Word of the Week: Bürgerschreck

What does Bürgerschreck mean? To be truly integrated with Vienna, you need to learn certain terms no dictionary or Deutschkurs will explain. We are here to help.

[ˈbʏʁɡɐˌʃʀɛk]

Noun. Lit. “Terrorizer of the Bourgeoisie;” A person who deliberately tries to shock and offend the conservative middle classes with provocative behavior. What does Bürgerschreck really mean? Most commonly used in reference to Punk Rockers, Artists, Anarcho-Communists, exhibitionists, juvenile delinquents, Hippies, drag queens, Satanists, actors et al., although a particularly smug Bürgerschreck may self-identify as such as a badge of honor.

Sticking it to stuffy, restrictive society with their rules and morals has a long tradition within the Austrian arts; Klimt, Schiele, Kokoschka, and others from the Wiener Moderne loved defying convention, seeing it as their duty to defend “artistic freedom.”

The culmination thus far, however, has come from the Wiener Aktionisten of the 1960s and ‘70s, whose public orgies, crucifixions, paintings using blood and feces, crotchless jeans, and animals laughter still live in infamy to this day.

While the current generation appears to be less rebellious than their counterculture predecessors, annoying the squares(and, by extension, their parents) appears to be alive and well in the 21st century, as any visit to the Wiener Festwochen, Impulstanz or the studios at the Bildende will confirm.

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