A Guide to Vienna’s U-Bahn etiquette - Vienna Würstelstand

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A Guide to Vienna’s U-Bahn etiquette

Unaware foreigners from less orderly lands would know the scenario where you suddenly hear an abrupt grunt, aggressive clearing of the throat, heavy breathing from behind, and an angry person pushing pass you on the Vienna subway’s escalators.
And you wonder in despair with lip down-turned “What did I do!?” You stood on the left! You see, there’s a system here where those in a hurry will run up the escalators on the left – so if you linger in that area, you’ll probably learn a few new colourful words in Viennese.


As the U-Bahn doors open, we see people charge at others like bulls at a red cape to get past the blockage. And who could blame them. Stand to the side, people! It’s best to wait on the right and left of the carriage doors. And join hands overhead in an arch with the person on the opposite side, if you like.
Those people who try to push elderly ladies and blind people out of the way to get into the carriage first are generally frowned upon. In Medieval times, they would’ve been punished by an arrow to the knee – or if paper had been invented, by a very serious paper cut to the finger.


Döner kebabs, greasy noodles, or the pizza slice smelling of months-old sausage will earn you the stink eye from the whole carriage. If we catch you, we’ll draw cartoon stink lines over your head.


This isn’t an invitation to grope innocent bystanders. Do make sure you’re holding on to a plastic strap or metal bar before the U-Bahn starts again. Becoming victim to the inertia force can be pretty uncomfortable for you and other passengers. Especially when you’re a big bloke wearing an even bigger camping rucksack filled with bricks. (You get the picture.)


“Just stick ‘em on your nipples, it’ll be okay.”
”Use some glue“
”Ok, I’ve got to go mum, I’m on the U-Bahn.“

Guys and girls, this is a phone conversation we overheard on the U-Bahn one day. And now, while we will always wonder how that strange nipple story ended, remember you are polluting your fellow commuters’ ears with unwanted facts about your weekend, how your mutual friend shouldn’t have got with his ex, or your mum’s nipples during your U-Bahn phone conversations. We understand that these issues are urgent and a matter of national security, but please … for the sake of humanity, save it until you’re out of the U-Bahn.


After several days of riding the Viennese U-Bahn everyday, especially in winter, it’s easy to unconsciously acquire that blank stare that it inspires. We’re often wondering when we look around at all those blank stares on the U-Bahn what thoughts are happening behind them… if any at all. While the passengers on the U-Bahn aren’t big fans of high-fiving or hugs upon entering the carriage (trust us, we tried), a little smile can do wonders from time to time. You either brighten someone’s day, or completely freak them out. Either way, you’ll have a great story to tell afterwards. And it feels fucking amazing!


Imagine being a mum or dad and you haven’t slept much last night, your little one has been uneasy since you didn’t let him or her lick that stranger’s dog, and now it’s time to squeeze into a metal box filled with dozens of other people that are staring at you as your kid is screaming for no particular reason. Take some pressure out of this situation by making room for buggies, and smile at the mom or dad. They’ll love you for it. Perhaps then hugging would be socially acceptable.


We are all up for listening to music loudly, but while you may be enjoying your badass bass booming techno shit you’re listening to on your novelty-sized headphones can be heard by one and all in the U-Bahn carriage. And it’s making us want to stuff the chewing gum stuck to the seat in front of us in our ears. While that can’t be hygienic, the same goes for that volume being directly channeled into your ears, you raver.


While we’re not readers of the free daily tabloids that scatter the U-Bahn, there’s an unspoken system that sees passengers leaving the newspapers on the seat for the next person after they’ve finished reading it. Or you can tear it up into little pieces, throw it out the window and make the world a better place – up to you.


Just don’t do it. No matter how tempting it is. Unless there’s a real emergency, that is.


The oh-so-human affection that is shared between you and the sweaty person you just held the U-Bahn carriage door open for a special thing. It may be you running to catch the U-Bahn next time. Think of that … and the pissed-off look on the U-Bahn driver’s face as they’re waiting for you (cue devilish laugh).


A few cuss words under your breath, plenty of sighing, shaking of the head – whatever’s your style. Just remember that it’s a typical practise here in Vienna that if the waiting time for an U-Bahn is more than 3 minutes, displays of disgust are socially accepted and expected.

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