I have lived in Austria for more than a decade now. Here are my top 5 things I’ve learned as an immigrant from Romania, living in Vienna.
1. How Vienna resonates to my need of calm and order.
This was for me one of the biggest reasons why I decided to stay in Austria. At the beginning I thought Austria had chosen me by offering me many job opportunities. But I now know that actually I have chosen to stay here beyond just the sense of a career purpose. I feel at ease here. The lack of noise, the presence of structure everywhere, the respect for personal space, the green city, the awesome public transport and its convenience…You could of course argue that this calm and order might be too boring, since too much discipline stomps creativity. But for me, this calm and security is exactly what gives me the head space to generate something new. And it gives me the courage, immigrant or not, to get out of my comfort zone and take risks, found a company, buy a house -which, in other environments, I would be too scared to take.
2. How Vienna offers a very detailed-oriented life. “Alles walzer”, as the Austrians say .
Playing by the rules in any endeavour offers my life a sort of elegance, a structure and a rhythm much similar to the steps of a waltz.
In Austria no detail is too small. From the tiniest garbage that disappears from the streets thanks to well-trained, motivated, committed workers to the yeah…crazy bureaucracy you need to follow when dealing with a bank or with the authorities. However, compared to Romanian bureaucracy, this is peanuts. Trust me!
And then, I love it when every time I park wrongly, someone sees me and admonishes me ( or most of the times) to set me back in line with the rules. Some might find this annoying, but I think it balances us, more than it constrains us. If I talk too loud in the public transport or I block an escalator by standing on the left side (yeah, I’m sure you’ve done it too 🙂 ), someone will point out to the right behaviour. Either because they want to sound smart, be heard, or simply out of respect of social conduct in public spaces. It still makes it all be more civilised as we try to mind the other person next to us.
I love that people are so involved into keeping up to these guidelines, I feel we all secretly care so deeply about each other and we hold onto these rules to prove it.
3. It might not be true for many, but Vienna has a way to make me feel special as an immigrant.
When I meet other immigrants, some seem to be surprised that I myself am a foreigner, adopted by this country. It is as if they had forgotten how many immigrants Austria has, especially in the younger generation. When I meet Austrians, they are curious about my journey and my motivations. And even if all of this makes me feel special (because of my accent, my behaviour or my interpretation of life) I am actually very much in the norm. I might be a minority when I think about the specifics of myself: woman, Romanian with studies, a career and a family, a mother and a social entrepreneur. Maybe not too many people will fit my description. But in Austria I found I am very much part of a majority.
- the group of mothers who care about making the best life for their Austrian children.
- the Viennese, who are actually also immigrants if you look far enough into the generations. Did you know that every second Viennese has a migration background?
- the group of people who speak 2 or more languages in the workplace, which is a complete majority.
- the group of people who work towards a dream, regardless of the actual job they have, which is most of us.
So, if you feel singled out, just broaden your perspective and you’ll discover you are not just a statistic.
4. How Austria offers many opportunities to succeed.
Austria teaches me about taking initiative, getting out of my comfort zone and pushes me to be creative in order to achieve my professional goals.
It might not sound new, but let’s face it, whether here or in your own native country, a dose of vitamine B is sometimes needed. And Austria is not the exception.
Most of good business opportunities happen based on networking, connections and what is often called “Vitamin B”. And it makes sense that in a relatively small country such as Austria, that has had its share of wild history, there is a tendency towards oversimplification. People don’t want to make too many decisions, and they don’t want to make half of those decisions bad.
Therefore, recommendations are key and without them you need to work a bit harder to succeed. Is that so bad? In the end, it rewards the people who dare to connect to other people. It rewards social skills, it rewards presenting your work, it rewards empathy and listening to others. Yes, I had to fight for many opportunities, and I had to be creative to get attention. But when I achieved something it was of my own doing. It is a therapeutical process to start as a blank page and to slowly fill it with goals and dreams you want to reach. And in Austria there will always be someone to help you when you ask for help, and as karma goes, you should do the same, step in and return the favour to someone else.
5. How Austria allows me to celebrate my cultural background and future.
I love how I can be myself, with my cultural background, speak my native language and follow some of my old traditions without imposing on anyone.
Sure, there will always be individuals who will want a native conversation partner, or a local to debate on the questions of up-to-date politics and the likes. But, more often than not, I found that it’s not the rule, but the exception. And that whether immigrant or Austrian, we share the same values. Me listening to people brings up just how equally human we all are. I love Austrian traditions and the history and many of the values we live by. I value it as part of my present and future. As long as we contribute to the society and embrace the code of conduct, we can always build a happy future here.