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Vienna coffee house etiquette

I have a very basic question... when visiting the Vienna coffee houses, do you wait for someone to seat you or do you pick a table and seat yourself?

Thanks!

Posted by
4404 posts

It can be either. If you don't see a sign asking you to wait to be seated, then assume you seat yourself. If you aren't sure, then just ask the waitstaff. They won't bite.

Posted by
1410 posts

In the vast majority of places - both coffee houses and restaurants, as well as Heurigen - you pick your table yourself.

You ask for being seated only if you have a reservation (or it is a very posh place).

In the Viennese variant of a pub, called "Beisel", during busy times you may experience that you are placed together with other people at a larger table, or that other people ask whether they can take seats at your table, e.g. if you as couple occupy a table for 5 or 6 people.

Posted by
4671 posts

I agree. It was a bit of a culture shock for me as a British person the first time I went to Germany, but it German-speaking countries you usually only have to wait to be shown to a table in the most expensive and formal places.

Posted by
658 posts

Thanks everyone! I always like to know what's expected in each city I visit, so this is all very helpful.

Posted by
1410 posts

Just to prevent another culture shock: :-)

In Austria restaurants do not serve ice water.
If you put your fork and knife in a X-like fashion on your plate, it means: I am not finished, yet.
If you want the waiter to take away your plate, you put your fork and knife in parallel to the right side (20 past 4 position).

Posted by
12400 posts

@ Dawn...If you are at a "Beisel" and it's defintely not packed, where you see an empty table or even a long table with 1-3 seated at one end, you can go over and just sit yourself at that table as long neither of these two signs is present..."Reserviert" or "Stammtisch" If not there, sit down. I've done this at informal places numerous times in Germany over the years. No problems.

Years ago I was in a 3 star hotel in Nürnberg just starting to have breakfast sitting at a two seat table, ie the seat in front of me was empty, and I was hoping no one would sit there. The breakroom was filling up. Not so, soon this older German guy comes by asking, "Frei?" (our version of " is it taken or not?"). The seat was not taken. So, I said. "Ja, bitte, bitte" (ie, please sit down). He sat down. Was I suppose to lie to the guy? I wasn't going lie but wasn't really in the mood to have him sit opposite of me either.

Posted by
3156 posts

I was taught this as well , and not to put too fine a point on this, no pun intended , the tines of the fork should point down toward the plate .

Posted by
1410 posts

That is how our parents taught us when we were very young, wmt1. Not just for Austrian dining! :-)

Great! I had posted this because I have noticed (and been told by US relations) that most American people put fork and knife in the X-position to denote that they are finished.

Posted by
3156 posts

wmt1 , you are quite right . I can only speak for myself - my parents were both from cultured backgrounds , my mother's forebears were from eastern and central Europe and she brought that to me at an early age . I was thirteen years old when I first read a story by Arthur Schnitzler ( " Blumen " 1894 ) , it haunts me to this day . My fascination with Viennese coffee houses predates my first visit to Vienna by many years . We will return next Autumn for several weeks , staying away is not an option for us , All my best

Posted by
12839 posts

According to Ms. Post, when you are finished, you place your utensils parallel to one another at the right side of your plate with the handles at about 3 o’clock and the ends at about 11 o’clock. They are placed near but not on the edge of the plate.

Posted by
169 posts

I have noticed something newish, for me that is, recently. Most tables with a Reserved sign. They are not reserved but the restaurant is using it as a way to stop people choosing their own table.

If that system is not being used, it is the norm in many Austrian restaurants to seat yourself.