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Showing posts from July, 2010

Spelling "Culture": Museums, TVs, and the American Way

Culture - what exactly is it? Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary lists a number of definitions. I like 5b, "the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group". Why I should ask? Because The German Way Expat Blog brought up the topic in a post last week. The writer, Jane, who is originally from Pennsylvania talks about her relocation from Germany to California: "The differences abound and the culture shock is subtly creeping in: translating 2nd floor to 1st, writing dates with the month first, converting ounces and pounds to grams, and bad driving." Jane is unhappy about paper plates and plastic spoons at the Marriott Residence Inn, about losing the Television battle against her children because screens are everywhere, about eggs which "taste absolutely like nothing". Jane concludes: "This leads me to my final point. I am understanding a bit more the whole moan about the lack of culture in Ameri

The Naked Body, a Complicated Thing

"Please take off your clothes from the waist up and lie down on this table." The nurse's voice was friendly, matter-of-factly. I looked around, searching for a curtain that might work as a changing room, a paper gown to cover up. Nothing. The nurse's eyes urged me on, so I got naked, then and there, the lady a mere arm's length away. It was one of those moments where I longed to be in California. Culturally speaking the naked body is a complicated thing. Some muslim women must cover up (or feel the need to do so); Scandinavians on the other hand, when visiting beaches, pools, and lakes, expose themselves without inhibition; Austrians and Germans don't tend to be shy either. Hereabouts images of more or less naked women are used to advertise anything from cars to clothes to window sashes. A recent campaign by a beer brewer shows three women from the chest upward, no clothes, arms crossed to hide their breasts. The connection between the women and the beer is

Almdudler, Beans, and the Taste of Home

Expat relief as Austria switches to UK recipe for Heinz baked beans...  Ahh, the comfort of familiar food! I haven't eaten baked beans in years and would probably not know the difference but the headline  from yesterday's Daily Telegraph got me thinking about the taste of home and the expat suit case. I have taken Kremser Senf, Gelierzucker, Mannerschnitten, and Almdudler to the U.S., brought Reese's Pieces, Mac'n'Cheese from Trader Joe's, and Meyer Lemons from our backyard back to Europe. (The list is incomplete.) How about your suit case? I would love to hear about the things you schlep across the pond.

Evenings Under Chestnut Trees (This I Will Miss 4)

Summer! Mosquitoes, heat, and thunder storms (and fans instead of air conditioning). I am a summer person and have always loved staying in Vienna during the hot months. The city has a lot to offer: swimming in its public aquatic centers, cycling in the Prater, hikes across the hills and mountains to the south, sailing on Lake Neusiedl, afternoon excursions to the little wineries, the Heurigen, which sell simple home made fare and cool, refreshing spritzers - and evenings spent outdoors, in the backyards of restaurants, under chestnut trees. Chestnut trees - actually horse chestnuts - are ubiquitous in Vienna. They grow to 100 feet tall and blossom in May with long, upright panicles which are white or, more unusually, an old fashioned reddish rose color. The leaves are broad and divided, and in July soft, spiky burrs are already well visible. In the fall, when the leaves turn yellow, then brown, the burrs will crack open, revealing a shiny brown fruit. As children we used to collect t

First Things First: Pictures From a Hospital Visit

When? Last weekend Where? Emergency Hospital Wien-Meidling What? A cigarette vending machine, the first thing you see as you walk through the main entrance of the hospital The hospital is under construction, and finding your way around is not easy right now. Since we had a leg problem we were not sure whether the yellow sign was applicable. But no complaints! The wait was short, the doctor seemed to know what he was doing, the nurse was friendly.

Smoking and Other Habits: Austria's New Tobacco Law

First, some facts: according to a WHO newsletter 47 percent of all Austrian men and 41 percent of all Austrian women smoke; the number for women is way higher than the average for the European region (21 percent). According to an OECD report 27 percent of all Austrian 15-year-olds smoke (one third more than the OECD average). Second, policy and politics: as of today Austria has a new tobacco law. Restaurants must be smoke free - unless they are smaller than 50 square meters - and unless they have a separate room for smokers - and unless they are under some landmark protection and unless... The new law is full of exceptions (Austrians always make exceptions) and one of the most smoker friendly tobacco laws in the EU. Restaurant owners lobbied against all changes, claiming that prohibitive laws would put them out of business, and the coalition government was too weak to push sensible legislation, meaning an all out ban on smoking in all restaurants, cafés, bars... In the USA things