You may think you’re raising another American, Brit, Canadian or Aussie who happens to live in Austria – but think again. Here’s what to look out for as your kid slowly but surely goes native.
- By the age of around three, they can already ski and ice-skate better than you ever will.
- They think Austrian food is the best food. They prefer Spätzle (rather bland, soft egg noodles) over anything more adventurous and spicy, like Indian food, and demand a dessert after every meal. They expect (and enjoy) soup for a starter, and love to tuck into Schnitzel, Gebackener Emmentaler, and anything with Mohn (poppy seeds).
- They’re into recycling. Don’t you dare throw away a plastic or glass bottle in one of the regular bins at your local park – it must be taken home and put into the correct recycling bin!
- They develop the fine art of sarcasm and schadenfreude. Especially when it comes to their hapless parents.
- They've picked up the local phrases and accent and have a better mastery of Austrian-German than you do. Their first words were likely ‘Nein!’, or “Weg, Mama, weg!’ (Go away, Mummy!”) As they grow older, they typically switch to German when they get annoyed or swear. They say ‘Oja’, instead of the more German ‘Doch’ (but), and use the words Paradeiser, Schwammel, Erdapfel, Karfiol, and Kukuruz – instead of their German equivalents. You find yourself pretty envious of how quickly and seamlessly they pick up this new language.
Children of the Waldorf kindergarten Wien-Mauer participate with their parents to the Saint Martin's lantern march in a countryside outside of Vienna, Austria on November 10, 2017.
- But when they speak English, they have a hint of an Austrian accent (especially if they attend a German-language kindergarten or school). When they’re young, you might find they mix up English and German – ‘Das wheel des Auto ist gebroke!’ But at least you can be thankful they haven’t picked up your poor German pronunciation.
- They prefer to watch English-language movies with the German subtitles on, or even better dubbed into German – with English subtitles for you, which they only pretend to read. And the cartoons they watch have slightly different names than the ones you remember from home, like Bob der Baumeister, or SpongeBob Schwammkopf.
- They start to correct your German. It’s rather annoying when a four-year-old starts reminding you of der, die and das, and sniggers when you make mistakes.
- They greet people in a different way to how you’re used to. A formal handshake when it comes to saying hello or goodbye to the Kindergarten teacher – and later on, two kisses, one on each cheek, for friends and acquaintances. But no hugging.
- They seem more mature than kids back home who are the same age. “My 11-year-old is probably more politically knowledgeable than most American kids her age,” writes one reader, whilst another is amazed that her son is learning to write in cursive with a fountain pen in Grade 3.
- They get excited about the Christkind in December, and complain if they don’t have an Advent wreath and a calendar with chocolate goodies in it.
- But no matter how Austrian they become, you know there’s still a glimmer of you in there. And as one British father-of-two told us, “At the end of the day, English always trumps German in the cool stakes”.
This article was first published in 2017.