Tagebuch: October 2007

Dear Diary,

One hears that Austrians are not the most likeable people – not very friendly, not very helpful, always scowling and grim. However for my own experience I could never support that statement… until last week.

I was sitting in the U1 with my friend Nico on my way to Webster. Next to him sat an African girl reading a magazine. It was at Schwedenplatz when a man, aged around 50, entered the car and took a seat next to me, and across from the African girl.

Barely had he settled in his seat, he started to accost the girl.

“Setz Di mal gscheit hi, ich wui meine Beine ausstrecken und net meine Hose an Deinen Schuhen abputzen!”(Sit properly, I want to stretch my legs and not rub my trousers against your shoes!) he grumbled at her, waving has hand arrogantly in the general direction of her crossed leg. Nico and I abruptly stopped talking.

The girl did not understand, but by his tone realised that something was wrong. In broken English she tried to ask what the problem was.

“Scheißausländer!” he growled back. “Wennst net mal die Sprache kannst, kannst gleich verschwinden!”  (If you can’t even learn the language, you should get out of town.)

Nico and I decided to intervene. I tried to calm the girl, who was close to tears, explaining the ridiculous problem in English, while Nico told the man he’d better keep those sort of thoughts to himself and stop making a scene. He, Nico, had plenty of room to spread his legs out across from me, with mine crossed. The man shot us a furious glance, leapt to his feet and rushed out of the train at the next stop.

“There are always a few people like this,” we tried to reassure the girl. And we managed to calm her down a little by the time we had to get out at Kaisermühlen.

All this time, the car had been quite full, and from both sides, people had just sat watching, not making any move to help. I wondered: If we had not intervened for the, at that moment, very scared girl, who would have?

So much for Austrian helpfulness.

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