Intern(al) Culture Shock

Three tireless interns from the University of Oregon share their first impressions of getting grub in the Austrian capital

Cold Comfort for the Weary
by Sam Poloway

Waking up at noon with my ears still ringing from a late night at Chaya Fuera – a club that rocked me until six in the morning – my roommate and I decided to go out to get ingredients for Bloody Marys.

Walking into the grocery store we already felt out of place. Every time we have had to shop so far, we have come across problems like differentiating between all types of cheese and meat that are labelled in German (all greek to us). After maneuvering our way through the aisles, we found our desired comestibles and headed back home to make the drinks we hoped would end our throbbing temples that woke us up to begin with. Upon arrival, we realised we had forgotten a key ingredient to any cocktail. Forthcoming as I am, I offered to go out and find some ice.

So there I was in the 3rd district, perusing the unfamiliar streets, in search of ice. I was becoming increasingly frustrated from being turned away from Billa and Hofer. My search eventually led me to the Interspar in the Wien Mitte shopping concourse.

After a further disappointment and an increasing unbearable headache, I gave into my desperation. Upstairs there was a McDonalds. As I asked for “just ice in a cup” the teller gave me a look as if I were crazy. I had to explain it two more times to make myself understood. Was this such a unfathomable concept?

After getting the ice, I started my half-mile journey back. It was a sunny day and a minute into my walk I glanced into the paper cup, which was half the size of beverage receptacles in the United States. The ice was an inch (2.6 cm) lower before. My roommate would be miffed if there were only enough ice for me, so I broke into a motivated jog. Nobody likes a warm Bloody Mary.

The ice sufficed and as I reclined in my seat looking at the tall ceilings I chewed on my celery stalk. I still can’t understand how Viennese drinkers can live on lukewarm beverages. But maybe I’m still missing something. Comments welcome.






Capitulation: Not on the Menu
by Darcy Walker

In Austria, the only thing that stands between my entrée and my stomach is an alphabet-long word full of Umlauts and scharfes Ss.

Last week, the study abroad troupe grabbed lunch at a traditional Gasthaus near Praterstern. It was difficult for me – the only vegetarian at the table – to figure out what I wanted to eat from the menu, where the only discernible word was Schnitzel.

I was spent after a long day of getting lost on Vienna’s pride and joy, the transit system. I needed fuel, so I gave up my deciphering and blindly pointed to something on the menu.IMG_3381 Ten minutes later, the waiter slammed a bowl full of white cauliflower florets in front of me. They were topped with what seemed to be a lot of brown sugar body scrub and some bits of shaved cheddar cheese.

When I took a bite, my taste buds were pleased to find that the sugar scrub was actually browned butter-soaked breadcrumbs, and hard-boiled egg yolk instead of melted cheese. Odd as the combination sounds, I cleaned my plate.


Maybe I was just really hungry, or maybe I’m adjusting to Vienna’s gastronomic culture.

by Dashiell Paulson

At Kent, a swell Turkish restaurant in the 15th District, Galatasaray was playing Real Madrid. Galatasaray fans were cheering in Turkish and the air was thickening by the minute with cigarette smoke. I asked my turkish confidant for advice on ordering vegetarian from the Turkish menu. Later, no one would be able to explain why she recommended Köfte a.k.a. Mediterranean meatballs to the oblivious foreigner, yours truly.

Between the Wienerschnitzel and Würstel, Sauerkraut app2013-04-04 11.28.33ears to be the most common veggie on the typical Viennese plate. Despite a smattering of vegetarian and even vegan restaurants in the city, some natives show open, unabashed scepticism about excluding meat from a meal. The differences between Vienna and, say, the hippie-ville town in Oregon where my comrades and I attend college, are stark to say the least.

Many restaurants do not identify dishes as Vegetarisch, so figuring out what to eat on a menu written in German can be hazardous. Some restaurants I visited have meat in every dish – even the salads – except possibly for a solitary item on the bottom of the menu, things consisting of dumplings, egg noodels and cheese…  spinach if you’re lucky.

At least most Viennese know what a vegetarian is. Explaining a vegan diet was not making me any friends. Those confronted seemed to grow more alarmed with each detail. No eggs? No milk? No butter! Good luck ordering anything! I’m hungry.

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One Response to Intern(al) Culture Shock

  1. Donella Muzik April 20, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Dear Oregonians…as a UO j-school grad now living in Vienna, I feel your pain. Just wanted to let you know that you are not alone — it’s really hard to find the “hippieville” gnosh we are used to. I make my own salsa, tortillas, Cafe Yumm sauce, peanut butter, and chicken sausage. In a world filled with sausage, there is no Italian-style chicken sausage. And for sure, there is nothing even closely resembling Market of Choice except maybe the Meinl or Billa Corso in the 1st. I did find pork Italian sausage there, btw.

    As Oregonians, you have it GREAT as far as food diversity is concerned. It’s tough to eat that way here — and perhaps that’s the point. Being somewhere new is awkward enough. Compound that with one-way stores and too many kinds of sliced deli meat, butter, and milk (alm, tee, Bauer, oh my!)…but how cool is it to have the experiences that bring those differences to light.

    This does not help with your Bloody Mary/ice dilemma. Our American indignance over the routine absence of our beloved würfels is funny to the Austrians I’ve discussed this with. I just asked my Viennese husband who looked at me funny and said, “Where to get ice? There’s a catering buddy I could call to see if he has a connection.” My suggestion: buy those funny little plastic bags (Eis Würfel Sackerl”) and make your own.

    But Spar carries wild Alaskan salmon filets. They are wonderful, and if you can remember how to mentally convert your cooking temps to Celsius, you’ll get a real taste of home.

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