Friday, December 11, 2009

Giving Thanks

Now that I'm back in the States, life in Austria already seems so far away. The life I led there for the past couple years was certainly a unique phase full of excitement and opportunity. When I learned that I wouldn't be able to stay in the country, I started to appreciate the little things all around me as though I only had a week left to live. Consequently, I spent most of the last couple weeks walking around in a state of perpetual thankfulness and warm fuzzies. On the train from Graz up to Vienna on my way to the airport, I finally compiled a list -- a list of all the things I could think of that I was thankful for. (This also makes it a list of things I like about Austria. I could call this list "Things I Like About Austria," or I can call it...)

I'm thankful...

  • for a city that's safe at night
  • for a city that's safe during the day
  • for a fantastic church home
  • for a rich national history
  • for accessible and affordable operas
  • for affordable housing
  • for an abundance of castles
  • for an orderly and cheap laundry system in my apartment building
  • for Austrian school and office supplies -- so much cooler!
  • for balls (i.e. dancing balls, like Cinderella went to a ball)
  • for bike paths
  • for cheap but good wine and beer
  • for cheap sparkling mineral water
  • for cheap, convenient and reliable train travel within Austria
  • for cheap/easy/convenient opportunities to travel within Europe
  • for church bells that ring at 7 am, 12 pm, 3 pm, and 7 pm
  • for consistently good coffee
  • for cute, quaint villages
  • for dialect and its accompanying amusements, puzzles and challenges
  • for everyone who helped me and/or made phone calls to figure out all the bureaucratic visa stuff
  • for everything pumpkin out of Styria: pumpkin seed oil, pumpkin cream soup, pumpkin bread, etc.
  • for exclusively Austrian Sturm, Glühwein, Christmas markets, and Buschenschanks
  • for ex-pats
  • for friends
  • for good bread and cheese
  • for good health insurance and no referrals
  • for good places to run and bike
  • for having 38 public holidays
  • for having the Mur river running though town
  • for hospitality
  • for how Austrians will really pull through for you
  • for incredible scenery
  • for kebabs
  • for Labello
  • for lackadaisical passport control officials
  • for living in a bike-friendly city
  • for meeting so many cool people from all over the world
  • for my connections
  • for my fellow foreigners
  • for old European streets, houses, and architecture in general; especially how this everyday cityscape stayed fresh and new for me
  • for reliable public transportation
  • for skiing and Austrian-style sledding
  • for so much free/leisure time
  • for sturdy toilet paper and tissues
  • for the abundance and coexistence of kitsch, history, and design
  • for the Austrians who adopted me and introduced me to Austrian life and culture
  • for the comfortable pace and quality of life
  • for the coziness of Graz
  • for the insanely cheap price of a chunk of fresh mozzarella
  • for the lack of cockroaches, poison ivy, and poisonous spiders and snakes
  • for the ubiquitous ice cream stands in the summer
  • for traditional clothing and accordion music
  • for tram and bus drivers who will stop the vehicle and wait for you if they see you running to catch a ride
  • for wearing slippers at home or as a guest in someone's home
  • for wonderful roommates and a flexible landlady
  • that Austria takes care of its people
  • that dogs are so well-behaved here and are allowed to go everywhere
  • that even in Austria I can be BFF with my bank teller(s)
  • that Graz was the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2003 and therefore has lots of spiffy new buildings and such
  • that having a car is so unnecessary
  • that having a real Christmas tree with real candles is the only tree most of them have ever known
  • that I can leave my bike simply standing and loosely locked anywhere in the city and it will still be there when I come back
  • that I can understand German on the phone
  • that I can walk in to the doctor's office without an appointment and actually be seen
  • that I could live in the same apartment for over 2 years -- longer than any other apartment I've ever had
  • that I had so many visitors in the past couple years!
  • that I lived for 2 years without a deadbolt and it never bothered me
  • that I'm no longer pre-judged on the basis of my president
  • that it is so easy to split the bill in a restaurant
  • that my room doesn't face a street
  • that nearly everything you ever use is recycled
  • that people have stopped introducing me as, "This is Rebecca. She's American."
  • that receiving phone calls is free on your mobile phone
  • that Styria has it all -- mountains, hills, vineyards, thermal baths…
  • that tax is included in all your purchases and tipping is practically nonexistent
  • that the country is very stable and doesn't have any severe political or international problems
  • that there are so many old people who are out and about
  • that there are very few Americans in comparison with other Austrian cities
  • that there are very few tourists in comparison with the other Austrian cities


Austrian Holiday Blogger said...

Hi like your blog and list. Done a similar list thing at my blog at

Hope you don't mind the link and update.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back "home". As an expat from Austria now living in New Jersey, I really enjoyed your blog. I am glad you had such a wonderful experience in my home country.

Rebecca said...

Thanks, Ursula. Austria has been one of my favorite places for the past 10 years. I hope you're having a similarly good ex-pat experience in my home country. Frohe Weihnachten und guten Rutsch!