In my last post I wrote about how we feel when we move to another country. But what distinctive attributes make us put the feet on the ground and realise…. hmm, where am I?
It’s not a question of saying if these attributes are better or worse but …different!! Sometimes a difference with a logic.
1. It starts by the language itself. The German language is not the big “bogeyman” that everyone associates it with. I’ve learned that the German language follows a logic and that logic makes it easier to learn, like compound words:
Tag- day; Buch – book / Tagesbuch = diary
Kinder – children; Arzt – doctor / Kinderarzt = pediatrist
kühl – cool, chill ; Schrank – cupboard, cabinet / Kühlschrank = refrigerator
schreiben – to write ; Tisch – table / Schreibtisch = desk, writing desk
Ok, just forget the
“Donaudampfschiffahrtselektrizitätenhauptbetriebswerkbauunterbeamtengesellschaft” – I think almost no one use it anyway!!!
2. No matter if you are a very intimate couple, a freshly married, mother of children or an old couple, get used to it, you will always have two blankets, one for you and another one for your other half. Even if the bed is 160cm or 180cm large. If you go to big Austrian stores or if you decide to have a romantic stay at an hotel and you ask for a big blanket don’t be admired if people look at you confused., like “why on earth do they need such a thing?”
OK, I recognise how practical it can be to have your own single blanket and still feel good in the morning without the sense of guilty that you’ve stolen something at night just for yourself.
In my case, I have to confess I have institutionalised the use of only one big blanket in our place! It worked 🙂 so far….
3. Mixed sauna, naked! I could write pages and pages about it. But let just say it that in Austria, as in other North-European countries they have a natural approach to culture as opposed to some other countries where public nudity is still a taboo, especially when shared by different sexes. Welcome to FKK (Freikörperkultur)= Free Body Culture.
(By the way, another compound german word!)
No, people here are not pervert nor “voyeurs”, they just sit there next to you but always on their own, or sometimes with a group of friends and chatting normally as if they were on a Café house. I felt myself so many times uneasy and embarrassed and refused to do it. Now, I went one step further and I already go to mixed naked sauna when alone, with my boyfriend or people that I don’t know.
But this is still a controversial issue in my head! People like to keep a physical safe distance from you when you are a stranger, they still feel uneasy when sharing the same space on a lift or waiting on a supermarket queue, but they come together naked and without any problem into a small room sauna.
4. Coffee and water are friends here! They come always together, hand in hand. Yes, if you order a Melangé, a Capuccino or just an Expresso, you will get also a small glass of tap water on the side. And no, the water is not to dilute the coffee nor for digestion purposes. it rather symbolizes how much the customer is valued. This beautiful custom dates back to the Orient, where coffee and water were very rare and precious items. So, serving a glass of water with coffee, shows the guest how much he/she is valued. So, go yourself to a Café House in Vienna and feel like a royalty.
5. Planning, planning, planning!! Everything goes around planning! Your next year’s holidays, your medical appointments, your meeting up with friends, your week, your day, your leisure activities, your goals, well mostly everything you can put on an agenda!! Yes, having an agenda is anyone’s primary tool for survival in Austria.
Your friend just called you last minute inviting you for a coffee- there can be two different replies: “let me check out in my agenda, no unfortunately I have already something set” , or “hmmm, naja it’s maybe too short notice, I was planning to stay at home”. If you want to meet up with a friend for a coffee or just a night out, better to give him/her notice with minimum one week in advance, you have better chances to get already your name noted down on the vital agenda.
Apart from it, I think that planning is definitely a very efficient policy and this is what makes the country be more organised and work properly. Planning in advance is a synonym of prevention and can avoid lots of problems, costs or even lives (I have in mind the big fires during this summer in Portugal, this would be another long article).
6. Go on sports. If you don’t want to be left behind or feel an outsider, consider yourself taking part in some sports activity. Austrians love sports. All year round. It doesn’t matter if it rains, or if it snows, or if it’s a beautiful sunny day outside. On winter they go skiing or they go hiking with their snow shoes through the woods, in spring it’s the hiking and climbing season, in summer they go swimming in the lakes. If you’re allergic to pollen or not fond of nature, you have no excuse! You can go cycling in the city. Vienna is a bike-friendly city, with lots of cycle lanes and the other drivers still respect you! Or you can just go to the gym and burn out some calories after eating a Sachertorte or an Apfelstrudel.
7. Be ready for the green pedestrian signs when you want to cross the street and be fast. Most green pedestrian signs in Vienna only open for a very short time. You need to get yourself positioned as if you were running the 100 metres sprint. If you walk normally, it might turn red when you’re still in the middle of the road. It’s really like a time-bomb. You feel each second passing by and you get this torturing feeling that some driver will honk at you and call you names. Nowadays I don’t rush anymore. Especially when I’m next to an old lady walking with her crutches or a mother with her baby trolley.
But when the signs are red, just admire yourself the new symbol of tolerance and diversity that the city of Vienna introduced in its traffic lights. This initiative coincided with the city hosting the Eurovision Song Contest in 2015. The contest has become a showcase for sexual tolerance after it was won by Conchita Wurst, Austria’s “bearded lady”. Yeah, “Wien ist anders”. And that’s why I like so much to live here.