In the United States, today is Memorial Day, a holiday for remembering those soldiers who died while serving in the military. Originally a holiday to honor those who died in the Civil War, Memorial Day has long applied to all service members who have died while serving. It is most certainly an important day and one that should be honored, but there’s just one problem. On Memorial Day, Americans write that we should always remember those who died for our freedom. Every Memorial Day I ask myself the same question, but on this one the question is asked with more than the usual incredulity – what freedom should be we thankful for?
When you grow up in the USA, you deal with an amazing amount of propaganda. It’s constant. It never ends and if you disagree, you’re swiftly put in your place and denounced as a traitor and subhuman. When you grow up in the USA, you grow up hearing stories and claims of why and how the USA is such a great country. It’s the best in the world, in fact. No one is as free as an American. No one at all. No one has it better. We are the most technologically advanced, the most socially advanced, the most intelligent of all countries and the strongest. No one can beat us at any war. No one can match our economy. No one can match our technology. While there are certainly a few truths in there, the general reality couldn’t be any further from the truth (pick a criteria and I bet the US is often not even in the top 5).
After having spent 20 years of my life in the USA, I moved to Austria in July 2007. At first, the differences were quite stark. Now, I like to consider myself an open-minded person, willing to listen to most any argument or reasoning. But nothing could have prepared for me what my move would change in my life. I knew that Europe was different from the USA, but things were still mostly alike. Right? I mean, we’re all capitalist and sure Europeans have more social welfare, they’re still the same. Mostly. Except that America is still better on all counts. Right? I can think back through my first year in Austria and remember the moments that made me start finally realizing the bullshit. The bullshit I’d been told all my life that simply wasn’t true. I became aware that I had these red, white and blue colored sunglasses over my eyes. I suddenly saw that there was something clouding my thoughts and opinions each and every single minute of every day. That permanent state of denial. Then I made a decision. I took the sunglasses off. It was like seeing the world for the first time – everything was different. I suddenly began to question everything I had ever seen while wearing those glasses. If this is what reborn Christians feel like, I can kind of understand why they are so fervent about it.
Let’s go back to my original question, though. What freedom should we be thankful for? Certainly America is a very free country and we have a significant amount to be thankful for. No denying that whatsoever. But just because we have it so good doesn’t mean we can’t make it better. And there’s definitely getting worse, right? Wrong. I would argue that the last actual war for real freedom was the Second World War. Not even for American freedom back then, though, but simple human freedom. Soldiers haven’t fought or died for American freedom for close to a century or even more. I could certainly understand the argument for the Cold War, but it was never a real war in the traditional sense. Furthermore, we have been losing freedoms left and right ever since 9/11.
Let me explain.
Following World War II was the Cold War. The great ideological war between capitalism and communism/socialism that dominated world policy for over decades. Definitely there were moments where agents of the US government did what they could to protect American freedom, but let’s face it: the vast majority was nothing more than a war of interests. The Soviet Union and the United States were the two superpowers vying for power across the globe. The US reacted after the Soviets made their initial push to take over the devastated parts of Europe following the war and gained a significant foothold and then neither was content to see the other gain further dominance. Europe was a stalemate so they turned to the developing world, those countries that were former colonies and now only finding their own stability following years of chaos. And they threw them back into chaos.
We also lost some freedoms back then. If you were suspected of being a communist, your phones were tapped, your mail was read, every aspect of your life was investigated. For the suspicion of having an opposing viewpoint. Not for having the opposing viewpoint but merely the suspicion of the fact existed, so you lost your right to privacy (a right we have never regained).
Americans weren’t the only ones that lost freedoms. Just look at the list of proxy wars during the Cold War between the two in countries and regions that were easily taken advantage of and used as pawns in a global chess match. Those people lost the freedom to decide their own destiny. Democracies were liquidated and replaced with dictatorships on a regular basis. Just so long as communism or socialism didn’t have control of the country and spread its global influence. The same was true for the USSR – I’m definitely not picking sides here. It’s no wonder so many countries harbor such ill will towards the USA and Russia even after twenty years.
Vietnam was just another proxy war, although this time there was American skin in the game. All because we didn’t want to let a capitalist government that couldn’t even support itself and was so corrupt fall to communism. Bravo. I honestly don’t think I need to go into detail here, do I?
Then you have the War on Drugs. A war. Over drugs. A war that has destroyed communities and countless lives over something as trivial as a bag of weed. Felony charges for young people that are not harming anyone at all. Pushing entire communities into poverty and destroying families and actually forcing American citizens into further criminality through flawed policies. 1920s Prohibition all over again.
Then the most recent: the War on Terror and the worst one yet. Also the most controversial. Decades of poor foreign policy have finally shown their fruits. The chickens have come home to roost. After supporting Arab dictators for decades and forcing an entire region into abject poverty, we finally reap what we have sown (brilliant article from Noam Chomsky titled “It’s not radical Islam that worries the US — it’s independence” from 2011). Certainly this is not a justification for Islamist terrorism, but given that our flawed foreign policy is largely the cause of it, you do have to lend the argument some thought. I’m not saying terrorism is good. Far from it. But when you look at the harm the Cold War did to the region, you can kind of understand why they’re so pissed. They don’t even need religion but it’s done a great job of galvanizing and uniting the angry masses. Just like financial inequality has done so (or attempted to do) in a peaceful manner in the West with #OWS, so have these fanatics and psychotics done so with Islam, a religion that is otherwise just as peaceful as Christianity (the Bible is just as bloody, especially the Old Testament – just read Leviticus). And we’re all told they hate us because of our freedom.
It is under the banner of the War on Terror that the freedoms that we cling to and deserve have been ripped away. Not only in the USA, but certainly the USA is the leader in this fight to take away our rights.
Since 9/11 there have been all kinds of attacks on basic freedom: the PATRIOT Act, privately owned and operated for-profit prisons (being filled with the victims of the War on Drugs), drone strikes on American citizens, CISPA and SOPA. Why? Because either we need to be protected from the terrorists and good people have nothing to worry about privacy invasions or we’re dirty, dirty pirates that don’t want to be told what to do with our data (all those iTunes albums you download? Yeah, they don’t belong to you). Then the attacks on freedom of speech/assembly that we saw during #OWS and the unbelievable aggressiveness with which whistleblowers are being prosecuted by the Obama White House. All under the guise of keeping us safe and sound and in order to preserve the status quo.
So today is Memorial Day. Since 9/11, almost 5,000 soldiers have died and over 6,000 have been wounded. All in the War on Terror. And what do we have to show for it? A financial crisis that has destroyed the global economy and made the rich richer and the poor poorer and the greatest erosion of our freedoms since the Revolutionary War. Still feel like celebrating Independence Day on July 4th? Still feel that our soldiers have died for our freedoms today? I made a realization during my last trip to the USA. Everything is fake. The “reality” shows are fake, the tits are fake, the food that the majority of Americans eat isn’t real food and now even the freedom is fake.Tweet
This must be the most random thought to have ever occurred to me. I realized what I hate most of all when I go grocery shopping in Vienna (next to the sad state of produce in Austrian stores) is that lack of Langsemmeln. For those that are looking at me like a confused dog - a Langsemmel or a Kaisersemmel is, look here:
The one on the left is a Langsemmel (plural: Langsemmeln) and the one on the right is its bastard cousin, the Kaisersemmel (plural: Kaisersemmeln).
Now you will likely say, “Oh, but they’re just identical rolls shaped differently - what’s the big deal?”. You have absolutely no idea. Yes, they are really the same roll just shaped differently, but the difference is significant.
Think about it like this, when do you most often eat a Semmel? Either when having a pair of sausages or when making a sandwich at home. Or maybe you’re buying a Wurstsemmel at a store. Or even a Leberkässemmel! It doesn’t matter - in every one of these situations, the Langsemmel is vastly superior. Shape matters. Here’s why:
- If you’re eating a pair of sausages, you’ll love the improved design of the Langsemmel over the Kaisersemmel. The Langsemmel is simple to break in half and dipping a symmetrical column shape into mustard is so much easier than the malformed triangles that the Kaisersemmel provides you with when you tear it. It’s like it wants to make eating bread with mustard and sausages as difficult and ungainly as possible. Sorry, but no.
- Making a sandwich? Have you ever thought that you just want that one quick sandwich, but you have multiple combinations of ingredients? Still not a problem! The shape of the Langsemmel allows you to make two small but completely different sandwiches. At the end you don’t get one boring sandwich. You get two awesome sandwiches! A Kaisersemmel? Just that one boring sandwich. Still not convinced? OK, keep reading.
- Ever gotten a Leberkässemmel with a Kaisersemmel? Of course you have. They’re good, aren’t they? But what’s one thing that’s surely always bothered you about eating one? The meat hanging off the edge? Yep. A slice of Leberkäs is most often not perfectly square. It’s usually oblong, unless you happen to get that one perfect slice from the middle. What else is oblong? Of course! The Langsemmel! It perfectly covers that slice of meat and doesn’t leave any cheese or grease or anything from getting all over your hands or, in the winter, gloves. Langsemmel FTW.
- You want a Wurstsemmel from the supermarket. You need a quick bite to eat on the way to or from somewhere and you don’t want a greasy kebab or a pizza. Not a problem - grab a Wurstsemmel! But what does shape have to do with this? It’s just a boring sandwich. Not so! The length of the Langsemmel allows for a much better grip on the sandwich when you’re walking down the street. The Kaisersemmel is merely round. Like a slightly deflated ball. The Langsemmel has a built-in grip! Holy shit! Surely your mind must now be blown. Never thought of it like that, did you?
Sorry, but if you don’t believe me after reading that, you’re a troglodyte.Tweet
After having grown up in the United States, it was difficult to adjust to going to the movies in Vienna. For starters, I had to first find the English theaters. I can speak German fluently, but I hate films that have been synchronized. Every now and again the voice might fit the actor/character, but often it’s just stumblingly stupid (my favorite: “Yippee-kay-ay mother fucker” versus “Yippee-kay-ay Schweinebacke”).
Once you find the English theater, you’ll notice that screens are often much smaller. The German-only theaters often have typical screens, though. Why the English cinemas get pooped on, I’ll have no idea. I know that Haydn has modernized their screens to a large degree and they’re entirely independent - bravo. Cineplexx Artis is quite good, too, if you want LOTS of screens and an absolutely gargantuan screen with a balcony viewing area (seriously - it’s fucking awesome).
I could talk ages and ages upon how different the English cinemas are from American and present their pros and cons, but I’m not going to. The experience at the English cinemas is simply far too different to compare with America. Besides, I like the English cinemas more than in America and I’m not sure how I could make that blog post funny. Let me talk about Austrian cinemas, though.
Going to the movies at a cinema in Vienna is absolutely horrid (it took me far too long how to figure out how to spell that word). I hate it. I was at Lugner Kino City and UCI Millenium City recently and I hated every minute of it. Well, not every minute of it - the movies were pretty good. Anyway.
What I love about American cinemas is that I can buy tickets online, no problem whatsoever. Either the chain themselves offer a website or you can go to various movie ticket websites. It’s brilliant. I can remember having to show up at a theater early in the morning to grab tickets for the evening show and having to drive across town to do it. Horrid. Then online ticketing came and it was like Jesus’s second coming. World changing.
Want to go to Lugner Kino City? Forget it. Can’t do it. You can RESERVE tickets online, but you can’t buy them online. Last night I went to Lugner Kino City because I heard they had awesome seats and I was seeing a sync’d movie I didn’t care much about. Whatever, right? You have to reserve online and then pick them up at least 30 minutes ahead of time to pick them up, otherwise your reservation is deleted from the system. OK, I’m usually overly punctual for appointments, anyway, I was sure they would have a kiosk or enough registers (Lugner City is well visited - though their average customer tends to be a bit more orange than usual). Whatever, I can wait in line if I have to. Got there, no kiosk and only a few registers were open. I got their 45 minutes ahead of time, so 15 minutes to spare before deadline. I almost didn’t make it. What if I had been 10 minutes late? The movie was really popular that night and I’m sure my tickets would have disappeared. I got lucky, I’m sure many aren’t as punctual as I am. While you can buy the tickets online, I’ve been told that you still have to pick them up from the counter (I didn’t organize the tickets last night).
Then there are the types of people that hang out at Lugner City. Sorry, but the customers are ghetto at best, downright trashy at worse. They also can’t keep their mouths shut in movie theaters. It’s like watching a horror movie with a bunch of ghetto kids from the South. Just shut the fuck up and watch the movie.
Today I went to UCI to see a German-made movie. Obviously you can’t expect there to be an English version of that and original is generally always better, right? On UCI’s website you can’t make a reservation, you can only purchase. I’ve been to UCI in Millenium City often because it’s simply so close and every now and again they show an English film. It’s still a piss poor experience and I do it only as an absolute last resort. There are no kiosks at all and they are always horribly understaffed on their registers, just like Lugner (despite there being more than enough registers at both). Either hire more people or install machines to make them obsolete. Then at UCI you run the risk of getting watered down soft drinks. Read about it on the Internet if you think I’m lying - I’ve gotten watered down coke twice. It was horrible. Worst cinema in all of Vienna, hands down.
I’m going to be honest, the folks that hang out around Millenium City aren’t much better. They’re not absolutely childish and ridiculous like Lugner City, but it’s not much better. You fuckers are also always chattering on in the theater. In the words of Achmed the Dead Terrorist: “SILENCE!”
So going to the movies in Austria pretty much sucks if you want to go an Austrian theater. Unless I’m going to a Cineplexx theater. Those are the best hands down and even equal to or better than most American cinemas. Want to reserve, just in case you want to hold the seats until you’re absolutely sure you’re going? No problem. Want to buy them outright on the website because you are positive you’re going? No problem. Want to stand in lines that might be horribly long? Feel free. But we have kiosks. And if you buy a ticket online, there aren’t any lines to begin with! Just print it out beforehand or at the kiosk. Your pick. There are also multiple Cineplexx venues within Vienna to choose from and they even have their own English one (Artis)! You can also watch English films in IMAX (every Wednesday at Apollo they have one or two showings)!
Since Cineplexx theaters are spread out across the city, you have your pick of locale. You don’t like the crowd that’s at one theater? Go to a different one. They’re mostly all very centrally located or otherwise well reachable by public transport from most anywhere in the city. It’s great. The folks that go to Artis are usually all wonderful and even Apollo has never been that bad. Haven’t been to Donauplex, though, so no idea if that’s the type of mall rats that hang around Lugner and UCI. Whatever.
The Cineplexx website is a bit goofy, but then again so are all cinema websites in Austria. Not much of a high standard here, but it’s always getting better.
So if you want to have a most pleasant movie viewing experience, just go to a Cineplexx theater.Tweet
Fucking tourists. It’s a real love-hate relationship that must have with tourists.
I find it awesome that I live in a city that tourists actually pay serious amounts of money to come and visit and experience. It’s quite humbling. They’re also a large portion of the economy for many cities and Vienna is no exception. But oh how I hate them.
Walking through the city and you turn the street corner and there’s a whole gaggle of them walking towards you. Ugly hats. Ugly shoes. Just everything ugly. And they’re blocking the sidewalk. The. Entire. Sidewalk. Seriously, how much of an arrogant group of pricks must you be to take up the entire sidewalk? Get out of the fucking way! Then when you’re not in the way, you decide to stop instantly without warning and raise your camera to take a picture. Watch out behind you! If this is how you drive, you must just shit bumpers, grills and other assorted pieces of automobiles.
American tourists are sometimes the worst. You fly thousands of miles to Vienna, a city famous for its coffee and where do you go? You go to fucking Starbucks! Not one of the multitudes of authentic cafes. No. You go to Starbucks. The McDonald’s of coffee. Just completely disregard the fact that the first coffee house was in Vienna. In 1685. That’s almost 100 years before the United States was found.
Each group of tourist has their particular attributes, though – no two groups are truly alike. Some of these are:
- Americans – Often characterized by a deafening noise upon opening their mouths in normal conversation. Their ignorance also knows absolutely no bounds. Most specimens dress either like 14-year or 50-year olds and have absolutely no sense of basic fashion, especially those of the older generations. But unfortunately I am one of you and feel especially obligated to help you when I hear you bumbling about the city.
- Brits – Like the Americans, you are loud and obnoxious. Your women are often ugly and your cooking is often made fun of (despite the fact that the Brits do indeed have a wonderful culinary history). Thankfully you know how to dress and you have some sense of history and propriety. None of you seem to have a sense of punctuality, however. You’re tirelessly late to everything. And your teeth…
- Canadians – See “Americans”. But add extreme politeness to it.
- East Asians – I hate throwing so many into a single pot but we honestly don’t pick up on the differences too often. It’s amazing how often you all dress the same. You also travel in large packs. Like wolves. If wolves had cameras. Oh, the cameras. I’ve seen pros that walk around with less gear. A group of Asian tourists is like a portable photo studio. You also photograph everything. Is that a blond boy running past? Quick, snap a thousand shots of him! Your behavior, however, in contrast to all other groups is ideal. You are always perfectly prepared for any eventuality. Should one find oneself in an apocalyptic scenario, find the closest group of Asian tourists and I guarantee you will be taken care of.
- Oil rich Arabs – If the East Asians are like walking photo studios, you guys are like walking buffets for thieves. You carry so much bling. You have the most expensive clothes and you feel entitled to everything. As well you should be and Europeans best bow to their Arab masters. Or something like that.
- Russians – You’re like Arabs but without the tan. Your women also have gigantic fake breasts and your men always look pissed off.
That’s really all I have right now that’s close to being funny.
Hopefully I’m not this bad when I’m a tourist… *shudder*Tweet
Another day, another problem with Drei. Though I’ve fixed this one, too.
Before I had my Nexus 4, I had an LG Optimus 3D and was originally an A1 customer. After switching to Drei, however, my phone had the annoying tendency to not properly switch from 2G to 3G. Instead, I had to manually search for Drei’s 3G/UMTS network and then select it to connect. Quite annoying since the entire process took a few minutes out of my time and if I need 3G, I need it fast.
After getting my Nexus 4, I thought this problem would have been solved but apparently not. I’ve had the exact same problem since I bought it and tonight sat down to see if I could find a solution. As it would turn out, Nexus 4 owners are having the exact same issue with O2 in Germany. One user there suggested that changing the APN authentification method from <Not Set> to PAP would fix the problem.
In the thread there was another user that was also on Drei and having the same issue and commented that switching to PAP did the job for him. Well, two people reporting the same solution worked on two different networks seemed promising, so I gave it a shot and it worked beautifully.
After changing the setting, be sure to open the menu and then click save. A restart of the phone doesn’t seem to hurt, either. To test it, I turned the phone on and made sure that only 2G was on before I shut it down. Tried switching 3G on and it connected instantly. Then I turned 3G off and turned on wifi and then restarted again. Turned wifi off, turned 3G on and again it worked like a charm. Rapidly switching between 2G and 3G is not something the phone likes to do, but a quick restart fixed that issue.
If you’re having the same issue on any phone, it doesn’t have to be the Nexus 4, try changing this setting in your APN settings. I asked a friend who has a Galaxy S on bob and his was also <Not Set> but he doesn’t have this problem.
I imagine that the issue is simply the fact that the 2G network you use as a Drei customer is not in fact from Drei, but rather T-Mobile. This means that to switch to 3G means actually logging off the T-Mobile network and logging onto the Drei network. Clearly there seems to be some issues here that need to be worked out.
Thankfully, @skoops pointed out to me that Drei will switch its 2G service to Orange in the summer and then in the fall the full merger of Drei and Orange will be complete, meaning no more roaming necessary and this little issue of logging off one network and logging into another will likely disappear. Hopefully. If not, let this be a helpful reminder.
(I already posted this lot in German in that Android-Hilfe.de thread, so this solution is in both languages out there in the wild.)Tweet
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I just bought a Nexus 4 yesterday and am absolutely over the moon about it. Best cell phone I have ever owned, hands down. Last night when I was configuring it, I was using it primarily via my home wifi network, so I never actually took the time to test the mobile data.
For my mobile data needs, I have a SIM card from Drei (also known as “Three” in Australia and Great Britain). Apparently, Drei only maintains a UMTS/3G network of their own and does not have their own 2G network at all. A bit odd, but they’ve overcome this little hurdle by partnering with T-Mobile to use the Tmob network for all 2G needs and Tmob customers can use Drei’s 3G network (all of this is for Austria only).
Since I like to conserve battery, I only ever turn 3G on when I actually need it, otherwise I leave it shut off when I am out and about. When I went to test out the 2G network, I realized that I didn’t have any data connection at all. Checked my APN settings and everything was fine and that’s when my friend Florian told me that when he uses the bob network on 2G, he has to activate data roaming, otherwise it won’t work at all (he also is a brand new Nexus 4 owner). I tried that on my Nexus 4 with Drei and voila, I had an internet connection.
I was a bit worried about incurring extra charges, though, so I called up to Drei and asked them (general customer support and tech support) what the deal was. Apparently for Drei on many phones you MUST activate roaming to use 2G, otherwise it just won’t work at all. Period. Extra charges, though? None at all. The tech support guy actually had a bit of a tone in his voice like I just asked him if he was Jesus. Regardless - turning on roaming on your Nexus 4 to use bob or Drei will not put any extra charges on your bill. Just make sure to turn it off when you cross the border. ;)
EDIT: Here’s an article (in German) that details exactly what I am talking about here but concentrates on bob and also has a solution to avoiding international roaming charges.Tweet
OK, I’m going to go ahead and share my recipe with all of you. Yes, I said it. All of you. No, I am not going to leave out any secret ingredients. You get everything I use to make your taste buds quiver in orgasmic delight. That way you can do the same to your friends. Guys, this is what I was talking about when I mentioned baking earlier.
All right… Here it is:
- 2 eggs
- 200g of brown sugar (you can use white if you have it, too)
- approx. 115g of melted butter (being a few grams off doesn’t make a difference)
- Teaspoon of vanilla extract (a vanilla sugar package is OK, too, but extract is better)
- 30g of cocoa
- 60g of flour
- 1g baking powder
- 2g of salt
Now here’s what you do with all of that:
- Preheat your oven to 175°C and grease and flour a baking form. I use a glass lasagna dish, but use whatever you want that will hold the batter.
- Mix the eggs, butter, sugar and extract together.
- Now add the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder and mix them.
- Mix until you get a brown, creamy mixture. I’m told that overmixing batter can make the brownies really hard. Don’t do that. We want to make the batter just right to keep the brownies a bit fluffy.
- Pour the batter into the greased and floured baking dish and even it out a bit.
- Bake for about 30 minutes. Check it at 25 minutes with a toothpick. You’ll know they’re ready when only a glossy layer of batter comes off on the toothpick. You can bake them a bit longer, but I find they’re a bit creamy inside when I do this. Not a lot of batter on the toothpick! Just enough to where the toothpick is SLIGHTLY wet. You might need practice but you can honestly overbake them and they still taste fantastic.
This recipe is really hard to screw up. If you screw this up, you might want to just give up on ever learning to use your kitchen. Don’t even buy one in the future. Just order out all the time. There’s no hope for you.
I’ve been living in the City of Music for over five years now and I’ve learned a great many things about a great many things. Let me share with you some essential pieces of knowledge about living in Vienna (and Austria):
- You can insult anyone you want. Anyone. It doesn’t matter who. Just make sure you use the correct title.
- In the summer there is no reason to pay for a trip to the sauna. Just pay for a train ticket and ride around in the subway (hot tip: the U6 gives you the best bang for your buck).
- If you need to buy drugs, go to Schottenring after dark and ask the closest, well-dressed African. They’re the drug dealers. I swear, the drug dealers in Vienna dress better than every drug dealer in the US.
- The African drug dealers only ever have ecstasy and coke. The Turks specialize in ditch weed.
- To get to some of the best ice cream in Vienna you have to drive into the “ghetto”. Just like in the US, if you want to get good fried chicken, you have to risk a mugging to do so.
- There are no real ghettos in Vienna but everyone thinks they’re hard as shit.
- The trick to getting American food in Austria is getting to know people from the UN. Schmooze up to those people. They are your official dealers of all legal addictive substances at low, low prices - Mountain Dew, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and other fattening things.
- In a pinch, you can use those butter cookies in place of Graham crackers and make s’mores.
- Milka is God’s gift to the world.
- Milka chocolate chip cookies are amazing.
- Knowing how to bake awesome brownies will get you laid.
- Knowing how to bake awesome muffins will get you laid. Again.
- Austrian women lose their shit over native English-speaking men.
- All Austrian beer is good. Except Ottakringer. Fuck Ottakringer.
- Styrian beer is the best beer. Yeah, Stiegl, I said it. Whatchoo gonna do bout it?
- Bringing the wrong bottle of wine to a dinner can potentially be the last mistake you will ever make.
- If you ask 5 civil servants the exact same question, you will receive 6 different answers.
- Austrians don’t give a flying fuck about protecting their president.
- An American speaking in Austrian dialect makes every Austrian think you’re German. Or Dutch. Or some far-flung valley in Tirol.
- There is a word for rich people who dress like filthy hipsters.
- There is a “Viennese Silicon Valley”. It’s close to the Philadelphiabrücke subway station… I don’t get the joke, either.
- A dental hygienist can become the leader of the Nazi Party.
- If you want a cheese-filled sausage, you have to order a “pus-filled”.
- Drinking piping hot alcohol in the middle of winter is the best way to drink outside.
- Austrians think Americans are stupid for our “drunk in public” laws.
Whenever I’m walking around Vienna, I almost always have some kind of bag with me.
A bag is an important piece of equipment when living in a city, especially in Europe where shopping bags are not free: they make carrying things so much easier, especially if you often have to carry heavy thing. Finding the right bag is also important - it has to be durable, carry the weight well, comfortable and look at least halfway decent. Here’s my bag:
I love Wenger products - they cost a bit more but they really are quality products. I’ve had this bag for over three years now and it still looks like new and I’ve punished the crap out of it since I bought it. If you want a durable bag, you can’t go wrong here.
We need some stuff to put in our backpack, though. The most basic is your smartphone.
Ever since I got my first smartphone (an HTC Magic, the second Android phone from the first generation of devices), I was hooked. Instantly having maps and the entire Internet at your fingertips is addicting and an extremely useful tool. Without my smartphone, I wouldn’t have been able to coordinate two surprise parties last weekend and it would have all been a disaster. Having a spare battery is also a nice thing - I hardly ever have to hunt for an outlet, I just swap my battery and then recharge both at the next available opportunity.
I’m a fan of keeping my devices separate, though, so perhaps others will think I’m a bit weird with the next two:
I love my Kindle. I didn’t think I would love it quite so much when I bought it, but I take it everywhere with me and I’ve been reading a lot more since I bought it since now I can read anywhere without having a large book to lug around (I like history books and they can often be quite thick).
I also never leave the house without my tunes. A good set of headphones (Klipsch S4s in my case) and a huge capacity for music (iPod Classic 120GB) makes any boring situation much more entertaining. At work, in the train or at a funeral - music makes it all better. Even when I leave without my backpack and leave most of my gear behind, the iPod always comes with me just like my phone. Sure, I could put most of my music on my phone - but why be forced to choose what comes with me and what stays home? Bring it all!
The last piece of equipment is new but it is now just as essential as everything else, if not more so. My Thinkpad X230:
I bought this a few weeks ago since I have a lot of group projects at university in the coming months and being able to easily take my work with me and not have to share a laptop in the group when we have meetings is great. I also have to work for my job a lot on the go and while I have a company laptop, it’s a behemoth compared to my little X230 (the keyboard on the Thinkpad is also lightyears ahead of my HP Elitebook from work).
So that’s all of my gear that is almost always with me whenever I leave the house. What gear is most essential to you?Tweet
I’ve never been to a country where white people are in the minority, so when I first moved to Austria five years ago, I figured the only issue would be learning the language and then adapting to the slight change in culture. Once I did all that, aside from my accent, I would be able to blend in quite well into my new surroundings. I couldn’t have been more wrong in my assumptions.
Learning German wasn’t terribly difficult. Certainly it wasn’t a walk in the park, but I picked up the language quickly enough and I’ve largely lost my American accent, but then I largely lost my American accent even when I speak English long ago (more on that in perhaps another post). Nowadays I often get asked if I am German or Dutch - every now and again my American accent (or rather, my Anglo-Saxon accent) creeps through into my German and I out myself that way, but it doesn’t happen often since I speak (and think) in German 90% of the day.
I also changed the way I dressed after moving here. This was mostly a forced thing, though. You can’t get American fashions in Europe very often and when you do, they’re overpriced. Besides, American fashion outside of designer labels largely looks like crap. There, I said it - American fashion sucks (another topic for a blog post? Perhaps I’ll ask my fashion blogger friends to contribute). I never dressed very well in the USA, anyway, so you can imagine the fashion disaster that I was when I got off the plane in Vienna - I knew it myself and this was quickly remedied… but I digress.
So I’ve learned the language, I’ve adapted my looks and now I had to adapt to the culture. The changes weren’t too bad but Austrians are, in my opinion, very contradictory, just as Americans are - but different. To get into the details of Austrian culture here versus American culture would actually make this blog post into a veritable short book, so I’m not going to get into it here.
Adapting to the culture was the hardest part, though. Still to this day my Austrian colleagues and friends will find ourselves at odds because of misunderstandings over what should be simple things. This is fine, though, because this is how peoples from different cultures learn from each other. I know one colleague in particular can attest to this better than most after the headbutting we’ve done over stupid things (though chances are he’ll never read this - and thank goodness for that).
What really irks me about living in Austria more than anything else, and now that I’ve finally reached the point of this entire blog post, is that the moment someone finds out I am an American, the entire conversation and social situation changes in the blink of an eye (my Australian friend can back me up on this one - he will probably read this). The previous boring conversation is now either interesting for the other party because now you yourself have become interesting (or comical) through the simple fact of having an American passport, or the conversation turns hostile because of the simple fact of having an American passport.
This is certainly interesting and funny in the beginning, but after five years it’s gotten quite old. I’m not saying that I hate talking about America or the conversations of comparing America to Europe or answering questions how I arrived, but after having had the same conversations for the past five years, it’s become boring. I don’t terribly mind, but it’s still boring. I consider myself an ambassador for my country and for my culture and I consider it a civil duty and I do it. But that doesn’t mean I always like it - though there are certainly times where the conversations are extremely interesting.