How to Feel At Home in Vienna, While Attending German Classes (Part 3)
YAY, you made it to the final part of the series How to Feel At Home in Vienna, While Attending German Classes! Are you excited to get more tips and suggestions on making this city feel like home? Continue reading how using a diary shouldn’t scare you anymore, why you should embrace Viennese flea markets and what in the world is a You-day!
Hey you. Yes, you! You made it to the third and final part of How to Feel At Home in Vienna, While Attending German Classes. This means, from Part 1 and Part 2, you already know a number of tricks and daily rituals to keep you feeling grounded in Vienna:
- How to use your time efficiently when in public transport
- That it is important to explore the Viennese coffee culture and Vienna’s cultural institutions (museums, opera, theater)
- Insisting on using German in daily life, even if you feel uncomfortable, will do you good
- A number of ways to explore the Austrian cuisine
- That it makes sense to resume your hobbies or start new ones in Vienna
- And finally, volunteering as a means to feel part of the Viennese community
Yet, you are missing crucial information on everyday life in Vienna, which this article aims to present. Continue reading if you want to know how to self-organize like the locals, make the most of dead Sundays by investing in yourself, build an oasis in the middle of Vienna while benefiting the environment and your wallet simultaneously because of your sustainable choices… and all this – yes, you guessed it – while learning German.
“Let Me Check My Diary” 101
Would you describe yourself as a planner or are you rather easy-going in terms of your daily schedule? Are you a “Sure, let’s go to Amsterdam, I’ll meet you at the train station in 20’” or an “I am only free for half an hour next Tuesday morning, I can meet you for a cup of coffee then” type of person?
If you come from sunny lands of laid-backness, you most probably are more relaxed in terms of time management than the locals. Using a diary/calendar/organizer, digital or analog in the form of a booklet, comes as second nature to most Viennese. Everything gets written down in no time – all meetings are appointed a time slot even those set in three weeks from today, every Feiertag, every goal and every deadline are immortalized by pen or phone calendar (thank you, Cloud).
Are you resistant to the idea of suddenly having an artifact dictate your everyday life? Do you suffer just by the thought of seemingly losing your spontaneity? A diary/calendar/organizer is not as bad of a sidekick as you imagine it to be, and here is why.
The new routine you have gotten into, learning a completely new language that is, and getting accustomed and in contact with a new culture, all require acclimatization. If you have just moved away from home for the first time then you also have to get used to doing things like laundry, food shopping, cooking on your own and doing the dishes – in addition to a daily workload in form of language homework. Writing down your chores gives you the opportunity to clear your head from persistent thoughts buzzing around, allows you to be timely and diligent with tasks that need to be carried out urgently, therefore leaving your free time literally blank so as to be filled however you see fit.
If you have an upcoming test at INNES on separable verbs, then writing down the date as well as what you want to have learned by the end of each day until test day, will give you more structure and thus assurance that all necessary material will be covered on time. At this point, remember to always allow the final two days for revision.
By assigning laundry days or having reminders in your calendar for food shopping on Friday after class, your daily life gets decluttered while creating time for spontaneous museum visits, shopping sprees at Mariahilferstrasse, yoga at Stadtpark, picnics at Donauinsel or chill FIFA evenings with the guys on a weeknight, without the guilt.
Writing down your notes in German may seem unnatural at first, but trust us – it is a magically easy way to memorize action verbs which are also key in daily conversations. Instead of jotting down supermarket/shopping, just go with einkaufen gehen. Putting it down and actually following through with the action is all it takes to imprint the verb on your mind. This goes for Sport treiben, die Wohnung putzen, Geschirr spülen, die Hausaufgaben machen, etc. Oh, and your new favorite word to write down at the end of each accomplished day? Erledigt!
Due to this newfound routine of noting down the must do’s and the should do’s and leaving time for the could do’s and the want to do’s, you will not only be able to actually relate with the locals when they get their diary out to check their availability, but also blend in and enjoy the perks of being on top of your planning game.
Sundays Are Dead. You Are Not.
One of the biggest surprises when moving to Vienna has to be the fact that Sundays are quiet. Like really, really, really quiet… unless it’s summer and you walk along the Alte Donau (or anywhere where the sun reaches for that matter!). On Sundays people either sleep in or wake up early to go have brunch and then hibernate on friends’ couches, they visit their families outside the city, go for day trips, hike in the surrounding hills of Döbling/Penzing/Hietzing, stay in and clean their homes or just binge-watch Netflix with deep cleansing face masks on.
If you come from a place where Sundays are no different from Saturdays, then the city’s sudden emptiness might hit you hard. The urban silence is also prevalent all year round on weekdays after 9 p.m and particularly common during winter time as soon as it gets dark.
Vienna is cosmopolitan and touristy; yet can make you feel isolated and depressed if you are new and don’t know how to go around it. Our suggestion would be to use the time off to invest in yourself. Make Sundays the You-days. Find what makes you happy and dedicate that day of the week to do it.
Feel happy when in nature? Explore the parks scattered all over the city or the vineyards up the hills. Need to catch up with your family and friends? Now is the time to skype or facetime them for hours. Into cooking? Sunday is the day to practice your granny’s roast recipe, only remember to plan ahead and go einkaufen on Saturday because, naturally, supermarkets are closed on Sunday. Already enrolled at the university or just want to do INNES homework with study buddies for support? Try out the National Library, which is one of the very few libraries open on that day. Also, it’s just plain gorgeous.
On the newly declared You-days read a book, write in your diary while sipping coffee, explore a flea market you haven’t been to or simply meditate. Just don’t worry about missing out – everyone else is investing in their happiness on Sundays, too.
Picture this. After a full day of drilling your head with Dativ and Akkusativ, followed by moments of rightful bewilderment as to why people have been staring at you in the ubahn (could be anything from your super ripped jeans to the sound of holding back mucus instead of blowing your nose – and in Austria it is the holding back sound that is offensive and not the blowing part), you miss the next Bim (Austrian slang for tram) thus having to wait for four whole minutes in the cold. Sounds terrible, we know. And when you finally arrive home, you turn the key, and instead of feeling relief, the annoyance intensifies. Why? Because your apartment feels and looks unwelcoming.
Having your space reflect your person, especially in a wider environment that is foreign, is of utmost importance. You are tight on money at the moment and not really sure if you are staying for long in the particular space, therefore holding back in investing time and effort to make it feel homey? These are not legitimate excuses for letting your surroundings make you feel miserable at home in Vienna. The ultimate answer to your problems is der Flohmarkt.
An absolute favorite Viennese tradition, flea markets are super popular all year round (even on Sundays). Small, medium or closing-down-main-streets-of-district-7-for-a-whole-day big, flea markets are swarmed with locals and internationals of all ages. Some are persistently hunting for the perfect lamp or a vintage ashtray to complete their dream spaces and others happily roam in the cramped aisles aimlessly, with a Wurst or a Falafel-Tasche in hand.
Say yes to finding new purpose in older, used items. Make choices that are benefiting both the environment and your wallet. Buying sustainably is very IN in Vienna, and the plethora of flea markets make it incredibly easy to venture out and spend the day looking at, and ending up buying, weirdly cool stuff. Make sure to negotiate with the sellers for the best prices. (Insider Tip: Don’t let them get a glimpse of your waller if you carry a lot of banknotes)
Try out your luck haggling in German! Ask if you could have the thing for a lower price, adding that you can only give out a certain amount. Stand your ground and insist on knowing what is the best price they can do. Könnten sie mir das etwas billiger geben? Ich kann höchstens x EUR zahlen. Was ist ihr bester Preis?
After spending hours on end on a Sunday flea market rampage securing the best prices and later decorating your little oasis, it is finally time for labeling. For this, you will need post-it notes, a pen and a lexicon. You just brought home a coffee table? Scribble down der Couchtisch on a post-it, stick it on and continue. New curtains? Die Vorhänge. New mirror? Der Spiegel. New colorful, psychedelic 90s lamp? Die Lavalampe.
Guess who is enriching their vocabulary by the day? You are welcome.
Overview of Useful Tips for Life in Vienna
Feeling at home resembles a journey rather than a destination. If you do not put in the effort in adapting to the Viennese lifestyle it is unlikely that you will wake up one day and joyously exclaim “I AM HOME”, Archimedes style.
You will most likely realize that Vienna feels like home in instances when you are very comfortable in everyday situations, when you cannot wait for good weather to soak up the sun in a rooftop bar in the afternoon the same way the locals do, when on Sunday the city continues to empty out yet you know exactly how to handle it, when you have Besuch from back home and you show them around Vienna like a pro – communicating in German as the group’s official interpreter and showing off your skills!
Our last suggestions for making yourself feel at home in Vienna while learning German include the use of a diary/calendar/organizer for organization purposes and getting the satisfaction of ending each day with an Erledigt, indulging in some thrift shopping like the Viennese and turning quiet Sundays into You-days.
Hopefully now after reading all three parts of How to Feel At Home in Vienna, While Attending German Classes, you feel excited and ready to take on the challenge of allowing yourself to integrate culturally and linguistically in this delightful city.
How many of our suggestions have you tried out already and which has been your favorite so far? Comment below!
Still feeling lonely in Vienna? Join classes at INNES and meet new friends from around the globe who are in exactly the same situation as you.
Daphne Demetriou, MA