Like any big city, Vienna takes a while to learn the laws of the land and the ways of the wild. Literally, it can take years before you learn to live with the city’s quirks.
How many of these 14 rookie mistakes do you still make after living in Vienna for years? Even though you’ve learned the hard way that you should stop doing them.
1. You mix up Schottenring with Schottentor
It’s happened more than once that we get off at the wrong ‘Schotten’ station on the U2 line. We know, we know, one is by the Donaukanal and the other is at the University, bit we have been guilty a few times for getting off at the wrong one and wondering why my date hasn’t showed up. To our own defence though, why on Earth does the capital of Austria need not one, but two underground stations dedicated to the Scots?!?
2. Forget to carry cash
If we had a Euro for each time I had to find my way to an ATM right after the restaurant bill came, we would never need to take out cash again. Each time leave my home, we make sure to have our wallet with, which gives us the (false) comfort that we’re prepared for any expenses to come our way that day. But the cafes, bars and restaurants of Vienna teaches us the lesson again and again – plastic isn’t so fantastic in Vienna.
From having to borrow cash, to once actually leaving our phone behind as a guarantee that we’ll return with the cash for the bill, we’ve had all sorts of embarrassing scenarios because of our Bankomat-phobia. Carrying cash in Vienna ALL THE TIME is a lesson we’re still yet to give into.
3. Organise to meet at Stephansplatz…even though it’s the worst place to meet
It’s one the most crowded places in the city, but we often text back ‘Stephansplatz’ when somebody asks us ‘Where shall we meet?’ It ain’t easy finding anyone amongst the selfie sticks and Mozart-dressed ticket sellers.
4. Miss out on the fresh sandwiches in the supermarket
You know how sometimes you just want a quick, cheap sandwich for lunch and you head to a supermarket for your fill?
We always end up buying the too cold, too soggy pre-packed sandwiches from the self-service fridge, while the actual locals go up to the meat counter in any supermarket and get fancy sounding things on their Semmel like “extrawurst“, “Gurkerl” (pickle) or mustard! OK, maybe the ingredients don’t in fact sound that fancy, but they’re fresh and definetely better than the pre-packaged version. Maybe it’s the jargon, maybe it’s the confident certainty in the voice they use when ordering…something in this whole process makes us feel not quite ready to order our own fresh sandwich in the supermarket.
5. Hitting Mariahilfer Straße on a Saturday
Hitting the main shopping street of Vienna, Mahü on a Saturday is like travelling in peak summer – it always seems like a good idea at the time, but when you’re amongst crowds of people who had the same idea, you kick yourself for doing it.
6. Mixing up being naked with night – Nackt and Nacht
This mix up can obviously cause quite some confusion in a conversation. But, we mean, who’s idea was it to make these 2 words so phonetically similar.
7. Jaywalking and getting caught by the cops
They take jaywalking seriously in Vienna. While in other cities jaywalking is common illegal practice, you’ve got to survey your surroundings thoroughly when crossing a street without a crossing in Vienna. We’ve spent more on jaywalking fines from gleeful police that have caught us darting across a street than we have in taxis in this city. And we continue to do it. We’ve recently come to the confusion that Vienna is one of the few cities in the world with so many police, and it’s so peaceful, that they manage to enforce the jaywalking laws.
8. When out drinking with friends, asking for a bottle opener
In this pro beer drinking culture, it’s a mistake to ask for something as useless as a bottle opener. The people of Vienna are super skilful in improvising when opening a bottle of beer – lighter, a table’s edge, that hardcore friend who has learnt how to crack one open with their teeth.
9. Heading up one way streets with your bike
This one is caused mostly by utter confusion of Vienna’s complex street (and bike lane system). Some one way streets have bike lanes going in the opposite direction to the flow of the traffic, and some you just don’t know they’re one way until you find yourself biking up one and a police car pulls on to the street. Even Google maps hasn’t worked it out yet, as it will often direct you to ride up one way streets. The solution to this is just getting to know the streets of Vienna, but this takes quite a few years.
10. Reading the free tabloids on the U-Bahn hoping to find some real news in there
There’s no news in there! Who are we kidding! But you will learn of the cutest new dog Instagram account in Austria, or get a laugh from one of the many absurd news articles in there.
11. Assuming bureaucracy will make sense and will be straightforward
Strangely enough, every time we have to face the Austrian bureaucratic system, we head to an MA with a bunch filled out forms we’ve downloaded from their website, with a sense of optimism – ‘I’ll just get this done quickly in my lunch break.’ But it never turns out that way. Instead, you always ended up being tangled up by some unenthused state employee in more forms, and more Was you have to visit.
12. Not reserving for when brunching or going out for dinner
If you’re a spontaneous sort of person, it’s hard getting used to the reservation culture of Austria. Being turned away from ‘fully booked’ restaurants in Vienna when you randomly decide you’d like to go for a bite is common place. And brunch without reservation? Forget it!
13. Having an empty fridge on a Sunday
The infamous Sunday shutdown in Vienna is something you never really get used to. We must admit, we’re big fans of the city’s sleepy Sundays, but preparing ahead by stocking up the fridge for Sunday is a skill we are yet to acquire.
14. Not getting it right with who to Sie and du
Using the formal ‘Sie’ to address somebody, or the familiar ‘du’ is a science in Austria you’ll just have to experiment with. While locals tell you it’s easy, we often find ourselves in an awkward exchange of ‘ Darf ich Duzen?’ or an awkward response to our Siezen being, ‘I’m not old enough for you to Sie me!’ Adding to the confusion is the fact that Vienna is a city that sometimes really likes to be informal, but at other times, really likes to revert back to the formality of the empire days.