VIENNA IN ENGLISH - EIN VERSCHMITZTER BLICK AUF DIE EIGENHEITEN DER STADT.
Auf Wiederquatschen! In the streets, the Viennese may be short-spoken. But beware when you meet them in private, then they won’t let you leave without further adieu!
As a veteran expat in Vienna, I’m often quizzed about cultural norms – the “ridiculous” opening hours, or the strings of titles. But first things first: Take “auf Wiedersehen”, which to an Austrian is not the same as “goodbye.” The words appear to mean the same thing, but in actual practice they are very different
don’t mean the terse „Wiederseh’n/Wiederschau’n” exchange with your Trafikant, or the laconic “Mahlzeit” your colleague mutters before heading out for lunch. I’m talking about taking one’s leave at family gatherings, a friend’s dinner party, or even a Kaffeeklatsch.
My advice: Budget at least an hour from your initial “I’ve got to go” to the point when you are actually out the door. This can come as a shock: It’s no accident that English idioms like “shove off,” “run along” or “hit the road” are calls to action. The phrase “Leider muss ich mich langsam auf den Weg machen . . .”, literally, “I’m afraid I must gradually be on my way . . .” makes it quite clear that a snappy exit is not what’s intended.
Say you’re at a dinner party: As the evening draws to a close, you find your first farewell is simply ignored and conversation continues. The appetite for small talk seems insatiable. In fact, any topic will do, a minor medical misery or nugget of neighborhood gossip. As each wave abates, you attempt another escape: “Now I really must be off,” but find you’re foiled once again by some new tangent of table talk. And don’t think putting on your coat and shoes will save you. It just raises the stakes.
Once, we tried a covert hand signal – adjusting the strap of an imaginary wristwatch – as a cue that it was time to scram . . . No such luck; in practice, it failed miserably. In due time, we expats adapt. Now, I find myself thinking that hasty exits (i.e., shorter than 20 minutes) are evidence someone is rude or even psychologically disturbed. I brought this up with a fellow expat, as we sat in his car idling outside my building after a party. I realized we had “quatsched” for at least another 15 minutes before he finally drove off. After I got upstairs, I called him. “We’ve gone native, oder?”
“Not even close!” he insisted. “That only took one round: You’d need four more before an Austrian would even notice. And then, it would only restart the chatter.” “But at least I’m calling you again,” I protested. After a few more minutes of pleasant Plauderei, I finally hung up. Auf Wiedersehen: Until we meet again. Dieser Artikel ist Teil einer redaktionellen Kooperation mit METROPOLE – Vienna in English, dem monatlichen Stadtmagazin für internationale Wiener.