IF YOU’RE AUSTRIAN ... by Klaus Brunner
(The following text was taken from Klaus Brunner’s internet site (http://winf.at/~klaus/austrian.html)and
is based on Mark Rosenfelder’s text How to tell if you’re American at
http://www.zompist.com/amercult.html Klaus Brunner writes that the following text is highly subjective and doesn’t necessarily reflect his views, but his views on what he think most Austrians’ views are.)
If you’re Austrian...
; You’re quite likely to have a distinctly non-German surname (such as Novak,
Swoboda, or János), especially if you live in the Eastern parts of Austria. You’re used
to people asking you which language is spoken in Austria.
; You know how football (―soccer‖, Fußball) is played. If you’re male you may even know the infamous Abseitsregel, and you think the national team’s head coach doesn’t have the slightest clue, which is probably the reason why the national team invariably loses all matches. Sports like baseball or cricket are boring and strange. American football is exotic and strange.
; Whenever you turn on the TV during the months with ―r‖, you’ll likely see downhill skiing, slalom skiing, giant slalom skiing, ski jumping, and cross-country skiing. In all other months, you’ll see football or Formula One racing, with commentary by the legendary Heinz Prüller.
; You get about four to five weeks of vacation a year. You complain it’s not enough.
; You miss decent dark, non-mushy bread whenever you leave Central Europe. ; You know that many people, especially Americans, keep confusing Austria and Australia. It’s a stereotype, but unfortunately a true one.
; You expect to get alcohol anywhere without presenting an ID if you look at least 16 years old. The very idea of hiding bottles in brown paper bags seems bizarre to you.
Contributions to world civilization
; You know that the ship’s screw was invented by an Austrian, the typewriter was
invented by an Austrian, the fuel combustion engine was invented by an Austrian, and pretty much every classical composer was Austrian. If you accept a sufficiently broad definition of ―Austria‖, that is.
; You count on excellent and affordable medical treatment for everyone. You know you’re not going to die of cholera or other Third World diseases. You expect very strong measures to be taken to save very ill babies or people in their eighties. You think dying at 65 would be a tragedy.
; You went over Austrian and European history very extensively, some Middle Eastern history probably, fragments of American history, and most probably no African or Asian history.
; You expect the military to shut up, go on UN peacekeeping missions and not have any influence on politics. You think that there is no such thing as an underfunded military as long as every soldier has a couple of rocks to throw at the enemy (this is an Alpine country, so rocks are abundant). If you’re male, you have to join the ranks
for at least eight months or do alternative service for a year, and you complain about it for the following ten to fifteen years. If you’re female, you keep telling males that they shouldn’t complain, and that you wouldn’t mind going to the military, what with
all the sports and fresh air and the nice people to meet. When challenged to actually do it, you evade the question and talk about the horrors of nine months of pregnancy, birth pain, and changing nappies.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost...
; You think there could be a God, but that’s probably only because your parents told you so and after all, you’ve been baptised at the tender age of half a year or so. You think of the Catholic Church as an integral part of society, although you’re not very
fond of it. Religious fundamentalists of all sorts are weird. What the hell is ―creationism‖?
; You think of McDonald’s, Burger King, etc. as fast, but not really cheap food.
; You most probably own a land-line telephone, at least one mobile telephone (which you sometimes forget to turn off when you’re in cinema, at a funeral, or taking an exam) and a TV. Your place is heated in the winter and has its own bathroom and toilet. You do your laundry in a machine (front-loading), but you probably don’t use a
dryer. You don’t kill your own food. You don’t have a dirt floor. You eat at a table, sitting on chairs.
; You don’t consider insects, dogs, cats, monkeys, or guinea pigs to be food. However, you might occasionally enjoy horsemeat in the form of Leberkäs. ; A bathroom usually has either a shower or a bathtub in it. Toilets are usually in a separate room. Toilet bowls aren’t completely filled with water; the water comes when you flush. Toilet paper is thick, multi-layered, and soft, except in government offices and schools, where it’s thick, multi-layered, and painfully scratchy, obviously in an
attempt to discourage people from using valuable public resources excessively. ; There are no separate taps for hot and cold water, there’s a device to mix it to just
the right temperature, and you can easily drink from it. You will complain loudly when you encounter a British washbasin for the first time.
; The telephone system, railroads, and power companies are still partly state-owned, and you don’t mind that too much. Privatising them has brought lots of confusion and made things only a little bit cheaper.
; You expect, as a matter of course, that the phones will work. Getting a new phone is routine. Most new phones are mobile phones.
; When you’re in a restaurant, you usually don’t have to wait to be seated (unless it’s an expensive place). You’ll find the fork(s) on the left side, and the spoon(s) and knife/knives on the right side of your plate(s). The waiter or waitress will not tell you his or her first name unless you ask for it. After you’ve finished your meal, you expect that you can just sit, chat and maybe have a cup of coffee or some other drinks for quite a while. You would consider it rude to get the bill before you ask for it. ; The train system is quite good, affordable and popular, as is public transport in general. That doesn’t keep you from complaining about it, though.
; You think a two-party system is just a special case of single-party dictatorship. You expect to have about four major parties to choose from, and you’re used to two
parties forming the national government. Lately, you’ve been thinking that they’re looking all the same, and you wouldn’t mind another, completely different party. You complain a lot about the government.
; A mild form of socialism (―soziale Marktwirtschaft‖) is the norm. You’re definitely not interested in communism.
; You think most problems could be solved if only people would put aside their prejudices, stop complaining, and work together.
; You take a strong court system for granted, even if you don’t use it. You know that if you went into business and had problems with a customer, partner, or supplier, you could take them to court. However, it could be a long process, and you know you can’t sue people for every stupid thing that’s actually entirely your own fault, much to the disappointment of lawyers.
; You can speak English to some extent. You generally expect people to know at least one foreign language. You may have learned French or Italian in school, although you may not remember much of it. You may have learned Latin for up to six years, but you probably don’t remember more than a couple of phrases, and you complain that you had to learn it.
; English is a minimum requirement for talking to people in other countries. You’ll
have trouble with it in France and some parts of Italy, though. People in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia and parts of Northern Italy are quite likely to speak some German, and you probably expect them to.
; You’re probably distrustful of foreigners (Ausländer, a rather ugly word these days) especially those from Eastern European countries; more likely when your income is low.
; You think a tax level of 55% is scandalously high, but you’d love to earn enough to have to pay that much.
; School is free through secondary school. You have to visit a ―höhere Schule‖ and pass the final Matura exam to be accepted at university, which means you’ll be in school at least 12–13 years. University is not free, although heavily subsidised and therefore still easily affordable.
; University curricula are usually 4 to 6 years long and completely different from school (nobody would ever refer to university as ―school‖). You’re likely to have a half-time job and draw your studies out a bit longer. You’ll have a degree comparable
to a Master’s when you’re finished, although there are now Bakkalaureat degrees for shorter studies.
Everybody knows that
; Mustard comes in tubes or jars. Shaving cream comes in cans. Milk comes in Tetrapack (cardboard) boxes, sometimes in solid plastic bottles, and rarely in glass bottles. You can’t have it delivered to your door.
; Day, month, year, what else makes sense? 26.10.1955 (and you’re supposed to know what happened on that date)
; The decimal point is a comma. Two million Euros would be written as 2.000.000,- . ; A Billion is ten to the power of twelve. A Milliarde is a thousand millions, i.e. ten to the power of nine. You’re used to journalists mistranslating the American ―billion‖ to the German ―Billion‖.
; World War II was probably the most gruesome time in younger history. If you’re older, you may think Austria was a poor victim of Nazism, if you’re younger, you probably think Austria shared almost as much guilt as Germany. Your parents or grandparents have told you at length about wartime, the terror of nightly area bombing raids and the days of Allied occupation when American GIs gave them chewing gum, chocolate and re-labeled tins of cat food, and the Russians raped women. Your grandparents may have fought in the war. You’re being told that you
have it much better than they had.
; You expect marriages to be made for love, not arranged by third parties. Getting married at the Standesamt is a requirement; most marriages also happen in church.
You have a best man and a maid or matron of honor at the wedding—a friend or a
sibling. And, naturally, a man gets only one wife at a time.
; If a man has sex with another man, he’s a homosexual. Not really a big deal today, although it’s still far from being considered normal.
; Unless you’re under about 20–25 years old, or related, or members of the same
club, you address people with Sie and their last names when you meet them the first time. Adding their academic titles (―Magister Mayer‖, ―Doktor Novak‖) is also quite common in formal settings, older people do it all the time. Switching to Du and first names usually takes some time, unless you live in Tyrol, where everyone will think you’re from Vienna if you say ―Sie‖. A rather silly intermediate variant of addressing people with Sie and their first name (which is comparable to saying ―Mr John‖ or ―Ms Susan‖) also exists, but is almost exclusively heard in Kindergarten, dubbed American films and stupid afternoon talkshows.
; If you’re a woman, you may go to the beach topless. No big deal.
; A hotel room has a private bath, unless it’s a very cheap hotel.
; Mainstream hollywood-type films are usually dubbed (though it’s usually also possible to watch them without dubbing or subtitles, at least in larger cities), anything else is usually subtitled.
; You seriously expect to be able to transact business, or deal with the government, without paying bribes. In some cases, subtle nonmonetary forms of ―bribing‖ may be helpful.
; If a politican has been cheating on his wife, you don’t really care much. If you’re a
man, you might even silently admire him.
; Many stores will take your credit card nowadays, although credit cards are mostly used by tourists. If you pay with plastic, you’ll use your Bankomat card (debit card), which is more widely accepted anyway. You usually don’t pay with credit cards in restaurants unless it’s an expensive place or you’re trying to impress someone with your Platinum Visa. You don’t write cheques, nobody does anymore. Sending cheques or cash by mail (e.g. to pay the rent) seems completely archaic; you just let your bank transfer the money directly from your account to the other. ; A company can’t always fire people easily, as there is strong union influence (and legal protection) in some areas.
; You don’t eat bacon. What you eat is Speck, usually smoked, and very yummy. ; Labor Day is the first of May
Die liebe Familie
; You think the EU isn’t such a bad idea most of the time, but you like to complain about it anyway.
; Like most people, you more or less openly hold more or less strong opinions on other countries. For instance:
; Germans can be arrogant snobs, but they bring a lot of money into the country, and they love to drink horribly sweet wines we’d have to throw away otherwise. They also pronounce ―Kaffee‖ with stress on the first syllable, which sounds stupid. For some irrational, deeply emotional reason, you think their cars are the very best in the world. It’s a matter of faith.
; Your mind tells you that the Japanese make cars that are cheaper and more reliable than German ones, but your heart doesn’t follow. Rich Japanese people send their pretty daughters in masses to expensive Austrian music colleges where they learn to play the violin. Rich Japanese people generally love classical music, especially Mozart and Strauss.
; Italians make fast sportscars which are unfortunately quite unreliable. They also have great food. They are a bit lazy, emotional, talk fast and drive like there’s no tomorrow, but they’re very creative. Italian politics are one big soap opera.
; Hungarians have excellent food, and it’s cheap! Let’s all go to Hungary because butter costs 10% less there! If you’re older, you may think Hungary is still part of the Austro-Hungarian empire anyway.
; The Dutch are generally nice, grow genetically modified tomatoes and like to get stoned. They also like to drive in endless trailer convoys down steep mountain roads in 5th gear, constantly braking until the brakes overheat, and disaster strikes. ; Swedes are invariably blond and come to Austria to get really, really drunk, much to the joy of Austrian bar owners, brewery owners, and skiing instructors. They also make expensive cars and cheap furniture.
; You know pretty much all the cultural export articles the USA has to offer. They shape your view of America to a large extent. Americans seem to be very fond of waving big flags, owning big guns, driving big cars, and wearing uniforms, and their houses are usually made of thin wooden boards held together by wallpaper. Of course, you know that this cannot possibly be true.
Space and time
; If you have an appointment, you’ll mutter an excuse if you’re five minutes late, and apologize profusely if it’s ten minutes. An hour late is inexcusable, as you own a mobile phone and could have called to say you’ll be late.
; If you’re talking to someone, you get uncomfortable if they approach closer than about half a metre. You do not expect strangers to hug you. Hugging is reserved for spouse, family, close friends, and football players whose team just scored a goal. (Football players are the only men who can be strictly heterosexual and at the same time hug and kiss other men on a regular basis.)
; About the only things you expect to bargain for are houses, cars, and flea market stuff. Haggling is largely a matter of finding the hidden point that’s the buyer’s
; Once you’re past university, you rarely simply show up at someone’s place. People have to (informally) invite each other over—especially if a meal is involved.
; If you have a business appointment or interview with someone, you expect to have that person to yourself, and the business shouldn’t take more than an hour or so.
Tu felix Austria, nube...
; Your country has been conquered by foreign nations, but your country has conquered other countries by marrying into their respective aristocracies. ; You’re used to a wide variety of choices for almost anything you buy, although of course the ―choices‖ are often quite similar.
; You measure things in metric units, and think that anything else is stupid. You may use the otherwise unusual weight unit Dekagramm (10 grams, in short: Deka) when buying food. Half a kilogram is half a kilogram, not a ―Pfund‖.
; You are probably not a farmer, but you may know one.
; You have not seen ―Sound of Music‖. You probably don't even know what it is.
; Comics don’t play that much of a role in culture, although you’re familiar with Asterix and Disney stuff. You know Biene Maja, and if you grew up in the 1970s or later, you can still sing that title song. Every single word of it. (At the same time, you probably have serious trouble recalling the lyrics of the national anthem).
; The people who appear on the most popular talk shows are mostly entertainers, sometimes politicians, or rather strange individuals. Late night programmes do feature authors and all sorts of intellectuals sometimes. Nobody ever watches them. ; You drive on the right side of the road. You stop at red lights even if nobody’s around. If you’re a pedestrian and cars are stopped at a red light, you will fearlessly cross the street in front of them.
; You consider the Volkswagen Beetle to be a small to medium size car. ; The police are armed with pistols. They don’t keep shotguns, heavy mortars, or ICBMs in their cars. Outside of larger towns, the police is called Gendarmerie, which is just one of the French words that are quite frequently used in Austrian German. ; If a woman is plumper than the average, it doesn’t improve her looks, and she’s constantly reminded of that in women’s magazines, films, and advertising.
; The biggest meal of the day is usually at noon.
; The nationality people most often make jokes about are the Germans (the Swiss come second), although the favourite victims of ethnic jokes are usually people living in Burgenland, Austria’s easternmost province.
; The idea of ―dangerous parts of town‖ strikes you as rather odd, and unless you’re a paranoid elderly citizen, you wouldn’t be afraid of walking anywhere at night. You might feel a bit insecure if you’re female and walking alone in certain areas, though.
; You wouldn’t expect both inflation and unemployment to be high (say, over 15%) at the same time. High inflation seems very unlikely.
; You don’t care very much what family someone comes from.
; The normal thing, when a couple dies, is for their estate to be divided equally between their children.
; You think of opera and ballet as common in some circles, but still rather elite entertainments. It’s likely you don’t see that many plays, either, if you’re out of school.
; Christmas is in the winter. You think that a real Christmas tree should have real candles if possible; definitely no blinking, coloured lights. You expect to find your presents under the tree on the evening of the 24th of December, delivered by the Christkind which looks like one of those little baroque angels.
In the last 15 years or so, multinational Santa Claus has managed to conquer a sizable portion of the Austrian Christmas deliveries market, effectively tearing down the Christkind’s long-standing monopoly. Unless the cute little Christkind can come up with some clever ideas, it’s going to be pushed out of the market soon. Yet another nation in the firm grip of fat, old, unshaved Santa and his bad taste in clothing.
; You may think the church is a bit too powerful, or at least it’s getting too much attention. You’re used to having a de facto state church, which has lately become the equivalent of the British royal family: entertaining and mostly harmless. ; You’d be hard pressed to name the leaders of all the nations of Europe. You could probably name at least the majority of states in the USA, or countries in Asia, and definitely the US president.
; Taxis are often operated by foreigners, who sometimes know their streets and places better than Austrian drivers, and are almost always friendlier. ; You think welfare and unemployment payments are good, but you think some people could easily earn a living and not take handouts. Eliminating social security is completely unthinkable.
; If you want to be a doctor (of medicine), you don’t need to get a bachelor’s first.
; Lawyers exist. Most law students end up in government offices, though.