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Humour@SAP: XXIII. Surviving SAP TechEd in Vienna

Viennese people

The in Vienna world-famous Austrian comedian Georg Kreißler elaborated once in one of his songs: “How beautiful would be Vienna without the Viennese”.
That’s why I left my hometown several years ago. And that’s why SAP organizes this event in Vienna: to change the ratio of Viennese by bringing a lot of foreigners to the town. Your participation contributes directly to the beauty of Vienna.

The characters of Viennese were mainly formed through the immigration from surrounding countries. A quick glance in the telephone book will tell you about the history. Slavic, Hungarian, Turkish, Serbian, Slowenian and some German names give you an idea of the melting pot Vienna. Always in dislike of foreigners, the Viennese soul answered this by simply integrating and assimilating them. Seducing them to adapt to the sweet Viennese cuisine, teaching them about Viennese humour – or Schmäh [shma:y], as the Viennese say – and by just integrating their language. Many words like Beisl for a small bar or restaurant, Palatschinken for pancakes, Hatscher for a long or straining walk from the arab word Haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, or Schmafu from the French “Je m’en fous”, which literally means “I don’t care. Whatever.” Latter one gives you a good glimps in the Vienneses’ soul.

In order to understand the Viennese, visit the Zentralfriedhof, which is one of the largest cemeteries in the world. It occupies an area that is half the size of the Swiss town of Zurich, but it’s twice as funny. Viennese are said to be pretty necrophilia. Viennese songs are covered with lyrics about death, after-life and God. Even more, movie comedies from Vienna burst with death people, corpses and cadavres. That’s why my better half introduced a “no-more-funny-Austrian-movies-in-my-house”-law.

An interesting interview appeared some time ago, when an elderly widow at this very cemetary was asked about the visits to her husband’s grave.

Reporter: “Whom are you visiting?”
Widow: “My husband. He died 10 years ago.”
Reporter: “How often are you visiting his grave?”
Widow: “Every day I come and stay for two hours.”
Reporter: “And what are you doing all this time at the grave?”
Widow: “Put some flowers, water the grass. And talk to him. Now he has to listen and cannot run away anymore.”
Don’t relate that to chatty SAP employees, talking endless about software.

Coffee houses

In Vienna it is recommended to visit a coffee house, or Kaffeehaus, as the Viennese say. Many writers, artists and actors populated and still populate Viennas most reputed and notorious places, and wrote and painted and played their best pieces there. Ask the latest winner of the Nobel award for literature, the Austrian writer Elfriede Jellinek. She regularly frequents some of those premises and gets some rather good inspiration for writing about the Viennese soul.

«The Viennese coffee houses are frequented by people, who want to be alone, but need some company.» Alfred Polgar, a Viennese coffee house writer, was aware of this. «And a coffee house writer is somebody, who has time to think about those things in the Kaffeehaus, what the others outside of the Kaffeehaus do not experience», as said by another Viennese coffee house writer, Anton Kuh.

But don’t show that you are a clueless foreigner. As an SAP partner or customer you already got a very good training in pretending to understand SAP software and what we tell you. The worst and most common mistake you can make in a Kaffeehaus is to ask for “a coffee”. As you cannot simply go to SAP and order “a software”, you have to know in a Kaffeehaus what to order. A Melange (half of black coffee with a half of hot milk, some milk foam on top and cocoa powder as the final decoration), a Schale Gold («cup of gold», coffee with a lot of creamy milk), Großer Brauner or Kleiner Brauner («large or small brown», espresso with milk), a Kapuziner («capuchin», espresso with a bit of creamy milk, until it has the color of the cassock of a capuchin monk, on top some cocoa powder) and so on. With a little bit of memorizing, you are ready to order coffee, like these gentlemen:

Five gentlemen come into a Viennese coffee house and make their orders. Everybody wants something different, sure, customization is the buzz-word.
“I take a cup of gold!”
“For me a large brown coffee with skin!”
“And I’ll take a Melange!”
“A capuchin is it!”
“Well, I’d prefer a Melange with some cold milk!”
The waiter takes the order, walks to the coffee kitchen and shouts: “Five coffee!”
Sounds familiar, when you order SAP software? Then you will feel very home in Vienna.
And for my SAP colleagues: no, there is definitely no SAP discount in the Kaffeehauses.


The area around the exhibition center, where the TechEd will take place, is known as Prater. This large place with a lot of forest and walk ways in the middle of Vienna, was formerly reserved only to the nobles. Kaiser Joseph II. (yes, the emperor from the movie “Amadeus”) opened it up for the public in the 18th century. Of course the nobles complained and told him that now they cannot be among “their own” anymore. Which led him just to the answer that if he liked to be among his own breed, he’d have to take a walk in the Kapuzinergruft (which is the burial place of many Austrian Kaisers).

Today the Prater hosts a fun park, with roller coasters, mirror cabinets and a mini-train which you can take to make a ride through the Prater forest. The landmark of the Prater is the Riesenrad (Giant Wheel), and yes, if you buy a ticket, go on the top with it, peek a little bit and lean close to the window, you will see the building of SAP Vienna. Pay your tributes in that direction.

From the top of the Riesenrad you can see the surrounding hills of Vienna, where you can find a lot of vineyards and wine-restaurants, called Heuriger, which serve this years’ wine – often a quite sour kind of vinegar. But the wine is sweetened by Viennese music sung in those restaurants. Unlike in the U.S., you can drink alcoholic beverages on the street and enjoy it to music, like you could in Vienna’s soulmate city New Orleans, also a place where many SAP conferences took place. May God bless this town and it’s people and overcome the catastrophy that has hit them.


Which brings us straight to music. Do I have to mention it? Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, and the rock singer Falco all composed, performed and lived in Vienna. Vienna’s special atmosphere of dirty folk songs, drinking wine in the gardens and on the streets and the blue Danube made and still make it a creative environment for musicians, composer and SAP consultants from all over the world.

But don’t think that after some beers in the SDN clubhouse Demo Jam Session you will be able to compete in singing with the true Viennese. Not without reason Vienna has it’s own culture of songs, the so called Wienerlieder (Viennese songs), where perhaps only the Irish or Scotsmen can challenge us. So you better get ready and prepare some of the lyrics from my website


A very delicate topic in Vienna are titles. You will make the first contact with this ugly issue in the hotel, and the second in the Kaffeehaus. If you talk smarter than you look, you will earn a title, which is normally awarded by the receptionist or the waiter in the Kaffeehaus.
Let me give you an example: the receptionist in the hotel will look at you, make a quick assumption and depending on your clothing, style of glasses or the amount of tips, will promote you at least to a Doktor. A Doktor is not necessarily a medical doctor, but anybody who made a Ph.D., a freshman at university or a person with contacts to SAP.

The obsession of Viennese and Austrians overall with titles, is known even in the remotest parts of the world, like Walldorf. An expert always knows all titles in the exact order of his or her counterpart. Wars have been fought, couples divorced and SAP software installed, just because someone didn’t use the titles correctly.

“You are from Vienna? Oh, nice to meet you, Professor Diplom-Ingenieur Doktor SAP Evangelist Johann Pimpflgruber!”.
I narrated those peculiarities to my colleagues, Senior Vice President John Z., Key Account Manager Dennis R. and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Henning K., and we all had a good chuckle about those Viennese. Incredible what some nations do to boost their egos.

Before I forget to mention: if we should meet in Vienna, remember that my full title is Diplom-Ingenieur Doktor Mario Herger (or short: Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Mario Herger). You should know now, what to do. Viennese in Vienna can be very picky about those things. And you definitely do not want to end up in one of my future humouristic weblogs…

Mario Herger, a born Viennese, is the operator of the website, which is dedicated to Viennese songs, music and dialect. You can find there tons of lyrics and MP3-files with typical Viennese music.
He also is the author of the book Darüber lacht Wien (Vienna laughs about this), which has a collection of jokes and anecdotes from and about Vienna, Viennese and related topics. This book will be published in spring 2006 by Ueberreuter.

More anecdotes can be found in the Humour@SAP weblog series.

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  • … they all use Internet Explorer – because looks terrible with Firefox 😛

    Thought you might want to know, and maybe fix it if you got some time 😉


  • Hi Mario!

    You’re definitely right about the viennese people and culture but without doubt you and anybody else who will join the SAP TechEd in Vienna will be fascinated by the multifarious impressions of this place.

    Believe me as a foreigner living for more than 14 years in Vienna (the city of my own choice = echter Wahlwiener) I know what I am talking about.

    Mario, I believe your german is furthermore excellent and you will enjoy this article on Spiegel Online “Titelverliebtes Österreich: Küss die Hand, Frau Magister!”

    But back to the beginning, as a visitor to Vienna you have to know more about the typical dialect and the “species Viennese” (sociotype). Therefor I highly recommend for all german speaking visitors a look at the website, dedicated to a TV-star from a TV series about Edmund “Mundl” Sackbauer, played by the austrian comedian Karl Merkatz. Here you will find a lot of “typical” viennese phrases and more (




  • “Es lebe der Zentralfriedhof und alle seine Toten. Der Eintritt ist für Lebende heut ausnahmslos verboten.” W. Ambros

    I hope this lyric doesn’t apply to SAP TechEd in Vienna…


  • …is an example for another important influence on the Viennese language. It’s coming from the Mameloschn (Yiddish) and originally stems from the hebrew beth (house). There’s a lot of yiddish words in actual use today, for instance, for a typical Viennese almost every other Austrian town is said to be a ‘kaff’ which originates from the hebrew kfar, which is a village. :-))

    By the way, if you plan to visit the mentionend Zentralfriedhof, do not miss the old jewish part of it. It is really a beautiful place (well, as much as a cemetery can be beautiful at all) and it allows for a quiet moment of remembrance for the victims of the well-known cruelties, which also had taken place in this wonderful town.


    PS: I’m living more than 20 years in this town and have spent quiet some time in ‘Kaffeehaus’es but I have never seen both a Kapuziner or a Schale Gold. There must be secret places out there not even I have found.
    But of course, I know probably 20 more types of coffee :-))

  • A most enjoyable read!
    A brief magnificent “melange” of a manuscript cup of tourism with a blend of robust history, delightful culture, creamy personal references and a loving dust of cocoa wit extraordinarie

    What a treat for my Birthday!
    Mariza (Community Network, SDN, BPX, GSSPP, GEPG, TechEd Fan)