Culture Quests

Austria

Europe
Capital: Vienna
Languages: German (official), Turkish, Serbian, Croatian, Other
Useful links: Kids Culture Corner: Austria | CIA World Factbook

The following information is generalized and compiled from questions posed to the agents and interviewers in Austria. Although au pairs from this country may or may not have had these experiences/beliefs, Au Pair in America wishes to share this general information with our families.

Au Pairs in General

  • Austrian young women are accustomed to a lot of independence. They will need to accept the minimum drinking age and club entrance restrictions.
  • The idea of being an au pair is common in Austria, though few families have actually employed an au pair.
  • The main motivator for Austrian au pairs is the ability to take a year off from their studies to improve their English skills and spend time abroad while earning money.
  • Improved English skills will improve an au pair’s job potential upon her return to Austria.
  • Applicants do not have difficulty affording the program fees.
  • Young people in Austria have the freedom of their family to socialize and date, often from age 14.
  • Curfews are not common, but young people are expected be home early on school nights.
  • Young women have limited responsibilities in household chores. Mothers still take a lot upon themselves.
  • In almost all public pools and beaches women can go “topless.” Topless sunbathing in the yard is common. There are also nudist areas at most pools and lakes. Small children often run around naked in the house after their bath, or in the yard or the beach in the summer.
  • Austrians describe themselves are friendly, laid back, and conscientious, but not very ambitious.

Child Care Practices

  • Maternity leave in Austria is 1-2 years, so most applicants are able to care only for children over age 2.
  • Common discipline techniques include explaining why something is dangerous or inappropriate. If a child does something wrong, he/she is taught why it is important to apologize. If a stern talk does not help, punishment would be no TV or no going out.
  • Physical discipline is not common in Austria, as child protection laws prohibit it.
  • Babysitting is a fairly new concept in Austria, since only in the last 30 years has the number of families with both parents working increased. In the cities there is also a fairly good structure of childcare facilities. Many girls will certainly have helped/worked within families or the neighborhood. More involved girls might have been leaders of church or scout groups.
  • The mother is responsible for the majority of the childcare responsibilities, though there is a growing number of fathers who share the responsibility.
  • It is common for both parents to work and be away from home during the day.

Driving Skills

  • The minimum driving age is 18. Most applicants obtain their license at this age.
  • It is not difficult or expensive to obtain a license.
  • It takes approximately two months to complete the first phase and five months to complete the second phase. After two years applicants have an unrestricted license.
  • The two phases to obtain a license in Austria are:
    • Phase 1: If the following tests are passed, applicants will receive a driving license that has certain limitations during the first 2 years (such as zero tolerance for drinking and driving):
      • 32 lessons regarding driving theory at a driving school
      • 18 driving lessons
      • Medical exam, including eye exam
      • 6-hour first aid course
      • Multiple-choice test on PC
      • Practical driving test, minimum of 25 minutes
    • Phase 2: Drivers further perfect their driving skills through feedback from a driving teacher. Applicants complete driving safety training within the first 9 months.
  • The International Driving Permit is available .
  • Applicants typically take formal driving lessons and have access to their parents’ car to practice and use. Only very affluent families give their children their own car.
  • Most cars have manual transmissions.

English Language Skills

  • English is compulsory in Austria. Students start in elementary school (talking, singing, playing games) and continue with either 8 years intensive study in college prep programs or 5 years less intensive study at a secondary school.
  • Most of the au pair applicants will have gone to college prep programs, so usually they would have had 10 years of English. In high school there is still a strong emphasis on grammar and written skills, but the focus is slowly shifting toward oral skills as well. Austrian students usually have a high level of English proficiency, but may lack everyday household words.
  • There is a developing trend to send pre-schoolers to private English courses.

Education

  • Education, including University, is free in Austria.
  • Approximately 50% of Austrian University students are female. At the end of high school, applicants take a very difficult University entrance exam. If they qualify to attend, it means they have an excellent general education and will start directly in their specialized fields, e.g. law school or medical school.
  • If applicants do not qualify for University, they will finish compulsory schooling at age 14 or 15 and continue to learn a trade, e.g. becoming hairdressers, chefs, florists, mechanics, etc. . Alternatively, vocational schools begin at age 15 and finish at age19 or 20. Completion allows them to study further or start working as a highly qualified employee in their specialized field e.g. teaching, tourism, or accounting.
  • The academic year starts in September/October and ends in June.
  • The educational opportunities are a nice benefit but not generally part of the motivation to become an au pair.

Health

  • The most common inoculations are diphtheria, polio, tetanus, mumps, measles, rubella, and encephalitis (contracted from ticks). They are usually free of charge for school children.
  • Only select young women are inoculated and tested for TB (tuberculosis), generally those in the service industry.
  • The basic health services are free in Austria. You can choose your doctor, provided he/she has a contract with an insurance company (most do).
  • Dentists also have contracts with the insurance companies. Basic/necessary dental work is free – more elaborate work is not covered and very expensive. The recommendation in Austria is to go for a dental checkup twice a year.
  • “Eating disorders” are not common, but do occur.

Diet

  • Most young people in Austria eat meat, though vegetarianism is becoming more common with young women.
  • A typical Austrian diet includes meat, potatoes, rice, vegetables, milk, salad, cheese, cold cuts, and bread; fresh dark bread is something Austrian girls often miss in the U.S.
  • Many Austrians buy organically grown products and believe in healthy diets.

Religion

  • The most common religions in Austria are Christianity and Islam.
  • Most young people in Austria do not practice their religion regularly by attending weekly services, but do understand and share the fundamental Christian values and know the basics of their religion.

Telephone & Internet

  • The homes of applicants will have a telephone. Most will have access to a computer and an email account at least once or twice a week.
  • Family members may be able to take a message in English from a potential host family.

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