Things I learned in Austria:
This isn't Spain!
My tolerable, gringo Spanish does nothing here. I've had such pride communicating in the native tongue abroad in Spain and Latin America. In Austria, I had no pride. Once I realized where I was going and that I spoke no German, I Googled key German words, as well as "do people in Vienna speak English?" I also remembered my old bar trick: fooling drunk people that I could speak German. That old trick was useless in Vienna, since I never found other wasted Americans. Thankfully, I survived Austria on apologetic English and lots of "danke."
Winter is still stupid, even in Europe.
When my friend suggested going to Vienna in January, I just thought of my love for European cities, with their public transit, fashion, and historic egos. Living in Florida has ruined me. I never thought of what January is actually like in most of the developed world: cold. The excitement of being in a new foreign city kept me warm for about the first half hour. After that, it was a constant battle to keep my Florida blood warm. A mix of my Michelin Man coat, constant beer drinking, and poor decisions kept me warm enough for a week, but it was still no Florida. Dear local Olympic snowboarder whose jacket I stole: What's German for "Sorry?"
|i love culture.
The Viennese don't know how to enjoy an ice show.
We went to our friends' Hens on Ice show one afternoon to show our support and pretend to be cultured. We behaved normally, just as we do at home for any ice show or hockey game. We cheered loudly for our friends any time they were on the ice, danced in our seats, and spattered beer onto the row in front of us. This is not how Austrians behave at ice shows. I got shushed and glared at before the music started and it didn't get better. At intermission, a woman said something to me in German I couldn't understand. As I tried to break down our language barrier, my new shush-er friend snapped her head back again and grumbled the translation in a heavy accent: "Ze children cannot see anything with the hat on your head. She asks you take off your hat." I gave my new friend an awkward thumbs up and took the form-fitted knit hat off my head. Unfortunately for ze children, my head was still under that centimeter of woven material.
I'm terrible at choosing local establishments by myself in new cities.
I arrived to Vienna a few hours before my friends. After some casual sightseeing and excitement, I was starving, thirsty, and needed wifi. Instead of picking the first cafe I found, I wandered the city for hours, peering in windows like a creep with my luggage in tow, finding a reason why each place was not the place: too small, too busy, not cute, too expensive, too cheap, not the food options I wanted, no room for my luggage, too empty, too local, etc. After all these missed opportunities, I settled on a spot that lacked most of what I wanted. Instead of having full meals, it was a bakery. After ordering my bread and coffee, I learned it was the first place I'd found with no wifi. I make good choices.
I can appreciate new places and still want to go home.
It's easy to get enamored by European public transit, fashion, culture, food, history, recycling, and health care. Okay, that is a lot. But in spite of Florida lacking ALL those things, I still missed it in the grey cold, and I was okay with it. Sure, Vienna had all those great things for a true quality of life, but Florida has sunshine in January. What we lack in culture and efficiency, we make up for it in weirdness and comfort. And as much as I claim to want more culture and efficiency in my life, I also want weird and comfortable.