Culture shock affects in some way or another anybody who moves out of the country they grew up in or lived in for most of their lives. Having spent most of my summers holidaying in Klagenfurt, Austria, I thought that I was prepared for the Austrian way of life, but… boy, was I wrong! Moving here showed me that living in Graz is completely different to living in Italy.
So here are the biggest culture shocks I had when I moved to Graz.
1. All the smoking!
I have to admit that Italians do smoke a lot too and I had some friends who smoked, but the amount of smokers in Austria is incredible. I really believe that since smoking is allowed inside restaurants and bars, children get exposed to it very early so they start smoking as soon as they are old enough to buy cigarettes. But luckily, it looks like Austria will join the rest of the EU next month.
What’s also incredible is that most people I have met just assume that you will be ok with them smoking next to you. Usually Italians would ask you if it’s ok for them to smoke before they start. It is still a culture shock for me when I sit at a table with people and suddenly they whip out cigarettes and start to smoke.
2. Beer culture
Beer, or rather lager, is the drink of choice for Austrians. In particular, beer is drunk as a soft drink. This goes hand in hand with the fact that Austrians love to party and drink a lot. It was quite a culture shock for me but I admit that I joined them when I was a student.
3. Christmas traditions
I wrote already a big post about Austrian Christmas Traditions, but what was a big shock for me when I moved here was that Austrians celebrate Christmas on the 24th. And that they put up and decorate the Christmas tree on the same day, whilst in Italy we do it on 8th December.
Also, what the hell is with this Krampus tradition??
4. Pumpkin seed oil
Before I moved to Graz I had no idea that pumpkin seed oil was produced at all. Imagine my surprise when I saw that it is added to everything here, from salads to ice-cream. In Italy, we use olive oil for everything, cooking or dressing salads. And I must admit that even though I adapted quite a lot after many years of living here, I still haven’t developed a taste for pumpkin seed oil. I only eat it in ice-cream form from Greissler.
5. Austrian Dialect
I came to Graz knowing German and I had huuuge problems with the dialect. That was one of my biggest culture shocks in Autria. It is amazing how vowels in words get completely exchanged and pieces of words eaten up. It took me a long time to get used to it. Now listening to Germans speak German sounds really unfamiliar to me.
6. The popularity of skiing
This is naturally something I should have expected, since Austria is covered in mountains. Skiing here is as beloved as much as football is in Italy. If there is a skiing championship going on, you can be sure Austrians will be watching it on television for hours. And as soon as it gets cold, they will pack up their gear and go skiing every weekend. I never found it attractive as a sport so it was a big culture shock here in Austria for me.
Have you had any culture shocks here in Austria? Let me know what shocked you when you came here!