Governor of California, actor, fitness advocate, Terminator
Famous cook, entrepreneur, caterer to the stars
Kidnapper, rapist, pedophile
It's funny. We had Mozart, we had Freud, we even had The Sound of Music but it doesn't matter. Because there was some horrible guy in Austria who did a horrible thing and that's all that matters now.
Even though I always felt more European than I felt Austrian I was still proud to be from a country with a history of Art and Music and exceptional Architecture, a country with a landscape so beautiful that people from all over the world visit to experience it.
Before we moved here E and I were trying to guess what I would be asked upon meeting new people. He guessed that people would ask me really stupid questions like "So, Austria, which country is that in?" or "So you speak French there?". I have been asked those questions before but not just from Americans but also from Europeans and Australians. In general I give people more credit than that though. I think especially people living in big cities like Chicago are usually more worldly and educated than that and I am glad to say that I was mostly right.
I often try to avoid the topic, not even mentioning that I am Austrian. But I have an accent that I will most definitely never get rid of completely (and I am fine with that) but that people can't place immediately. When I talk to somebody for a while and it eventually comes out that I lived in the Netherlands for a while I can almost hear a sigh of relief "Ah, so you are Dutch!" (the funny thing is that they react the same way to E, after 5 years with me they can't place his accent either). There are times when I just leave it at that. If it's somebody that I know I will never see again, I might as well leave them in the believe that they guessed where I was from all along. But if I am going to keep on talking to them I will tell them that I am originally from Austria. And recently the reaction to this confession was often "So what do you think about the Fritzl case?".
Well, what DO I think about the Fritzl case? What do you think? E suggested I should say "Yep, that happens all the time in Austria. Happened to me ...".
And funny that people should ask me that here, in the mid-west of the United States, a place where some of the most vicious serial killers of our time are from - Gacey, Dahmer, Gein, ...
Five years ago I bet the first questions I would have been asked would have been "So what do you think about Haider?" and ten years before that it would have been "So Hitler was Austrian, huh?".
I wonder if my country will ever recover from it's crimes. Even Germany gets more credit than the Second World War. When talking about Germany Americans mention beer, food, how nice the Germans they met were and that the Germans make good cars and good products in general.
When talking about Schwarzenegger, the accent and his heritage are long forgotten. He married a Kennedy and is now as American as one could be. Wolfang Puck is so americanized that I had to google him to find out if he really WAS Austrian - I could hear it from his accent and Wolfgang is one of the most Austrian names ever but it was never mentioned that he is in fact Austrian. He also does not serve Austrian cuisine in his restaurants.
Maybe the secret to being a successful Austrian in America is to try and forget where you come from.
Sorry for being M.I.A recently. I have been pretty sick with a bad cold. I am starting to get better now but am still on DayQuil and NyQuil.