Who’s Conchita Wurst? What’s a Radler? Where do I buy baking soda? When do the subways stop running? Why is the restaurant personnel totally ignoring us and those rude Austrians hurrying past us and grabbing that table?
If you’re a newly arrived expat, after your first couple weeks in Vienna, once you’ve successfully managed to score your Meldezettel, and become a card carrying member of Billa and remembered to stash a few spare plastic bags into your backpack as you dash out of the building at 16:45 Saturday afternoon in a mad race to hit the grocery store before it closes till Monday morning, when the initial shock waves begin to wane, that’s about the time when you’ll start feeling the need to call a friend. Only, you don’t have any friends because you are living in a foreign country. Because with all the bags unpacked and all the forms filled out, the everydayisms and real challenges start. And that’s when you realize that Walmart isn’t in every corner of the universe and no one’s stopping to offer help just because you look a little lost. And not only do you look lost, you feel it too. Really lost.
And that’s when the questions start coming at you faster and more determined than the Oma ramming her cart to be the first in line at the newly opened Hofer register.
Who’s that bearded woman in a long dress and stilettos? (Conchita Wurst) Why does the beer the locals are drinking look different than mine? (they’re probably drinking Radler – 50 % beer and 50% Austrian soft drink called Almdudler mix that is a popular summer drink). Where’s the Arm & Hammer in this town?(You can get baking soda and other non-Austrian grocery products at the Prosi Supermarket, U6 Burggasse) How am I getting home tonight? (Vienna’s subways run all night long on the weekends and till midnight weekdays – assuming you can manage to make it to the subway) Why is the restaurant staff ignoring us? (unless you are in a fancier restaurant or typical tourist area, you’re usually expected to sit yourself in a restaurant and won’t get the bill slapped down on the table (that would be rude) unless you ask for it. If you’re still getting ignored, you might have to take it personally).
But what if you are in Bahrain? Or Singapore? Mexico City? Or Shanghai? KC couldn’t help you there. But other expats living there can. And how do you find them? Internations.
They just contacted me and featured my blog this past week. No. No money was exchanged. Alas, a blog is a labor of love. But hey! If you’re an expat, looking for info, you might want to check them out. The Internations site was started by three Germans who were former expats themselves and now connects over 1 million people in 390 cities and 190 countries around the world. So whether you want to know where to find the best Mandarin tutor or Mandarin duck, there is bound to be some expat on the Internations China site that has the answer for you. And since they also organize local events, you might even make some new friends and get to stop hanging out with the ducks.