‘I want people to accept the differences’

A native Afghan who fled his homeland in 1994, Khaled Khoshdel immigrated to Vienna for a better life. He came with optimism and a culture he wanted to share with European people, which led him to open the only Afghan restaurant in Vienna, called Noosh.

'I want people to accept the differences’
Khaled Khoshdel. Photo: Negina Pirzad

He also works with the local non-profit organization Caritas where he helps refugees and immigrants from around the world transition into their new lives in Vienna.

He spoke with The Local, to a reporter who is also ethnically Afghan, about his experiences in Vienna since his move and his memories of Kabul.

Why did you leave Afghanistan and come to Austria?

I left because of the war, as do most Afghan refugees. Life in Kabul was getting harder and harder. When the Mujahedeen extremists entered Kabul, that’s when the real war began. They started fighting each other, and I knew I had to leave and go west. Moving to Austria was never a fixed plan for me, but it has worked out.

What do you miss from home?

My happiest times from Kabul was when I was a kid and in school, and I could be with my friends whenever I wanted. The way I grew up is different from how children here grow up. Kids grow up on the streets in Kabul – we didn’t have toys to play with from stores. We would make our own toys out of wood or from rocks, and that’s one memory I like. And the fresh, open air and the delicious fruits!

Why did you want to bring Afghan food to Vienna?

In the news, most people only hear about the war in Afghanistan and the corruption, so a lot of my guests come because they are curious and want to know what Afghan people are like, what kind of foods we eat, what we look like, what type of music we listen to.

This is why I wanted to share my culture, through food and other entertainment, with people in Vienna. Before, there wasn’t any Afghan food in town, and in my opinion, it’s some of the best food in the world. At first, business was good, but I think this year has been the best – people are usually coming with open minds and an interest in Afghan culture.

The food I serve is very traditional and authentic since everyone working in the Noosh kitchen is Afghan. You can find dishes like pallow, mantu, oshak, and bolani on our menu. But it’s not only the Afghan food that I bring to Vienna. I invite musicians, poets, and writers from all cultures to come share their work at Noosh so we can all be aware of each other and our traditions.

How do you interact with other Afghans here?

I see them around and I have my friends and those who come by the restaurant, but I mostly see and meet Afghans through the non-profit organization that I work for, Caritas. I’ve worked with them for seven years now – I started before opening the restaurant. It’s a group that is connected to the church, and we help refugees and foreigners with things like doing paperwork, getting them into language classes, finding housing, things like that.

I wanted to do this sort of social work to help other Afghans because I could. I have the language abilities and translating is very hard. I speak the Afghan languages and I speak English, German, and Russian, and also, I know how difficult life can be when first coming. When I first got here, there were people from the local Evangelical Church who really helped me when the government wouldn’t. They gave me a place to sleep and other necessities. And it’s not just Afghans that I work with – it’s foreigners from all around the world.

How do you deal with the mix of cultures?

My goal is not to combine the Afghan culture with Austrian culture. I think it’s important for them to be kept separate, and I’d like people to know the differences and respect them. We all live individual lives and have individual traditions, but acceptance must be there.

By Negina Pirzad

Noosh is in Vienna's 7th district, at Zieglergasse 29. 

For members


Reader question: How can foreign doctors practise medicine in Austria?

If you are a doctor moving to Austria, there are a few legal requirements you need to follow before starting your medical practice. Here is what you should know.

Reader question: How can foreign doctors practise medicine in Austria?

Medical doctors are in high demand all over the world, especially as the coronavirus pandemic showed us how much we are short-staffed in the health sector.

In Austria, it’s no different, and the federal government has already announced several measures to attract people to its health sector in the future.

READ ALSO: More pay and longer holidays: How Austria hopes to attract 75,000 new nurses

Among the measures are changes to its Red-White-Red residence permits, those that, for example, allow workers, including in shortage occupations, to immigrate to Austria on a work visa.

Things will get easier for many IT employees, engineers, and tourist sector workers, but in some sectors, including the health one, there are a few more hurdles before starting working.

READ ALSO: How Austria is making it easier for non-EU workers to get residence permits

When it comes to medical activities, even European citizens who already have a right to live and work in Austria might need to go through a process to get their education certified and valid to start a medical practice in the country.

The process will depend primarily on where your training has taken place and what type of medical activity you intend on doing. All details can be found on the Austrian Medical Association (Österreische Ärztekammer).

General requirements for medical practice

In order to take up a medical practice in Austria, every physician (doctor, specialist, or general practitioner) needs to register with the Ärztekammer and meet the general legal requirements.

These include having full legal capacity concerning professional practice, good character and reputation required for fulfilling professional duties, fitness to practice needed for completing professional responsibilities, sufficient knowledge of the German language and legal residence giving access to the labour market.

READ ALSO: Everything foreigners need to know about the Austrian healthcare system

There are also specific requirements that need to be met depending on where your training took place.

Training took place within the EEA or in Switzerland

In this case, the process tends to be a bit easier, and you need to provide evidence of your basic medical training and any specific or specialist training you might have. For that, a diploma for medical study issued by an EEA member state of Switzerland will work.

You can check whether your documents are eligible for automatic recognition in Austria by emailing the Austrian Medical Association at [email protected].

Medical training outside the EEA (but recognised)

If you have had medical training outside of the EEA or Switzerland, but your training has been recognised by one of these states, the rules are also a bit different. You must show evidence of the medical activity and proof of its recognition.

Additionally, you must be authorised to independent medical practice in the country that recognised your education and has at least three years of actual and lawful professional experience in that country to have your training recognised through a non-automatic recognition of third country diplomas process.

You need to contact the International Affairs Team of the Austrian Medical Association ([email protected]) to get more information.

Medical training done in a third country

If you have completed your medical training in a third country and do not fulfil the requirements for a non-automatic recognition (above), you must first have your university degree recognised as equivalent by an Austrian university.

This process is known as Nostrifizierung.

In Austria, the Nostrifizierung procedure is done by the medical universities (Vienna, Graz or Innsbruck) with similar processes. In Vienna, you need to submit an application form, an education history for the comparison between the Curriculum taken and the one offered in Austria, and a possible “random test”.

Among the documents to be submitted in the application process is proof that you have a B2 level of German, a document from the Ärztekammer that you are required to go through the Nostrifizierung process and a confirmation that you paid the €150 fee. You can find a list of all documents you’ll need to submit here.

READ ALSO: Six things to know about visiting a doctor in Austria

The universities will then “investigate” if your education is equivalent to the one offered in Austria. The first step is a curriculum comparison (checking for both content and hours of classes), but they may also carry out a “random test” in some cases.

The test will be in German, but the participants selected will be allowed to use a language dictionary – the test results are only a part of the nostrification process and help the universities assess if the candidate’s training is equivalent to an Austrian one.

After you go through the recognition processes (Nostrifizierung), you can register with the Austrian Medical Chamber.

Registration with the Austrian Medical Association

Before starting medical practice in Austria, every person needs to register with the Austrian Medical Chamber. For this, they will need to send documents including proof of nationality, proof of lawful residence, a certificate of good standing from countries where they have practised medicine for more than six months within the last five years, a criminal record certificate, medical certificate (confirming physical and mental fitness to practice the medical profession) and more.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the Austrian healthcare system works

The application for registration has to be filed with the Austrian Medical Chamber.

The Medical Chamber of the respective province where you plan to exercise the medical profession is available to further assist with this. You can arrange a meeting with them to clarify general questions about the process.

Here you can find more information.