Today marks the 143th day since I left the motherland and temporarily moved to Austria. It is also my last day, and I’ve never been so anxious and excited in my life!
So, you know how we always talking about ‘leaving this country man’, living in Austria has made me realize that there is no place like Mzansi, no really there isn’t.
With all of our drama and chaos, corrupt and entertaining politicians, our artists, the overall culture, it makes us a people that are excitingly unique.
But I guess one has to leave home in order to appreciate it.
The first thing I missed about Mzansi, maybe a month into my move, was the taxi noise. I hate taxi drivers. I hate how they claim their space to the discomfort of other drivers. I hate how unforgiving they are about how we must treat their vehicle, and of course their money. But, all I was longing for was the never ending hooting, and the conductor’s call, if you’re from Cape Town, where we don’t count money. Either way, if you climb a taxi you will know that you’re always up for an adventure.
My parents didn’t believe that I’m jubilant about leaving this first class, first world country where everything works. I’m a lover of the finer things the world has to offer, and living in Austria did not disappoint. But, that was about it. I realized that what truly makes an experience is the people. Really, that is South Africa’s gift to world, we are beautiful people, filled with life and a contagious energy. I so desperately want to say the same about my experience in Austria, but people here in Austria have really broadened my understanding of humans as a whole, especially humans in a world where struggle and poverty do not prevail. Perhaps this is what makes us a happy people with a wild sense of humour, our struggles in life. I guess our tolerance for that which is different is second nature due to the diversity of our nation. People in Austria are cold, to be frank.
I keep saying I will never return back here, not only is the weather just miserable, the space is also depressing. It’s quite, I guess this is what money looks like, it’s how money behaves, it’s how wealth carries itself. But after this experience, I learned that there is more to live for than just money. You can literally see on the faces of the people, no one looks happy, no one looks satisfied. I think creating wealth is a generic accomplishment that everyone wishes to achieve, but what is money if you are not internally a happy person? It makes me wonder if it is either one or the other, but it can’t be. Surely, it’s possible to be wealthy and happy. Oh, I just remembered that Austrian people are seldom people of service, external service. Happiness can be drawn from being of service to others, wealth should be inevitable if your purpose is beyond yourself, that, I think is a combination of happy. Rich happy, if you get where I’m going with this.
I say they are not a people of service because in a non-governmental youth operated world organization that I joined on campus, only 20% of the members were Austrian, the rest were foreigners, even from neighboring countries. That says a lot. Perhaps being ignorant to the suffering of others is the reason behind the lack of motivation to help others, because most Austrians I met, are pretty well off. Some claimed that is was not an activity that they were interested in engaging in. However, there would be a selective few that would volunteer for initiatives such as Red Cross.
I always wondered how war could last for so long. the Second World War commenced in 1940 and lasted 4 years to 1944. With due reasons given to climate change, perhaps it wasn’t that cold at that time, but as a millennial traveling from South Africa, where we experience 8 months of summer, the weather was just miserable. It honestly can alter your experience in Austria. A lot of the times I’d find myself feeling sad, and the weather had 90% to do with it. Vitamin D deficiency is real, I was quickly living out the symptoms.
As for the rest of east Europe, honestly I would be more than glad if it was not required for me to return there. South Africa has its past relating to racial subjugation and public oppression. It’s still very much apparent and experienced by many in the country. So I wouldn’t be so quick to award the rainbow nation. However, I did not expect to experience such demoralizing acts of racism in ‘advanced’ Europe. Any form on racism is ill willed, not to mention how much of an effort it takes for the perpetrator. What stung the most about my racial incidents, is not what was being done or said to me, but the fact that people surrounding us witnessed the act and nobody had the audacity to intervene. It is beyond humiliating, demoralizing and dehumanizing. I was totally heartbroken.
However, there were plenty of blissful moments that I experienced. I befriended two male friends, who were both Austrians, who became my brothers. Obviously this altered my perception and experience, as I should’ve known that not all people are alike. Therefore, I became aware of the fact that culture is relative and not absolute. Through these friendships I was able to gain a deeper understanding about the local mindset, wolrd view, particularly the older generation, which is still programmed in the old school doctrine of classism and racism. The younger genertion, which is more well traveled than the older generation, had opposing point of views. They had a more liberated, more tolerant perspective, and it became simpler to conversate about issues beyond the stereotypes.
It later became obvious to me that my experience will be whatever I make it out to be. I couldn’t allow myself to be too engrossed in matters that did not concern me. With time it became easier to brush off racism as the perpetrators problem and not mine. That is all that I can advise anyone who intends on living abroad, make the experience your own. That will make all the difference. Also, I advise that one truly explores the place and the surrounding, immerse yourself in the culture. Become a local. Look out for events or social clubs that may involve you meeting other locals or foreigners. Great conversations are had there. And off course take advantage of each and every opportunity at your disposal, it will look good on your portfolio and it will enrich you as a person. Travelling is the only activity, where spending money actually makes you richer, I would recommend this to all females out there, no matter the time, travel, see the world, globalise your world view.