5 things I miss about life in Austria

My time in the land of the lederhosen and ski-high alps has drawn to a close.  After just three weeks of being back home I’m already starting to miss a couple things from my life abroad.  Here’s a few:

1.  Snow
snow

Since my return, Perth has seen a max of up to 37.5°C, no place for a delicate icy snowflake.  I am in no way made for the cold, and despite living in thermal wear, I struggled to get by in anything less than 10 degrees (My Finnish friend thought I was a joke).  But when those white fluffy feathers of snow started to fall from the sky, lining the roofs, sidewalks and even dustbins with a soft layer of clean white snow, it became oh, SO worth it to layer up and brave the cold.  In Salzburg and Graz it was always magical to look up and see the mountains surrounding the towns capped with snowy white peaks.  But most of all I miss dream-like hikes through snow covered trails and snowboarding down those perfect white Alps.

2.  Kissing as a greeting

Coming from a culture where hello kisses are generally saved for lovers and greeting grandmothers; I was at first a bit put off, when it seemed to be the general greeting across Europe regardless of age or gender.  It took me a little while to get it right.  All the Europeans seemed to slip in a kiss on either cheek so smoothly and casually but I would turn it into a cringe worthy awkward ordeal.  First I would hesitate not sure whether to go in for the kiss or not – what are the rules?

This is the first time I’ve met this person and we’re kissing already?!

What if they are gross or if they smell, can I be excused?!

Then I always seemed to go for the wrong cheek first, much to the delight of onlookers and to the horror of my poor victim.

When it came to a group situation, with multiple people to kiss, I would have much rather saved myself the awkwardness and become a recluse, never having to greet another person again.

I bumped into my Austrian friend on my way to school one morning, we were both heading in opposite directions.  She kissed me hello then after a less than two minute conversation, she wanted to kiss me again goodbye – like really?! We JUST kissed!!

But recently, it has grown on me.  It is so much more meaningful, friendly and personal than a handshake, as if holding your hand out and saying ‘ok, nice to meet you but please keep this much distance from me at all times’.  Why are we so scared to get close to each other?  Australia needs to learn to share the love.

3.  Not having to drive my car

The public transport system in Europe is fantastic in comparison to Perth.  I traveled by train from Graz to all ends of Austria and across borders to Germany, Croatia, Slovenia, the Netherlands, Hungary and the Czech Republic.  Even just within Graz the tram stop was just in front of my apartment building and took me straight to the city center, although if the weather was good I would walk.  I loved not having to rely on the pollutant money sponge on wheels, that I once thought I could not live without.

4.  Access to foreign languages
language

It wasn’t just German I was exposed to on a daily basis.  As Graz is a student city with six separate universities, the city sees a LOT of exchange students from all over the world.  Just in my flat we had the Austrians speaking Deutsch, myself from Australia speaking English, a guy from the Netherlands speaking Dutch and a Parisian girl speaking French.  Being within such close proximity to many different countries, each with a language of their own, most of the young people I met whilst traveling around Austria had a repertoire of anywhere from 2 to 7 different languages, under their belt!!  It is a shame languages other than English aren’t so readily accepted or celebrated in Australia.  Unfortunately upon my return I am struggling to find the resources to implement, practice and extend my German.

5.  Austrian bread
FruitNut Bread

Think seeds, nuts, grains and even dried fruits.  Australia’s multi-grain has nothing on the sesame, sunflower and poppyseed mix of a sportswerkel. Don’t even get me started on their various nut breads…

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