More fun with confusing Austro-German idioms

Last year we published some entry-level instruction for avoiding embarrassment (or purposefully instigating provincial predilections) in Austria by speaking Piefkenesisch (a.k.a., Hochdeutsch) idiom locally. Ready for more? Gemma!

#1 – Schorle, you jest!

Photo ©WienTourismus/ Peter Rigaud

German tourists might order a Schorle in an Austrian restaurant, but local waiters will clench their teeth and bring them apple juice or wine diluted with bubbly water. Established expats living here may not get away with such an affront to Austrian pride, however.  Instead, be ready to order a G’spritzter (white-wine spritzer) at the Viennese Heuriger (wine taverns), or an Apfelsaft gespritzt in all other establishments across the country. Don’t forget this, you certainly don’t want to be a Schussel (scatterbrain).



#2 – Oh no, Aubergine

We do occasionally have an Ober (waiter) while traveling on Schiene (rail), but nowhere else throughout the country will you find what our German neighbors call Aubergine (eggplant), which they pronounce in an mash-up of the original French and adopted German. Instead, Austrians buy Melanzani, thus allying ourselves to our southern neighbor  Italy, the word’s original founder.


#3 – Say Baba to Hallöchen & Tschü(hü)ss

If you want to upset your Austrian friends from the start of a conversation, just warble “Hallöchen!” (with an excessively long and higher-pitched “ö”) when greeting them. This will raise their internal stress level considerably from the outset. Conclude your chit-chat by extending “Tschü(hü)ss!“ with an extra syllable in the middle and you can be assured that they will not call you again anytime soon. If you are in a rather chummier and more amicable mood, greet them with “Servus” (but be sure to pronounce the last syllable as “us,” not “uice” ) and take leave the Austrian way with a colloquial “Baba,” “Ciao” or “Pfiati.” Natives will appreciate the familiar sounds.


#4 – Quarrels over Quark

Along the banks of Vienna’s Danube or its plentiful park ponds, you may indeed hear “Quack“ from the resident amphibians or winged waders . However, do not expect Austrians to understand Germans when they say “Quark,” much less associate it with the dairy delight called Topfen in Austria. To be very precise, our version of curd cheese also tastes quite different (and, all Austrians agree, much better). Who in their right mind would put Quark into a luscious Topfenpalatschinke or waste fine, artisanal Topfen cooking some flavorless Quarkpfannkuchen?


#5 – Mar-malady: Konfitüre, Klöße, Tunke

While we’re on the subject of culinary colloquy, it should be noted that sometimes German words for food, to our Austrian ears at least, intentionally try to ruin one’s appetite. Austrians would never put Konfitüre (jam) on their bread (don’t even ask them, when the EU took on this particular fight they came out bruised). Nor would we put Klöße (dumplings) into our soup or beside our veal roast – if anything, we’d get a Kloß (lump) in our throat just hearing those terms.  Don’t get us started on coating our raw veggies or chips in Tunke (dipping sauce).

Instead, we spread fruit Marmelade on their Semmel (see previous post), cook a dizzying variety of sweet and savory Knödel side dishes (just as our Czech neighbors do with knedliky), and prepare sauce, if necessary and only where appropriate (never on Schnitzel, but gladly vanilla sauce with Topfenstrudel). Mahlzeit!


#6 – Don’t attack my snack: Brotzeit / Imbiss

Brettljause (Photo: Johann Jaritz – CC)

Need a little bite between meals? Maybe it’s time for a snack, but it’s definitely not Brotzeit or time for an Imbiss. Instead, opt for a good, hearty Austrian Jause. Here, this word applies to any sort of between-meal noshing, ranging from the sandwich you prepare for your child’s late-morning break at school (the Jausen-Pause) to a cold buffet offered at a mid-afternoon get-together with friends and family, or a Jausenbrettl – a smorgasbord of cured meat and cheese served on a wooden plate a local Heuriger.


#7 – In the hot seat with Sessel & Stuhl

Finally, looking for  places to sit together with your friends at a Gasthaus (inn), you may need to round up some more chairs, or Sessel, as Austrians would have it. If you’d rather meet at home in the relaxed atmosphere of your living room, there may be space enough for another Stuhl (of the armchair variety – the fecal kind you wouldn’t want anywhere but in your Klo) or two. Germans, however, have got it all bass-ackward – for them Sessel is Stuhl, and Stuhl is Sessel, leading to sometimes weirdly confusing conversations. It just won’t sit right, however you couch it.



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Born 1991, studied Journalism, History and International Affairs. After stints with Cafébabel in Paris and Arte in Strasbourg, he is now working as a free journalist in Vienna and finishing his Master's degree in Global History. Fields of expertise are politics, economics, culture, and history. Photo: Visual Hub
  • Heidi Hu

    oh dear! we eat icecream from a Stanitzel, never from a Tüte. tüte is only for tourists. 😉

  • Heidi Hu

    but guten tag is used in austria as well. by people who want to express their atheistic view maybe. f.e. socialists … 😉

  • #8 – Confusing “Hochdeutsch” with “Bundesdeutsch”.

  • Neil May

    Might I suggest my friend that you travel to my country of Australia 🇦🇺 and learn indeed how people speak before you write a piece validated only by what others have written.
    I’m sorry but your information is totally incorrect and improperly presented.
    Thank you for taking the time to read this.

    • Walter Hinterberger

      What has your post to do with Austrian colloquialisms, Neil? What did I miss? BTW – I’ve been an OZ citizen for 48 years and a resident for 57. I do, however, keep a strong interest in the country of my birth. Please, unconfuse me, as to what your post is meant to be. I just made up ‘unconfuse’.

  • Susi Brezina

    “…Piefkenese (a.k.a., Hochdeutsch)…” rather not.

    Piefkinesisch is Bundesdeutsch (i.e. Federal German High German, standard German of Germany) , certainly not Hochdeutsch (i.e. High German, standard German)

  • nnblm

    Austria consists of more than vienna.

  • Berliner1959

    A lot of it not true. As a Swabian I can tell you that we also say Grüß Gott – like most Southern Germans. And we call a “Tüte” a “Gugg”, and a “Brötchen” a “Wegg” or “Weggle”. This piece most have been written from a Northern or Eastern German perspective. Classic click-bait I guess…

  • Kirstin Lang

    warum finde ich meinen alten post nicht mehr ?

  • The reason that Austrians never held Udo Jürgens to account for Aber bitte mit Sahne is because the song was perceived to be mocking the word Sahne.

  • Sparti Angerstein-Crncec

    nach meiner im dorf der düssel gelebten zeit ( “eh alter ,das kannst du so nicht sehen “,… “das musst du so oder so sehen…” – also verbale alltagsfaschismen ) kann ich dazu nur sagen : mia is wuascht ! 🙂

  • Verita Speranza

    As an Austrian who married a German I am really surprised how you hit the nail on the head. I had to laugh more from one point to the next…. although I had it the other way round, for I live now in Nordrhein-Westfalen…..and after all I have understood that the merchant in the supermarket will never know what a “Sackerl” is although I never said it intentionally – but I still cannot bring the “lecker-word” over my lips and think I never will – I would surely have some sort of self-contempt if this would happen some day…..

  • Erich Mischinger

    One single word from an austrian that piss off germans: Cordoba

  • Christoph Starzengruber

    Ich bin Österreicher (43), meine Wurzeln sind südlich von Wien, 15 Autominuten. “Guten Tag” oder nur “Tag” grüßen, jedenfalls in den Augen meines Vaters, die Sozialisten, Bier trinken wir aus Krügerl der Seidel. Weißwein gespritzt mit Sodawasser ist ein “Gspritzer”, keine ” Weiße Mischung”, ein Apfelsaft gespritzt ist ein “Obi gespritzt”, keine ” Apfelschorle”. Die “Aprikose” heißt bei uns “Marille”, die ” Kartoffel” bezeichnen wir als “Erdafel”, wie in Französischen…

    To be continued…