Small Differences

More from Austria:

The cars seem ready to stop on the streets of the city.  A pedestrian could step off the curb, a car could pull out from a parking space, a tram could turn quickly into traffic, but the drivers of the cars always seem to stop without a tantrum or blown horn.  It is a good thing.

The edge of the city does not seem like sprawl.  Maybe it is just our neighborhood or centuries of development pressure, but apartment building density next to vineyard next to Wienerwald is way nicer than American suburbia.

Speaking of which, there are very few shopping centers or box stores.  I saw an Ikea on the other side of the city on the way to skiing, but people do there regular shopping at their neighborhood stores.  That is not to say that there aren’t chain stores here, they are just smaller and fit into the existing architecture.

When people move houses they take everything, including the light fixtures and the kitchen sink.  I’m not sure this happens all the time, but our friends that moved here from Papua New Guinea have been to Ikea 10 times trying to get their kitchen cabinets installed correctly.  This has made us very happy with our housing arrangement.

Shin high boots and tight jeans are way better than baggy pants and sports jerseys.

There are way cooler sports out there than the NFL would let you believe.  Maybe it’s because we lead a sheltered no-cable TV existence at home, but in the month of January TV here has had the European handball championship, the African soccer tournament, snooker, volleyball, indoor bocce, tennis, darts, rugby, and, of course skiing. Downhill racing, slalom, ski jumping, cross-country, and more biathlon than I ever knew existed.

McDonalds has the same crappy food, but they have two Austrian-themed hamburgers appealing to the unique hunger of the Alps.  The small toys in the happy meals still make the kids happy.

Austrians are way better dancers than Americans.  I know my sample size is skewed, with my musical taste at home tending towards the head bobber set, and my musical exposure here limited to balls where the whole purpose is to dance.  But there are very few people on the dance floor “just feeling the music” – dancing class must be a compulsory high school course.

Imperial wealth and architecture followed by socialist era apartment development makes for an interesting juxtaposition of housing.  Our district is known for being chic, with embassies, vineyards, and small summer houses.  But there is also the Karl Marx Hof, a 5,000-unit pink apartment building that spans more than a kilometer and bridges four streets.

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