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Posts tagged ‘Austria’

KC BLAU TELLS ALL

Well, maybe not all, but I did tell quite a bit in my interview with Expat.com published this past week … check it out and many thanks to Expat.com for their interest.

EXPAT.COM interview with KC Blau

Riesenrad in Vienna's Prater

Riesenrad in Vienna’s Prater

 

 

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EXPAT 101

An expat is not an expatriate. Whereas Giacomo Casanova was an expatriate who was exiled from Venice in the 1700s (need I say why) and  had to wonder around Europe engaging in his shenanigans abroad, David Bowie was a UK expat who chose to live in New York. Yes, the terms share the French and Latin stems “ex” – “out of” and “patrie/patria” – “native land”, but an expatriate is someone who has been banished or exiled from their native country, and an expat is someone who voluntarily lives abroad – though the terms are increasingly being used interchangeably.

Since almost everyone in the world was born in the world’s best country, why would any sane person choose to reside abroad? In addition to the fact that living abroad makes you a much more conscientious resident of your own country and global citizen of the world, there might be a plethora of reasons why you choose to pack your bag and leave for Timbuktu (actually choose someplace safer in the world at the moment than Timbuktu). The most common reasons that I have encountered for folks to live somewhere else seem to be: 1) to study 2) to work 3) to follow  a love interest 4) to seek (and find) adventure 5) to experience something completely different than one’s homeland (see 1-4 above) or 6) they simply got lost (intentionally or accidentally) and stayed.

With the advent of social media, being an expat has definitely become easier over the years. Not only can you connect with other expats over social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, you can also stay connected with your native homeland via Skype, Whatsapp or whatever else you may be using.

View of rooftops of Vienna and Burgtheater

View of rooftops of Vienna and Burgtheater

Some folks move abroad and become native before they’ve even mastered the phrase Oachkatzlschwoaf. Others move and create the world-at-home abroad. They live in communities where most of their neighbors are expats as well, join social groups with the same people and never learn a single word of the native language. They shop in the grocery stores that have the products from home and tune in to all the US shows over iTunes and Netflix. Now more than ever, you can create your own little American haven in just about any corner of the world. I have even witnessed with my very own eyes — I kid you not, hand on heart, pinky promise — fellow Americans (yes, it’s true, my own countrymen and ladies) living in Europe who actually still drink (American!!) Budweiser. (Now the Czech Budweis would be a different story). If that isn’t a sure sign of bull-headed refusal to let your hair down and go even a little native, I don’t know what is. And that’s a pity because if that’s you, you are definitely missing out on more than very good beer so all-natural that hangovers are history.

So what is an upright global citizen to do? Go native in the beginning – maybe the first 6 months or so — and then gradually ease up and mix a dash of fellow expats into your native brew. The problem is that if you don’t go native at first, you may never integrate yourself into the host country and your experience abroad will be like Apfelstrudel without the Schlag, Starsky without Hutch, the yin without the yang. But if you manage a healthy mix of the two, the sky’s the limit and you are bound to form some of life’s most-lasting and strongest bonds. Because nothing says true friendship like a mutual lack of understanding for the humor of Narrisch Guat .

Top 10 things expats should do to get the ultimate experience:

1) Learn the native language – no and, ifs, buts about it. You must or you will never fit in – check out the “Austrian Phrase of the Week” and “Word of the Week” on this site too.

2) Dress like a local – though Dirndls are only worn in Vienna for special events, no one will hold it against you if you can’t resist donning one to the Heurigen or someplace else. Who can ever be angry at a dirndl-clad expat? The charm factor is too disarming.

3) Read local news media and watch local news– highly recommend “Der Standard” but if your German is not up to speed, indulge in the Krone or gratis subway paper Heute. You have a good excuse to look at a paper with more pictures than words and a page three image that would make Oma blush. And why yes, Austria does indeed now have more TV stations than ORF 1 and 2. Then again, if you are dutifully paying your ORF fees (as you should and must!), you definitely want to try to get your money’s worth and there’s more to that than Bergdoktor and Colombo re-runs. Maybe, though, opt for ORF 3 – that’s where the public money is seriously put to good use.

4) Listen to the local radio stations – Ö1 is kind of like NPR and has great reports at noon each day. Ö3 is what is popular while Superfly and FM4 are a bit more hip and chilled.

5) Read local authors – old and new — to get into the mentality of how your new neighbors tick, see the world, and maybe even you. For Austrian authors, try Arthur Schnitzler for older stuff and some soul searching, Torberg for some more good stuff from the 20th century (particularly Der Schüler Gerber, and Auch das war Wien, Wolf Haas for some light, modern but humorous crime stories that take place in Vienna, Peter Altenberg for some 1900 poetry, Karl Kraus for a critical, almost cynical view of pre-WW I Vienna, Adolf Loos for some well-written turn of the century (but still apt) essays criticizing society, Erich Fried for some terribly romantic and often tortured love poems, and and and… No excuses, get to Thalia and lose yourself in the Austrian literature section (at Wien Mitte they are even open on Sundays).

6) Listen to the local music (no matter how painful David Hasselhof’s love songs may be) – for a real treat turn on Radio Wien and you might become convinced you’ve entered a time machine back to the 60s and 70s.

7) Get to know the locals by joining some kind of group – running, reading, cooking, yodeling, there must be something you want to learn. Or get a dog if you live in Vienna – this is a 100% surefire way to engage locals in daily conversation.

8) Celebrate the local holidays. And in Austria there’s so many to choose from and don’t forget to invite the locals to yours. Nothing says Thanksgiving like a group of people from 5 different nations, sitting around the living room in a post-turkey daze, politely feigning excitement at the pumpkin pie coming their way.

9) Eat and cook the local cuisines (though you can always claim to be allergic to Blutwurst, Hirn mit Ei, Leberpastete, and Beuschel and no one would think any worse of you).

10) Have a positive outlook and be willing to laugh at yourself, your mishaps and any steps backwards you might definitely will take.

Once you integrate, connect with those back home via social media, online chats and phone conversations, instagram, youtube and  – my favorite – podcasts.

And how do you meet up with those who are also far away from home? Check out organizations like this one:

Living in AustriaThey were created over 10 years ago and have gone worldwide and currently boast more than 1.5 million members with 6000 in Austria. They regularly organize meet-ups and have lots of blog posts about anything you’d ever want to know about anything else.

Another resource you might want to check out is a rather new site called Flying Yak (where you’ll find me as a voluntary “ambassador”): flyingyak.com

But no matter how you go about it — be sure to make lots of great memories!

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RINGING IN THE NEW YEAR IN VIENNA

So here it is – proof that KC got your back: KC’s All-You-Need-to-Know-About New Year’s – compiled over the years to keep you in-the-know and provide ample Vienna New Year’s 101 to enable you to blend in smoothly with the natives before everyone hits the Turbo Punsch stands. You’ve got time till Thursday night so no excuses. Get over the cookie hangover and get reading. Even if you aren’t in Austria – nothing says you can’t do crazy hats, waltz, good luck charms, Glühwein and the New Year’s Day concert where you are and make your 2016 New Year’s Resolution: “I’ll take the plunge and ring in 2017 in Vienna.”

  1. The Number One Most New Year’s City in the World: A must-read post. It’s all here. Complete with photos from my last New Year’s Eve.
  2. Melting Your Fortune Sculpture for the New Year: Everything you always wanted to know about the Austrian fortune-telling tradition of Bleigiessen (lead melting), including a complete why-to-buy, how-to-do-it, what is now being used  nowadays instead of lead and a list of blob fortune-telling interpretations so that once you melt your figure, you can actually interpret your future.

    Lucky Pigs

    Lucky Pigs

  3. Austrian Good Luck Charms and What They Mean: Got Glück? Good Luck Charms and Got Pig? Pigs (and other symbols) as Glücksbringer 
  4. Recipe for Glühwein in “How to Make Glühwein (Mulled Wine) and Spread Good Cheer.” I make a large pot of Glühwein every New Year’s Eve and keep it (along with a pot of my mean down-home chili) on the stove so that before and after the venture along the New Year’s Path, it is there for the taking.

Stay safe this coming New Year’s, have fun, wear a crazy hat and waltz!

Me - New Year's Eve in Vienna

Me – New Year’s Eve in Vienna with lit ears

Thanks for keeping with me this past year.
I wish you and yours all the best in 2016!

 

 

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ILLUMINATING YOUR CHRISTMAS CELEBRATION WITH A FLAME FROM JESUS’ BIRTHPLACE – THE LIGHT OF PEACE / FRIEDENSLICHT

A MODERN CHRISTMAS TRADITION ORIGINATING FROM AUSTRIA AND SPREADING THROUGHOUT THE WORLD

 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12, Bible

One of my fondest memories of growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania was the Christmas Eve service at the local church. Some years my parents and I would volunteer to set up the luminaries in the church parking lot before the service. Luminaries are nothing more than small paper lunch bags filled about a quarter of the way with sand to weigh them down and hold a candle that is placed in the center. The luminaries were placed along the sidewalks leading up to the church to form a procession of lights – like the North Star leading the way into the church. At the entrance greeters welcomed you to the service with a hand shake and white candle complete with a cardboard ring to protect your hand from dripping wax.

Light of Peace in Weyer, Upper Austria

Light of Peace in Weyer, Upper Austria

In my memory, the entire service was conducted by candlelight but in reality, I think that it was probably toward the end of the service that the lights were turned off. The church fell silent as each light was distinguished and church elders moved from pew to pew lighting the end row member’s candle who then passed on the light to the other church members in the row. At the very end of the service, we all sang “Silent Night” a cappella by candle light. The significance of one flame illuminating the entire sanctuary was not lost on me, not even as a young child and contributing to the warmth of candles and the anticipation of presents sure to come was an awesome feeling  of oneness with everyone around me and with it a deep sense of inner peace.

When you move abroad, or simply find yourself far away from loved ones during the holidays, tis-the-season can accentuate all the more your aloneness, making this time of year quite challenging. Fortunately for me, Austria is world class when it comes to conveying Christmas in its Ur-sense. Or at least what I think that must be.

Lighting all candles with Light of Peace

Lighting all candles with Light of Peace

Besides the shops and just about everything else being closed from noon on Christmas Eve until midnight on December 27, and not Santa baby but the Christkind (Christ child) bringing the presents here, and this being the birth place of that soul-piercing carol “Silent Night”, many of Austria’s holidays traditions are illuminated by candlelight. And there’s something about candlelight – the dancing shadows cast on walls, the sweet wax smell, the softening of voice levels to intimate whispers – that soothes the soul.

At the beginning of advent, advent wreaths are sold at every market and most grocery stores and each week, another candle is lit. Traditional Christmas figures carved in wood are surrounded by candles and the rising heat from the flames turn the wooden propeller on top. Candles adorn Christmas tree branches and on Christmas eve, the ringing of a small bell summons the children to the candle lit tree (which has been brought and decorated by the Christ child) where the family gathers around to sing Christmas carols and exchange presents.

Christmas Lanterns are used to fetch the Light of Peace and bring home

Christmas Lanterns are used to fetch the Light of Peace and bring home

But one of the traditions I love the very most is a relatively new one (started in 1986)– and this is the tradition of lighting all the candles of the home on Christmas Eve from a single flame from Bethlehem — the Light of Peace (more also in a previous post). How fitting that the tradition of the Light of Peace started in Upper Austria – the same place that Silent Night was penned. The Light of Peace stems from a candle burning in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the cave-manger site traditionally venerated as the birthplace of Jesus. Every year at the end of November, the flame is brought to Austria by a child specially selected for the task. This year, due to the current turmoil in the region, a 9-year-old girl, Ihab Msleh, who comes from an Arabic-Christian family in Bethlehem, lit the candle that was then transported back to Vienna on an Austrian Airlines flight into the care of 10-year-old Niklas Dumhart from St. Georgen an der Gusen. It’s Niklas’ job to spread the light throughout Austria and even other parts of Europe. So far, this year’s Light of Peace has been shared with all of Austria, 30 European countries, many parts of the US (so glad to see Texas now joining in, if only Florida and NC could get on board), some parts of South America and many other places throughout the world. On December 16, Niklas even traveled to the Vatican to share the Light of Peace with Pope Franciskus.

On Christmas Eve, local organizations set up a lantern or candles burning with flames lit from the Light of Peace and make the flame available to everyone in the community. Bearing lanterns from home, folks visit these stations and light their own candles from the Lights of Peace. Once they return home, they then light all the Christmas candles in their homes from the lantern bearing the Light of Peace. So the flame that came from Bethlehem illuminates its glow of peace, candle-by-candle, throughout Austria and the rest of world.

No matter what your religion, creed, nationality, or general state of existence, you have to admit that there is something awe-inspiringly beautiful about one little flame illuminating so many homes in the spirit of peace, joy, love and (hopefully) happiness.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, MERRY EVERYTHING, TO YOU, ALL OF YOU, DURING THE HOLIDAYS AND THROUGHOUT THE COMING YEAR. I WISH YOU JOY, LOVE, HAPPINESS, PEACE, THE FORCE, AND PERPETUAL LIGHT. Thanks for reading! – KC

Now grab a lantern and head out to light your candle by the flame of the Light of Peace – locations for Vienna and the USA given below. 

WHERE TO FIND THE LIGHT OF PEACE IN VIENNA

All „manned“ train stations throughout Austria
Available on 24 December beginning at 8 am at all „manned“ Austrian train stations.

The following Vienna Cemeteries: Baumgarten, Feuerhalle Simmering, Hernals, Hietzing, Ottakring, Neustift, Südwest, Stammersdorf Central and Vienna Central (Wiener Zentral Friedhof)
Available on 24 December, 8:30 am till noon

1. District

Boyscout Troop 16 – Schotten, Schotten Church, Freyung 6, 1010 Vienna
When: 24 December 2015 from 10:00 am till 2 pm

3. District

Austrian Red Cross
Nottendorfer Gasse 21, 2. floor, room 223, 1030 Vienna
Directions: U3 Station Erdberg, Exit Nottendorfer Gasse. Please use the main entrance Tel:  +43 50 144
When: 24 December 2015 from 08:00 am till 4 pm

4. District

Blood Donation Center oft he Austrian Red Cross (Blutspendezentrale des Österreichischen Roten Kreuzes), Blutspendezentrale, Wiedner Hauptstraße 32, 1040 Vienna
When: 24 December 2015 from 08:00 am till 1 pm

6. District

Boyscout Troop 17/47 , Mariahilfer Church, Barnabitengasse, 1060 Vienna

Light of Peace - Weyer Youth Group, Upper Austria

Light of Peace – Weyer Youth Group, Upper Austria

When: 24 December 2015 from 4 pm till 5 pm

11. District

Boyscout Troop 73 , Evangelic Arc (Evangelische Arche), Svetelskystraße 7, 1110 Vienna
When: 24 December 2015 from 3 pm till 4 pm

12. District

Boyscout Troop 10/48 , Khleslplatz 24 und Tivoligasse 20, 1120 Vienna
When: 24 December 4 pm till 5 pm, Children’s Service, Khleslplatz 24, and 11 pm Midnight service, Tivoligasse 20

13. District

Living without Barriers (OHNE BARRIEREN LEBEN), Hietzinger Hauptstraße 22, 1130 Vienna
When: 24 December 2015 from 09:00 am till 1 pm

23. District

Boyscout Troop 32, Alt-Erlaa, Church Alt-Erlaa
When: 24 December 4 pm – 5 pm

Klosterneuburg:

Klosterneuburg City Hall (Klosterneuburg Rathaus):
When: Wednesday, 23 December from 08.30 am until 11.00 am the assembly hall (Aula) of the Rathaus

WHERE TO FIND THE LIGHT OF PEACE IN THE US

Light of Peace in the USA 2015 – just click on the map

 Previous posts about the Light of Peace:
http://www.kcblau.com/lightofpeace/

Some asides I would like to add:

  1. Austria desperately needs a handy map showing Light of Peace locations like the US has. I had to scavenge the internet to figure out where it is. Aren’t there any tech-savvy boy scouts out there who need a badge project?
  2. A nice family tradition is to give a child a candle at birth that can be used in religious celebrations (baptisms,etc) and then when the child grows up and ties the knot, each person’s birth candle can be used to light the one wedding candle which can then be used to light the candle of their child.
  3. If your community has no Light of Peace, take the helm and organize one for next year and spread the light. You’ll be happy you did and get a badge in my book.
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