The Mole Diaries: Vienna (Volume 2)

Vienna by cadoc

This article was written by Lucy Jennings, published on 13th October 2010 and has been read 8171 times.

Lucy Jennings studied at the University of Vienna for her entire degree. Here, she gives us her top tips on living like a local and getting savvy on Austrian-living.    
Culture shock tips
Austrians are not as reserved as the Brits. They are more upfront with their feelings, have no problem with being naked in public (at a Spa or whilst swimming), are perfectly happy discussing money and are generally more open. Austrians are incredibly patriotic. According to them, they have the best climate, ski resorts, snow, food, wine, social system, school system, life quality, countryside and mountains. Even if you don’t agree with any of this, it’s a waste of energy trying to persuade them otherwise. The British and Austrian humor are like chalk and cheese. I often say things I find hilarious and am answered with a circle of blank faces followed by “That’s probably funnier in English, right?” Austria has many regional dialects that can be quite hard to understand at the beginning. Even some Austrians struggle to understand the thicker dialects in Voralberg, southern Styria or Tirol.   What to bring with you/leave behind If you’re here in Winter, warm clothes are advisable. Even in Vienna it can be as cold as -10 during the coldest months (Jan/Feb). Winter boots and warm jackets, hats, a scarf, gloves are a must. Getting out into the countryside is very easy in Austria. Departing from any city in Austria, you can be in the middle of nowhere within 15 mins. So if you like hiking, cycling, climbing etc, it’s definitely worth bringing your stuff with you. If you’re here in Winter and enjoy skiing, then bring anything you might have with you. Semmering is the closest ski resort to Vienna which can be reached in an hour by train (perfect for day or weekend trips). If you can't live without Marmite… bring it with you! There is, to my knowledge, one British supermarket (supermarket is a huge exaggeration… it’s a tiny shop - Schleifmühlgasse 8, 1040 Wien) where you can find Marmite and other strange things you never eat in England but suddenly NEED when you're abroad. The shop in itself is ok but pretty expensive.   Things I wish I'd known before I arrived Don’t compare Austria to Germany. Within a short time in Austria, you will quickly pick up that Austrians seriously dislike Germans. Confusing the two or saying that they are the same or similar is a bad idea! In Austria, the formal and informal way of saying ‘you’ (du/Sie) is very important. From my experience you are also not really cut much slack for being foreign. Anyone older than you or above you in a hierarchy of some sort (at work for example) should be spoken to with the formal ‘you’ form. Austrians are absolutely crazy about their titles. If an Austrian has a PhD in tap-dancing, they are a doctor and you have to use their title. Some titles are even transferable through marriage, meaning a lot of people have titles without having done anything other than getting married. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous you find it when you have to address your tap-dancing neighbour as Herr/Frau Mag. (FH) Dr. so-and-so, BA, its just one of those things that you have to do!   Uni I've never studied in England but as far as I know university is much less structured in Austria than it is in England. At the beginning of your degree, you are given a list of subjects that need to be completed. The when and the how is up to you. There is also no time limit. You can do as much or as little in a semester as you want. Most lectures are in very large rooms and it’s not always easy to meet new people. Language degrees tend, however, to be more interactive and with smaller groups of people. Make sure that you sign up early for the courses as places fill up quickly.   Housing Most students either live in shared apartments, or in studios. It is not uncommon to have students living alone in Austria. There are also student halls (Studentenheim) like in England but as far as I know, there aren’t as many as there are in the UK. Heimfest lists all the halls in Vienna. If you would rather rent a room in an apartment (known as a WG - Wohngemeinschaft) then a good place to look is Derstandard. Under ‘Immobilien’ and then ‘Immobilien suchen’, you will be asked to fill out details about how the apartment (Wohnung) should be. If you’re just looking for a room in an apartment, be sure to write ‘Wohngemeinschaft’ into the search.   Places to go
1st District – The 1st district is the innermost district in Vienna, which has countless shops and cafés. It is also architecturally very beautiful with all its old buildings and churches. It’s a very lively area and a great place for walking or spending time with friends etc. Museumsquartier – This is a large pedestrian only area in Vienna’s 7th district with over 50 museums. If museums are not your thing, there are many trendy cafés and restaurants that are all worth visiting Schönbrunn + Tiergarten – Schönbrunn is the name of the old Habsburg palace, where the Austrian Royal family used to live. You can visit the palace or just walk around the palace gardens. Within the gardens is the Schönbrunner Tiergarten (zoo) which is definitely worth visiting. Prater – Vienna has its very own theme park right in the middle of town.  Surrounding the theme park is a large park perfect for jogging or just lounging around in. Mariahilfe Straße – The Mariahilfe Straße is a long street that divides the 6th and 7th district. It’s the main high street in Vienna and perfect for a shopping marathon. Naschmarkt – Naschmarkt is a large market full of exotic food, bars and restaurants. On Saturday mornings there is also a big flea market full of all sorts of stuff.

Summer:
Sand in the city – In summer a large area of space in the middle of town is turned into a beach with palm trees, sofas, coctails etc, which makes it quite a lot of fun.   Winter: Christmas markets (Christkindlmarkt) – from late November/early December the Christmas markets start and are a great place for meeting friends and drinking a Glüwein (mulled wine). The biggest Christkindlmarkt is in front of the town hall (Rathaus Platz) but I personally would recommend Spittelberg Christkindlmarkt as it winds its way through small cobbled streets and is a little less commercial. In Winter there are also various places where you can go skating outdoors which is great fun if you don’t mind the cold. Rathausplatz or Lothringerstrasse 22 (where sand in the city is in summer) are the most popular places.

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