Schmäh may not be the first thing you notice when you arrive in Vienna. But it comes up soon enough In school, for example: My children were astonished to discover that copying from classmates (“das Abschreiben”) was business as usual – what in America is held up as the depths of dishonor. Here, the attitude was that the fineness required...
Forget Sissi, Schönbrunn and Apfelstrudel: According to the Viennese, their humor is the city’s most remarkable accomplishment. It is a hot summer day on Vienna’s Donauinsel, where an elderly couple is enjoying the sun and paging through an U-Bahn tabloid. “Have you heard?” the wife reads, raising an eyebrow. “Vienna has been ranked again as the world’s most livable city?” “Are...
Some people say that when you begin dreaming in a foreign language you have mastered it. That may be, but I say, it’s when you begin telling jokes that you’ve truly arrived. That’s humor fluency! I’m not sure what my first Viennese joke was, or even if it was funny. Most likely it was an emphatic “Heast, Depperter” or...
A thousand women are challenging the boys’ club of science by making a research expedition to Antarctica to raise awareness for climate change. Antarctica is a giant, untamed wilderness. Home of the geographic South Pole, it has no nations and no indigenous population. The continent is almost entirely covered by ice, with an average depth of 2.16 kilometers. Although this...
With the Neue Mittelschule, reformers tried one-size-fits-all – with dismal results. Education Minister Heinz Faßmann’s pragmatic approach deserves a chance As I listen to the latest round of policy boxing over the new Pädagogik-Paket (Teaching Package), my heart sinks. It’s a debate I’ve heard before in another time and place, one where a world of well-meaning people destroyed for a...
The outcome may indicate how the dialectic between supranationalism and nationalism will play out in much of the rest of the world. The United Kingdom’s “Remainers,” who still hope to reverse Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, have placarded British cities with a simple question: “Brexit – Is It Worth It?” Well, is it? The answer given by economics is...
The Austrian chancellor as a mixture of Hitler and Mozart on the cover of Newsweek. Please relax! Leni Riefenstahl, the director and scriptwriter of Nazi art and moviemaking, must have been hired as picture editor at the US magazine Newsweek. Austria’s federal chancellor was pictured on the cover of the once globally relevant magazine with the beautiful headline “Austria Rising.” The...
What is it like to have fear of heights in a mountainous country? Austrians have absolutely no understanding for this. So how to get over it? By sucking it up and skiing, and falling, and skiing, and falling, and skiing again until I didn’t fall I’ll never forget my first time on an Alpine lift, in Kitzbuhel. Halfway up, I...
Austria’s comedy scene gets some international flair as English language stand-up grows in Vienna Downstairs, the room is cozy but packed, the bare brick walls bathed in warm, yellow light. Excited chatter comes from an array of mismatched seats as friendly faces squeeze in together like a few too many guests at a generous dinner party; it’s tight, but that’s...
“Wiener Schmäh is maudlin, weepy, self-pitying, but also nostalgic, wistful, gemütlich and comforting.” If you really want to know what Wiener Schmäh is, ask a German. So say the Viennese cabaret duo, Gebruder Moped (Franz Stanzl and Martin Strecha-Derkics). For them, Wiener Schmäh sometimes seems more important to those who are not from here – i.e. “net von doah!” “The moment...
“Wiener Schmäh is saying Schlagerl (mini-stroke) instead of Schlaganfall (stroke). It’s a way of being obsessed with death without ever talking about it.” Hannes Duscher and Roland Gratzer host an evening show on radio FM4 called Vorglühen (Preparty Buzz). For those tuning in for the first time, it’s surprising to hear them bantering in a fairly unrestrained form of dialect...