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Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts to Rock Me Amadeus

“In Berlin so many people are out walking, that you meet up with no one. In Vienna you meet up with so many people that no one is out walking.” – Karl Kraus (In Berlin gehen so viele Leute, dass man keinen trifft. In Wien trifft man so viele Leute, dass keine geht)

1)      Don’t mix up Australia and Austria

Don’t even joke about it. The joke’s just old. Older than a worn out record. Granted – if you made it the whole way here, you must realize you won’t be finding any koalas hanging out in the chestnut trees along Prater Allee. That being said, if you expect to receive any kind of mailing while here, be sure to advise the sender to write “EUROPE” in big bold letters across the bottom of the envelope. The kangaroo image Australian postal employees stamp onto Austrian mail that has detoured its way Downunder might be adorable evidence of the Aussie sense of humor but is little consolation for the extra month you will have to wait till your mail finally arrives.

 2)      Don’t Call Austrians Germans

Don’t. I’m not kidding. Austrians are touchy about this for many reasons but I think it is also similar to Canadians who are mistaken for US Americans and New Zealanders who are mistaken for Australians. It’s that big neighbor complex. Austrians speak Austrian German and would never be caught dead humming a hymn honoring Kaiser Wilhelm. They seem to feel an affinity towards that Bavarians but I suspect it has something to do with the shared love of Lederhosen.

Salzburg - Mozart's Birthplace

Salzburg – Mozart’s Birthplace

3)      Do Feel Free to Austrianize Beethoven 

Pasqualatihaus - Beethoven Residence in Vienna's 1st District

Pasqualatihaus – Beethoven Residence in Vienna’s 1st District

Beethoven was born in 1770 in Bonn, Germany but came to Austria to study under Mozart at age 17 but had to leave before he could begin his tutoring only to return in 1792 (aged 21) to study under Haydn. He then stayed in Vienna until he died in 1827. In Vienna, you can visit places he lived, played concerts, and hung out. Though he moved about 70 times while in Vienna to different places in the city, he considered Austria his “Wahlheimat” (chosen homeland). And between you and me, Mozart’s Austrian citizenship is disputable because he was from Salzburg, which was actually the independent Archbishopric of Salzburg from his birth 1756 until his death in 1791. But I strongly advise you to keep this our little secret. No one has to know. What good would it do to bring it up?

 4)      Don’t confuse the Von Trapps with the Brady Bunch

Yes, you might go to Mondsee and do the Sound of Music tour. And if you are feeling romantic, book yourself a room in Villa Trapp if you can navigate the supposedly English version of the their website that only appears in German and has no prices. Austrians might love raindrops on roses, Edelweis and Schnitzel but they won’t break out in a round of Do-Re-Mi at the first sight of the Untersberg Mountain. Most Austrians will have never seen The Sound of Music nor will they know anything about it. So if the Alps inspire you, Climb Every Mountain till your heart’s content but don’t expect the Austrians to join you in harmony.

 5)      Do mention Vienna’s High Quality of Life

Vienna Museum of Natural History

Vienna Museum of Natural History

In 2014, for the fifth consecutive year (!), Vienna ranked the world’s number one most livable city. Yeap! Number one, not two, not three, not four! And Viennese are rather humble about this but will definitely appreciate your knowing it. Perhaps it is a good little secret like the second district and Karmelitermarkt once used to be.

 6)      Do mention soccer and beloved Austrian player, David Alaba

“How about that soccer game.” He plays as defender for Bayern, Munich, and the Austrian national soccer team. His charming smile is bound to disarm you just like his attacking prowess does his opponents. He stars on billboards, in commercials and all over the place. The Austrians LOVE their Alaba. And if you know Hans Krankl and Cordoba, then you are really good and the Austrians will soon be buying you the beers.

 7)      Do Know the Viennese Philharmonic Orchestra

Famous for a reason. The Austrians are understandably proud of their Viennese musicians. And in a place that has served as the breeding ground for centuries of musical talents, one would expect nothing less. Viennese audiences are notorious for their strict standards. Artistic pieces celebrated the world over often prove just good enough for the Viennese audience. And every New Year’s the Viennese Philharmonic Orchestra rings in the New Year to a sold out house at the Musikverein in Vienna. Brush up on your concert facts and impress your country hosts:

 8)      Do know your coffee

Melange in Kleines Cafe, Vienna, Franziskanerplatz

Melange in Kleines Cafe, Vienna, Franziskanerplatz

This means do not even attempt to order a decaffeinated coffee in the world capital of coffeehouses. And should you eye a Starbucks, that is NOT a traditional Viennese coffeehouse. They have cool souvenir mugs and great chocolate chip cookies but are incomparable to the centuries old Viennese institution. Check out more on my blog post on Viennese coffeehouses.

 9)      Do smile at their Fipsis

Viennese love their dogs. Smile at their dog as you pass by and I guarantee the owner will smile back at you. Smile at the owner and the chance of a return smile reduces to about 50/50. Trust me on this. And if you want to engage Viennese in a conservation or meet the locals, try taking a dog for a walk. Come to think of it, maybe the city should offer rent-a-dogs to increase chance encounters between visitors and locals.

 10)   When you see someone you know, stop, say hello and shake hands

Austrians are more formal than a pass and greet though this is starting to ease up a little. So if you see someone you know, you actually walk up to them, shake their hand and greet them. Simply ducking your head or waving can be construed as rude. And if an Austrian greets in the breakfast room of a hotel or an elevator please do yourself a favor and greet them back loud and clear. They get annoyed when these friendly overtones are ignored. And rightly so. That being said, neighbors you can simply greet but be sure to actually do so. So remember, when you

Leopoldsberg - Vienna

Leopoldsberg – Vienna – the perfect place of a Sunday walk

get into an elevator at a smaller office or hotel, it is not uncommon to greet the others in the elevator and also say good-bye as you leave. The tricky part is knowing when to do so and when not. If you notice others doing it, then do it too. In the countryside, if at a small shop, greet when you go in and say good-bye as you leave. Always err on the side of politeness.

And if all else fails, invite them for a Grüner Vetliner (and be sure it’s Austrian – probably Wachau and a “young” wine).

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Time to Have a Ball – Vienna, World Capital of Balls – Ball 101

We can dance if we want to, we can leave your friends behind, because your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance, Well they’re no friends of mine.
– Men at Work, You Can Dance If You Want to

No matter what you like – boogie, techno, brass bands, coffee, flowers, real estate, Mozart, whips, chains and leather – there is a ball for you.

Remember prom? You in a floor-length gown, him in a tux at the Marriott “Grand Ball Room” with its patterned carpets and stackable chairs. The room made to look upscale by helium-filled metallic balloons and some pink carnations. A DJ played music upon request over a sound system meant for a room 10 times the size. During the slow dances you resembled a weeble wobble zombie who won’t fall down and during the not-so-slow dances part of a larger group of teens experiencing some kind of body-contorting seizure. Ahh the good old days. The prom.

A Vienna Ball is nothing like your prom. Nothing. Except maybe the gown and the tux. But beyond that, nothing at all.

No, a Vienna Ball is a thousand times better and should definitely be one your bucket list and I am going to help you with some little Ball 101.

The Vienna ball season takes place during the carnival and is usually launched New Year’s Eve with the Imperial Ball at the Imperial Palace.  Over 400 balls take place in the city during this time with over 300,000 guests. Balls are sponsored by occupational groups, trade unions, universities, interest groups — if you’ve got an interest, Vienna’s got the ball. And ball wear can vary from traditional gowns and tuxes to Austrian Dirndl dresses and Lederhosen to funky new wave what-would-you-call-what-is-covering-your-essentials. In the 1800s, Emperor Josef II began hosting dance events in the Redouten Halls of the Grand Imperial Palace. On a Carnival Monday on March 3, 1783, Mozart performed Masquerade in the Vienna Redouten Hall. On April 27, 1854, Johann Strauss directed the grand Court Ball in the Redouten Halls to celebrate Emperor Franz Josef’s wedding with the Bavarian Princess Elisabeth (Empress“Sissy”).

Me and my friend at the Lifeball 2014

Me and my crazy Philly buddy at the Lifeball 2014


Not Having a Man is No Excuse
Don’t have a man? Get one here: Taxi Dancer – Rent a Man … to Dance – Check out my post entitled Taxitänzer (Taxi Dancer) – Rent a Man…To Dance.

What to Wear
Don’t wait for the fairy godmother to show up and wave her magic wand. You need to go in style and this Ball Guide should help with the basics> Vienna Unwrapped’s List of Evening Dress Shops in Vienna

Hallway at Kaffeesiederball during Midnight Show

Hallway at Kaffeesiederball during Midnight Show

The Ball Opening
The honored guests parade into the ballroom and are seated. Next come the debutants who are dressed in long white gowns, long white gloves and crowns. They are accompanied by their “cavaliers” who are handsome young men also wearing white gloves and coat and tails. As they enter the ball room, typically Fächer-Polonaise from Carl Michael Ziehrer plays. Here is the Vienna Business Ball Opening from 2012

How do you know it’s time for everyone to dance?
After the debutantes and their partners do their little numbers, the master of ceremony declares the infamous words, “Alles Walzer” (Everything Waltzes) and all the guests flood out onto the dance floor and dance.

You can dance if you want to, but if you can’t, don’t let that stop you.
Just because you have two left feet, doesn’t mean you wouldn’t enjoy attending a ball in Vienna. In 2010, a survey conducted by the Vienna Economic Chamber asked ball guests why they liked to attend the Vienna balls. Dancing didn’t make the top three reasons. Instead, they said they liked to go because they wanted to:

Kaffeesiederball Vienna Imperial Palace

Kaffeesiederball Vienna Imperial Palace

1)      spend a nice evening with their partners
2)      enjoy the flair
3)      meet up with friends

At midnight, don’t run home unless you’re Cinderella
Midnight at the Ball is usually what they call the “Mitternachtseinlage” which is a break in the normal ball event for a special performance in the main ball room by featured guests and should be a surprise treat for the guests.

Ladies always get to take home a gift (and I don’t mean the dance partner)
Damenspende: a gift for each of the ladies as she enters the ball (or goes home)

The Invitation
How do you ask the lady to dance? “Darf ich bitten?” And if you are at a table with a group of people you know, be sure to ask every lady to dance by the end of the evening if you want your manners to keep stride with your tuxedo appearance.

Who knew?
Gentlemen who wear a coat and tails are not supposed to wear a wrist watch (tsk! tsk!) but rather a pocket watch on a gold chain.  As if anyone nowadays is wearing a watch anyway. Maybe you can get a pocket watch app and be trendy or a gold chain for your I-Phone.

Raffle Goodies at Kaffeesiederball

Raffle Goodies at Kaffeesiederball

Raffle Tickets / Tombola
Raffle tickets are usually sold at balls and sell out quickly so if you see a long line forming that isn’t for the restrooms, elbow your way in and buy some tickets. At many of the balls, every ticket will win you something or another.

How do you know it’s time to go home?
The Viennese have a subtle way to indicate it’s been fun but now it’s time to hit the road– the song that means “scram go home now” is “Brüderlein fein” from Ferdinand Raimund (1826) and is typically the very last song of the ball. I am adding it here so you recognize it and don’t embarrass yourself by requesting an encore once it’s played — “Brüderlein fein” with Hans Moser and Renate Holm.

What every Girl Must Learn
Check out my post on what balls and sex have in common with some advice from Dr. Ruth and Emily Post: What every Girl Must Learn: Advice for Balls and Sex.

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Little brother so fine, little brother so fine
don’t be upset with me
little brother so fine, little brother so fine,
don’t be upset with me
even when the sun is still shining so beautifully
she has to go down sometime.
Little brother so fine, little brother so fine,
don’t have to be sad
Brüderlein fein, Brüderlein fein,
Mußt mir ja nicht böse sein;
Brüderlein fein, Brüderlein fein,
Mußt nicht böse sein.
Scheint die Sonne noch so schön,
Einmal muß sie untergehn.
Brüderlein fein, Brüderlein fein,
Mußt nicht traurig sein.

For a comprehensive list of the 2014 Balls in Vienna so you can plan which ones you should be attending, see my next post: 2014 Vienna Ball Calendar. Print This Post