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Austria: history of cultural heritage

Flag of Austria

Austria is open to a wide range of cultures, traditions, religions, music, and languages. 

Although German is the official language in Austria, most residents are multilingual. Depending on the region you stay in, you may find Austrians that speak fluent English, Italian, Turkish, Serbian, or regional Austrian dialects. 

Largely mountainous, Austria stretches for over 360 miles (580 km) from east to west. Austria attains most of its power from its geographic position. It is located in south-central Europe along the great Danubian trade route from the east and west and the Alpine passes from the north and south.

Given its unique positioning and governance, Austria has developed an interesting cultural background.

Historical background

Austria has a lot of influence in the international system, stable political, social, and economic systems. Its political, social, economic, and religious institutions are highly cooperative, with only minor political and social problems. 

In the 1800s, there were 3 major social classes in the state: aristocrats, citizens, and peasants (farmers or serfs). During the period between the first and second world wars, these classes formed political affiliations and a dichotomy occurred separating these 3 classes into multiple blocks based on social, cultural, religious, political, and economic beliefs and ideologies. This created a change in structure at the beginning of the 19th century that hinged the current practice of modern-day Austrians. 

By 1940, only a handful of aristocrats remained. Austrian societies were made up of a large working population, a small middle class of entrepreneurs, and peasant-farmers, which made over 58% of its population.

Austrian people & traditions

Austrian culture has greatly been influenced by neighboring countries: Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, and Bohemia. Austrian society is highly stratified and distinguished by classes and social distinctions. Older and wealthier families are the most respected and seen as a symbol of value in Austrian culture. 

Older families who have lived in the country, county, or region for several generations are more respected, accepted, and acknowledged than recent immigrants. The Symbols of wealth in Austria are not in money, wives, or material possessions, but in the land and real estate.

Austria also has many world-class athletes, music composers, top mountaineers, and renowned innovators.

Austrian traditional dress

Dirndl, Trachten, and Lederhosen are by far the most popular dresses in all of Austria. It is not just a traditional attire worn by the natives for special occasions, it is also one of the most fashionable and casual outfits in Austria.

It is not unusual to see a couple of teenagers, adults, and seniors wearing the same outfit with just different color variations and patterns.

Native way of life

Austrian native way of life has been greatly influenced not only by its bordering neighbors but also by the Habsburg imperial family. Vienna is considered by most to be the music capital of Europe. The city has over 30 world-class music schools. 

Renowned composers such as Joseph Hayden, Johann Strauss, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart learned, taught, composed, and played most of the music in Vienna. Here are some highlights of the native way of life in Austria:

  • Austrians are very conservative people;
  • Family is the base of the Austrian social structure;
  • Weekends are dedicated to family or group activities;
  • Business wardrobe in Austria is conservative and follows most European trends;
  • Punctuality is a gesture of respect and is taken very seriously.
  • Language in Austria differs from region to region but Slovene is the official language in the southern province of Carinthia, Hochdeutsch is spoken from region to region, while German is popular nationwide;
  • Red carnations, lilies, or chrysanthemums cannot be given as gifts in Austria;
  • Dressing and presentation are important to Austrians, residents are judged on their manner of clothing and demeanor.

UNESCO cultural heritage

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Sites are symbolic places of great importance, holding vast cultural and natural heritage of people.

Austria had a convention on the 18th of December 1992, to make a list of places that are eligible places for inclusion in UNESCO heritage sites. On the 20th Meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Mérida, Mexico in 1996, two sites were approved and added to UNESCO’s list: the Historic Centre of Salzburg & the Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn.

Other places were approved and added in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2011, and 2017. Today, Austria has 10 places listed as UNESCO heritage sites and 12 more awaiting approval on its tentative list. Here’s a list of UNESCO heritage sites in Austria:

  • Historic Centre of the City of Salzburg;
  • Historic Graz and Schloss Eggenberg;
  • Hallstatt–Dachstein / Salzkammergut Cultural Landscape;
  • Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn;
  • Fertö / Neusiedlersee Cultural Landscape;
  • Semmering railway;
  • Wachau Cultural Landscape;
  • Historic Centre of Vienna;
  • Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps;
  • Beech Forests of the Carpathians.

Austria is a beautiful country with various traditions that are well worth preserving. Over the centuries, the traditions are kept alive to represent the Austrian cultural background.

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