly reccomend studying here to anyone who is even considering it. You’re at the center of Europe, so it makes it very easy to visit popular Western European destinations like Barcelona or Rome, but unique countries like Slovenia, Croatia, and Slovakia are only a short train ride or bus ride away.
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Hi! My name is Grace Heaton and I am thrilled to be studying abroad in Vienna during the Fall 2022 semester. I am an incoming Sophomore at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA studying Marketing, French, and German. In my free time I enjoy traveling, learning languages, listening to music, going to coffee shops, and adventuring with friends! I am excited to immerse myself in Austrian culture this fall, and can't wait to see where this journey takes me!