A few tips on how to leave the same positive vibes you found in the mountains, with the people who call them home.
Travelling isn‘t just about the sights you‘re going to see, the food you‘re going to eat or the activities you‘re going to do. Like all things in life, it is the interaction with people which makes for the most memorable experiences. Like all foreign cultures, getting your head around local customs, attitudes and norms can be difficult and often lead to awkward uncomfortable situations. I originally planned to title this blog “How to not annoy the locals”. But with time I felt it is more fitting and important to go beyond and actually enjoy positive interactions with people.
1. You’ve got nothing to lose.
First things first, don‘t be shy. If you‘re not trying to make contact with people in a new surrounding then you‘re missing out on what might be the best tip, best recommendation or even a new friendship. Nobody‘s going to bite your head off for trying to be friendly. A simple greeting such as “Griasdi“ up in the mountains or ”Ciao” in the city is very welcoming to strangers walking by. I’ve been told countless interesting stories and facts from locals on mountain peaks, making every walk/hike more than just a workout with a good view
2. Don’t be a tosser
I don‘t want to sound like a nagging parent. But Tirol stands out to me as a very clean and generally rubbish free region in comparison to other tourism destinations. Even if something is biodegradable such as a banana peel or apple core, it‘s always better to take it with you. If everyone chucked their apple core to the side, it simply wouldn’t look as nice as it was before. You’ll notice that Tirolians are remarkably thorough when it comes to sorting their recycling and rubbish, so it’s self explanatory that you‘re not going to be making any new friends by littering. Don‘t give tourists a bad name and keep the mountains clean for everyone else to enjoy.
3. Round it up
Austria isn‘t considered a tipping country so don‘t go crazy trying to calculate the amount of money you should tip. But as a general rule of thumb, rounding your bill up is considered standard in Tirol and called ‘trinkgeld‘ (drinking money). No one will be angry at you if you don‘t tip for a beer. But i‘m sure your waiter or bartender will greatly appreciate it and go out of there way to make you feel welcome.
4. No bragging rights
If you are finding it hard to ignite a good chat with Tirolean locals, perhaps you‘re on the wrong topic of conservation. One subject is especially likely to get encouragement levels buzzing above all. Austria is a country very rich in history, and states such as Tirol are home to many folk stories, legends and tales that go back 100s of years, hence some of the weird and wonderful traditions. Whether what they are telling you is true or not, listening to such stories is something you‘re not going to read about in your lonely planet book. Take interest into the differences between your culture and what you experience and you‘ll be met with a great deal of enthusiasm from someone whos proud to live in your travel destination. For the reasons above I would recommend asking the locals a little about their region before boasting about yours. Or beer, Tirolean also like to talk about beer.
5. When to be loud
This pretty straight forward yet easily overlooked. It really depends on the situation whether it is welcome and acceptable to make lots of noise compared to keeping it chill. In an Après Ski Bar, sporting event or a traditional keller you’ll witness the Tiroleans in their element making more noise and spreading more excitement than what you were prepared for. On the other side of the scale I think most would agree that the tranquility of a beautiful sunrise, sunset or simply an amazing landscape shouldn’t be ruined by loud tourists. And believe me I’ve seen it done before.
6. Get cashed up
I’ve lost count how many times I have had to lend a visiting friend a few Euros to pay for a beer or food when eating out. To save embarrassment of having no money to pay for your order, I would always recommend having a little bit of cash on you. Especially if visiting an Alm out in the mountains where you are extremely unlikely to find wifi, let alone a credit card reading machine. While other tourist hotspots in Europe seem to be racing towards a system where ONLY card is accepted, Tirol it is still very much cash only at the majority of traditional eating/drinking spots. But hey, that just adds to the traditional atmosphere right!
Photo Credits: Timothy Sanderson