If you have recently moved to Vienna or thinking about it being your next step, keep reading Part 2 of How to Feel At Home in Vienna, While Learning German for more awesome tips on making yourself feel less like an outsider!
Are you new in Vienna, in the process of learning German and feel as if you don't really belong? This article is the second part of a three-part series aiming to make you feel more comfortable living in the city, through various insider tips and suggestions. We advise you to read part one of How to Feel At Home in Vienna #1 before you continue with part two.
...Now that you are up to speed, continue reading for more tips on how to get a better understanding of the Viennese modus vivendi spanning from getting friendly with supermarket tellers, organizing Austrian-themed potlucks with friends, keeping up with your hobbies and finding like-minded individuals in Vienna to giving back to society… all while mastering German in the center of Europe.
Learning German - Keep At It!
Yes, it is a difficult language to become proficient in. And yes, it is an exhausting process from beginning to … we would say end but to be honest there is not really an end in sight, same to any foreign language learning process. But the reality is, learning German is a rewarding process as well. The constant struggle you experience when trying to communicate with others, comprehend difficult texts or simply express your thoughts in a coherent manner will only push you forward - even if you realize it only in retrospect.
The brain is a powerful machine, absolutely capable of constantly adapting to new situations and saving new crucial information, such as the fact that you have to wait for the green light to cross the street even if the streets are empty(!) or that every word ending in -ung is feminine and therefore bears the article die. Let us jump for joy for this easy to remember grammatical rule in German - formulas like this appear once in a blue moon.
The only thing that will completely shatter your own efforts in mastering German, is self-restriction in using the language openly, in fear of critique, and unease in accepting corrections from friends or strangers. Believe us, strangers will love correcting you!
Every chance you get, s p e a k! You are at the local supermarket, waiting in line for your items to be scanned and the cashier is so busy that will not even look at you? Say hello and thank you and have a nice rest of the day, regardless (Grüß Gott. Danke. Schönen Tag noch.). This way, you work on your accent if nothing else, plus you are creating connections and there is nothing more human than that.
Even though Vienna is a city of millions, neighborhoods and their local enterprises are small worlds around which you will soon start recognizing familiar faces (usually those of their dogs, too). Seize any opportunity to connect with people around you, even for a few seconds a day. A smile or a kind look has the power to make your and their day, and make you feel part of the community.
On Krapfen, Manner Schnitten and Käsekrainer
Foodie or not, you have to appreciate how the basic human need to consume food for proper functionality is also a source of connection and comfort that is deeply rooted in all of us. Eating well nourishes body and soul, and is simultaneously a highly personal yet universal activity which we can all relate to.
If you are used to having a particular snack back home which is not available in Vienna, don’t be afraid to explore local food products which appear to be similar to the original. Another idea is to go the opposite route and try out something that you haven’t seen or tasted before, especially after asking your Austrian acquaintances (INNES staff is a reliable source) in German, to suggest a few of their favorite local delicacies.
Definitely check out baked goods from Bäckereien such as Krapfen which are Austrian filled doughnuts, locally produced snacks in supermarkets such as the infamous salmon-color packaged Manner wafers or Käsekrainer sausages from busy Würstelstände.
When dining out at a classic Austrian restaurant, dare to go off the beaten track of Austrian gastronomy and order the Spinatstrudel or the Mohnnudeln instead of the Wiener Schnitzel. Ask the server for more details if you aren’t quite sure or are in between two options. If you cannot really understand them (because let’s admit it, some Austrians talk really quickly when they want to) ask them politely to repeat: Können Sie bitte die Zutaten und die Zubereitung des Gerichtes langsam wiederholen?
For those of you with more than grilled cheese sandwich cooking skills, we would suggest trying out a couple of main-dish Austrian recipes and inviting friends over from the German language institute, on the weekend for a taste test. These types of get-togethers can easily be organized as Austrian themed potluck dinners where everyone contributes to the feast with local recipes.
Discovering the Austrian food culture will enrich your overall experience in the country while showing interest in its lifestyle and practices will grant you more insights than those of a typical passerby’s. Food can be a go-to conversation starter and your commitment and curiosity will surely be appreciated by locals.
Say Yes to Your Hobbies
Living away from family and friends can be overwhelming, especially when everything else feels unfamiliar and strange. The way for you to gain control of the situation and feel like yourself again is to resume activities you enjoy and hang out with people who fancy those, too.
Are you into technology and new developments in mobile apps? Do you enjoy drinking wine and painting, separately or, even better, simultaneously? Would your ideal day-off entail two hours of Latin dancing? Are you interested in movies, history, gardening, horse riding, reading books, running marathons or knitting? Anything that gets you excited, excites hundreds of others like you in Vienna - the key is to find them and do it together!
Apps such as Meetup are free of charge and offer the opportunity to join as many already existing groups as possible, as well as creating new groups yourself. Facebook and Instagram are also good tools for finding current events or joining hobby groups. Put yourself out there and find your crowd. These groups are not only frequented by internationals and so they are an excellent way to meet locals as well.
Incorporating German into your hobby is the ultimate way of mixing work and play. Let’s assume you have always been an avid football player. Find a group in Vienna, start joining the meetings but at the same time make sure to learn and keep enriching vocabulary which is directly related to your hobby. Der Fußball, der Spieler, die Eckfahne, das Tor, das Trikot, der Anstoß, die Gelbe/Rote Karte, der Elfmeter, and so on and so forth. Learning related terminology will make you better at the activity itself, since understanding what the rest keep shouting is vital, don’t you think? For reference, “Schieß!” is the imperative form of schießen, which means shoot (ie. Shoot the ball!).
Even though most hobbies tend to be activities that require some form of exercise, mental or physical, Netflix is way up in the list of a newcomer’s daily self-care routine, and we know why. It is comforting. There is nothing wrong with falling in a Netflix vortex, but you can make the most out of it with a single tap of a button. Ready to have your mind blown? Switch the subtitles into German. Yes, that’s it. And if you are feeling more confident, switch to German audio or even better… invite friends from the institute over, put on original German series like Dark or Dogs of Berlin, turn the German subtitles on and... into the vortex you go, with our blessing. Challenge yourself to note down ten new words after every Netflix binge and feel free to pat yourself on the back for turning a vice into a virtue!
Volunteering Might Be the Answer!
Volunteering in Vienna is like eating sausages in the street after a night out at Grelle Forelle, or rushing like crazy to get a spot on the big colorful seats in the Museumsquartier plaza on a sunny Sunday - all of which are fundamental elements of Viennese life.
Finding a cause or an organization to support is definitely not difficult. Passionate about animals? Volunteer at an animal shelter – TierQuarTier could use the extra hands. Thinking about supporting refugees? Caritas will thank you for your time and effort. Have a soft spot for the elderly or teenagers without role models? Enlist to hang out with them regularly through Volkshilfe Wien.
Being an active citizen and giving back to society are integral features of every self-respecting individual living in the city. Offering a few hours a week pro bono, even if you haven’t done anything similar before, will prove to be far more rewarding than being remunerated.
Through volunteering, same as when pursuing a collective hobby, you are compelled to socialize. By repeating this mingling process, a network will begin to form which most certainly will lead to feelings of belonging and community. Feeling at home does not really seem impossible after all, does it?
Overview of Useful Tips for Life in Vienna
They say that settling in a new country can take from six months to two years. This is of course not a rule of thumb nor a timeline followed by everyone but it certainly exemplifies that the process of feeling at home cannot happen in a heartbeat. Adapting to a new environment takes personal will and effort and it might often be painful, yet it is a beautiful and growing transitioning period that everyone who moves in a new country experiences.
Keep using German in your daily life outside of classroom walls and keep a positive attitude about it, too. Insisting on conversing in German when English feels so much more comfortable is a sign of perseverance and it will pay off in the end, we promise. Next, try incorporating elements of the Austrian food culture in your routine whether learning about it theoretically or actually trying it out. You know, everybody eats, so you might as well just live a little!
Still feeling a bit lost and not like your typical self? Happiness and contentment are usually achieved when individuals are free to pursue their interests as well as finding and spending time with their crowd and you have the power to do that today just by looking up keywords of your favorite pastime activity or hobby online and joining the groups. Type “Game of Thrones Fans Group Vienna” or “Couch to 5K Running Group Vienna” or even “Quidditch Club Vienna” and see what comes up (Hey, Potterheads!). The possibilities are endless. And remember… Maybe giving back to society and volunteering for a few hours a week to a cause of your choice will create the sense of belonging you so desperately crave. Give it a go.
Also, for meeting and mingling with interationals in a similar situation to yours, join a Gerlman language course at INNES, and feel at home much quicker.
Keep an eye out for the third and final part of the series How to Feel At Home in Vienna, While Attending German Classes and let us know in the comments below how much your daily life has changed after following our tips. We are already excited to read your stories!