No, I Don’t Mean Australia … I mean Austria!

Over the weekend, I traveled to arguably one of my favorite places in Europe: Vienna, Austria. Austria is a German speaking country in central Europe that is known for its lovely café culture, being the center of many art movements, and being home to classical music and picturesque mountain ranges. However, as a newcomer to this land of mountains, I had no idea what really set it apart from Germany, which is also home to some of these things. Turns out, Austria is more than the Canada to Germany’s United States.

Wienerschnitzel, the classic Austrian dish, has nothing to do with sausages. The name meaning: cutlet (Viennese style).

“Bavaria is the better Germany, and Austria is the better Bavaria.”

This is a small joke that Austrians have said when comparing the countries. Austria is not unlike the southern German state of Bavaria. Old traditions, similar dialect, Catholic beliefs and beautiful farmland.

However, Austria has a unique history that sets it apart from Germany. It was part of one of the largest empires in Europe that ruled over people from all different kinds of religions, languages and ethnicities. Vienna has often been the meeting point of many important congregations throughout the history of Europe. After the World Wars, Austria was formed as a new republic that would keep a neutral stance in Europe, after having been involved in both wars on the German side.

History aside, Austria has a uniquely different culture. One could say that they are the “jolly” Germans, but a small joke does not reflect the reality. Austria, like some parts of Europe has a more reserved populace. Often while travelling on the Viennese metro, one can find people wearing somewhat conservative clothes headed to their destinations. Germany is much more relaxed in what is considered evening wear.

In Germany, one would be more likely head to a beer garden or a beer hall. However, Austria’s cities have cafés scattered throughout where one can enjoy beer or coffee specialties such as melange. This is often the place to go for Austrians, and there is a café for everyone. I had gone with some friends to what was considered a “hackerspace” café, a place where programmers could discuss computers and the latest in tech. Other cafés might offer a place to listen to live music, read or just chat with friends.

Wiener mélange, similar to a cappuccino, is one of many Viennese coffee specialties. Often served with a small glass of water.

Austrian German is also something that most people don’t realize is quite different from the standard German. One doesn’t say Kartoffel for the word potato, instead in Austria, one says Erdapfel (literally apple of the earth, from the French pomme de terre). Jänner instead of Januar for January, Fußgeher instead of Fußgänger for pedestrian — the list goes on. The pronunciation is different as well, with rolling Rs and different stresses on the vowels.

This can create quite the problem when you find yourself not being understood at a restaurant!

Mye with my Austrian friends, Adam, Simon and Roxi at a café in downtown Vienna – the perfect way to spend the evening

Until next time! Servus, Oida!

Eduardo Santiago is a German major with a minor in international security and conflict resolution (ISCOR). He is studying in Tübingen, Germany for an entire academic year.

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