• Austria's news in English

Seven signs you've lived too long in Austria

Paul Gillingwater · 11 Jun 2014, 16:11

Published: 11 Jun 2014 16:11 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

It's a syndrome that's well-recognized by expats around the world. The process of acculturation starts soon after you leave the international arrivals terminal, and proceeds apace as you learn the language, the mores, and the shibboleths of your new home.

1) Is there a queue here?

For those of a Commonwealth background, queueing is second nature. We queued for ration coupons during the war, we queue for buses, and sometimes we (as in former Soviet countries) join queues just because there's a queue.

Unfortunately in Austria, queueing is much less observed, although not quite in the free-for-all manner of China or India, where you can pay someone to hold your place in a queue.

U-Bahn priority

One of the first shocks for British expats is the lack of decorum on the subway system, known here as the U-Bahn. In polite society, it is considered reasonable and appropriate to wait for passengers to exit from a train, before making your own attempt at boarding.  

That's not always the case in Vienna's equivalent of the Tube, and it's common to see little old ladies buffeted back into the carriage by the in-rushing commuter hoards, flailing their walking sticks ineffectively while seeing the doors close inexorably over their presumed destination.

A habit developed in response to this is the determination to exit the subway carriage before the hoards can begin their influx. This means forcing your way through the waiting throng on to the platform - and if that means the same little old lady is brusquely brushed aside, then so be it.  

2) German profanities

Another sign of impending Austrianisation is the distressing tendency to swear under your breath at other drivers in rush-hour traffic. While not entirely uncommon in the English-speaking world, it comes as something of a shock to hear yourself doing so in German. Somehow, it's more satisfying to vent your anger at other drivers in badly-pronounced Viennese dialect.

3) Keep to the right

A third, and further attribute of the aforementioned acculturation process is experienced in the descent into the U-Bahn.  It's clearly sign-posted, but many tourists fail to notice that if you're not actually walking down (or up) an escalator, then you need to stay on the right, to allow other impatient people to pass you by.  

As a newly arrived local, it didn't take long to progress from meekly hunkering down on the right of the moving stairs, to clomping with swingeing great steps so as to signal to the person ahead of you, standing on the left, that they need to move to the right.

4) Non-smoking area only, please

Fourth in the series is the sad resignation to rarely encountering a bar, cafe, or restaurant that is truly non-smoking.  Passive smoking has a certain de rigeur charm here, as Austrian's tobacco habits remain essentially unchanged from 1995, despite stricter laws and aggressive public health campaigns.  

Fortunately, there is a trend among the young and health conscious towards e-Cigarettes, which apparently can be just as satisfying for their users, but much less annoying to those of us who choose not to smoke.

5) Dog dumplings

Story continues below…

In fifth place, we note with a certain degree of shame that we used to number ourselves among those who, on more than one occasion, failed to clean up after our dog.  Fortunately, time, maturity, and the prospect of €470 fines have changed that unfortunate quirk of behaviour, and we rarely venture out without at least one or two plastic "doggy bags", as the locals call them.

6) And a-weigh we go

Six, one develops a taste for Austrian pastries. It's long been suspected that there are secret scales that weigh one upon arrival and departure from Vienna's Schwechat airport, and that if you haven't gained at least a kilo or two since your last travels, men in richly embroidered uniforms come to take you into a small room, where they force-feed you Sacher Torte until the required additional mass is achieved.

7) There's no place like Heim

Finally, one of the changes that passes almost unnoticed, yet has the deepest impact, is when you start calling Austria "home". It's a process of letting go of the old, pre-expat life condition, and considering, almost with resignation but not entirely without affection, that Vienna will be the city in which one will grow old, not entirely gracefully, but perhaps a little less disgracefully.

Paul Gillingwater (paul.gillingwater@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
'Scary clown' pushes 14-year-old off his bike in Salzburg
Generic photo: Graeme Maclean/Flick

A 14-year-old boy in Salzburg has been injured after being pushed off his bike by an individual dressed as a scary clown.

Police puzzled by random stabbing of teenager in Vienna
Photo: Paul Gillingwater

A 15-year-old boy who was stabbed near his home in the Vienna district of Liesing on Friday morning by a complete stranger has spoken to the police.

'Sensational' 300-year-old Madonna found in Burgenland
The head of the statue was found beside the body. Photo: ORF

A 300-year-old statue of the Virgin Mary has been found hidden in a chapel next to a Catholic church in Loretto, Burgenland.

Baumgartner 'failed to mention Red Bull' before jumping to Earth
Felix Baumgartner. Photo: Red Bull Stratos

Felix Baumgartner has been accused of cheating his Red Bull sponsors after he failed to mention the energy drink just before he jumped to Earth.

Verdict on swimming pool rape case overturned
The Theresienbad swimming pool in Vienna. Photo: Wikimedia

An Iraqi refugee who was jailed after claiming it was a sexual emergency when he raped a boy in a swimming pool has had the sentence overturned.

Vienna Comic Con promises to be 'bigger and more galactic'
Cosplay star Yaya Han. Copyright: Yaya Han/Bryan Humphrey

Comic Con returns to the Austrian capital on November 19th-20th at the Messe Wien.

Three refugees arrested on drugs charges
Cannabis plants. Photo: J. Patrick Bedell/Wikimedia

A gang of three Afghani drug dealers has been busted in Vienna.

Hungarian woman crushed by snowcat piste machine
Snowcat machine. Photo: Melensdad/Wikimedia

A young Hungarian woman has died after being crushed by a snowcat piste machine on the Dobratsch mountain in Carinthia.

Austrian policeman sentenced over 'Heil Hitler' salute
Photo: Flickr

A policeman in Austria was sentenced on Thursday for shouting "Heil Hitler" at a driver during a traffic check at the Hungarian border in April.

Scary clown craze endangers crucial work of clown 'doctors'
Photo: Bojan Tavcar

Within the last couple weeks, disturbing events involving masked individuals has caught public attention in Austria.

12 brilliant German words you won't find in English
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Five films which will change your mind about Austrian cinema
Those surprising Austrians!
100 years since the last emperor's death
Afghani family's new home in Austria
Der you learn Deutsch?
Delighted by the light
Beware these passport scams
Of course we skipped Oarsch
Foodies rejoice at the choice!
Travel & Tourism
10 years after her escape from captivity
Surviving the Brexit for British expats
Day 2 of the World Bodypainting Festival 2016
Is Islam hostile to Western society?
Bodypainting festival in southern Austria
Europe's ice cream capital
Best Austrian beauty spots
Travel & Tourism
Three days in Vienna as a tourist
How to make friends in Austria
jobs available