The A-Z of Austria (according to Sarah Harrison)

January 25, 2012

On the way home one day from Snowboarding, I was sat with Peter, and we were in a really giggly mood. Peter said that he needed to write a blog for his University but he hadn’t even started yet. We spoke about what he could write, and decided that an A-Z of Austria was fairly fitting. This led to us thinking up a billion stupid ideas for his blog, and now, I literally can’t remember anything we agreed on. (Stupid air, making us all silly and stuff.)

So I’ve decided to make my own A-Z, (Sorry Peter, stole your idea), including my own experiences and things to watch out for in Austria. There’s some letters where I could think of a billion things, and some letters were I just blanked. Those ones will be fairly obvious.

So, let’s begin.

A is for Accents

Stupid Austria. When someone said to me that Austrians had an accent, I kind of brushed it off. “Meh, it will be alright, I’ll get the jist.” Lo and behold, the first few weeks were mainly me going “Wuuh? Was? Ich verstehe nicht.” to something as easy as “Where do you come from?” Maybe I’m just stupid, but there is definately a difference. Hopping over into Munich for the weekend last week was a welcome surprise, as I could literally understand everyone word for word, and I didn’t have to listen like a hawk. For example, personal pronouns kind of vanish into thin air. “Ich” becomes “i”, “Dich” becomes “di” and so on and so forth. “machen (to do)” becomes mochen, which sounds a lot like “moechten (to like)” and then my brain has a spazz attack and tunes out. This happens with a few words and verbs, but that’s just an example. But it also means that Austria has it’s own special phrases too, which is pretty cute. So you can’t always complain. But I’m getting used to it now.

B is for Buses

I seem to live on them nowadays. I have to get the bus into town, where my ticket is always checked, but I can’t get over how lenient the bus companies are here.  You often hear about cities like Munich and Berlin where they like to catch Ghost Riders out, but in my whole time of being in Innsbruck, I have not seen ONE patrol. You can stroll onto a bus with great ease and not even pay for weeks on end. I do, because I get checked on the way home, but I can’t fathom how much money the bus company loses every year because of this.

C is for Communication

I have had some serious communication fails here. Once forgot to mention to one woman where I wanted picking up so she just drove round and round my village for ages. Once I asked for a drink and he thought I was asking for a car (since when did Getraenke and Auto sound THE SAME!?!?!”) and general misunderstandings. It still happens today. Now I just put up with it.

D is for Disasters.

Have also had a few disasters here too. Not finding anywhere to live. Having to babysit children. Getting my wallet stolen. Having some really awful lessons. Getting stranded in Innsbruck.  A Year Abroad is not a Year Abroad without some form of disaster happening to you. I’ve just had to pick myself up, brush myself down, and carry on. Sometimes it’s been really hard, but now it’s a breeze.

E is for English

Can’t comprehend how much better the Austrian’s English is in comparison to my German. It’s actually insulting. I wish England could take a leaf out of Germany and Austria’s book. We’re getting this wrong.

F is for Family

Austrians loooooooveeee their family. I’m hoping that everyone reading this also loves their family. But it seems that everything revolves around family here. Students go home every weekend to see their parents. Adults bring their kids to Frisbee training. Family is everything, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

G is for Gluehwein

Yay! Everyone’s favourite hot alcohol. Gluhwein with Amaretto is DA BOMB. And cheap too! 😀

H is for Heimweh (or Homesickness)

I don’t know why but before I left here I kind of thought that I wouldn’t get homesick at all, just because I never do when I’m in Sheffield. But when you move countries, then it’s a completely different story. I am a very social person, and it feels strange not to talk to my best friends face to face every day. I have moaned a bit. And now I completely regret it. The only reason I was homesick was because my brain was stuck in the UK and my body was in Austria. I look back now and kind of hate myself for feeling that way. In reality, things weren’t THAT bad and I’m seeing things on such a level playing field now, so in all honesty I feel like a bit of a moron. I will probably get homesick in Russia but I hope to deal with it differently next time round.

I is for Instinct

I have learnt to follow my instinct here, and 99.9% of the time, I am right. If no teacher contacts you, you need to prepare a whole lesson. If you’re being ignored by a friend, there’s a reason you’ve completely overlooked. If something gets planned last minute, it will probably end up being cancelled. If you ask someone to meet you at 8, they’ll turn up 15 minutes later. This is Austria for you.

J is for the Jugend-Winterspiele (Of the Olympic kind..)

This is part of my project but I also got to experience this in the last 2 weeks, and I have to say, I feel incredibly sorry for the competitors. Not because the event wasn’t good, but the lack of audience and support was evident. When I asked my students whether they were going, nearly all of them said they didn’t care, which is a complete shame, because I thought it was a truely historical event for Austria as well as Sport. Team GB won Silver in the Bobsleigh, and managed to get a Gold in the “Mixed Speed Skating” (I.e. One GB guy with some Koreans, end of), which, for GB, is probably the best they were going to do. So hats off to them. I enjoyed it. Now I’m trying to obtain a Jacket, which are “limited edition”… harder than I thought..

K is for Krampus

This blog was meant to be written before Christmas, mainly because of Krampus. Krampus happens along side St Nikolaus Day, and is intended to punish the naughty children of Austria. Teenage boys dressed up as scary devils and whacked (and I mean whacked) children, adults, and me, very hard with twig branches. My host father said that normally they went for girls. And they did. 4 smacks, a bruised arse and sore legs. I got off “lightly..”

L is for Lurrrrrvvvvveee

A few plucky assistants managed to find themselves a partner to keep them company for the last few months. Not me, but I don’t mind. Seeing people getting together is fairly cute, as long as it’s not thrown in my face!

M is for Maturaballs

Maturaballs are a big thing in the life of an Austrian teen, and are often incredibly formal and prestigious. Equivalent  to the English prom, the Maturaball is an opportunity for students to celebrate and let their hair down before they start exams, except they all seem to happen in January. Mine is this Saturday, and I still haven’t got a ticket because I’m umming and aahing about whether to go. I like this school the most, but the idea of hanging around with teachers for the night doesn’t float my boat, especially when the Uniball is also on. I probably will go. Just to say I’ve been.

N is for negativity

To say I was fairly negative in 2011 is probably an understatement. People who ‘ve seen my Twitter in the last 3 months know this. Now I’ve been seeing everything in a positive attitude, and things have been brilliant. Therefore, some advice. Things often go wrong. Just smile your way through it, and things will only get better.

O is for Oestterreich!

Okay, I cheated, I can’t think of an O straight off. But hey, I’ve fallen in love with this country, and it will always have an incredibly special place in my heart. I will return. Someday.

P is for Participation

If you don’t join in, you won’t make friends. If you don’t say yes to every invitation, you’re going to be alone. One thing I have learned, no matter how tired or lazy you are feeling, you need to keep going, because it’s the only way you can get the most out of this experience.


Oooo they’re everywhere now. You’d think this would be prime opportunity to whack out my amazing linguistic skills (please note the sarcasm) but they are incredibly strange characters. Best thing I read the other day about a Russian tourist was that after a massive dump of snow in Ischgl, a Russian millionaire called in a helicopter to come land in metre deep snow to come pick him up. Oh Russia. I can’t wait.

S is for Snowboarding

I could have had SO many S’s here. The fact that the snow is the deepest I’ve ever seen, the fact that we had sun for 40 days and 40 nights (not even kidding), and the fact that, Sarah, begins with an S. But I went for ye olde Snowboarding, because I cannot get over how much I love it. Yes, I fall over, and yes, it hurts, but the thrill I get from Snowboarding just cannot be beaten. I’ll probably go tomorrow. And on Friday, and the next day, and the next… I am an ADDICT. Love it.

T is for Teaching

I have had some massive up and down moments when it’s come to teaching. Most of the downs have been in the Abendschule, and I am disappointed that they didn’t really use me to the full extent. But there are genuinely some classes in the APP that I am going to miss. Some of the teachers have also been brilliant to me, and I can’t help but think that I might even miss it. Teaching has been going really well recently, so I hope to end on a high, but one thing is for sure, I have definitely erased Teaching from my future career’s list!

U is for Ultimate Frisbee (of course…)

Firstly, it was a fairly obvious choice for a U, and secondly, I couldn’t think of anything else, but Flying Circus (the Austrian team) have really taken me under their wing. I go to all the trainings, and have tried to play against some of the boys in order to improve for next year. I only managed to play two tournaments with them, but I really enjoyed them, and I’m incredibly gutted to be leaving. Most, if not all, of my Austrian friends are from Frisbee. So hopefully I’ll be able to play with them again in the future. But for now, Safe Flying Sexy Circus!

V is for Vanillakrapfen

Vanillakrapfen are doughnuts stuffed with Vanilla cream, and they are literally the most delicious things ON THIS PLANET. I might even go as far to say that I may miss Vanillakrapfen more than my parents in Russia… 😛

W is for Wolleyball, Wery, and any other words that Austrian kids can’t pronounce…

Austrian kids find it absolutely impossible to get the “v” sound right. Apparently it’s not very obvious in their linguistic development as children, but even after countless corrections, they STILL can’t get it right. It drives me bonkers. Teachers don’t seem to think it’s all that important, and the kids just don’t notice. One thing is for sure, I’m not going to miss hearing “I’m going to Wolleyball” from the kids…

X is for… Xenophobia (and you all thought I wouldn’t get an X. HA.)

Not that Austrian’s have anything against England people, but they HATE the Germans and they HATE the Turks. Austria doesn’t like being associated with Germany and I don’t blame them. To be referred to as “Germany’s little sister” must get annoying, but I do feel bad for my Turkish students. In the nightschool, I would say 70% of the students are Turkish, and Austrians are sometimes quite open about what they think about them. And in the dayschool? Absolutely none. Not one. They would be lamb to the slaughter. One day, Austria might accept them more openly, but for now, they are the enemy.

Y is for Yodeling

Yodelieyhi yodelayhee yodelaHEEEHOOOO!!!!

(Alright, I didn’t have a Y. Leave me alone okay?)

And Z is for Zipfer

It’s beer. Don’t drink it. It’s nasty.






I made it to the end. Wow. Like, a month after I started writing it. Who knew?

My next blog will be my last in Austria. Be prepared for the hankies.

And if you haven’t already read it, please check out this article I wrote for thirdyearabroad.

2 weeks left, let’s make the most of it!

With love,

Sarah xo



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