Viennese Sojourn

Finding it Safe, Clean and Even Friendly, a Young Norwegian Feels Right at Home

Four months have nearly passed since arriving in Vienna and in two weeks I am moving back to Oslo, Norway. When I landed at Vienna International Airport on the 1st of March it was cold and windy. The flight in was reserved for those without fear of flying. People were holding on to their Tirolerhütchen, and hastened from A to B.

Vienna is different in the summer when the hats come off, café tables fill the sidewalks and the parks are suddenly full.

On the train to the city centre I met an American woman who had spent two years here as a teacher. Back with her students, I was interested in her opinion of the Viennese.

“They stare,” she answered immediately, “and they’re hard to get close to. I don’t know what it is, but they can’t take their eyes from you, measuring you from top to bottom. They’re polite, but are sceptical about anything that runs deeper than just politeness.”

She was right about the staring. On the U-bahn, Strassenbahn, in the streets, in shops; everywhere there were people staring like they were trying to read something on my forehead. But then it struck me, in some cities one literally gets knocked down for staring at people; in Vienna this is no issue.

There’s less tension than in Oslo, which relates to my next point: I don’t share her opinion regarding scepticism. Viennese people seem friendly to me and very easy to get along with. I’ve already made some good friends that I’ll keep in touch with after I leave.

Public transportation is a dream. The city U-Bahn network is close to perfect, and it is also easy to get outside and discover the rest of Austria or its neighbouring countries. I’ve been to Bad Gastein in the Alps, I’ve been south of Vienna in Nova Rock Festival (Nickelsdorf), I’ve been to Bratislava in Slovakia and Budapest in Hungary. Vienna is a centre in Europe, and amazingly close to different cultures and landscapes.

I’ve never felt safer in a city than I do in Vienna. Norway had 945 reported sexual assaults last year. This is 235 more than in Austria, despite the fact that Norway has about the half the population of Austria.

Vienna also feels cleaner than Oslo, with much less garbage in the streets and their surroundings. In additional Oslo’s hard drug abusers are situated in the end of the main shopping street and may be the first thing that meets tourists coming by train. It’s hard to imagine needle addicts hanging out in the end of Kärtner Strasse, openly dealing drugs.

The younger people in Vienna are more than reliable when it comes to English – surprisingly I must say, with all the dubbing and translation of movies, fiction- and professional literature and even songs! Recently my jaw dropped when I heard a German version of the Norwegian song “Når jeg blir seksogseksti” (transl: “When I turn sixty-six”) by Wenche Myhre. And why spend millions on synchronising a German voice to the lip movements of John Travolta, rather than doing society the favour of improving their foreign language skills? With the danger of getting too political I would call this a big disservice.

But this is a small thing and all the things I will miss about Vienna more than drown it out. It has been a fantastic stay. And as soon as I have got my dose of fresh sea breeze from the coast of Norway, I will be back in this beautiful city.

Yngve Worning Jernaes

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