When having a meal as a group, it is polite to wish one another "Guten Appetit" or "Mahlzeit". The word "Mahlzeit" literally means "mealtime" and is also used as a general greeting around midday, when one can assume that most people are about to have lunch. At traditional restaurants, especially in the countryside, it is also considered polite to greet other punters with a hearty "Mahlzeit".
A typical Austrian meal can be a long running affair, as there are normally at least three courses and no rush to leave after the last bite. It is common to languish at the table and enjoy a drink before relinquishing it to the next party. Influenced by Hungarian, Bohemian and Italian cooking, Austrian cuisine is very diverse, with strong regional differences. It is not nearly as heavy as its reputation would have you believe, with modern versions of classic dishes being created by innovative chefs throughout the country. To savour home-made regional specialities, visit a countryside tavern (Heuriger, Buschenschank or Landgasthof), where dishes are simple but divine.
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