Tuesday, 11 November 2014

'Cultural Differences'

Have you ever met someone from a far-away country and asked them about their country, their culture and their upbringing and all they want to bring to the table are positives?
Call me a pessimist but that's just a heap of shit. Every country has its own dark secrets, dark alleys, shady and its ridiculous and annoying habits, and they're often the most interesting parts to examine as an 'outsider'.
“It's just a cultural difference” is the go-to phrase to paste over all of these features with rainbows and unicorns and happiness.

This is a short introduction to just how ridiculously shitty Vienna can be:

People can be really fucking miserable here.
Vienna (or Wien as it is known in the German speaking world) regularly tops charts as the city with one of the highest standards of living, and the highest quality of life. However walk around the city with anything more than a frown and you will be instantly cast out as a tourist, or worse yet, German. We have beautiful buildings, access to nice parks and the countryside, diversity and a certain middle-size city charm, but yet people here are a little bit distant sometimes, sometimes cold, sometimes just plain fucking rude.

What is it with scooters?
I used to have one of those kid's scooters back in the 1990's. I used to ride down my path on it and I got bored straight away. Full grown adults here ride them through the streets, through the underground stations on them and generally cause havoc knocking into people's ankles on a daily basis. I genuinely saw someone doing their shopping on one. I'm starting to think that Viennese fashion is totally 20 years in the past and i'm just waiting for the day I see some geriatric old lady whizzing past on one.

Need I say more? It's not so bizarre or original but couple together the fact that bureaucracy is and always will be a massive pain in the arse with the massive hurdles that the German language presents to its users and the B├╝rokratiedschungel (jungle of bureaucracy) can be a real depressive experience. To get money, you have to have a bank account, which means you also need a place of residence and a proof of this (including stamped forms by the main owner and more forms and more forms). To get a place of residence you need to pay huge security deposits and essentially be financially set-up for life prior to moving to this country. To get a salary to allow you to keep eating and keep living. you need all of the above first. It's impossible sometimes.

Horses. Everywhere.
Vienna is a grand touristy city, that's a given. And i'm sure here's nothing quite like a midnight ride in a horse carriage under a fur blanket. But when they park outside your apartment block on a main road and basically shit everywhere, there has to be a line. If you're not being ran over by adults on kids scooters or pretending to know the rules of the road, you're gonna get fucking chewed up and spit out by some angry motherfucking Viennese horse. And if you're lucky and escape all of the above, then you'll just get tutted at by strangers for crossing the street at red lights.

They have really weird words for things.
This is not a negative at all really, since I find it crazy/fascinating/interesting, but strange words like Beisl (Kneipe in standard German) for pub? Or Gusch! (Sei Still) for 'be quiet'? So cool, but so so bizarre. That's gonna take some time to get used to. Bist du deppat!

'Pubs' here are just so wrong.
There must be absolutely no one standing up in a bar. If there are no tables free, people go somewhere else or go home. Table service is basically classed as a human right here; it seems almost unthinkable to actually go and order at the bar -yourself-. How common....
You wait until you clock a free table, then wait until your overworked waiter finally clocks you. Then you have to wait twenty minutes for them to do their thing. And then you have to tip them despite all that displeasure.
If you actually find a pub where you order at the bar, people genuinely queue there, opposed to the brawl at bars in Britain. But they don't dare queue for the bus or in shops or anywhere else. SO SO backwards. Honestly I miss the comfort of a warm pub with warm beer, absolutely zero waiters and some alcoholic in the corner singing sailor's songs, when that's not me.


Everyone stares here. Not just at me or something, but at each other. Like a giant Viennese turf war or something. I've started intentionally making anyone who stares at me feel very uncomfortable in return, just how it feels in the first place.

Wien is, however, one of the nicest cities in the world. But people who live here think of it as boring, people from abroad think of it only in a classical music / opera sort of way and it's not as if the party scene is 24/7 here. But regardless, I love it here. Maybe that'll change come the new year, who knows.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The Staff Room

I never wanted to be a teacher when I was younger and, really, who could blame me?

Not only do teachers not have social lives outside of school, they spend their time marking books and reading articles about things which us kids just didn't give a toss about, right? And that geography teacher you used to have who smelled like musty carpets and books? That's what all teachers look like. 
Which 15-year-old ever thought that becoming old and wearing elbow patches would be a good thing? 

I hated school. Not only was I relatively badly bullied for being a big gay, I found it boring, unstimulating and like prison for people who didn't deserve it. I don't think I ever woke up in the morning and wanted to go to school, but I never fell through the net and I never failed anything.

I teach at two schools in Vienna: both of them are Bundesrealgymnasium (high schools) and my classes are in the Oberstufe (14-18yrs old). One of them is a self-confessed left-wing state school which used to be a matchbox factory during the Second World War, the other is a state school with an additional boarding school section especially for dance, art and music students. This particular school teaches on Saturdays, which is fucking bizarre to me and I also give classes to ballet students. I don't like it as much as the other school if I'm going to be honest but hey ho that's life.

I teach roughly 15 hours between the two but average out with more. I also observe extra and I've just joined one of the German classes alongside the students to really try and improve and practice my language as much as possible. 

As a teaching assistant you're expected to 'help out' in the class, possibly in smaller groups, but in real terms that translates to me giving every single class just as a normal teacher does. I've never sat in the back and just watched and I've even conducted mock listening tests for their upcoming exams with the teacher assisting -me- not the other way around. I feel like I have a shit ton of responsibility and I can't just roll into school still trippingballs or hungover like I did in the office working as a Linguistic Advertising Monitor, whatever the fuck that means. 

This teaching experience here has so far taught me that school could have been fun. The kids aren't by any means perfect little angels or any more interested in some of the conversation topics we've concentrated on then I was back at school, but they like being at school deep down. They're organising a Secret Santa in one of the classes and even building a special 'hat' where they pull the names out of. In another class, the students organise a quick workout routine for five minutes before each class starts (which had me absolutely sweating while 25 limber and flexible younglings threw themselves around a room quite carefree). In another, they talk freely about themselves and their lives outside of school while laughing about stuff easily with the teachers. One of my classes even baked me a Sachertorte after realising I'd not tried it yet. We sat down and ate cake in class and I was completely overwhelmed by how easily I'd made them trust me. I've even had students invite me to a party this weekend and another group have asked me if I could stay and get a job as their full-time English teacher. 

The teachers are a very mixed bunch in both schools. Some old and some young, some more creative and some very hardline stick-to-the-book-and-the-rules. I find it really interesting to listen into their conversations about students in the staff room and then watch them interact with them on a daily basis. I even find one of the teachers absolutely smoking hot indeed. Staff room coffee and a quickie all round. 10 out of 10 would bang.

Anyways, maybe this is the honeymoon stage, I might hate my life come Christmas and might prefer to stick to translation come May. Who knows, but I'm enjoying pretending to be a responsible adult in the meantime.

Maybe I will invest in a pair of those elbow patches after all....

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Apartment

So i've been living in Vienna for around two weeks now and I can safely say that I love this city and I feel really at home here. I've finally found my feet here, made some great friends and i'm meeting new people all the time including the English, international and the locals too. I'm having a blast. 

Job's going really well. I love most of the kids and it's really good fun. One class even baked a Sachertorte for me and we spent the lesson eating cake and debating out hot topics like globalisation and the Scottish independence vote. I'm looking forward to the rest of the academic year and possibly even working the year after that too.

I also found myself an apartment here after living in a hostel for a week or so among some of my friends here. After messaging almost every person in Vienna offering an apartment I finally finally got a reply. It really is a letter's market. 

I have a really nice room with a great view, a huge bed and tons of art as well as a balcony from my kitchen and a pretty decent bathroom. I share it with another person but the crazy Russian lawyer bitch who was living here has moved out and we're looking for someone new. 

When I moved in I had my contract signed, I'd paid my rent and I even had keys. Yet when I turned up to move in this crazy super princess bitch who has a room here started crying and screaming and threatening me and basically kicking off and telling me she was a lawyer and knew everything about international law and I should fuck off and get a hostel because my contract was obviously illegal. In the end I phoned the Austrian police, spoke to them quite easily in German (which I am so so proud of) and they came round and told her she was wrong and I was right and I had the legal right to stay. Hallelujah! Anyways she's moved her stuff out and I have the place to myself so as i'm writing this i'm making coffee in my kitchen absolutely bollock naked while looking out over my fantastic view of Vienna and there'a not a single goddamn thing anyone can do about it.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Oh, Vienna.

It's under a week until I take the plunge and move to grand old Vienna. I only got confirmation of the job I'd applied for at the start of September, so to say that this whole pack-up-your-shit-and-go thing has been a last minute jobby would be a complete understatement. Anyone who knows me well enough though will know that that is just "soooo me".

I still get asked "G, How is it possible for you to just up sticks like that?" or "I am so jealous of you" and I never know how to react. I always just say that I hate being comfortable, and if you really wanted something you would fucking bust a blood vessel to get it.

I was going to make this post like all the pre-departure Erasmus style travel blogs about how I'm excited to go here and to do this and that and counting down that it's 5 sleeps until I travel, but I couldn't bring myself to rattle all that spiel off. By god I am excited, but I am also incredibly nervous too. This isn't an Erasmus year abroad - I have no extra money coming in every semester to save me from financial ruin (like what happened in France), there is no real time limit this time and as much as people say, or think deep down, this really is not something to get out of my system while I'm young. I don't plan on coming back.

It's an incredibly scary prospect anyways, but like that beautifully eloquent snippet of philosophy goes: #YOLO.

Der Wiener Donaukanal