Austria: the country that brought you opera, Hitler, and Julie Andrews relentlessly yodelling through the hills with a group of children dressed in curtains trailing in her wake.
I’m moving to this cheerfully unobtrusive country tomorrow. Whilst there, I will be teaching English to secondary school kids. Remember Pierre/Claudette/Amélie/Jean Valjean the language assistant in your GCSE French class, who you used to stare at suspiciously and would refuse to address as anything other than ‘Monsieur Baguette’ until s/he was on the verge of tears? I’m going to be the English version of that in Austria. Guten Tag bitches.
I have been placed in a tiny little town called Rohrbach, which has a population of 2,500 (soon to be 2,501). I must admit that this worries me slightly as I am used to life on a much larger scale; for the past four years I’ve been studying in London at a university with a student population of over 30,000, aka 12 Rohrbachs. Even my secondary school boasted over 1,500 students, or 0.6 Rohrbachs. (I quite like this as a unit of measurement actually. I’m going to keep it.)
I did actually find it on a map the other day though, so I can confirm it exists.
My decision to move to Austria has not exactly been met with wild enthusiasm. My manager enquires daily as to whether I’ve given up on ‘all this Austria nonsense’ yet, and Martina just sighed like a weary mother when I announced my news and told me that when I’m finished messing around in the cold countries of the world, Rome will be waiting for me on the other side. My mum asked me on my graduation day how it felt to watch all my friends get ‘real jobs’ while I try to ‘put off being an adult’. When I tell people my plans, they mostly just repeat the word “Austria?” in a politely surprised tone that belies the fact that their first instinct was to introduce the word with the phrase “Why the fuck are you going to”.
Which, actually, is a very good question. Why the fuck am I moving to a country I’ve never been to and have never before expressed an interest in, whose official language doesn’t bear even a passing resemblance to my newly awarded foreign languages degree, to a do a job in a profession I’m not merely uninterested in but have an active aversion to?
There are a number of reasons (none particularly compelling): I would quite like to learn German. I would quite like to travel somewhere I’ve never been. I would quite like to breathe some fresh air. I would quite like some time and some space. I would quite like to sing ‘how do you solve a problem like Maria’ at the top of my lungs on a hill. I
would quite like need to earn money. But mostly, I’m just not ready for the real life, grown-up things that are hurtling my way (careers, relationships, team meetings, council tax, making my own dentist appointments, slippers, spending more than £6 on a bottle of wine, matching socks, owning a full deck of cards).
As my trusty ‘Xenophobe’s guide to the Austrians’ says, Austria is ‘a place where you go when you are not being entirely serious’, which I think sums up my current situation pretty well.
The German part is my main motivation, although it must be said that I’m a bit worried about my linguistic abilities in that area…
I had to give up on Duolingo when this guy wouldn’t stop insisting that he was a banana.
I have thus remained at 1% fluent and have 0 confidence in my ability to make myself understood when I arrive in the glorious Motherland.
I’m not feeling especially confident about anything to do with my move to Austria, actually. I am a creature of habit. I hate change. I hate goodbyes. I hate feeling like a chapter of my life has ended. But the only things I hate more than change are feeling like everything else is changing faster than I am, of being stuck, of being in one place for too long. I’m between a rock (Austria) and a hard place (staying here).
I choose the rock. The big, welcoming, EU-shaped rock (fuck you Farage. No seriously. Fuck. You.).
See you soon Austria, Frau Warren is coming for you!