Monday, January 12, 2009

Friendly Vienna

Many locals or people who have been living here for ages , have told me that Austria and Switzerland are very similar. Well, I wouldn't really know since I know Geneva, and Geneva is not really Switzerland, but on some aspects (nature, skiing...) I see where they are coming from. A not so nice potential similarity is that they say that within each Swiss citizen lies a policeman. Well, this certainly seems to be true in Vienna.

My Pilates teacher's husband was walking back home from the local Billa (a neighborhood supermarket) carrying two grocery bags. Suddenly he was approached by two policeman dressed as civilians and asked to produce his ID card. As it happens, he didn't have his on him. The policemen asked him why he was in Vienna, what he did here, where he lived etc. as if he was a criminal suspect! Really!!! In the end, they just let him go home telling him to always have his ID on him.

Another thing: When parking on the street, often a few people stop and watch and I always thought they were kindly there to offer assistance should you need it (you know, so you don't hit the kerb or other car when the visibility is bad and if your car isn't equipped with the "beep beep" or camera). Well, as it turns out, they are absolutely not there to assist you. On the contrary. I have been told they are there to check whether or not you hit the car behind you and make sure you leave your business card, phone number if you do. Nice.

Last February (during Vienna Take 1) for our first dinner in town with visiting family, after 2 attempts at leaving Emma with the sitter, we finally parked near the restaurant in a not totally legit space next to the kerb but not blocking any entrance or exit or cars. While parking, a man was eyeing us with such insistence that we actually noticed it and commented on it among ourselves. As it turns out, we had to get home in a cab, our car having been removed. The answering machine at the other end of the number we got from the police told us to press 1 to denounce a fellow citizen and something like 6 to get our car back.

Nothing like it to make you feel welcome. Come to think of it, one of the election posters I saw this autumn read: "Vote for XXX, because he is against them". Really warms my heart.

This is one of the less likeable sides to Vienna.

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