Professional Interactions in Vienna

In travels to Vienna, Austria during the fall of 2017 on the Student Exchange Program, senior Peyton Bykowski discovers the importance of understanding business etiquette and professional interactions on a global scale.

The United States has very strict and regulated guidelines on how we conduct business and how businessmen and women interact on a professional level. Austria, based on research and experience, has similar, preset guidelines and standards that are to be met. If anything, there are firmer guidelines in how a student interacts with his or her lecturer, how to act and dress in business situations, and how Vienna itself provides resources for its students to find jobs and careers.

In the classroom at WU (Wirtschaftuniversitat – Vienna University of Economics and Business), it is fairly informal, surprisingly, in terms of business conduct at a business school. During presentations it is not required to dress business formal or business casual as it is at Ohio State. Presentations occur weekly for many classes, so having to consistently dress business professionally can be tedious, so it is not required or even asked of the students to dress up. However, there is more respect in terms of the student-teacher relationship. Students address the lecturer as “Professor” unless told otherwise. At the end of the class, the students knock on the table as a respectful notion to the Professor to thank him/her for teaching them today.

Many students also use the professors as a networking opportunity. As this is a small university, the students often have the same Professors multiple times for different classes. And since the classes are never larger than about 40 people, they tend to get to know them well. Similarly to Ohio State and the U.S., Professors allow insight for students on the business world and potential opportunities or careers to pursue. Many students often keep in contact with their university professors as a means of networking as well.

In terms of career events, Vienna has several for the city, but rarely are they specific to WU students. WU does have an online career and job portal similar to Fisher’s, but for large career fairs Vienna has two main events: Meet Your Job, which requires 1 application submitted to a student who is then matched with different company’s for short interviews at the fair, and Career Calling, which is a large company expo similar to the Fall and Spring Career Fairs at Ohio State. However, these fairs and events are much more relied on in Vienna than they are at Ohio State. Many students need them in order to find their work experience, as connections in the business world are not as utilized in Vienna. In the U.S. it is an unspoken rule that business students need internship experience before graduation, and then need professional work experience before attending grad school. In Austria, and most of Europe, it is not as necessary for students to have undergraduate work experience as they transition directly to grad school post university graduation. This was an interesting difference, as I can see value to both courses of education.

In regards to business etiquette and interactions in Vienna, there are not many differences than the U.S. I think the largest difference is in regard to the blunt nature of Austrians. Professors tend to interrupt during student presentations to offer feedback and thoughts; whereas in the U.S. and at Ohio State, it is more typical for a professor to hear the presentation through before offering feedback. Similarly to the U.S. though, Austrians greatly value punctuality and seriousness. This then relates to the importance of first impressions. First impressions weigh heavily on Austrians and so it is important to know the proper professional interactions before meeting with the individual(s). This would include the proper dress codes, not only for professional interactions but for dinners, the dress codes of certain facilities (i.e. Opera), etc. Overall, Austrians are conservative in terms of business etiquette and in nature when received by others.

Researching and experiencing different business etiquette practices has been really important to my understanding of global business. Understanding different practices and actually practicing them are completely different. I have always known how important it is to do your homework on the people, company, and culture of individuals I am meeting with, whether it be for a collaborative assignment, job interview, etc. However, remembering my homework on Vienna’s professional etiquette has helped me to understand what it is actually like while here. WU offers a lot of incredible resources to aid its students from all over the globe further their careers. Whether that’s the EBN group or Career Fairs for Viennese students, WU students are extremely successful and help new students to a new country learn quickly.

WU Career Fair Exhibit

Peyton Bykowski

Peyton Bykowski is a senior at Ohio State, majoring in marketing at Fisher and minoring in sociology. She is originally from Chicago, IL. Peyton is completing a semester abroad in autumn 2017.