Skip to main content
Select Source:



ETHNONYMS: Burgenländer, Kärntner, Niederösterreicher, Oberösterreicher, Österreicher, Salzburger, Steierer, Tiroler, Vorarlberger, Wiener


Identification. Austria is a national culture of early twentieth-century origin (1919). It was created out of the six German-speaking provinces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the city of Vienna. An eighth province, containing many Hungarian and Croatian speakers, Burgenland, was added in 1945. The national culture is created by a communication system that tries to generate implicit agreement on a small set of values, especially those emphasizing historic, linguistic, and cultural similarities. This system includes the centralized curriculum of the schools, the programming of the national media monopoly, the discourse surrounding national and provincial elections and similar issues reported in the popular press, and customs of various types, including those regarding clothing, food and drink, recreational tastes, and use of dialect. In spite of these linguistic and cultural similarities, the provinces retain social, political, and ideological identities that have resisted complete integration. Also, the national culture is rejected by a growing minority that seeks unification with Germany. The forging of a national identity has fallen disproportionately on the urban centers, notably Vienna.

Location. Austria is bounded on the north by the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic and Germany; on the east by Hungary; on the south by Slovenia, Croatia, and Italy; and on the west by Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Its location is approximately 46° to 49° N and 9° to 17° E. The spine of the Alps runs west to east through the center of Austria. Only the extreme east and northeast edges of the area are hilly lowland plains. The mountains drain primarily north into the Danube

River system. Most of the country has alpine climate with a restricted growing season. In the lowlands, the climate is continental with warm, dry summers, humid autumns, and cold, wet winters. Average high temperature in January is 1o C, while in June it is 18° C. Elevation is a stronger determinant of local climate than latitude.

Demography. The total population in the 1981 census was 7,574,085. Vienna had the largest concentration of Population at 1,524,510, followed by Lower Austria (1,431,400), Upper Austria (1,276,807), Steiermark (1,188,878), Tirol (591,069), Carinthia (537,137), Salzburg (446,981), Vorarlberg (307,220), and Burgenland (270,083). Through migration and changing birthrates, the western provinces and highland areas have lost population to the eastern provinces and urban areas. Twenty-three percent of the population lives in villages of 2,500 or less, 32 percent in market towns of 2,500 to 10,000, 15 percent in cities of 10,000 to 100,000, and 30 percent in cities of 100,000 or more. The population structure has been altered by the mortality of two highly destructive wars in this century and the differential male mortality of advanced industrial societies.

linguistic Affiliation. Most Austrians speak the Southern (Bavarian) dialect of German, a branch of the Indo-European Language Family. Vorarlbergers speak the Alemannic dialect of German more commonly found in northern Switzerland and Swabia. In border provinces, one can find concentrations of speakers of Italian, Slovene, Croatian, Hungarian, and Czech. In Vienna one can find established enclaves of these languages, as well as speakers of Turkish, Serbian, Greek, Russian, Polish, French, Spanish, Arabic dialects, Persian, and English.

History and Cultural Retenons

Although each province has a documentary history stretching back to the Roman occupation, the events relevant to the formation of the national culture begin after the First World War. After losing the war, the Austro-Hungarian Empire disintegrated into a number of nation-statesHungary, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslaviabased primarily on language affiliation. The German-speaking provinces, some with sizable non-German populations, became the (First) Republic of Austria. Other provinces, some with large German populations, especially in the regional centers, were ceded to Italy (South Tirol), Poland (Galicia), and Romania (Transylvania) . National integration was hampered by postwar famine, disease, the loss of provincial markets and areas of supply, and the inflationary cycle and depression of 1926-1938. Pan-German nationalist political ideologies that linked the small, vulnerable Austria to the more powerful German state to the north were popular alternatives to Austrian nationalism, and in 1938 a majority of the country welcomed "Anschluss," the annexation of Austria by the Third Reich. The struggle between German and Austrian nationalism led to cultural warfare that severely damagedor even, in some cases, destroyedthe country's Jewish, Gypsy, Croatian, and Slovene communities during World War II. After the war, the four Allied powers each occupied a separate sector of the country and of Vienna. In 1955, sovereignty was returned to Austria under the condition of perpetual political neutrality. The war experience, the failure of Pan-Germanism, the Permanent neutrality, and the legacy of the destruction of the minority communities became the basis for a new national identity in the Second Republic of Austria.

Germany remains the most significant cultural focus outside Austria. The Austrian schilling is tied to the German mark in international money markets. German corporations are heavily invested in the Austrian economy. The German press is read and German trends in government, society, and consumption are closely monitored. Austria also has Important relationships with Hungary and the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic. Although relations were strained after the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the erection of political barriers in the 1950s and 1960s, the three countries now maintain a cordial association. Currently, their citizens may freely cross their frontiers without visas. Ethnic conflicts have created difficult relations with three other neighbors. In northern Italy (South Tirol), German-speaking Tirolese separatists still wage guerrilla actions against Italian institutions from Austria. Although the Austrian government deplores these actions and has successfully prosecuted offenders, relations with Italy have been strained for many years. German nationalist sentiment has also antagonized Yugoslavia. Croatian minorities in Burgenland and Slovene communities in Carinthia have been subject to discrimination by local and provincial officials. Of all its neighbors, Romania has the most strained relations with Austria. A large number of Protestant Upper Austrians migrated to Transylvania after the Counter-Reformation, but they maintained links to their original communities. These new communities were under the direct threat of "Romanianization" and the destruction of their ethnic identities. After the 1989 rebellion in Romania, however, the threat was mitigated and relations between the countries improved.


Austrian ethnographers speak of six identifiable rural settlement forms: (1) single, isolated farms with field blocks; (2) hamlets with tenant holdings; (3) nucleated villages with strip fields; (4) linear villages with strip fields extending through wooded areas; (5) villages built around a central green with rationalized fields; and (6) villages built along a street with rationalized fields. The more diffuse settlements (types 1,2, and 4) are found in alpine zones. The more nucleated settlements (types 3, 5, and 6) are found in lowland areas. Urban settlements are primarily riverine, nucleated, and, originally, walled. These features derive from the early modern period of town formation (1350-1650) in central Europe when waterways were used as transport routes and there was a high level of political and military insecurity. The most important regional centersInnsbruck (Tirol), Salzburg (Salzburg), Linz (Upper Austria), Villach and Klagenfurt (Carinthia), Eisenstadt (Burgenland), Graz (Steiermark), and Saint Polten and Wiener Neustadt (Lower Austria)are of this type. Vienna, with 20 percent of the national population, is a world-class metropolis and a center for elite entertainments and tourism. It was originally a Roman frontier fortress (Vindobona, a.d. 140) that declined in the post-Roman period only to revive with the building of Saint Stephan' s Cathedral in the twelfth century. It was a center of commerce in the early modern period, when it enjoyed staple rights over traffic up and down the Danube. Economic Development stagnated in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as the Habsburg dynasty transformed the city into a Ceremonial and administrative center for the empire. The Industrial transformation of the metropolis began late (1820s) and proceeded at a leisurely pace. The razing of the city's walls in 1857 and the development of the broad Ring Boulevard around the central district heralded the beginning of modern city government and planning. By the mid-1890s, all but two of the current twenty-three districts had been annexed from previously autonomous suburbs and the population had swollen to its historic high of 2 million people, two-thirds of whom had been born elsewhere and migrated to the city for industrial employment.


Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Eighty-five percent of Austrians subsist by selling their labor for wages. However, 10 percent of the population in 1982 maintained a self-sufficient agricultural subsistence. The remaining 5 percent represent various professions who subsist on a fee-for-service basis. Among wage earners, more than half are salaried, white-collar employees in the commercial sector or government service. The blue-collar workers, four in ten of whom are certified as skilled, earn an hourly wage based on a 35- to 40-hour work week. All workers and employees work under contract standards established by the federal government and modified to suit the requirements of specific sectors and industries. All wage earners are currently guaranteed four weeks of paid vacation per year, with additional weeks added with seniority. An extensive program of federally administered benefits (health and unemployment insurance, pensions, general relief, family assistance, housing support, retraining programs, and continuing education) is funded through a gradual and progressive income tax. These taxes tend to level the net incomes of wage earners dramatically.

Industrial Arts. Specialty metals, food processing, chemicals (especially petrochemicals), machine tools, and microelectronics are currently the basis for the greatest industrial-sector growth. Major exports include winter-sports articles, dairy products, and construction materials (lumber and concrete). Real-estate transactions are important to the urban Regional economies. Tourism is also an important source of regional income, especially in Vienna and the Tirol.

Division of Labor. A person's work life begins around age 15 and lasts through the early 60s. Retirement is a respected state, made all the more palatable by high pension payments. During a person's work life, promotions to higher pay and responsibility are age-related, although one can find fast-track promotions in young industries and government. Two-fifths of working-age women are employed outside the home. Among urban households of three persons or more, more than 75 percent of adult women are wage earners. In the rural areas, women are more likely to work at home. In two-income households, women continue to perform the traditional household-maintenance and child-care roles.

Land Tenure. In the alpine zones, land tenure is held within family corporations under the leadership of a single person, usually the senior male. As the elevation drops, land is rented for varying periods of time from a titleholder who may reside elsewhere. In lowland regions, land tends to be held by corporations, many of which are wholly owned within families, but with leadership shared among a number of persons.

Kinship, Marriage, and Family

Kinship. The most important kinship group is the bilateral Familie. The group tends to be coterminous with the Household in both urban and rural zones. Relations between lineal relatives, especially parents and their married children or Siblings, is recognized with the cover term Grossfamilie. These extended family ties are activated through frequent visiting. Families are embedded within a wider bilateral kindred, the Verwandschaft. This grouping is activated for life-cycle events.

Marriage. Marriages are monogamous. The age of Marriage in urban centers coincides with the establishment of a career track (early twenties), but many delay marriage until their thirties. In alpine zones, the European late-marriage pattern can be found. The decision to marry signifies an intention to have children, since cohabitation without Marriage, even within one's parents' house, is tolerated. The Roman Catholic practice of permanent marriage between sexually chaste partners remains prevalent among the rural population. According to state law, divorce can be initiated by either husband or wife, and remarriage is permitted. Marriages tie two extended families together. As soon as possible after the marriage, the couple establishes a neolocal residence within close proximity to one of the families, most frequently the wife's family. After the birth of children, the mother Returns to wage earning after a maximum two years of paid leave. Close kin are employed for preschool child care.

Inheritance. Where land tenure is held within the family under the leadership of a single individual (alpine practice), the ideology of inheritance specifies that the entire estate should go to the firstborn male offspring. In the absence of that heir, the next oldest child inherits. In all other situations, landed or not, inheritance ideology tends to be bilateral and partible.

Socialization. Weaning from the breast occurs within 3 to 6 months. There is strong pressure toward early toilet training, which is often completed by the end of the child's second year. Grandparents play an important role in early childhood development. Disciplinary styles differ between the parents, with the father establishing a harsher, more physical approach, and the mother a more patient and verbal one. Preschool activities begin in the child's third year and regular kindergarten/elementary school in the fifth year. All of these institutions are state-supported. Primary school occupies the years 6 through 10 and emphasizes basic social, reading, writing, and arithmetic skills. Secondary school proceeds from ages 10 through 14. At age 10, the child is tested and tracked into either a continuing elementary school, a basic high school (Hauptschule), or a college-preparatory high school (Gymnasium). Education continues through the mandatory fifteenth year in either vocational schools, teacher-training institutes, apprenticeships, or continuing college-preparatory schools. The wage market relies on the school system for credential certification. Thus, educational decisions are among the most important an Austrian will make.

Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. The class structure in Austria has both formal and informal principles. There are five named classes and an all-but-invisible underclass. The named classes are "Bauern" (farmers, especially those with land tenure), "Arbeiter" (workers, especially skilled workers), "Kleinbürger" (bureaucrats, artisans, small-property holders, and shopkeepers), "Grossbürger" (wealthy property owners, industrialists, successful artists, and intellectuals), and "Adelsstand" (nobility with inherited wealth and land). This last class is in decline because public use of one's noble title is now illegal. Families belong to classes; individuals belong to families. Class affiliation is determined by the control of wealth and property or, in lieu of wealth, by educational achievement and the prestige of the position that one's credentials can command. Since real increases in wealth are all but impossible, achieving a higher educational level than one's parents is one of the few paths to social mobility. People tend to socialize, educate, and marry within classes and localities, producing closed, class-based, localized networks that are often activated to solve problems.

Political Organization. Austria is a parliamentary democracy. Representatives are selected for its bicameral legislature from lists prepared by the political parties. The majority party in Parliament or a coalition of parties then names the government ministers. These ministers establish policy, propose laws, and govern the republic on a day-to-day basis. A largely ceremonial official, the federal president, is elected by direct popular vote. Each province has a legislature and a governorship that retain much control over the implementation of federal law. Currently there are four political parties represented in the federal and provincial legislatures: the Social Democrats (Sozialistische Partei Österreichs), the traditional party of working-class interests; the Christian Democrats (Österreichische Volkspartei), the party of clerical, commercial, and industrial interests; the German Nationalists (Freheitliche Partei Österreichs), who call themselves "liberals" but bear no relation in platform or rhetoric to contemporary European liberal parties; and the Green Party (Österreichische Grünen), which represents the environmentalist movement in Austria. A coalition of Christian and Social Democrats has frequently formed the government since the formation of the Second Republic (1955). The Social Democrats enjoyed a majority government from 1971 to 1983. A Communist party also exists and held seats in Parliament in the 1950s and 1960s but is no longer an important political movement. National Socialism is illegal, but at least one fascist underground group operates in the country.

Social Control. The centralized bureaucracy established under the old empire continues to maintain the most publicly visible institutions of social control. Hardly anything of importance to Austrians can take place without a tax stamp, license, or permit. Conformity to group values is established by gossip within tightly maintained kindreds and networks of acquaintances.

Conflict. The Austrian legal system is Napoleonic. Courts and police have sweeping powers to investigate conflicts. The accused must prove innocence by impeaching government evidence. Violent crimes are reported, but they appear to occur less frequently than in other advanced industrial societies. However, property crimes and white-collar crime, especially embezzlement and corruption, are common. Conflicts also occur between the majority group and resident Minorities. Former guest workers from Greece, Yugoslavia, and Turkey, who now reside in Vienna, are often the subject of hate graffiti, racist language, and discrimination in employment and housing. Anti-Semitic and anti-Gypsy sentiment is quite common in private discourse and the public media. Private conflicts and alienation are among the biggest social problems Austrians face. Rates of alcoholism, suicide, and absenteeism are among the highest in European societies.

Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs and Practices. Since the Counter-Reformation, Roman Catholicism has dominated Austrian religious belief. Although Eastern Orthodox, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists exist in Austria, they have no power to influence the interpretation of public morality to the extent that the Roman Catholics can. Although church and state are officially separate, the Christian Democratic party represents the interests of the Roman Catholic church in Political affairs. In rural zones, this Catholicism can be very conservative. Passion plays with anti-Semitic themes, Latin liturgy, and antimodern ideologies predominate. In urban zones, religious practice is generally sporadic, often limited to life-cycle events.

Arts. In painting, literature, music, architecture, and theater, Austria has produced a significant number of Europe's masters. These artists are celebrated, often deified, in specialized museums, theaters, and concert halls in all of the Regional centers, but especially Vienna and Salzburg. Two themes predominate in Austrian arts: an elaborately developed and sophisticated agro-romanticism that glorifies the rural landscape, and an introspective, highly psychologized celebration of modern metropolitan life. These themes coincide with the polarities of Austrian national consciousness: provincialism and cosmopolitanism.

Medicine. In the nineteenth century, Austrian, especially Viennese, medicine was in the vanguard of the development of modern, industrial medical science. Popular beliefs about health, however, retain a much older, humoral character. Much emphasis is placed on the good and ill effects of winds (fresh air, the alpine Förn ), on the balance of hot and cold meals, and on the natural movements of the body. Homeopathic alternatives to school medicine are so popular that these cures are included in the national health system.

Death and Afterlife. Debilitating disease is feared more than death itself. Death imagery is very important in folk songs, betraying a lighthearted fatalism. Cemeteries play an important role in community life and are visited around 1 November each year. Evergreen wreaths symbolizing resurrection to eternal life are placed on graves.


Cole, John W., and Eric R. Wolf (1974). The Hidden Frontier: Ecology and Ethnicity in an Alpine Valley. New York: Academic Press.

Honigmann, John (1963). "The Dynamics of Drinking in an Austrian Village." Ethnology 2:157-169.

Naroll, Raoul, and Frada Naroll (1962). "Social Development of a Tyrolese Village." Anthropological Quarterly 35:103-120.

Ringel, Erwin (1984). Die österreichische Seele: 10 Reden über Medizin, Politik, Kunst und Religion. Vienna: Hermann Böhlaus Nachf.

Rotenberg, Robert (1992). Time and Order in Metropolitan Vienna. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.


Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Austrians." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . 19 Jul. 2018 <>.

"Austrians." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . (July 19, 2018).

"Austrians." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Retrieved July 19, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.





POPULATION: 7.5 million

LANGUAGE: German; Italian, Slovene, Croatian, Hungarian, and Czech in the border provinces; English

RELIGION: Roman Catholicism; Protestantism


Located in the center of Europe, Austria has exercised great military and economic power for much of its history. The Celts (Western Europeans) settled in Austria in the middle of the first millennium bc. They called the area Ostarrichi the empire in the East. The Celts were followed by Romans and Germanic and Slavic tribes. Around ad 1000 the Babenburger dynasty helped establish Christianity throughout the area. In 1278, Austria's most well-known period of history began when the Hapsburg monarchy came into power. With its capital city in Vienna, the Hapsburg Empire ruled over much of Europe for more than six hundred years and expanded both through war and marriage.

The Hapsburgs were defeated in World War I (191418) and their empire was taken apart. Once occupying an area as large as Texas, the newly created Republic of Austria had shrunk to approximately the size of Maine. In 1938, Austria was invaded by Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler. Following Germany's defeat in World War II (193945), Austria was governed by the Allied powers (the nations that fought against Germany in World War II, including the United States) until 1955. It then returned to independence. In 1994 Austria was officially approved for membership in the European Community (EC).


A landlocked country, three-fourths of Austria is mountainous. The Alps, divided into three mountain ranges, are located mostly in western and central Austria. Passes through the mountains make Austria an important crossroads between different parts of Europe. The remainder of Austria has varied terrain consisting of foothills, lowlands, plains, plateaus, and the fertile Danube River Valley.

Austria's population is now seven and one-half million, mostly German-speaking Catholic people. The only significant ethnic minorities are Slovenes, Croats, and small numbers of Czechs and Hungarians. World War II destroyed most of Austria's Jewish population, formerly a significant ethnic group in Austria.

About half of the Austrians live in cities and towns of more than ten thousand people. One-fifth of Austrians live in Vienna. The main population trends in recent times have been a shift from country to city areas and a migration from east to west.


Nearly ninety-nine percent of Austrians speak German, although at least four different dialects are in use. In the border provinces, Italian, Slovene, Croatian, Hungarian, and Czech are also spoken. Many people in large cities and resort areas speak English. Although Austrians speak German, certain Austrian words used in cooking differ from those used in Germany, reflecting Austria's diverse ethnic past. These include Zwetschken (plums) from the Bohemian svestka, Palatschinken (pancakes) from the Hungarian palacsinta, and kafetier, from the French term for a coffee-house owner. Some common terms as they are spoken in Austria appear below:

Good day Grüss Gott! grOOS gott
yes ja yAH
no na nAH
thank you danke DAHN-kah
Bye! Servus! SAIR-voos
potato Erdäpfel AYRD-ahb-fell
chimney Rauchfank ROWKH-fahnk


The great German epic, Das Niebelungenlied, was written in Austria around ad 1250. It combined mythical warrior gods and goddesses of Teutonic (ancient northern European) times with real stories of court life in the Middle Ages. Vienna's Museum für Volkskunde houses exhibits on Austrian folklore.


Austria's capital city of Vienna was also the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. Roman Catholicism is still the dominant religion in Austria, practiced by 89 percent of Austrians. Catholic churches, shrines, monasteries, and cathedrals can be seen throughout the country. Other signs of religious faith that can be seen are roofed crosses and covered posts decorated with religious scenes. In the countryside, religious festivals, processions, and pageants take place throughout the year. In city areas, religious observance is often more casual and usually limited to holidays and major events such as births, weddings, and funerals. About 6 percent of Austrians are Protestant (Baptist or Methodist) or members of sects unique to Austria.


Austria's holidays are primarily the religious ones on the Christian calendar such as Easter and Christmas. Christmas festivities begin on December 6, when children receive presents from St. Nicholas. Many houses and churches display wooden cribs at this time of year. In rural areas, children celebrate the eve of the Epiphany by singing a song in honor of the Three Kings that asks for blessings in the new year. Epiphany, January 6, is also the beginning of a carnival season that is celebrated until Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Labor Day is celebrated May 1. There is also a National Holiday on October 26.

Rural Austrians also observe some traditional celebrations. One is the feast of St. Leonard, the patron saint of livestock, who is honored each November with festive horse-and-cart parades. Many villages still burn the "demon" of winter during Lent. In Vorarlberg, a figure of a witch that is stuffed with explosives is blown up on top of a water tower. It is believed that the weather for the coming year will come from the direction in which the figure's head flies. In the Tyrol, Schemenlaufen (procession of ghosts) is celebrated every four years with a parade in which men wearing masks sound bells to ring out the winter.


Because the Roman Catholic faith is so widespread in Austria, almost all newborns are baptized. Godparents, chosen by the baby's parents, hold the baby during the baptism, and are expected to visit on birthdays, to give presents on important occasions, and to care for him if the parents die. Childhood firsts are celebrated, such as the first tooth and the first school holiday spent away from home. There are no special rites to mark puberty, but graduation from the teenagers' last school is marked with a party and gifts. People tend to marry young, and church weddings are common. Women generally establish their own careers before having a first child. Most relations between parents and adult children are close. Both generations play an active role in raising children. Many times adult children call their parents the same nicknames that the grandchildren use.


In public, Austrians are both courteous and formal. This is a legacy from the days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, when social position was determined by aristocratic or civil service hierarchy. A doctor or other professional is usually addressed as Herr Doktor, Magister, or Professor. Civil servants have titles of honor or respect consisting of various prefixes and the suffix- rat (councilor). Examples include Hofrat (privy councilor) and Gehiemrat (town councilor). Women are commonly addressed as Gnädige Frau (madam). The greeting Grüss Gott (God bless you) is often used instead of Guten Tag (good day). People shake hands when they meet and part. Doors are normally opened for women, and a woman may be kissed on the hand when being formally introduced.


After World War I (191418), the population shifted somewhat from the country to larger towns and cities. As a result, housing in rural or country areas remained plentiful and cheap. Most city-dwellers live in oneor two-room flats (apartments) with a separate kitchen. Fewer than one-fourth of these city people live in homes with four or more rooms. Housing costs are relatively low; Austrians spend less on housing than on recreation. Austrians enjoy excellent health care, all of it covered by a national health insurance program. There are also modern and efficient railroad, highway, and express-way (Autobahn ) systems.


The most important Austrian family unit is the nuclear family (Familie ). Soon after marriage, a bride and groom customarily establish their own household near one partner's (usually the wife's) family. They may eventually be joined by a widowed grandparent or unmarried aunt or uncle. Regular visits are exchanged with the extended family (Grossfamilie ), consisting of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and first cousins. A wider network of relations (Verwandschaft ) comes together for major events such as weddings. Children maintain a special relationship with godparents until adulthood.

Male and female roles in the family are not equal. For much of the twentieth century, Austria has had a high proportion of women in the labor force. Women are eligible for two years of paid maternity leave after the birth of a child, and many times grandparents take care of children so that a woman may return to work. Regardless of women's significant financial contribution to the household, Austrian men continue to look at domestic tasks and child-rearing as essentially women's jobs.


Modern Austrians dress like people in the northeastern United States. Traditional peasant costumes are mostly saved for holidays and festivals. Then women wear embroidered blouses, lace aprons, and full, dirndl skirts. Men wear lederhosen (short leather pants) with wide suspenders, short jackets without collars or lapels, and green-brimmed hats decorated with feathers. A traditional costume worn on more formal occasions is the Stierer Anzug: gray or brown breeches (pants that buckle just below the knee) embroidered in green, a colorful cummerbund, bright vest, a long, flared coat with ornamental buttons, and high top hat.


Austrians are known for their love of food and drink. Perhaps the most characteristic Austrian dish is the Wienerschnitzel, a veal or pork cutlet that is breaded and fried. Soups and stews with dumplings are very popular, and hot sausages are often served


(Chocolate Cookies)


For the cookies
  • 2¼ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • cup butter, softened
  • cup sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup finely ground walnuts
  • 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, grated
For the glaze
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • cup coffee or water
  • 1 teaspoon shortening
  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
Directions for cookies
  1. Measure butter into a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy.
  2. Add sugar and corn syrup and beat well.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla and continue beating.
  4. Add about half the flour with the cocoa powder and the baking powder, and beat well.
  5. Beat in the ground walnuts and grated chocolate.
  6. Switch to a wooden spoon for mixing, and add the rest of the flour.
  7. Divide dough in half and shape each half into a six-inch log. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate about one hour.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350°f. Lightly grease three cookie sheets.
  9. Mark and cut each log into twelve sections, each one-half inch thick.
  10. Knead the dough portions to soften, and then roll to make a rope about ten inches long and about as thick as a crayon.
  11. Place the rope on the greased baking sheet, twisting it into a pretzel shape.
  12. Repeat until all twelve sections are ready, leaving about one inch between pretzels.
  13. Bake for nine to eleven minutes.
  14. Leave on cookie sheet for about two minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
Directions for glaze
  1. Sift powdered sugar into a saucepan, and add coffee (or water), shortening, and corn syrup.
  2. Heat gently to boiling, stirring constantly.
  3. Remove from heat, add chocolate, and stir until chocolate melts.
  4. Using tongs, dip pretzels into chocolate glaze to coat all over.

as snacks with beer. Austrian pastry chefs are famous for creating such delicacies as apple strudel, Milchrahmstrudel (a cheese crepe in vanilla custard sauce), Sachertorte (a rich chocolate cake with apricot jam and whipped cream), and Dobostorte (layers of sponge cake and chocolate butter cream glazed with caramel). Wine is an important part of Austrian meals. The area around Vienna produces very good white wines. Many Austrians have a late-afternoon snack called Jause (YOWS-seh), which is pastry and coffee, because they eat dinner very late in the evening. Chocolate pretzels (Schokoladen-Brezeln) might be served for Jause.


Children attend primary school from age six through age ten. Then they are tested and placed into a continuing elementary school, a basic high school, or a college preparatory school. Formal secondary education continues through age fourteen. It is followed by either vocational school, teacher-training college, an apprenticeship in a trade, or more college-preparatory classes. Some form of secondary training is required through age fifteen. Austria has had free and mandatory education for two hundred years. As a result, nearly everyone is literate (able to read and write).


For centuries, Vienna has been famous as a center for the arts, particularly music. The renowned Vienna Boys' Choir was founded in 1498. The six-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart first played for the Empress Maria Theresa in 1762. Vienna was either the birthplace or adopted home of many of the greatest classical composers, including Franz Josef Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler, and, in the twentieth century, Arnold Schönberg. Austria's two great centers for classical music are Viennawith its world-famous Boys' Choir, Vienna Philharmonic, and Vienna State Operaand Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart and site of a festival that draws thousands from around the world every summer. Vienna is also the home of the waltz.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Austriaand Vienna in particularwas known as a center for innovations in medicine. Sigmund Freud invented psychoanalysis there and his former home is now a museum.


Three major economic groupslabor, management, and farmersare each represented by their own organization: trade unions, a management association, and the farmers' federation. Roughly 85 percent of Austrians work for hourly wages, 10 percent are self-employed in agriculture, and 5 percent are professionals who are paid fees for their services. White-collar workers, those who work in offices or are professionals, account for more than 50 percent of all wage earners. People usually start working at the age of fifteen and retire at age sixty. Retirees enjoy generous pensions and high social status. Paid vacation time is long, even for the youngest and most inexperienced workers. Workers receive an extra month's salary in December at the start of the Christmas season and in July before the August vacation season begins. This means that workers are paid for fourteen months rather than twelve months every year. Austrians also receive free medical care.


The natural beauty and variety of Austria's scenery are perfect for outdoor activities of all kinds. Skiing is Austria's leading winter sport, followed by ice skating and tobogganing. Popular summer sports include bicycling, mountain climbing, sailing, hiking, canoeing, and swimming. Many Austrians, like other Europeans, are avid fans and players of soccer, which they call football.


Austriansespecially the Vienneseare known for their cheerful spirit and enjoyment of life. According to a famous saying, "In Berlin, the situation is serious but not hopeless; in Vienna, the situation is hopeless, but not serious." Austrians are enthusiastic supporters of the arts and participants in all kinds of outdoor activities. They meet at coffeehouses and Konditoreien (pastry shops) to relax and enjoy fine food and conversation. Austrians spend many hours reading, socializing, or just relaxing and sipping a brauner (coffee with milk), a konsul (black coffee with cream), or a more elaborate coffee drink, such as kaisermelange (black coffee with an egg yolk and brandy).


Crafts produced by Austrian folk artists include wood carvings, ceramics, jewelry, glassware, wax figures, leather products, and embroidery, as well as items made of wrought iron and pewter. A Heimatwerk (local crafts organization) in each province runs shops that sell the products of area craftspeople.


For an industrial nation, Austria has a relatively low rate of violent crime. It has, however, a high rate of property crime and white-collar crime (crime committed by business or professional people while at work), such as embezzlement and fraud. Alcoholism, suicide, and absenteeism from work are also serious problems. Domestic abuse is also a growing problem. People from Greece, the former Yugoslavia, Turkey, the Middle East, and Africa who settle in Austria are sometimes subjected to discrimination in employment and housing, and to open racial hostility, which is expressed verbally and through graffiti. Anti-Semitic (anti-Jewish) and anti-Gypsy sentiments are common as well. Austria has an illegal underground right-wing extremist movement that recruits young people (skin-heads) who agitate against foreigners and commit acts of random violence.


Eyewitness Travel Guide (Vienna). London: Dorling Kindersley Publishing, 1994.

Gall, Timothy, and Susan Gall, eds. Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations. Detroit: UXL, 1996.

Moss, Joyce, and George Wilson. Peoples of the World: Western Europeans. Detroit: Gale Research, 1993.


Austrian National Tourist Office. [Online] Available, 1998.

Austrian Press and Information Service, Washington, D.C. [Online] Available, 1998.

World Travel Guide. Austria. [Online] Available, 1998.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Austrians." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . 19 Jul. 2018 <>.

"Austrians." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . (July 19, 2018).

"Austrians." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Retrieved July 19, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.