A Viennese streetcar named annoyance

This is a story about dealing with cultural differences.

I was riding across Vienna Austria today on a tram heading for the main train station.

My younger son had a suitcase at his feet and put his feet up on it. His heels were also (*gasp*) slightly on the top of his seat.

An Austrian woman sitting a row back stood up and loomed over him and sternly commanded my wife to have him remove his feet from the seat immediately.

We simply complied.

Then we continued to be amused as she kept constant close watch to be sure his feet didn’t return to their previous position.

She was like a hawk.

(A classic “Karen” behavior as the kids would say these days.)

20 minutes later we’re at the train station and I’m sitting on a bench with my older son. He has his bag on the seat next to him.

A man in his mid-30s wearing cycling gear puts his bicycle next to our bench, then proceeds to take my son’s bag (unannounced) and set it on the floor next to him.

He looks at me looking at him and simply states “Ja.”

Not a question.
Not asking my permission.
Simply telling me “Yes.”

Yes Austria, I get it. Seats are for people only.

Why bother telling you this?


Because if you want to be a great negotiator and put together great deals, you need to be aware of cultural differences.

Because they affect both sides of a negotiation and how we come to agreements.

Or accidentally step on feet and ruin our changes of getting to an agreement.

Think about it…

Would anyone in America ever accept someone moving your bag right in front of you without even asking you to do it yourself first?

Or even touching your bag without permission?

Depending where you are you could easily get punched.

Or shot.

Would anyone in America ever accept someone commanding you to adjust your child’s feet, rather than at least asking you first?

But from their perspective they are maintaining order and keeping their homeland clean, orderly, and proper.

Not the way I’d go about it.

But this is their home, not mine.

And if this was a negotiation I’d want to be very aware and clear about their expectations. Otherwise I might not be able to get what I want.

It isn’t just when travelling.

Cultural differences are everywhere. And you need to be aware of them.

It’s easy to step on toes.

And easy to make someone not want to deal with you.

None of which is going to get you to the successful result you want.

Which is why you need to pay close attention to cultural differences when negotiating.

This is one of many types of topics I deal with in my negotiation training and on my “Art & Science of Real Estate Negotiation” podcast.

You’ll learn a lot without stepping on any toes:
The Art & Science of Real Estate Negotiation Podcast with Tom Zeeb

Auf Wiedersehen!

Tom Zeeb
Traction Real Estate Mentors

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