I spent an hour today chatting with V (Brit expat friend) about all the things that we missed from home or found unusual/annoying about Austria. The things that are so normal they’re invisible until the day you no longer have them and then they’re all you can think about. Well, here’s my list of stuff I’m learning to live without since moving to Austria.
Face towels: these simple 12″x12″ scraps of terry are sorely missed – it is my wont use a fresh white one daily to cleanse my face. Having searched high and low (they simply don’t exist here), I’ve enviously reviewed Target (only $4 for an 8-pack) wishing they shipped internationally.
Tampax Compak Pearls: my favorite brand; small, discreet, perfect. Not sold here, enough said.
Free Grocery Bags: grocery shopping here takes planning: list, check; wallet, check; tote-bag, check. Food-stores do not provide free plastic (or paper, for that matter) bags with purchase. An avid collector – perfect fit for my kitchen garbage bin; I’ve been forced on an impromptu visit to purchase plastic totes from the store in order to lug my groceries home. Now I’ve taken to carrying around a little, foldable tote that my MIL gifted me and purchase garbage bags.
Self-service Checkouts: Hubby and I would (ridiculously and childishly) bicker over who would ‘check’ and bag the groceries – it was that fun (seriously!). I especially enjoyed the fact that I didn’t have to deal with a cashier smacking my produce around like she worked for the NBA (I’m sorry, if I wanted bruised bananas, I wouldn’t have spent 10 minutes searching for the unblemished ones!).
Inexpensive Shoe Repair: I love my heels and wear them constantly; however, in the land of cobblestones, a substantial amount of damage can be imparted to tips and the toes. NYC has a lot of repair places with competitively fair prices (about $10) but Austria is above that! Be warned, a pair of new tips can run you about €30 – oh, the price of beauty!
Widely-available, Inexpensive Dry-cleaning: you can not walk a block in NYC without running into a dry-cleaner. These citadels of domesticity will pick-up, wash, dry, press/fold, and deliver for a minimal price. I really wish Austria would!
Car Detailing: there’s nothing like dropping your car off and picking it up 30 minutes later and feeling like you got a new car. Every detail is attended to, for what I consider a minor price for luxury; the spokes sparkle, the dashboard and arm-rest gleams, the thin layer of dust on the air-condition vents have vanished, and the seats and floor-mats are spotless. I’ve only seen one detailing place here and as expected, its not cheap…it’s not even moderate.
Truly Unlimited Internet Service: this one still baffles me; I’m just waiting to learn enough German to ask how is it that they advertise unlimited yet once you reach a certain GB it slows down. Just how is that unlimited? Yet, this practice is prolifically entertained in Austria. I’ll take reading and signing a two-inch, fine-print, 3-year phone contract with real unlimited internet service over a “yeah, you’re unlimited until…”, 1-year deal any day. Guess it’s something to do with their beloved ‘conservation of everything’ issues.
Customer Service: it does not exist here! At least not in the manner I’ve grown accustomed to. V and I opted for lunch at a Chinese restaurant when the waitress (after snootily and affronted-ly stating that she didn’t speak English), without a word, settled a pot of tea on our table. In NYC, it’s customary to receive complimentary green tea with your meal but I thought I’d better ask. When she returned 10 minutes later to take our order, I queried to which she replied no. I explained we hadn’t ordered tea to which she swore (yes, she did!), removed the item and took it to its owner. There was not a word of explanation or apology to either party. Other incidents: receptionists will answer their personal cellphone while/instead of serving customers, shop-girls will urgently usher customers out 30 minutes before closing, customer reps will blatantly state they don’t know the answer to a question about their product and refuse to look it up or seek assistance.
A Good Barbecue Restaurant: Austrians must like dry-rub barbecue because it’s all I’ve run across so far. I’m a smoky, sticky, wet-sauce barbecue girl myself (yes, there is a taste difference), so you can imagine my disappointment with the first bite. People – tangy, sweet, sticky, smoky, saucy is good!
However, in retrospect, I realize these are normal reactions for most migrants. Often, conversations in my German class center around the differences between our home and adopted countries and what we miss most. I’m learning the trick is to learn to let go, not to get so hung up on the past that I forget to see and appreciate the present as well as the opportunities for the future. So rather than regretting what I failed to ship or getting frustrated with the variances, I think I’ll focus more on “blooming where I’m planted.”