Gosh, it’s almost been a whole year since I moved to Vienna! P (my American compatriot) and I were conversing about our self-inflicted exiles and she asked me if there was one thing I could have prepared better for, what would it be? After a moment’s reflection, I responded with a desire to be more prepared for the world. I went on to explain that growing up in The Bahamas, notwithstanding that it is a fairly monochromatic society, due to our tourism industry and in spite of individual income and education status, my people are extremely exposed to other cultures and ethnicities. Moving to New York and traveling throughout the USA further broadened my exposure and education about people from countries and ethnic backgrounds I’d only previously read about in books. I’ve had the privilege of being invited to their homes and on trips to their countries – and I hold as a firm belief that the best way to learn a country/society is via a visit with a native. My husband, his family, and their friends were always the polite, well-mannered, and open individuals that populated the world of my perception. I anticipated that all people were. So, guilelessly, my perception of the world was rudely thrown off-balance when I moved here.
Despite spending a year here learning and adapting, I’m still caught off-guard by how…..well…., different people here are. I’m learning to be more patient, less expectant, and most of all, more accepting in order to prevent disappointment, disgruntlement, and unhappiness on my own behalf. I’ve (sadly) found that most people here (regardless of nationality or ethnic background) are often un-enlightened and prescribe to stereotypes for their understanding of atypical occurrences – and well, stereotypes are rarely kind. I try to see the humor in these moments – “Oh, no one wants to sit next to me on this public mode of transportation? Cool, I’ll just stretch my legs out and relax while you all huddle together in that crowded, hot corner after a hard day’s work. Thanks! :D”
Most importantly, within my first year of Austria, I’ve learned that I can only change myself. I’m observing myself and my interactions with others to ensure that I’m not visiting (knowingly or unknowingly) the very behavior/prejudices that hurt me upon others. To my own disappointment, in the first months of my arrival, I recall being thankful that another ethnic group bore the brunt of the Austrian ire. I could rationalize that moment with an explantation, but I’m still as guilty as everyone else. Recently while out with a group, I experienced despair at the narration of how one of my companions demanded and received personalized service in a public government office on the grounds that it could not be expected that they should have to queue with the ‘others’. I squirmed guiltily as the laughter and praise blossomed at our table, mindful of the fact that months prior, I, too, would have joined in. I’m thankful that I’m recognizing and willingly altering these offensive thought patterns. I’d like to think that within the past year, I have learned and grown and that this maturation will make me a happier, healthier person who will continue to ‘bloom where I’m planted’.
Hej from Sweden!
Beautiful post! I am glad to hear that your first year has gone so well. I hope you continue to “Bloom where you have been planted”. I love that so much and I must wish the same for myself!
Grüße from Austria!
Thank you, I wish the same for you as well. It’s been an interesting and eye-opening year and I look forward to so many more adventures in my next. ‘Bloom where you’re planted!!!’