As soon as I entered a flat where I booked a room through Airbnb, my “flatmate” (there were two actually, but the second one I met only on the last day of my staying), started a chitchat about where I am from. “Latvia? Lettland? Where is it? Aah, it is next to Russia. East Europe,” and he entered his room. I had to catch him later and explain what is Latvia, that Latvians are not as bad as he might have assumpted, that I can be good enough to talk with. Then I ruined our conversation again after asking a few questions about politics and getting quite interesting answers (which I will write later), I offered tried to persuade him to let me make a video interview. No worries, we became friends again after.
Leo, 19 years old undergraduate law student, was skeptical about the future of Austria. “Political situation is getting worse. People are dissatisfied. I want to go and study masters in France, it is a country I like and I guess it is more important to live in a place and environment you like despite the fact that political and economic situation there is not better than here in Austria.”
The other one who lived in a flat was a student as well and he is planning to go and continue his studies in Australia. Describing political situation he used lots of words who must be censored, in brief, everything is f**** up.
The girl who gave me keys of the flat, Catharina was Ukrainian. She moved to Austria when she was 16 (now she is 21), she studies, has found local friends, learned the language and she admits that “I have never felt not accepted, I think that I am integrated into the society pretty well.”
But not everyone has integrated well. You can still find lots of refugees on the street, as well as locals who ask for money or something to eat. I met a Syrian family in a grocery shop, who told that it is not easy to live in Vienna, they have to plan very carefully their expenses but they are determined to live a regular life here and despite a small contribution from the government, they try to give their children everything they can.
After graffiti on walls of buildings, you can easily understand the most sensitive problems they are coping with. One of the problems is 60-hour workweek. In Vienna a protest action was held against the plans of the Austrian government to extend the permissible working day to 12 hours, and the working week to 60 hours. After I told about it my parents, they were shocked – “is it even possible for a person to handle it”?
LGBT minorities at least do not have problems of being accepted, at least I saw lots of gay and lesbian pairs walking on the street and not hiding their relationship. Of course, I assume that some of them were foreigners, as few days after I went away there was a gay pride who lasted one week and there were lots events to celebrate love, pride, and equality. Although, on the wall of the building where my flat was located, there is an inscription “smash the sexism”.
People here are open, as long as they do not realize that I am not a local and these few phrases I can say in German is everything I can say. Despite problems of the political system, people find their peace in public parks, enjoying themselves. For many foreigners, Vienna is their dream city. And locals seem to savor that they are living here; that they are Austrians.
Poster against 60-hour workweek.
Exhibition at MUMOK.