Living in Vienna for a week

With love and gratitude for Illia

So my good friend lives in Vienna. I was planning to go visit him for ages. And being back from China for two months, felt like as good a reason as any to finally make it happen.

Strangely enough, with EU across the street from Ukraine, it was my first fully-fledged European experience. And the plan was to see if I want to live there and if I’d feel at least kind of in the right place. As you can see, unlike my trips to the USA and China, I decided to do some scouting first.

I booked the plane tickets, synced up our schedules, got hyped, and got going.

It was my first trip this far where no one took care of all the transfers for me. So I had to pull myself together, turn on my attentive side and take on responsibility for not getting lost in the big world where you take care of yourself.

Before actually embarking on a journey, getting there looked like a big undertaking. Too many moving pieces and things that needed to work out exactly as planned. The train, the express to the airport that constantly breaks down, the airlines that wanted my backpack to be smaller than 40x20x30cm, the plane, the bus which leaves an hour after the plane lands. But step by step it just worked.

Looks like it was meant to be. But also, it appears that traveling isn’t rocket science after all.

Being thankful and relieved as I am for the fact that the road went exactly as planned, the thing that impressed me most was passing the customs in Bratislava as easily. It really felt as if I’m a worthy citizen. And not just of Ukraine but of the world. When you don’t need to go through lengthy checks and no one questions your reasons for coming or the fact that you have money (I’m looking at you USA), you really feel like a decent human being with rights, not just responsibilities.

Long story short, at exactly 00:40 my bus arrived and I made it to Vienna, Austria. My friend was waiting for me at the bus stop which was a huge relief since my roaming internet didn’t work and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to find his dorm myself. We hugged it out and the exploration of Vienna began with a 15-minute stroll of a rural area of the city.

And here are the most important things I felt about Vienna after living and working there remotely for a week.

People

Of course, a week is nothing. And yes, my way of blending in by means of working full-time from my friend’s dorm room isn’t equal to actually living in Vienna. But I think I managed to bring it as close as I could to feeling as if I relocated there. And the thing I liked most about Vienna were its people.

It feels like the city isn’t in a hurry. Like the people just live, without the neverending rush, without the ever-present hectic run towards the paycheck. The number of clear, intellectual and calm faces even in the subway was off the charts. And it may be just the impression I got, but it felt like in Vienna there’s no judgment of those who are just looking for themselves, who haven’t got life figured out.

I felt like no one actually cared about one’s profession or great deeds in something not important (like marketing). I felt that the people are far more focused on your intellectual and cultural capabilities rather than the particular area you apply them in.

I wasn’t able to let go of my cemented but unnatural values in the short week I’ve spent there. But I did see how liberating it may be – to not be defined by your choice of a career. First and foremost when it comes to not pushing yourself and beating yourself up for not being the best at something you don’t care about.

Culture

I’m not that big of a fan of architecture and landmarks. I feel like all the old cities are pretty much just a rearranged version of something you saw before in another old city. And even though Vienna is clean and can boast quite a few nice buildings, I didn’t pay that much attention to them separately. At the same time, they did give a strong feeling of a wholesome ensemble conveying stability and, you know, calmness. The city growing and modernizing yet staying true to its original style.

Overall, the feeling you get from Vienna is what you’d imagine the old Europe to be in the 21st century. Leftist students demanding more liberal laws (not knowing what exactly they are unhappy with),  grownups feeling safe (being calm and sure about their future), people enjoying the culture that survived centuries and isn’t going anywhere, a ton of expats really trying to blend in and live happily and thankfully to the country that took them.

Relaxing

As I was saying, I didn’t feel that people in Vienna are as obsessed with the productivity bullshit we often become slaves to. When you can afford to live a decent life working 20 hours a week and you don’t feel like upgrading your car is something that will strengthen your social standing, you can kind of let go.

I had a few chances to observe the students who can easily be considered grownups in my world and it felt like they just aren’t in that much hurry to become adults. Yes, they study hard, at least some of them, but they don’t give away the last 2-3 years of youth to work more hours than they need to afford the life that they want.

Prices

Whew, the prices in Vienna, my, oh, my. You better stop converting them to your local currency in your head right from the start.

But you look around and see where all this money goes to. All the infrastructure, all the things that wouldn’t be free back home, the quality of life and the onwards and upwards trajectory of the country. It all costs money. So I guess paying enormous taxes and getting coffee for € 5 may not suck as much when you live in such a great place.

How cool was coming back home and what it means

I spent the week in Vienna with one of my closest friends. We had a great time talking, eating, playing games, drinking, exploring the city, and soaking in Therme Wien. I loved pretty much all the aspects of the city and culture I got to see. Despite all that, coming home still felt great.

Travelling is awesome. Meeting new people, exploring new cultures, pushing your limits – you should do all that. But it feels so much better when you have somewhere to come back to.