A recent post touched on a sensitive topic for some. I had portrayed the conduct of a neighbor as anti-American, and I was rushed to judgment as to the whole of a country I adore living in. I stand by the statements of my previous post; our late neighbor expressed her hatred for us as Americans. Period. May she rest in peace.
Does this mean I think the Viennese, or the Austrians are anti-American? No.
We live in harmony with the neighbors in our complex. The Austrian family across the path are friendly and we chat about neighborly issues; their young son loves Clayton Theodore. Other Austrian neighbors across the path are equally as friendly; one couple hires Anna Grace to rabbit-sit for them when they are away. Our immediate neighbors on one side are also Austrian; they are cordial, and the wife always has love for Clayton Theodore. On the other side is a non-Austrian family with three young children; they are an extremely friendly family. I have gotten to know their au pair rather well, as quite frequently she has to retrieve the soccer balls that come sailing into our garden.
In the neighborhood I have lots of friendly relations with dog owners (they are a wonderfully friendly group of people!). I have congenial relationships with my shoe guy (he is awesome), and perhaps I have a little crush on the “assistant butcher” where I shop for beef and pork. The older, head butcher speaks a form of German I struggle with so there is considerable hand gesturing when the assistant is not there. The assistant, though, is patient with my Germ-English, and from him I have learned a great deal about how to prepare many of the mysterious cuts of meat I spy in the markets. He will even occasionally add in a Markknochen (marrow bone) for Clayton Theodore to my order. What’s not to crush on?
At the grocery store recently I have even made inroads toward blending in! One must weigh most produce items before going to the register in the grocery here, and somehow I had forgotten to weigh my head of cabbage. With the conveyor belt full of groceries, in a lane with a clerk who knows I am not Austrian, I had to scurry back to the produce department to weigh my item. When I returned to the lane, the clerk had not only completed tallying my purchases, but had even packed my grocery bags for me!
When I purchased a cabinet from a second-hand store and my item got lost in delivery this week, the very kind shop owner had incredible patience with me over the telephone to sort out the problem, and the delivery men could not have been more gracious with their apology for a rather late delivery. No anti-Americanism there!
Is life in Vienna always this pleasant? Of course not. I have written about the pea hen who stalks people from her living room window near the American school roundabout. Not anti-American, just empty and sad.
The owner of our rental home here suggested I talk to our (Polish) maintenance person about a housekeeper when we first moved in, as, “His people do that kind of work.” I’m guessing she didn’t see my family name on the lease contract. Again, not anti-American. Maybe just insensitive.
Our son has strong Polish features, and his two closest friends here are of Romanian and Spanish heritage. On a couple of occasions now Jack has commented that when out with his two friends, a couple of older Viennese have openly dismissed the young men in public as “damned foreigners.” Anti-American? No. Maybe anti-foreigner? Who knows, and I do not have the interest to care.
One of the exits from the grocery I frequent is marked as “Right turn only.” This seems to be but a suggestion, as 99% of those drivers exiting the market turn left, myself included. I am usually given the horn from the Wiener driver behind me when I attempt to turn left, and then watch in my rear mirror as they themselves turn left. My license tags indicate that I am not a real Wienerin, and neither do they indicate than I am an American. Again, perhaps anti-foreigner? Who knows, and I do not have the interest to care.
Finally. Last autumn Tony and I were at the grocery and ran into some American friends. In the wide open space of the Q19 mall atrium we were having a conversation when an old, over-coiffed, over spray-tanned, over-dressed pea hen pushed her cart right between us to get to wherever she was going. The four of us just shook our heads and laughed. Anti-American? Absolutely. The old bat knew exactly what she was doing.
So there it is. The sum total of my less-than-“World’s Most Livable City” unpleasant experiences. Is this anti-Americanism? Nah, it’s just all part of the adventure here in “Second Poland.”