- The German language: It is fantastic to be back in Austria and using my German on an über-regular basis. My apologies to my German readers, but I've fallen in love with the Styrian dialect all over again. (Quick geographical note: Graz is located in the province of Styria, in southern Austria.) It's also a bit of an adjustment to transition into primarily German, and I find that it does not come naturally and I struggle a bit when I speak. It's suddenly more difficult to speak German in Austria than it was a mere 2 days before I left New York. I would equate my speaking German with being on a sports team: being here is like I'm playing an away game and have lost the home advantage. In New York, if I spoke German, I was quite confident of myself, as I was one among few; but now that I realize that every time I open my mouth I will be identified as a foreigner, I'm falling behind in the game. But it's a bizarre phenomenon--my German comes and goes in varying degrees of fluency, eloquence, and accent depending on who I am speaking to. It makes very little sense, but I find that I am a tongue-tied stuttering fool when speaking with friends with whom I am already comfortable; however, when I am very nervous when meeting someone new upon whom I need to make a good impression, suddenly I speak perfect, eloquent German with no definable accent. It's truly freakish.
- Wet hair: Austrians are very big on dry hair. That is to say, if you venture outside the house (and in some cases, outside whatever room houses the hairdryer) with wet hair, you are prompty informed that you will catch a cold and strongly advised to go and blow dry your hair immediately. This I already knew from my last stint in Graz. Curly hair and blowdryers, however, do not often agree, and I typically let my hair air dry. A few days ago, I realized that due to my gainful employment within the Austrian school system, this would not come across as very professional...in addition to being a social faux pas. I have thus begun to blowdry my hair.
- Church bells: Church bells are a daily reality here, and they sound several times a day. The best example is at noon, where the unsuspecting foreigner may not realize that the entire city will also sound an alarm with the bells. Every Saturday at noon, synchronized alarms all over the city wail out from fire stations and join with the church bells to signal that is is, in fact, unmistakably noon.
- Zu den 3 Goldenen Kugeln: I was quite pleased to go to my favorite schnitzel restaurant Zu den 3 Goldenen Kugeln ("To the 3 Golden Balls") once more. Here you can order fast, inexpensive, but darn tasty schnitzel and sausage of all kinds. And what would a trip to Austria be without a schnitzel to welcome you? It's been 3 years since I've eaten there, and I'd forgetten how amazingly huge the portions are...but what could be better than a schnitzel the size of the laptop I'm writing this on??
- Die Strassenbahn: I'm amazingly spoiled that the tram ("die Strassenbahn") deposits me right in front of my building. Every time I ride home, it feels like the nice Austrian tram driver is personally dropping me off right at my doorstep! (Stay tuned for a future post on the apartment...)
There is certainly much, much more I could say, but I'll save that for later. I'll update again in a few days with thrilling tales of my first official days as an English Teaching Assistant!
What was awaiting me upon my arrival in the new apartment: Welcome to your new home!