In surveys about the most livable city in the world, Vienna has been at the top for years. At the same time, she is also considered particularly unfriendly. What sounds like a contradiction to many people is nothing special for the Viennese author Andreas Rainer. He has been portraying the Viennese for many years and knows their peculiarities like no one else. He tells Stern what the Austrian capital and its residents have to offer apart from Sissi, Freud and Klimt – and how, as a German, you don’t make a mistake.

Mr. Rainer, you have been observing the Viennese for a while and writing down your observations. What story did you want to tell with your new book? I never wanted to write a travel guide about Vienna, it just developed that way. I actually wanted to capture the Viennese soul for the Viennese themselves, a book about us, for us. But now it seems to have become a popular guide for non-Viennese and tourists.

However, your “travel guide” does not play with tourist clichés, but rather with the many contradictions of the Viennese. Actually. I’ve also read through a few Vienna travel guides and kept finding things that are simply wrong. For example, the claim that Vienna is the metropolis of coffee variations. Yes, we live and love our coffee house culture, but today you can hardly find more than a handful of coffee variations anywhere. However, some travel guides talk about 50 different ways to order your coffee from us. This is only the case in very touristy cafés – to fulfill the cliché.

Is tourism changing Vienna? Tourism is very important for Vienna, no question. But in contrast to other federal states – for example Tyrol, where almost everything is designed for tourism – it does not play a major role for us. Even in the first district, where most tourists are, there is still normal local life. Nevertheless, more visitors come every year. On the one hand, this is probably due to the picture of Vienna that we sell, with the story about Sissi and all of our beautiful historical buildings. On the other hand, Vienna has the reputation of being the most livable city. At the same time, we are considered the unfriendly city in the world. By the way, we are particularly proud of that.

What else is the common Viennese proud of? Above all, not being German. (laughs) In fact, we often compare ourselves with our big neighbor. For example, we are much more relaxed than the Germans. We can spend an entire evening making the biggest plans for the next few days and then not implement a single one of them without feeling guilty. A German implements the things he speaks about; he is simply more correct. For Germans, it would be almost exhausting to just sit in a coffee house all day and let life wash over you – we Viennese love that.

Vienna Grant – the basic attitude of always having something to complain about

Viennese Schmäh – the characteristic humor of the Viennese

leiwand – toll

Gaude – fun

Spritzer – Weinschorle

Oida – can be translated as “age”, but is used on almost every occasion

Sausage – whatever

sudern – complain, complain

Naschmarkt – popular market in Vienna with bars, restaurants and fresh food

Haberer – friend

How do you pass the time in a coffee house for a whole day? When I have time, I read the newspaper, write a few sentences in between, drink coffee, listen to the goings-on and observe the people around me. This is wonderful.

Many Viennese are not particularly good at speaking German. Where does this hostility come from? This is partly due to Viennese self-image. Vienna was once one of the most important cities in Europe. Now Vienna is the capital of a comparatively small country and, if you ask the Viennese, it is significantly underrepresented internationally. Unlike Germany, which plays an important role internationally and actually seems to be superior to us in many things. This leads to an inferiority complex. And it seems we haven’t quite gotten over that yet. I always like to compare it to a sibling relationship. Germany is Austria’s big brother, so a bit of envy is not unusual.

You have to admit that as a German you get a lot of insults in Vienna. Yes, because the Viennese usually think that you Germans are pretty humorless and want to test that. We always have insults on our lips and don’t take it all that seriously ourselves. But there are Germans who immediately feel attacked – they are not having a good time in Vienna. However, if you approach the whole thing a little more relaxed, you can have a lot of fun with the Viennese – even as a German.

How do I, as a German, manage not to immediately identify myself as such? Don’t even try. As soon as you try to imitate the dialect, you are just making a fool of yourself. That doesn’t go down well at all. Better: stand by it and endure the insults – ideally, even enjoy it. The next moment the Viennese will probably make a joke about himself, then you can laugh at him too and everyone will be happy. One must not forget: Viennese people also enjoy making fun of themselves with passion.

Where can you still find the “real Vienna” today? Vienna takes place in many places, the real Vienna is everywhere in Vienna, if you will. Fortunately, we are not Barcelona or Venice, where tourism has already changed the culture. But I can particularly recommend taking the subway line 6. It goes to districts where rents are cheaper and where Vienna shows itself from a more authentic side. It will be louder, more colorful and a bit “multicultural”. But all of that is part of Vienna. Vienna is also a city of immigrants. Fortunately. It’s hard to imagine if there were still only Wiener Schnitzel and Germknödel here.

The Viennese Grant is at least as well known as the Viennese Schmäh. How do I get as grumpy as a real Viennese? Basic rule number one: There is nothing that you can’t – or better yet: shouldn’t – get upset about. It starts with the weather and ends with the work mentality. If you ask a Viennese how things are going at work, there is only one acceptable answer: “I’m completely overworked.” This is also what those who sit in the office all day and only have to answer a single call say. Another topic is our railway. To be honest, she is very reliable. But alas, we have to wait a minute – then the collective chatter begins! That’s a basic attitude anyway: We don’t say that we are the most livable city in the world, but rather: Things are even worse elsewhere.

Vienna is not only the most livable city, but also stands out when it comes to alcohol consumption. Where does the great drinking pleasure come from? Another paradox. We Viennese are quite proud of our high alcohol consumption. Every year when Austria is once again one of the strongest consumer countries, we totally celebrate it. Most livable city? Who cares! We drink the most beer in Europe? Canvas! We celebrate this as if we had won a World Cup. But we also just really like drinking. A large beer or a spritz in the afternoon is de rigueur here. That doesn’t even count as alcohol. I’ll even go one step further: If you stroll through the Naschmarkt in the summer afternoon, you’ll rarely see a non-alcoholic drink on the tables. And those are mostly the tourists.

And what about the weekend? If you go out on the weekend and can barely walk home on two legs, then you’re almost considered to be a hindrance to fun. If you don’t drink, you need a good excuse. Usually only pregnancy and serious illness are accepted here. Otherwise you need a certain level of drinking ability in Vienna. And if you dance naked on the tables at the Christmas party, no one will hold it against you the next day – because the intoxication has a different reputation here. However, you still have to deal with the shame.

You were at home in North America for a while, but returned to Vienna. What makes the city so worth living in for you? That’s not an easy question to answer; there are several factors. Housing is still affordable compared to other European cities, and we have a good social system. I always say that you can’t become really rich in Vienna, but you can’t be really poor either. We also have a lot of culture and cuisine and are becoming more and more urban and modern as a city. In summer you can swim in the Danube and then sit at a beach bar in the middle of the city. And of course there are so many wonderfully contradictory people living here.