The Austrian national language is indeed German, but when Austrians on their first visit to Berlin order a Weißen Spritzer (wine spritzer) and want to pay with Bankomat (ATM), they’ll inevitably receive puzzled looks in exchange. In this moment, it becomes glaringly apparent that all German languages are not the same. It’s high time that […]
The Austrian national language is indeed German, but when Austrians on their first visit to Berlin order a Weißen Spritzer (wine spritzer) and want to pay with Bankomat (ATM), they’ll inevitably receive puzzled looks in exchange. In this moment, it becomes glaringly apparent that all German languages are not the same. It’s high time that we take a look at the most common expressions in everyday Austrian German and how they differ from their neighbors in the Federal Republic of Germany.
Hallo and Guten Tag are becoming more common in Austria every year, but if you want to make a good impression on the older generation, you should try the Catholic-inspired Grüß Gott — literally “God’s greeting.” A charming Servus (or Servas/Seas) works better with younger Austrians, and anytime you’re hiking or outside the city, Griaß di (or Griaß enk/Griaß eich in the plural) is your best choice.
Servus, grüß dich, wie geht’s dir? – Hey, hello, how are you?
Meaning: to be possible, to be sufficient, to be doable
Sich ausgehen expresses how doable something is. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about a deadline at work, the third suitcase that won’t fit in the luggage storage room, or irreconcilable differences in a relationship — das geht sich alles einfach nicht aus (it just doesn’t work out).
Ein Termin vor Weinachten ging sich leider nicht mehr aus. — An appointment before Christmas just won’t work.
Ein Bier geht sich noch aus. — A beer is still doable.
Meaning: a bag
If you go shopping in Austria, you don’t take a Kunststofftragetasche or a Tüte — you take a “little sack,” or a Plastiksackerl. Anyone with a dog had better take a Sackerl für’s Gackerl, or a doggie-poo bag.
Brauchen’s noch a Sackerl? — Did you need a bag?
If you just order a Kaffee (coffee) in Austria, you’ll be met with confusion. Na, was denn jetzt? What kind of coffee? Melange, Verlängerter, kleiner Schwartzer? (The most specialized drinks of the Viennese coffeehouse, such as the Einspänner or Fiaker, are so rarely ordered these days that we’ll leave them aside.) A simple black coffee is a Verlängerter in Austrian German; if you want a little milk in your espresso, then you order einen kleinen Braunen; and, if you want a cappuccino, you order the famous Viennese Melange.
Ich bekomme einen Verlängerten und einen Apfelstrudel, bitte. — I’d like a black coffee and an apple strudel, please.
Meaning: a snack, or a small cold dinner
In Germany it’s called die Stulle, but in Austria it’s das Jausenbrot. If you’re not a fan of Schwarzbrot, or black bread, then you’ll be happy if you order Extrawurstsemmel mit Gurkel or other Weckerln (rolls) such as Salzstangerl, Kornspitz or Mohnflesserl. Jause can also be used as a verb: jausnen.
Was hast du heute für eine Jause mit? — What did you bring for a snack today?
Am Abend haben wir nur gejausnet. — In the evening, we just had a light meal.
Meaning: curd or nonsense
For your Jause you might enjoy Topfenaufstriche, for example Liptauer, a spreadable cheese with paprika flavor. Like Quark in Germany, Topfen is also a popular ingredient in baked goods such as Topfenstrudel, Topfenpalatschinke, Topfenknödel, or Topfengolatschen. In the vernacular, Topfen can also mean “rubbish” or “nonsense.”
Marillenknödel habe ich lieber mit Topfenteig, als mit Erdäpfelteig. — I prefer Marillenknödel (apricot dumplings) when they’re made with Topfen dough rather than potato dough.
Red‘ keinen Topfen! — Stop talking rubbish!
Meaning: baked goods, nonsense, inferior product
The most famous Schmarren is probably the Kaiserschmarren, a baked product made from roughly cut pancake pieces, served with applesauce or roasted plums. Schmarrn can also be an insulting term for a product, a statement or a work of art.
So einen Schmarrn schau‘ ich mir nicht an. — Don’t show me such a piece of junk.
In some regions, the potato is also known as Grundbirn, Grumpern, or the antiquated Bramburi. The oldest potato salad recipe in the world dates back to the year 1621, and can be viewed today on display at Stift Seitenstetten in Mostviertel.
Für Erdäpfelsalat verwende ich am liebsten Kipfler. — For potato salad, I prefer to use Kipflers.
Meaning: 10 grams
The decagram is the most common unit of measurement if you’re buying something at the deli counter or farmer’s market. It doesn’t matter if you’re at the famous Vienna Naschmarkt or the supermarket meat counter; instead of “100 grams,” you’ll be ordering zehn Deka.
Geben Sie mir noch zehn Deka von der Extrawurst bitte. — I’ll also have 10 decagrams of the Extrawurst, please.
Because of their beguiling red coloring, a tomato was once known as a Paradeisapfel (“paradise apple”), and Paradeiser came out of that expression. Fruit and vegetable names account for the overwhelming majority of regional differences in Austria: Fisolen (green beans), Melanzani (eggplant), Eierschwammerl (chanterelle mushrooms), Marille (apricots), Kukuruz (corn), Karfiol (cauliflower)…
Die vorgezogenen Paradeispflanzen sollte man erst nach den Eisheiligen auspflanzen. — Tomatoes should be planted after the last frost.
Meaning: this year
This practical expression is also the root of Heuriger, or wine taverns, also called Buschenschänke, which are primarily run by winemakers. The young wine enjoyed there is also referred to as Heuriger.
Heuer waren wir noch gar nicht beim Heurigen. — We haven’t been to the wine tavern yet this year.
Meaning: stressful, burdensome, uncool, pernicious
Zach is a popular word with the youth that developed out of the adjective zäh (tough). Pronounced like zaach, this expression is used to describe a variety of unpleasant situations. However, a zacher Hund is someone in good shape. Zach is the opposite of leiwand, which means “excellent.”
Das ist die ur zache Hackn. — That work is the absolute hardest.
Hackn or Hockn refers to really difficult or strenuous labor. Its namesake the Hacklerregelung, a much-discussed pension law providing for manual laborers, even has a place in the famous German Duden dictionary. Also commonly used as a verb: hackeln.
Hast schon eine neue Hacken gefunden? — Have you found a new job already?
Meaning: buddy, lover
Particularly popular in Vienna, this German Austrian word means boyfriend, friend, or just man. It comes from the Yiddish khaver, which means the same thing. When the expression is used romantically, you’ll also see the shortened version, Habschi.
Wennst wen für dein Auto brauchst, ich hab‘ da einen Haberer, der dir einen guten Preis machen kann. — If you need someone to work on your car, I have a buddy who can give you a good price.
Die Gerti bringt heute ihren neuen Haberer mit. — Gerti’s bringing her new boyfriend today.
Meaning: affair, paramour, messing around
In Austrian German, this refers to a person with whom one has a love affair, and also the love affair itself. From the Italian sposa/sposo, which means bride/groom.
Das Gspusi von der Gerti hat sich schon wieder erledigt. — Gerti’s boyfriend already took care of it.
Sein Gspusi war mir nicht so sympathisch. — His date wasn’t that nice to me.
In Vienna, quaint, tiny establishments that primarily serve alcohol (and until 2019 were clogged with cigarette smoke) are called Tschecherl. The somewhat upscale variant that also serves food is called a Beisl (not to be confused with Beidl, the male genitalia, or a man who is being annoying — similar, in both cases, to the English “dick”).
Gemma auf einen Spritzer in das Tschocherl am Eck? — Wanna grab a wine spritzer at the joint on the corner?
Meaning: half-liter of beer or drinking vessel with handle
If you’ve had enough wine spritzers, you might want to order a Krügerl instead. For those who aren’t as thirsty, there’s also a Seidl (.3 l), and for last call, you can even get a Pfiff (.15 l). At the Würstelstand, beer is served in a Hüsn, and then there’s the famous 16er Blech, the canned beer from the brewery in Vienna’s 16th district.
Kann ich noch ein Krügerl haben bitte? — Can I have another Krügerl, please?
The coating on the famous Wiener Schnitzel is a multifaceted word that can be used to encase not just meat, but also people. For instance, the Einserpanier is a synonym for “bathrobe.” But watch out: Paniert sein means to have drunk yourself under the table, and if the opposing football team has been paniert, that means they’ve gotten trounced.
Wegen der Panier werden Schnitzel auch scherzhaft als Bröselteppich bezeichnet. — Because of the breading, Schnitzel is jokingly described as a “crumb carpet.”
Mostly used to describe a greeting peck on the cheek, this Austrian German expression is also the basis of the euphemism Bussi-Bussi-Gesellschaft, a term describing the socialite class. A platonic kiss between friends or family members is also a Bussi, and the corresponding verb is abbusseln.
Gibst der Oma noch ein Bussi? — Wanna give your gran a kiss?
You can also use Servus when you’re leaving, and a Bussi Baba is also often added at the end. The formal variant is Wiederschaun, and Pfiat di is the sendoff version of Griaß di. If nostalgia’s your thing, you can also try Küss die Hand, hab d’Ehre.
It’s particularly Austrian to use a bunch of these expressions one after the other.
Tschau-Baba, Bussi, bis bald! — Ciao, bye-bye, kisses, see you soon!
This article was originally published on the German edition of Babbel Magazine.