Thursday, October 12, 2017

Switzerland vs. Austria

So we had the time of our life on our honeymoon. It was beautiful and was nice to have two weeks of bonding time with just us. Of course we missed Mira, and skyped with her as often as we could.

I wanted to write a fun travel post on the differences I noticed between Switzerland and Austria. The only disclaimer is that we traveled all around rural Switzerland and only went to urban Austria. So some things might be just a difference of big city vs countryside.

1. Switzerland is more English friendly. And also had more American tourists. When we sat at restaurants, it wasn't weird to sit next to a family or couple who also spoke English with an American accent. Everywhere we went we would come in contact with Americans in some way. There were also a ton of people from the UK and Australia. It was common for waiters to automatically speak English to you before you even spoke a word.

Austria; we didn't come in contact with any Americans until our very last day. It was a man in an elevator and he seemed excited to talk us too. I don't think I ever heard anyone from the UK or Australia there either. A lot more waiters and store workers seemed to struggle with English once we tried to speak with them. Luckily, my brother was with us there and helped SO much by speaking on our behalf. I did notice the locals who could speak English thought it was "cool" that we spoke English. Austrians love a chance at speaking English with someone...they would eavesdrop on our conversations and make an excuse to talk to us :)

2. Switzerland's German is different than Austria. It sounds more French, which makes sense because in part of Switzerland, their first language is French. You're greeted with "Gruezi" instead of "Hallo" and thank you was always "Merci" instead of "Danke".

3. Things are more expensive in Switzerland. It wasn't as bad as a lot of people make it out to be. In fact, we came out way under budget because I accounted for it to cost a lot more. If you're smart you can get by with eating pretty cheap. Hotels are mainly the expensive part. We also didn't explore around Zurich or Geneva, the two biggest and most expensive cities; we just traveled around the alps.

Austria was surprisingly affordable. It was comparable to what things would cost in the U.S. Except the food there is better! They have a lot of variation in their cuisine, I was surprised; we had Vietnamese, Italian, traditional Austrian, French, and who knows what else. It was always delicious, unlike Switzerland, in which there were a few meals that were very plain. But the cheese was always good!

4. You can't go in a Swiss town without seeing watch shops. So. Many. Watch. Stores. And Swiss knives stores too. And cuckoo clocks.

Austria's version of this is their famous artist, Gustav Klimt. His work is everywhere! There are stores dedicated to him and there are miscellaneous gift shops with his work featured in the front.

5. In Switzerland, is common for people to pay for small purchases using a hundred dollar note. I bought something for 3 francs and handed a cashier a hundred and they barely even looked at it, and gracefully handed me the change. Cards are also widely accepted everywhere, even when you're in a tiny village in the mountains.

Vienna, surprisingly, had a lot of cash only restaurants. It's such a big city I thought it was weird. Luckily ATMs are on every corner. They use Euros (unlike CH which is Swiss Francs) so we had to exchange all our notes from CH by the time we got to AT.

6. Wifi in places in Switzerland and Austria was always locked with passwords, but if you asked an employee they would give you a piece of paper with the password. In Switzerland, their wifi was on lockdown in public places like airports and train stations and I was never able to connect.

7. Tipping. We weren't sure of the tipping rules in Switzerland, but we knew it wasn't 20% like America is commonly. So we left 10-15% pretty much the whole time. Then I skyped with my brother and he said they mostly just round up. So if your meal costs $77, you give them $80. Whoops. My brother laughed and said Europeans love Americans because they always over-tip. I don't feel so bad though, because the waiters were usually super nice, like a scary amount of nice. It was like something out of the movies. But, we did it the right way in Austria; just rounding up, and they seemed to be a lot more gracious there actually.

It's also awkward to tip with a card, because you have to be deliberate about what you're going to tip before you pay. They don't have that little line on their credit card receipts for you to write it down, and by the time you notice that, the transaction is already done. So you're supposed to tell them the amount you want them to enter in the credit card ahead of time.

Oh and you also have to flag them down when you're ready to pay your bill. They will never ask you "are you ready for your bill". They must think that it's rude of them or something.

8. In Switzerland, as long as you have your own reusable water bottle, you will have no problem getting an endless supply of free water. There are gorgeous water fountains everywhere. And the water is delicious. This is coming from a water snob! And they don't have to add a thing to it. The one time we went to a restaurant and didn't bring our water bottles, it costed $6 for one water. We didn't make that mistake again. Hey, I guess they're really proud of their water, as they should be.

In Austria, there weren't as many water fountains around, but also if you went to a restaurant and ordered tap water, it didn't cost extra. In fact, if you ordered a coffee drink or wine, they automatically gave you a water with it. Their water is also top notch.

9. Shops in both Switzerland and Austria close early. Like 6 PM. And they are closed Sundays. It was worse in Switzerland, because we were in such small mountain towns. Some shops were only open from like 8AM-noon 3 days a week. It's insane how people can stay in business.

10. Lodging. Switzerland is expensive. I was a major planner and booked all our lodging ahead of time, and since hotels were so expensive in CH, we stayed in a hostel part of the time there. The hostel was still nice because it was a private room, we got fresh towels daily, had a double bed, our own sink and mirror area, and a-mazing views. I would definitely stay there again. The hotel we stayed at was really nice, just so expensive if we were to do all 5 nights.

Austria's pricing for hotels was so much better. Granted, my brother's girlfriend got us a really good deal, but we did shop around beforehand and things were a lot more affordable.

11. Tourist traps. So the definite tourist trap in the Swiss Alps were the Jungfraujoch (top of Europe) and the Schilthorn (James Bond movie). It was super expensive to take a cable car up and on a clear day, yeah it's cool I guess. But it wasn't clear when we were there, so it would've been cloudy. So then you're paying a crap ton of money to take a cable car up to play around in snow.

In Austria, it was probably the Schonbrunn Palace. The line to get in was just ridiculous, even mid-day on a weekday. We opted for the Belvedere Mansion instead, which checked off pretty much the same items; 16th century palace, beautiful architecture, chandeliers, paintings, gardens, sculptures, history, yada yada.

Both countries also, of course, had many similarities. People don't like small talk. They both had similar train systems. It costs an arm and a leg to take a cab anywhere. People apparently are comfortable in hot, stuffy temperatures and seem to never run A/C. Both like their beer watered down, but both have good crisp wine. You can find delicious espresso and pastries on every single corner in both places. And garbages are everywhere in public; you do not litter. You just don't.

We had a great time and everything went absolutely perfect. ...Except for when we first arrived in Vienna and couldn't figure out the right train to get on, and realized we watched two of them leave the station right in front of our eyes. There was lots of running up and down stairs to go look at the schedule, trying to figure out where our stop was supposed to be in such a big city. It took us a bit but we figured it out.

If you couldn't tell by this post, Switzerland was my favorite. And I can't wait to get back and see the southern part of the country as well! Glad we can have such a keepsake memory together :)


  1. Agree about the cable in Jungfrau region. We just took the train between all the little villages (it makes a circle) and got to the highest one and just looked up and saw the view without taking the full cable ride. Part of the fun is getting lost and figuring out the train system and platforms. Another trip or two and you'll be a pro. Remember to be a traveler and not a tourist.......tourist keep moving and checking off the destinations while a traveler stops long enough to take in the local culture.

    1. Yes, I love that! What's the point of traveling if you don't take in the culture, right?! :)


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