Hello all! I moved to Vienna in Austria a few weeks ago so I left blogging by the wayside as I had to deal with the hassles of opening a bank/getting a student card/sorting out a phone/making friends/adjusting to my new life etc. etc. I have now been in Vienna for just shy under two weeks and I already can see how strong Austrian identity is, and it is NOT German. Here are a few things I have seen, coped with, had struggle with and noticed:
1) The accent
What used to really get on my nerves in Nottingham was when people said “Oh, you’re going to VIENNA? You know you’ll have to put up with a DIFFERENT ACCENT right?” Oh heaven forbid! I found that point of view incredibly limiting and scathing and I am glad I gave them ‘the look’. Yes, the accent is different, but it’s like a person learning English sticking to just the south of England because they’re scared of the Scottish/Newcastle/Manchester/Liverpool accents. While I still struggle to understand when people to talk dialectally, most of the time there is no problem at all. I am actually really enjoying hearing a different accent, and the other night I said “Ich gehe ins Bett” (I am going to bed), which is apparently far more Austrian than the German German “Ich gehe ZU Bett”, it was probably an error on my part anyway, but I was proud that I am starting to adapt to the customs here. In fourth year every time I get something wrong I may just say “Well, that’s how they say it in AUSTRIA” (they won’t believe me, but I can give it a go?)
2) Tap water is best
If you order any hot drink in a restaurant it will also come with tap water. I remember when I came to Vienna three years ago reading that the Austrians were very proud of their tap water, and it’s true! I bought some fizzy water at a shop and a man gave the most disgusted look (at the bottle, not me, I assure you). I do have to say although my diet hasn’t changed too much my skin has miraculously improved – I am certain that this can be attributed to the water.
3) The holocaust isn’t as taboo
In Germany it is very difficult to talk about Hitler or the Holocaust openly and there is a lot of social stigma that comes with it. When a friend of mine started her ERASMUS placement a girl came up and whispered to her “do you know… what happened…” as if it were a massive secret. Here, it is not as stigmatised – while obviously it doesn’t come up in normal topics of conversation, when it has come up in conversations it has been far more open and objective than when I have heard it discussed around German people.
4) There is a lot more wifi
In France, I struggled to find internet in anywhere that wasn’t McDonalds or Subway. Now, however, there is wifi almost everywhere. This is not necessarily a good thing as you end up checking your Facebook or emails far more than you intended, but is also very useful when looking at maps and finding things to do in the proximity without wasting money on McDonalds soft drinks
5) All the buildings are very tall
In the older parts of town the doors seem to go on for miles, and the ceilings in most places are HUGE. At the stonkingly high height of 5″3 I am slightly struggling. I can’t even reach the clothes in my wardrobe without effort or a stool! I do love the light and air it brings to a room, however, even if door handles are sometimes at my shoulders. How do children cope?!
6) They are very proud of being safe
Vienna does feel safe. Although you still have to have your wits about you and my friend nearly had her iPhone stolen the other day, it feels a lot safer than France. I may be slightly biased because I was burgled in France, but there is a much nicer atmosphere here. Almost everyone seems to have an iPhone out on the U-Bahn and when we were googling ‘unsafe areas of Vienna’ many seemed in denial that there were any in the first place. (We’ve come to the conclusion that it is the Prater area – where the clubs are a bit grimier/it’s quite touristy but not as pretty).
7) Going out for a coffee takes up your whole afternoon
One of my favourite things about Vienna is the café culture, especially of drinking fancy coffees and eating copious amounts of rich cakes (I am very good at the latter). When you order a drink you’re not expected to drink it fast, and waiters generally don’t bother you at all. In every café I’ve been in I’ve ordered one drink – perhaps two when I’m pushing the boat out – and have never been hassled with the bill or to pay quickly. Even after two and a half hours when we are ready to leave it takes another twenty minutes to find a waitress. I personally could spend my life in cafés and hate how in England you feel guilty sitting with an empty cup of tea for even more than 3-5 minutes.
8) Public transport
One of the biggest myths I have ever found about Germany is the idea that Germans are always punctual and on time. I can safely say that of all the Deutsche Bahn trains I went on when I was living in Alsace and frequenting Germany every other weekend, that only 30-50% of the time did the trains actually arrive when they were supposed to. Most of my horrific journeys were in Germany whereas in France they were timed to the T. It’s slightly unusual that the French are known for being late when their transport systems are perfect, and Germans are known for being punctual when their transport system isn’t. I asked my German tandem about this and he said he thought that the ‘punctual’ myth was more of a Swiss stereotype. What have you all heard? As for Austria, while I haven’t left Vienna yet, I have been impressed by the amount of public transport. All passes are valid on buses, trams and u-banns, and the U-Bahns run all night at weekends, which is much handier for getting home than forking out on a taxi. So far a few of my trams have broken down, and the U-Bahn just didn’t turn up once as more and more people flocked to the platform, but generally I have to say it is okay. I still am biased and think French transport is a lot better – especially as they are much better at signalling the stop you are at, but there are a lot less ticket inspections and a lot more options TO get around the city.
Supermarkets here aren’t too expensive, and are far more like English prices, which is – in my opinion – good, for a capital city. There are also a lot more options – I found Halloumi cheese (my addiction) easily in Spar, but nowhere in France, and I found a lot more variety of food for different prices. Although Austria doesn’t seem to do good biscuits. I may have to order some Fox’s chocolate shortbread biscuits on Amazon because needs must!
10) Irish pubs
Okay this isn’t just for Vienna, but honestly, is there an Irish pub in EVERY European town or city? Are there more Irish people abroad than in Ireland itself? This, I would really like to know.