Its end of year list making time! Don’t tell me you’re not excited at the thought. Rather than a list of my personal highlights (Bali, Tomatina, skiing with my family if you’re wondering). I thought I’d reflect on what my ‘Austrian Achievements’ have been for 2014, with an eye to keeping track of my progress for the next year.
So, in no particular order here’s a few Austrian skills I’ve adapted this year – if there’s something you’d like to challenge me to do in 2015 please do so in the comments!
I was never a great cyclist. I learnt on the bike paths of the outer Melbourne suburbs with my Dad and siblings on a mountain bike, but never really got the hang of being a ‘city cyclist’ back home. It seemed too intimidating and involved – do I have to know how to fix a bike chain? What shoes do I wear? More importantly, how flat will my hair be after wearing a helmet to ride to work? All of these factors meant I had no notion of the sheer joy of riding a bike everyday, helmet free in a well-equipped-bike-friendly city. Austria changed that for me and now, even in -3 degree temperatures bundled in gloves and scarves I love riding my trusty bike around the city. Austrian Achievement unlocked!
Bundled up to ride in my awesome Urban Legend cycling jacket which I looooooove
Supporting Winter Sports
Winter sports were always kind of an entertaining joke to me – like ‘Oh, they have winter Olympics, how cute’ with barely a thought given beyond that. Here in Austria of course its another story. Ski racing is watched religiously on a weekend morning (at least in our Tirolian influenced household) and the Winter Olympics are serious business. I graduated to all-out winter sports support in January of 2014 when we were lucky enough to get a hold of tickets for the Four Hills Ski Jump tournament in Innsbruck. We got to witness the absolutely batshit-crazy-insane ski jumpers launch themselves ridiculously high into the air and float down to earth with skis attached. Its mental…check out the video below:
It was terrifying, breathtaking and so so much fun. The crowd was rowdy but in a friendly way and, natürlich, we had to hike a wee hill in order to witness the event. Completely Austrian experience. I’ll be backing it up in 2015 by visiting the world famous Hahnenkamm race in Kitzbühel for the first time!
Uncovering the Indie fashion of Vienna
Just over a year ago, I bemoaned the lack of ‘fashion’ in Vienna in this particularly popular post. Just over 12 months later and I am pleased to say that things have definitely turned around. I’ve uncovered a few golden gems with a mix of nordic and local fashion offering an alternative to the High Street chain stores. A few favourites include Kauf die Glucklich on Kirchengasse, the stretch of indie stores along Schönbrunner strasse in the 5th district and the occasional indulgence from Massimo Dutti in the 1st. Definite advancement in Austrian fashion stakes this year – but I still need a fix of Black Milk tights every now and then. Lucky for me a generous soul got me some for Christmas!
Conquering Deutsch through Tatort
After some wonderful tips and advice from you lovely readers on this post, I started watching Tatort. The opening credits alone are worth it for their 70’s kitschiness, but the different accents, not-too-complex-storylines and social themes have really helped my German vocab and understanding. I don’t think i’ll be needing to solve any crimes in German anytime soon, but its been fun to muddle along in Deutsch on a Sunday night. I’ve heard there’s a Bar/Cafe in Wien that shows the episodes on a big screen to a huge crowd, so as soon as I get myself there I think I can rightfully claim to be pretty on track to Authentic Austrian status!
Nothing says ‘mystery’ like suspicious eyeballs
Es ist Wurst – Conchita Wurst!
It seems silly, but it took a ridiculous song contest to make me feel, even momentarily, that I was a true Austrian. When Conchita won earlier this year, I was screaming, whooping hopping and clapping for joy. Our little Aussie posse who got together to watch Eurovision in all its camp glory were thrilled to see it unfold and banded together in celebration. I walked home that night along the city streets ready to embrace anyone, to see people pouring out of bars with grins on their faces and felt there was hope for all of us in an Austria that supported Conchita, and dammit I was proud to be living in that kind of country. My gushy explanation immediately following the event itself is here.
All these little pieces are helping to build my Austrian lifestyle – but I couldn’t do it alone. This blog and our little community here have done more than you can imagine to keep me excited about my emerging Austrian life. Thank you to anyone and everyone this year who shared a post, told a friend about the blog, Tweeted about it or to me, shared my posts on Expat forums, liked it on Facebook, left a comment, mentioned it in a bar, wrestled their partners to read it or generally got involved. I really appreciate each and everyone of you and cannot thank you enough. Let the madness and growth and love and sharing continue in 2015!
With continued growth in mind, what Austrian activities should I challenge myself to achieve in 2015? I think trialling Latella is definitely up there, along with improving my skiing and maybe mastering the fine art of baking a Guglhopf…tell me your best ideas and I’ll rally to the challenge in this new and exciting year…Guten Rutch!!
I thought I’d learn German in about 12 months. I figured that seen as I lived in a German-speaking city and had decent motivation (desperate need to order coffee without stumbling on my words) it would simply come to me in good time. Presumably in the night, like a lightning strike, or a giant slap to the side of the head. One year seemed, to my naive ambitious self, a perfectly reasonable amount of time to pick up the intricacies of conversation.
I’ve since discovered 3 things;
1) I’m not a patient person
2) 12 months flies by when you move to a new country
3) Learning a language is not as easy as movie montages make it appear (damn you Colin Firth in Love, Actually!)
I’m now two years into my Expat life in Vienna and still at a beginners level of German. I can follow conversation in a group of Deutsch speaking friends, thankfully coffee & brunch ordering is now possible too. But the true art of expressing myself fluently still eludes me.
I’ve tried intensive courses at IKI, which were challenging but got me the building blocks. I’ve experimented with reading children’s books with S to reach the language the same way I learned English – through a love of reading. Now I’m enrolled at the Deutschinsitut, a slightly slower paced course better suited to full-time work schedules.
The kicker in Vienna is – everybody speaks English. Including my entirely English-speaking workplace. With such a flood of tourists and International organisations in the city, you could actually get by without learning a scrap of Deutsch. But I’m pretty sure that makes you an Expat arsehole.
Never, ever, be this guy
So here are a few ways I’m trying to force myself to speak more Deutsch everyday – if you have any language learning tips to add please let me know in the comments!
– Talk and talk and talk at home. I wuss out of talking Deutsch at home. All. The. Time. I’m like a 1950’s housewife avoiding sex, with my standard lines of ‘I’m just so tired today’ ‘Its been a really long week’ ‘Do you really want to? Right now?’. It’s the biggest challenge, but should be one of the easiest to overcome – it just takes discipline from you and your housemates.
– Text message auf Deutsch. This is an everyday activity that will sharpen your writing skills. I can follow conversation face to face, but my spelling and conjugation when writing Deutsch isn’t great. Texting gives you some everyday practice. Just make sure you only try this with your native German-speaking friends – group Whats App messages in German with the English-speaking family don’t go down so well.
– Read the free papers & familiar magazines. The U-bahn daily metro papers are filled with small, easy to follow articles with pictures. I can’t understand every word, but the gist of the article can be pieced together with regular reading to extend your vocab. I’ve also had a go at purchasing the Deutsch version of Cosmo. Even when written in another language the articles about ‘This seasons hottest Winter Coats’ & celebrity interviews are the same format as in English, making it easier to follow along.
– Ask for help. When you’re talking to a native speaker and they say a word you’ve never heard, ask what it is. Yes, it will be excruciating, yes it makes you feel about 10 feet tall, but if you don’t ask, your friends can’t help and you won’t learn. Suck it up and ask for help (still my biggest challenge!)
Lastly, there’s a few different language schools that offer courses at varying price levels to get you on your way to comfortably speaking. Courses aren’t for everyone – some friends have learnt German from reading comic books or spending time deep in the countryside where there is no other option – but for me, the structure of a school and deadlines keep me honest. A few of the better known ones are:
www.berlitz.com – One of the most expensive. Strictly only apply if your workplace can afford to cover the costs. They have 1 to 1 sessions, small groups and private office tutoring available.
www.IKI.com – My first Deutsch Kurs experience, it’s very thorough, moves at a decent pace and they offer intensive day time courses and 8 week evening courses. Your certificate from the OIF is included in the price, which is worth keeping in mind when you compare to other cheaper schools.
www.deutschinstitut.com The current option I’m trialling, these guys are reasonably priced, in the central 6th district and use the same workbooks as IKI. Their evening courses are particularly popular.
www.deutschakademie.at These guys are the budget conscious option in Vienna. When I first moved here and money was super tight we looked into courses here. To be honest, their offices and setup put me completely off when I went to enrol – everything felt cramped in, they were using old computers despite their location on the Ringstrasse it just seemed, well, cheap & nasty. Friends have studied there and liked the additional materials but I’m not sold on it myself.
My Deutsch is still a work in progress, but I’d love to hear anyone else’s tricks to picking up a language – if only to give me hope that I will one day conquer the dreaded German Grammar!
Although I’ve been in Wien for over 18 months now, I’m slightly ashamed to report that my Deutsch levels are probably not where they should be. I can follow conversation in groups of friends just fine, but spitting out phrases in return I’m still a bit clunky and basic. However, in my efforts to continually learn more I’ve collected quite a few phrases that when translated into English are brilliantly adorable and fun.
This is by no means an extensive collection and its likely the sayings are quite regional to the groups of people I spend time with. So, apologies for the dominance of Tirolian and Pfalz-ian phrases – they are what I’m regularly surrounded by. If you’ve got some equally brilliant and amusing translations please feel free to share and add to my collection. These are a few select favourites of mine that I encourage you to integrate into your every day lingo….
Ich glaube, mein Schwein pfeift!
Translates to: I think my pig is whistling!
Real intention: I think I’m going crazy!
Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei
Translates to: Everything has an end, only the sausage has two
Real intention: A philosophical phrase, spoken when something sadly comes to an inevitable end
I have no idea what is happening here, but it is hilarious
Das ist großes Kino
Translates to: That’s real big cinema
Real intention: That’s really, really impressive/cool
Es ist gut Kirschen essen mit dir
Translates to: Its good cherry eating with you
Real intention: I’m thoroughly enjoying this conversation with you
My sister and close friends enjoy some seriously good cherry eating at Christmas!
Das Leben ist kein Zuckerlecken
Translates to: Life is not a sugar licking
Real intention: Life isn’t always easy
Sadly life is not always cupcake…
Geh dahin, wo der Pfeffer wächst
Translates to: Go where the pepper grows
Real intention: Kindly, er, rack off!!
To round out, these are three of my favourite sayings, guaranteed to always make me giggle because I adore them so much!
Du alte Wursthaut
Translates to: You old sausage skin
Real intention: Ah, you reliable old friend of mine. This became a catch-cry of our family over Christmas once the English speakers found out the literal translation, so much so that nearly every sentence was being finished with ‘You old sausage skin!’ and a hearty pat on the back.
Du bist der Deckel zu meinem Topf
Tanslates to: You’re the lid to my pot
Real intention: You’re my perfect match. A very sweet phrase to use when describing your partner…..slightly cheesy but completely adorable! Who knew Deutsch could be so cute??
The lid to my pot – who will no doubt hate that I shared this ridiculous photo!
Du frech Dachs!
Translates to: You cheeky badger!
Real intention: You cheeky little so-and-so. This is now a popular phrase in our household for any number of crimes, whether it’s stealing the last piece of chocolate or ‘forgetting’ to put your shoes in the cupboard. Incredibly useful in most domestic scenarios.
One of the best things that all these phrases have taught me is how the German language (with its Austrian dialects) is always referring back to nature and food – the two great loves of the Deutsch speaking world!!
I’m sure there’s many more regional and gorgeous Deutsch sayings out there and I can’t wait to learn more. I’d much rather spend a day discussing dialect phrases than an hour in Deutsch school learning grammar rules so please, feel free to share your favourite phrases in the comments below.
Sausage image credit:
Cupcake image credit:
There is nothing more frustrating than being unable to express yourself. At least, for someone like me there’s not. I’m a talker, a social creature, slightly performative (some would say a little more than slightly) and enjoy the banter of conversation with people of similiar interests, sense of humour and intelligence. In short, I love a dinner with friends, I love a picnic in the park talking rubbish and making inside jokes on wordplay. I love words. Reading them, writing them, analysing them, tattooing them on my body, i’m all about language, Words, speaking, communicating and creating meaning from that communication.
So being unable to express all that, to enjoy all of that, is infuriating.
The hardest part is, I only have myself to blame. Well not blame, I am starting my German course next month when we can afford it but it kills me that language is my barrier. The one thing I have always adored, revelled in, studied, explored, analysed, pulled apart and enjoyed – is holding me back. I’m suddenly a wallflower through necessity at the pub. I’m sitting quietly on dinner tables, responding when directly spoken to, addressing direct questions but not contributing in any meaningful way to conversations. I’m having myself spoken about, not to, when meeting new people. That’s part of the deal, I understand it, and people here have been lovely in adjusting conversations to English but for the most part, its like there’s a tiny trapped me inside the girl sitting at the table dying for expression. I can’t be myself without words. I can’t express who I am fully without understanding the conversation flowing around me. And its exhausting. Concentrating on interpreting conversation beyond the words, in catching the few words you do know and piecing them together with the gestures, laughs and reactions around you is do-able, but over the course of an afternoon or evening, difficult. But you don’t want to sit there like a moron staring off into the middle distance for hours. So you concentrate, you put the effort into interpretation and your best ‘interested’ or appropriate to the story (you think) face on. But its exhausting. I want to fast forward the part where I don’t understand and get to the middle where there’s at least a crack of recognition in conversations for me. I know it doesn’t work like that. But it feels like there’s a huge chunk of me trapped behind the language barrier. I’m not the quiet mousey type who lets her partner speak for her. But here I have to be. Not forever, but for now, and its infurating. Unfortunately the only cure is time and patience while I learn. Which has never been my strong point.
Despite the frustration, we did have a stunning weekend hike, and beyond all my expectations I enjoyed it. Weekend one of Sober October and i’m hiking in the freakin mountains, who knows what a whole month will do to me!!