Austria, Go! Europe

The Hair of the Smokey Dog

Some more cultural observations from Vienna:

From my own personal experience I know that there are many ladies in North America that augment the color of their hair.  I’ve heard that the number of women who periodically dye their hair there is amazingly high, but I never paid much attention because, except for a few noticeable cases of angst, the overall goal of the dye-job is to make it look reasonably natural.  That is not the case here in Vienna!  Sure, there are still the teenagers with protesting heads of blue and green, but there are also seventy year-olds with funky patches of orange, fifty year-olds with not-quite-natural shades of red, thirty year olds with streaky multi-colored mixes, and women of all ages in their obviously-not-so-natural basic black.  And the hottest current color and all-time favorite, or maybe the one that stands out the most to me, is the bleached blond.  Sometimes the dominant color is undercut with something else underneath.  Maybe this is a style in itself, or maybe it’s just the natural transition back to a normal hair color.  Many women don’t seem bothered to show everyone that their last dye job hasn’t been for many months.  I used to constantly be doing double takes to verify that what I thought I saw was real, but now I just mutter under my breath and chalk it up to a different sense of fashion.

The idea that smoking is unhealthy or uncool hasn’t yet reached Vienna either.  It is still ubiquitous, at least at restaurants where we have grown accustomed in the U.S. to smoke-free eating.  Some places have decent ventilation which makes smoking almost palatable, but others are unenterable for those of us who have forgotten our smoky nightclub days.  At one hip restaurant Ashley overheard someone saying, “Well, if she didn’t want her kids to be exposed to the smoke she shouldn’t bring them here.”  Apparently banned from public buildings and transportation, I’ve noticed that smoking is particularly rampant just outside museums and at tram and bus stops.  Almost everyday I bump into kids going to the local high school, searching their pockets for a lighter rather than paying attention to who else is waiting to get on the tram.  It’s not all bad news though – the EU is pressuring all member states to ban public smoking (even England and France ban smoking in restaurants and bars), and one of the big coffee houses downtown is now smoke-free (apparently responding to the healthy tourist market).  It can’t come too soon for me.

Dogs are different here too – they ignore me.  I love dogs and this has been very painful for me to come to terms with.  But they don’t just ignore me, they ignore everyone who is not their owner.  And this had been extremely painful for the girls, who want to pet every furry thing they see (well, without funky dye jobs anyway).  It seems that the dog culture here dictates that people pay no attention to the dogs in the streets, unless they belong to you.  This apparently in turn removes any incentive a dog might have to come over and say hello, lick your hand, sniff your pant leg, or chase you when you run by.  What it does make for are uniformly well-behaved dogs – on the sidewalk, in the tram, in the park, and at the restaurant (there are a lot of dogs here).  I hardly ever see a dog straining at the leash, and even when I sit down next to a dog on the bus, I might as well be a rock for as much attention they pay me.  And I understand now about the dirty looks I’ve gotten the few times I did bend down to say hello to a particularly cute mutt that I just couldn’t resist trying to make contact with.  Now if only more of the owners would pay more attention to what their dogs do(o) leave out there for the rest of us.

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