So, I’ve reached 10 years of living in Vienna? Arriving on a cold December day, with gray skies hovering above my head, I initially asked myself what on earth I was doing in Europe when my country was savoring the warmth of the coming Christmas. It may seem unimaginable to endure for some but well, here I am, still alive and kicking. Although it wasn’t an easy life to start from scratch, Austria has been kind to me, thanks to my friends and family who have contributed to a wonderful decade of never ending learning and new discoveries. Looking back at the past years I had spent in Vienna, I remember myself as a young teenager full of hopes for the unknown future— and that unknown future happens to be the life I’m living now. After a decade of waiting, I can finally list down the 10 things this city has taught me.
10. Drink beer
Not that I’ve turned alcoholic, but for a country known for its breweries, drinking beer is simply a way of life and a good way to get closer to the locals. By chatting over a mug of beer, I’ve discovered that my German has indeed improved big time. (My top picks: Stiegl and Wieselburger) Would you mind sharing me your favorite(s)? So we could have a drink together and speak German?
9. Endure winter
I’m still struggling with the fact that it’s inevitably cold. For crying out loud, I grew up in the tropics where I could only choose between wet and dry seasons and winter did not even exist in my vocabulary. Although I’m least productive during this time of the year, the best thing I can do is to count the days until spring while enjoying the freezing temperature under the sheets. After all, days become shorter in winter.
8. Travel a lot
I am most happy when I travel. For being a small Alpine country, I have to admit that I’ve traveled more extensively through Austria than in the Philippines. Its strategic location in the heart of Europe has made it a lot easier for me to access its neighbors– Germany to the North, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary to the East, Italy and Slovenia to the South and Switzerland to its West. A geographical experience at its best.
7. Become Open to Other Cultures
Thanks to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, this once big chunk of land has become home to different cultures. Even today, the former imperial capital, which is now the little grand city of Vienna, is still attracting people of different cultural backgrounds. A melting pot indeed, I see no point in feeling superior over the other. I’ve gone through all ups and downs as a foreigner in this city but never have I felt discrimination from its people. How would you define a Viennese, anyway?
6. Be creative
Representing a city that is rich in art, music and theater, Vienna is definitely an open-air museum, where there’s so many things to get inspiration from. Spending enough time in this city has made me rediscover my passion for singing, photography and art appreciation and Vienna offers the perfect atmosphere to revive my creativity. Yodeling, anyone?
5. Save money by learning how to cook
Logically speaking, it is imperative that we save money. While Vienna is still relatively cheaper as compared to some parts of Europe, I’ve come to realize the value of having some extra savings in my pocket. Eating out may sound practical but cooking my own food helps me a lot from overspending. Though I miss my mother’s cooking, it’s not every day that she feeds me with her luxurious specialty.
4. Have Patience with BureauCRAZY
“Good things come to those who are willing to wait.” I hear it all the time but I sometimes opt for a miracle. However, waiting pays off in the end… in some cases. My patience has been tried and tested with this crazy paperwork I often have to go through. Bureaucracy is a big challenge to everyone, I suppose. Though slow and sometimes annoying, the Austrian system is perfectly working as it should be. (I’m not going to complain now that I’ve finally got a response from my application for my tuition refund even if it took 11 months to process my papers. That’s two months longer than a woman’s pregnancy. I’ve waited so long and now I’m getting my money back:)) Also, des passt scho.
3. Stop Complaining
The Viennese are known for being grumpy and complaining a lot. Contrary to the popular belief, most people I’ve met don’t live up to the reputation although I know quite some who is ‘so a Jammerer’, including myself (as commented by an Austrian friend)
2. Improve German
Apart from drinking beer, the best way to learn the language is through communicating with the locals. I got lucky enough to work in a kindergarten with Austrians, who, for five years, would constantly talk to me even in dialect. I didn’t acquire it overnight, nor did I learn it while drinking beer but it helped.:)
1. Be independent
With freedom comes great responsibility in maintaining myself and keeping my sanity intact. Though I had people to rely on, I still decided to move out to lead an independent life. This has taught me so much to stand on my own feet and face whatever problem comes along– be it financial or emotional. I’ve learned that adulthood doesn’t always come synonymous with maturity for the latter always requires both physical and emotional preparedness. In my case, my maturity mostly comes at the end of the month when bills come along the way.
Destiny is a matter of choice. When I had decided to come to Vienna a decade ago, I knew it would be the biggest life-changing decision I ever came up with. It wasn’t an easy start when I had to struggle reestablishing myself, gaining new friends and learning the language, but it took years to finally get back on my feet. Despite it being the city with the best quality of life in the world, I wouldn’t call it a perfect place, for living in Vienna still has its downside just like everywhere else. However, without recalling any regrets, I look back at those first few years with a smile on my face, saying, “It wasn’t so bad after all.”