So now what?

Wow it’s been awhile since I’ve written, mostly because I’ve been consumed by my German classes.  Trying to learn this language is taking over my life – it’s practically becoming a job, lol!  Currently, I’m attending classes 5 days a week and also receiving additional help/instruction twice a week.  I don’t know if my speaking is getting any better but I will say that things (rules, mostly) are ‘clicking’.

Our class is winding to an end and thus, we are preparing for our exams.  In preparation for our spoken test, we discussed the current hot topic in Austria – the increase of the ‘Mindestsicherung‘ (social welfare) to €800/monthly per person.  I believe its currently around the €650 – 700 mark and it’s been determined that individuals are unable to live on so little.  The way it was explained to us was that individuals that either work but earn less than €800 per month or are currently unemployed but searching are eligible and will receive whatever amount required to bring them up to the €800 per month mark (i.e. if one earns €500 per month, they will receive €300).  It was further explained that this amount is per person, hence two or more individuals in a family can receive this assistance once they meet the established requirements.  Therefore, a family with 3 unemployed yet seeking, working-age individuals could receive up to €2400 per month.  This is not inclusive of the money and services individuals receive from other funds (i.e. childcare, healthcare, health insurance, apartments, etc).  My first question was where will the money coming from, to which the answer, of course, was taxes.  All of a sudden, two emotions enrobed me – disbelief and a depressive sadness.

I’ve met people from many different countries living here, and more often than I can count, one of the first questions raised is do I have kids, when will I have kids, why don’t I have kids.  Based on the crazy looks received to my answer of wanting to ensure my financial stability here before taking on the responsibility of another life,  this seems to be completely opposite to the norm of most individuals living in Austria (not limited to, or exclusive of, Austrians).  Often with a confiding pat on the arm, I am advised to adjust my focus from learning German to popping out 3 or more kids as I’ll then be entitled to money from the government for each (usually this statement is completed with a brilliant smile indicating they’ve solved all my problems in one fell swoop).  Yet, it’s really hard for me to readjust as my entire life has been built on the foundation of ‘study and work hard to improve one’s opportunities, lifestyle, and personal development’.

I don’t know if it’s changed since I left The Bahamas but we have no social welfare system other than public schools, hospitals/clinics, religiously-affiliated or socially-affiliated charities.  If one wants something, one works for it; cause as we say back home, “The government ain’ ya babydaddy!”   I know the USA has a welfare system that assists their population, and while there are those that ‘work the loopholes’, ‘being on welfare’ is unspokingly negatively perceived.  Many rags-to-riches stories start with struggling to ‘get off welfare’,  years of sacrifice, education, and dedicated hard work, etc.  This is the background I come from, so perhaps you can now understand my shock at realizing that here amongst a segment of society exists a given, open,  and encouraged norm of ‘working the system’.

Now mind you, I am neither against government assisting those in need, nor do I look down upon those that receive from the government because as we say back home. “But for the grace of God, there go I.”  Social welfare systems are essential to a society and, when they function properly, are excellent tools.  Yet, these systems can be easily abused and, often, there are limited safeguards.  Further, I’ve heard (and am inclined to believe) that these systems, when not properly monitored and supported by other programs (i.e. education, employment, entrepreneurship, self-development programs, etc.) can create a welfare-dependent society.

The depressive sadness set in upon the realization that the system being ‘worked’ is me and those like me!  As the money that funds those who ‘work the system’ comes from the increasing taxes of those that work hard to support themselves and their families.  Thus, I can only think that, like a hamster on a wheel, the harder I work, the faster I go nowhere.

So now what?  My entire focus for the last year and a half has been educating myself to qualify for a position that will support my lifestyle…but it appears that not only might I be working hard to support someone else’s lifestyle but that rather than resolving the unbalance, steps are being taken to increase it.  I also just learned that not only does one pay taxes on salaries and items bought but also on interest earned on monies saved in the bank (um, what?!).  I’m still scratching my head trying to figure out how is it that one leaves an apartment, the amount of funds paid as deposit decreases; shouldn’t it increase?  Add to that the injustice heaped upon me, when individuals on the street give me that sour look of “Oh here’s another one of those foreigners that’s milking our country!” and you may become just as depressed as I am.  Especially given that I’ve spent over €5000 to learn German and receive my a visa and have not been deemed eligible for any of the financial assistances allocated for these purposes.

Perhaps I’m just not smart enough to figure this out, perhaps I have figured it out but am just in denial, perhaps I just need to stop fighting and join ’em by producing 3 or more offspring; I don’t know, but now I also understand that other crazy look I get when people find out I’m from The Bahamas and moved to Austria from the US (it’s kind of like “You idiot! Why?????!!!!!).

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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11 Responses to So now what?

  1. Klara says:

    Totally understand your frustrations. However AMS are actually pretty tough with those who are looking for work and claiming these benefits – if the job seeker does not attend job interviews/courses etc the money will be taken away. My ex discovered this after he decided he preferred to live on the state handouts and not take any of the jobs he was offered. After 6 months they called him in for an interview, he was offered a job (which he did not want to do) and the money was taken away. Then we split up and he left the country.
    One of the issues that annoys me is how those of us who are self-employed are unfairly treated particularly in respect to health insurance where are contributions are astronomical and then in contrast to others who are employed or on handouts we also have to pay 20% of the cost of any treatment we receive while others receive everything free. It isn’t a level playing field.
    You’d think Austria would want to encourage self-employment and small business as it helps to drive the economy forward, but NO, they make it as difficult as possible and very expensive.
    I hope everything works out for you. Stay positive if you can.
    Best Wishes.

    • Hi there Klara,
      Thanks so much for the first-hand information on how the safeguards for welfare work here; really appreciate you taking the time to update me.
      You’re not the first person I’ve heard speak about the issues Entrepreneurs face here but you do echo their concerns. Probably doesn’t help much but things in the US & The Bahamas are not much better for that segment of society – they too face many difficulties and expenses which can be one reason (among so many others), so few succeed.
      Thank you for your wonderful wishes and I reflect them to you sincerely. I believe everything that goes up, must come down and vice versa.

  2. Hej from Sweden!

    You echo every experience I have had here in Sweden. Our Social Welfare system is very similar to your country. The only thIng I have been free of is the question about babies. I am even though many think I am younger than I really am. I am mature parent of a 32 yr old. My husband and I are comfortable. financially. I still get looks from people assuming that I am plundering the system here. In the time I have been in Sweden, finally understanding lifestyle choices, I have seen many Swedes abusing the system so much that I can see it implodding in on itself. And when and if it does, it will not be the fault of immigrants or asylum seekers.

    In US as a single parent I worked 3 jobs, went to school and was a dancer in 2 ballet companies with my daughter. For me, it would have been a disgrace to be on public assistance. But, I would have enjoyed health care for my child to the age of 18.

    I am proud of my strong Black roots that propel me through this life with pride of a good job done with integrity.

    I have been that hamster on the wheel, just like you. I will never be a drain on any society; I want to leave a positive mark and I have done this with the launching of my Eco-Friendly business.

    At nearly 60 yrs old and having raised à fantastic little person into a fantastic adult, alone, marrying again at the age of 50, moving to Sweden, learning the language at age 50 and now a creator of my new business, I am in a place not to care what people think or say about me, or precieve me as.
    Just hang in there and be true to who are and your roots. You will be fine!

    • Grüße from Austria! Thanks for sharing your experiences in Sweden and The United States and for your continued support.
      I’m still in that lucky position where I have the opportunity to observe and interact with people from many countries and a variety of socio-financial statuses that all live in Austria, and the view from down here is really interesting and I believe the education that I am gleaning (outside of just German) is invaluable. Of course, I miss my comfort bubble but change is anything but comfortable, isn’t it?
      I am so looking forward to the point where other’s perceptions of me are meaningless to me because that, I believe, is true freedom.

  3. designgratis says:

    Im so happy I found your blog! As a Bahamian living in London, this is a hot topic here as well, especially as the current government is overhauling benefits system by massively cutting it.

    The amount of help you can get here quickly adds up, and can sound like a lot initially, but the cost of living is so high (specifically in London) that in actuality its still not a great lifestyle (for most). Of course there will always be people who take advantage of the system, but after living and paying taxes here for 6 years, I take comfort in the knowing that should I lost my job tomorrow, there is a safety net. I think its sad, especially in these economic times that there is such a stigma attached to people who need help. It can happen to anyone.

    • Well hey there! Hope you’re having a great holiday (despite being away from home – Assumption!) & wishing you an awesome New Year!
      Glad you found the blog & hopefully you like what you’ve found – thanks for reading.
      I believe (going of what I see & hear), that it is a similar situation here. Mostly however, it’s taken me aback as I’ve never paid taxes (income) in my life & now that I’m paying attention – well, hello!! Still as you said, it could happen to anyone & as a few readers have pointed out – it’s not as easy to take advantage of as it seems (thoroughly glad of that).
      Well, til next time, as they say here, Alles Gute!!

  4. lexborgia says:

    A Barbadian in Berlin. Me. I’ll choose Europe any day before the USA.
    I disagree with your ‘realisation’ that you are the system being worked. The system works hard to keeps us in that state of mind, believing others are taking what is ours. Nonsense. There are a few bad apples out there, but people who, for whatever reason need government assistance shouldn’t reap scorn. Solidarity on a communal level bzw social-democratic policy what holds us together, we all recieve some form of government welfare(subsidies, tax credits, healthcare u.s.w). If we did away with the social safety net only for people in real need, we’d be left with a continent full of every man for himself, panic, hunger and desperation on a level not seen before. People with a job, in today’s global economy need to be thankful for what they have(yes, we’re terrified to lose the little we have, for fear of becoming a welfare recipient). Nobody wants to be poor or without the means to partake in life.
    I thought about this recently, and I asked myself, what exactly is it that people, especially politicians, hope to achieve by always beating down on the poor and needy, by making them the source of our woes! What is the solution to this problem? How did Jesus treat poor people? I have a radical solution; problem solved: let’s round up the unemployed, the welfare recipients, and do away with them! There is no such thing as full employment – well, there is, but mankind is simply too greedy, vain and envious. As you see, I stand in total contrast to you…. no harm done.

    Be good. I hope you got some nice black-cake for xmas!

    • Hey there Barbadian in Berlin, thanks for reading and commenting. I really appreciate your viewpoint and definitely agree with your statement of “There is no such thing as full employment…”. Ironically, I don’t believe we’re at contrasting ends of the spectrum as I too believe that those who truly need assistance should receive it and should not be looked down upon – “But for the grace of God, there go I!” My frustration is with those ‘bad apples’ rather – perhaps, that was not properly voiced.
      As for the black-cake; is that your version of fruitcake? In any event, I didn’t manage to have any, but I did have macaroni! Can’t have Christmas without it – yeah, I’m so hooked on it that if I could only eat one thing for Christmas, it would be macaroni, lol!
      So, til next time, ich wünsche dir ein guten Rutsch ins Neue Jahr!

      • lexborgia says:

        Fruit Cake, yes; black is usually weddings. Haven’t smelled, seen or eaten any in almost 20yrs. Austria is a gem, must be beautiful there right now with all the snow. Wishing you a nice Rutsch too.
        p.s, did you mean macaroni pie? Stop. You killing me.

      • 🙂 Austria is especially beautiful during the winter holidays – specifically because it looks like Christmas Town! lol
        Macaroni pie??? Umm, not sure, but I believe we may be talking about the same thing (macaroni noodles mixed with herbs, spices, & lots of cheddar cheese, then baked). It’s my absolute favorite but I only eat it once (maybe twice, if hubby requests it) a year.

      • lexsborgia says:

        Hey Miss Bahamas. Hope you good. I wrote a post a day or so ago (a nigger on a horse), I’m curious to hear your opinion, but only if you wish to share it. Cheers.

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