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Posts from the ‘Useful’ Category


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”):

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



These two avid bird watchers do not qualify for work on the bird census

These two avid bird watchers do not qualify for work on the bird census

For the seventh year in the row, the great tit comes out on top! Both throughout Austria and in Vienna. Get your ornithological-ignorant mind out of the gutter. The great tit is a chickadee (OK – fair enough, I admit that I didn’t know either so enlighten yourself with the Wikipedia tit entry ). Our Austrian

Great tit

Great tit

friends had the sense to call the little critter a Kohlmeise. But what makes the chickadee this year’s champion (again!)? He/she happens to be the bird who most frequently showed up for dinner at bird feeders throughout Austria for 4 days at the beginning of January.

Yes. From Wednesday, January 6 (a holiday in Austria – Three King’s Day) until Saturday, January 9, over 8000 Austrian bird lovers heeded the call of the wild and became official census takers for the Austrian Bird Protection Organization – Birdlife. Dedicating themselves to an hour’s watch at a bird feeder at a time and place of their choice, participants agreed to count how many birds visited the selected feeder within the hour and then take the point in time when the most birds simultaneously visited the feeders — how many were there and which birds they were.

House sparrow (Spatz)

House sparrow (Spatz)

 The 8062 participants submitted 5699 reports which recorded a total of 243,499 birds. Somehow that amounted to an average of 43 birds per Austrian garden, which was up from 39 in 2015 and 34 in 2014. Apparently the birds showed a distinct preference to Styrian (50 birds per yard) over Salzburg (last year’s seed distributor of choice) cuisine. But is it any wonder that our feathered friends choose to hang out with the green-hearted, bird-loving Styrians who can boast 2,014 bird-counting participants? The Tiroleans obviously had better things to do this year (watching skiers in flight?) and can bow their heads at the embarrassing 49% drop in participants.



The siskin seems to be attempting to steal the great tit’s thunder this year by endearing the Austrian media with its incredible jump in rankings from a miserable 29th place in 2015 to sliding into this year’s top 10 at number 10. Not to be outdone, in press coverage, however, is the greenfinch’s uplifting tale of overcoming incredible odds with an apparent come back after a parasite outbreak depleted its numbers (2.4 per garden up from 1.9 last year).

Vienna had 567 bird lovers who submitted 405 reports that indicated 10,691 birds had been spied in the country’s capital city, averaging to about 26 birds per bird feeder. More surprising than the siskin was the rank of the street pigeon sightings in Vienna. The Columba livia came in 10th in the Vienna bird rankings. Or maybe they missed the BirdLife memo and were all too busy collecting leftover kebab and pizza scraps at Schwedenplatz to be bothered with bird feeder visits in Prater.

Don’t miss out on the action next year. Be sure to mark your calendars now for the 2017 winter bird census (Thursday, January 5 – Sunday, January 8, 2017) because as the old, wise Austrian saying goes, a sparrow in the hand is better than a pigeon on the roof! (if only cats understood German)

Just a side note, if you came to this website because you entered “great tits” into your search engine and ended up here: “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, we have to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.” (Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency)

The top 5 birds in Vienna?

Carrion crow

Carrion crow

  • Great tit (of course)
  • Rook
  • House sparrow (is it any wonder that the Austrian near equivalent for “sweetie” is “Spatz” which is the nickname for the house sparrow?)
  • Carrion crow (raven)
  • Blackbird (my faithful, feathered friend who sings me through the Viennese summers)

Top 10 Birds sighted in January 2016 in Austria

  1. Great tit
  2. House sparrow

    Siskin - the Austrian media darling

    Siskin – the Austrian media darling

  3. Field sparrow
  4. Blackbird
  5. Blue tit
  6. Chaffinch
  7. Greenfinch
  8. Goldfinch
  9. Brambling
  10. Siskin

Because you know you’re dying to learn more about the birds:

 Austrian bird website BirdLife that conducts the annual bird census

PDF of 2016 Registration form with instructions and bird images at BirdLife

Results from 2016 – click on map to see more exact results and whether there was an increase or decrease in sightings:

Some fun with a bird quiz in German – do you know the bird?

Hear the great tit in action:

My personal favorite and most frequent visitor to my summer sanctuary: the blackbird answering another bird’s call:



Is jealousy learned? Would the ideal marriage have an expiration date? Are there good arguments for the legalization of prostitution? Whether you are a book club that drinks wine, a wine club that reads book, Oprah, a college class or just someone who likes to delve deeper, may this free Reader’s Guide to Women and Wild Savages bring you hours of thought-provoking discussion and enrich your reading experience.


The guide is five pages long and broken down into the following topic areas:
1. Love and Marriage
2. Sexuality
3. Women and their Social Role
4. Men and their Social Role
5. Literary Considerations
6. Vienna at the Turn of the Century (1900 – 1910) and Society Today
7. Story Ponderings

Don’t have a copy of the book yet? Get it now at one of your preferred outlets:

Women and Wild Savages Print Version at Amazon


Women and Wild Savages at Amazon for Kindle

Women and Wild Savages at Barnes and Noble for Nook

Women and Wild Savages for Kobo





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!