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8 Spanish Habits I Lost When I Moved to Austria

Austria Spain Student Work Narrative
by Ana Bulnes Apr 13, 2015

1. Buying groceries after 7 pm

Supermarkets in Spain open at least until 8:30 pm (and that’s an early closing time). After a few failed attempts of grocery shopping in Austria I learnt my lesson: Always check the opening hours! Some stores close as soon as 6 pm (in Spain they open at 5!), but in some cases, such as big department stores, you could find them open until 8 pm! The idea of trying to buy groceries after 7 soon started to feel weird. That’s when I should be having dinner, my new Austrian brain said! And beware of the weekends. You could starve if you don’t plan in advance!

2. Not expecting public transport to be on time

Every bus and metro has its timetable in Spain, but you’d only check it to see if there is public transport or not (for example, on Sundays). A weird thing happens in Austria: There is actually a link between those timetables and buses, trains, and trams! If you get to the bus stop in Spain 2 minutes after the time when the bus should pass, you know the bus is late. In Austria you check when the next one will come. You know you have just missed it.

3. Not (really) appreciating the spring

I always thought I appreciated it, everyone does. But it wasn’t until I spent a winter in Vienna that I really knew why we should all be deeply thankful for every spring day. After what feels like an eternal winter, when everything is grey and people look sad (that is, when you actually see people in the streets), spring takes over the city. Nature explodes. Suddenly, everything is green, there are flowers everywhere, terraces pop out on every corner — many times in places where you hadn’t even noticed there was a bar or café! People finally dare to go out, filling every square, street, and park. Everyone looks happy! And you sit under the sun, feel its warmth on your skin, and realize it had been months since the last time you felt its rays.

4. Being scared of riding a bike in the city

Things are changing in Spain and urban cycling is becoming more and more common and safe. Still, unless you’re really skilled (I’m not) or in a city with no traffic, you will feel a bit scared of riding it without a bike path. Not in Austria. Bike paths are everywhere, sure, but when you don’t have them, you can still feel safe. Car drivers are so careful and polite! Even when you make some weird, reckless move you know you shouldn’t have done, they will stop and even smile at you. Not that they should run you over, but maybe some disapproval face?

5. Thinking a 33cl beer is a big beer

It’s not, that’s what you learn the first day you order a beer and decide to have the großes one. It’s half a liter! Of course, it’s easy to get used to it, and hard to come back to Spain and find yourself in front of a 25cl beer. Are you kidding me?

6. Being late on purpose

As a punctual person, this is something I have to do in Spain from time to time, depending on who I’m meeting with. Not in Austria, a dreamland for punctual people like me! Everyone will show up on time! Even if you arrive a couple of minutes earlier, you might not be the first one! Oh, paradise.

7. Keeping my shoes on when I’m at home

And not only my own home, everyone else’s too! This is also when I started to be careful about the socks I was wearing. No one expects you to take your shoes off indoors in Spain, and you won’t do it at all if you are at someone else’s place. You will ask for permission to do it! In Austria (and many other countries, I am fully aware), it’s the other way around. It would be impolite to walk with your dirty shoes into your friend’s apartment. And yes, house parties are included, unless the host tells you otherwise. In many houses they even have several sleepers at the door for guests!

8. Thinking opera is for rich people

“You’re going to the opera at least once a month? You must be doing really well!” This is what happens when you tell your friends back in Spain about your newly found passion. Of course, soon the rumor spreads and everyone thinks you are in some strange business that’s giving you lots and lots of money. Or that you just secretly married an Austrian aristocrat. When they visit, they understand: you can go to the opera, to Vienna’s own State Opera House, just for 4 euros. A standing ticket, sure, but hey, you’re allowed into that exclusive world! And you’re not even expected to dress up!

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