Martha: Martha's Vienna
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Austria, etc.
Having lived in eight US states and four countries, I’m “from” many places, however, I lived in Texas the longest and it’s the place I’m most recently “from.” Married and the mother of a grown son, I’ve long been curious about other cultures and worked with people from other countries at universities most of my life.
We moved to Vienna in 2006 and instantly formed an attachment to this fabulous place.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
At some point it seemed I was so enraptured at the beauty I was seeing, fascinated by the different ways of doing things and growing from all I was learning that it would be a shame not to share some of these sights and experiences. I like the idea of freely sharing via a blog and hope these posts sometimes make someone’s life a tiny bit more enriched.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I have some favorite photos and some memorable stories but it’s hard to pick a favorite post. Three that I like to return to from time to time include:
Tell us about the ways your new life in Austria differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
It’s our first experience with city living and we really enjoy not having to drive everywhere. Now we use the car primarily to travel out of town. We have learned to relax more over meals and enjoy meals more. The biggest aspect of culture shock was the recognition of my own ignorance when we arrived, mainly from not knowing German but also not knowing the customs, where to go to buy needed items, or how things were done here.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Austria? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Part of what’s great about living abroad is the learning experience. I think we were pretty well prepared except for the language. It has taken much longer than anticipated to begin to understand German.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I saw two men struggling with a large map on a very windy day and, assuming they were tourists, asked them in English if I could be of some help. They told me they were looking for Mariahilferstrasse and, pointing, I told them it was one block that way. They said, “Oh yes, you don’t speak German but you’re going to tell us how to get there?” I told them I live here and was going there myself. As I looked over my shoulder they were still fighting that map in the wind.
When we first moved in, I turned bright red with embarrassment in a shop as I realized my pronunciation of “Danke” sounded like “Donkey.” We still refer to it as my “Donkey shame.”
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Austria?
- Be ready for lots of company. We’ve had more than 70 visitors in five years.
- Come with an attitude of joyful curiosity and if you need help figuring out the customs, contracts or whatever, seek it. There are always kind people who will help.
- Bring a ball gown and tuxedo if you think you might like to experience Vienna’s balls. And why not? It’s part of what makes Vienna so...Vienna.
How is the expat community in Austria? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
There’s a virtual smorgasbord of expats living in Vienna. It’s easy to have friends and acquaintances from all over the world.
How would you summarize your expat life in Austria in a single, catchy sentence?
Living in Vienna has put sparkles in my brain and brought kisses to my eyes.