Regaining My Independence

I’ve just developed an even deeper respect for my British expat friend V.  She’s 27, knows hardly any German, and moved to Vienna alone…!  She’s had to do everything by herself – rent an apartment, find a job, discover where to purchase products, figure out health insurance, etc – in a country where everything is in a foreign language.

In an earlier post, Measuring Growth, I spoke about our adventure in purchasing a sofa for her apartment and perhaps, I glazed over how nerve-wracking an experience that was.  Yes, I was there to help with my limited German; however, upon delivery a few things went awry.  Apartment complexes here are arranged in Stieges (sort of like towers in office or apartment building) and the deliverymen went to the wrong Stiege which meant they couldn’t find her apartment.  While at the delivery center, after clearly writing her address in the delivery form, I confirmed that the deliverymen spoke English yet when ‘push-came-to-shove’, they didn’t.  Imagine her horror at receiving a phone call in German, asking how to get to her apartment! Luckily, a German-speaking friend was available to lend assistance; so all’s well that end’s well.

These days, I find myself constantly confronted with my Auslander (foreigner) situation.  Even with my elementary German, I find myself lost trying to find the simplest thing.  For example, hubby and I enjoy cheese fondue and after searching for months, finally found a fondue set that is acceptable.  If you’ve ever made fondue, you know what a pain the pots are to clean after use.  Burnt, stuck-on cheese is everywhere and soaking the pot in water only releases so much.  Therefore, it was imperative that we purchase a heavy, cast-iron pot (for even heating) coated in enamel (for easy clean-up) – we finally found one!

Yesterday, I’d intended to surprise hubby with fondue for dinner and hurried home with the ingredients, after an afternoon window-shopping with my friends.  Window-shopping and hitting cafes may seem a frivolous, waste-of-time or a glamorous, ‘lady-that-lunches’ existence, but remember, I have no idea where anything is; thus, it is research for learning which shops offer what, where they are, what things cost, and so forth.  I’ve got to learn EVERYTHING all over again and believe me, sometimes, it’s really depressing.  Anyway, I got home and realized…oh, there’s no way I can make fondue tonight…I forgot to buy the burner that heats the cheese!

Today, I went to the Donauzentrum (I finally found a really nice mall!!) searching for a home-goods store (now in NY, I’d march right into Crate and Barrel or Willams and Sonoma) but none carried what I sought.  I couldn’t even save time and ask the clerks if they carried the burners because I didn’t know the word for it – again frustrating and depressing.  (Now I know they’re called Sicherheitbrennpaste, which basically translates into Safety Combustible Paste.) After going to two other places, I found them after a 30-minute search through each aisle in Müller.  Sadly, that is the highlight of my day – accomplishing a minute task.

What would take me 5 minutes in NY, took me over 2 hours here.  I am happy that I’ve achieved my goal but seriously, I’m really bummed out now that the reality of my situation is setting in – I’ve got to learn EVERYTHING over again in order to regain my independence.  Thus, my deep-set respect for my friend who’s conducting this adventure on her own.  When things go wrong, I have family to turn to; when they don’t work out for her, she has to figure out a solution on her own.

I’ve been trying to ‘bloom where I’m planted’ but truly, it’s admiration for folks like V that’s keeping me going.

About A Bahamian In Austria

I am a Bahamian woman, married to an Austrian man, who's been freshly transplanted to Vienna. I started writing this blog when a dear friend insisted that I had to write down my experiences. At best it'll update my buddies on my crazy-going-ons and at least, it'll keep me from stalking them online (LOL). I hope you enjoy :D
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6 Responses to Regaining My Independence

  1. Janet NZ says:

    I admire you HUGELY for maintaining your sense of humour – just for persisting really. I suspect if it was me, I would hide at home, with my computer, and ignore the world outside my door.
    I’m cheering for you from the other side of the world! 🙂

    • I’m seriously contemplating it these day, lol; thanks for the ‘chuck on the shoulder’. I try to remind myself that life is not always about me and my minor issues. Thank you for reading and commenting, Janet.

  2. jusme says:

    Oh wow! I’d be totally overwhelmed in a country where I don’t or barely know the language. Spanish was my worst subject in high school , so I get the distinct impression that it would be a challenge for me to learn any new language.

    I trust that in time it will all become more familiar and easier for you!

    • It can be intimidating at times, but languages are easier to learn when you live in a country where they are used. There are days when it’s all so easy and natural and other days when I’m back to feeling like a ‘fish out of water’. But every single day, I learn a new word and surprise myself by being able to hold a small conversation at times!

  3. mimie says:

    Cudos to you for struggeling on! When I fail to find a word I use this great vocabulary (maybe you know it):
    Of course that only helps when you are close to a computer, but for preparations 🙂

    And there are two-three “kitchen stores” on Maria Hilferstrße, one called Slama (, one inside Gerngross (don’t know which floor, I think second?) and one WMF Store. All a bit more expensive but in case of emergency 😉 I bought the pressure cooker and my Riess casserole at Slama. Also the departement store Leiner ( is a good tip, maybe a little bit like Crate & Barrel??!?!
    Don’t know if this helps at all, maybe I am just rambling 😉

    ..and one more thing, I speak german but didn’t know the name of what you were looking for 🙂

    Alles Liebe

    • Thanks so much for the housewares tip; comes in really handy as I’ve got a new home to ‘kit out’! Hubby didn’t recognize Sicherheitbrennerpaste either but it’s one I will never forget.

      Liebe, Jewel

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