Of Mice and Menemen

It is the 1960s in Vienna. A man arrives on a train without a single Groschen to his name. He is looking for a place to work. A place to sleep. He describes the alienation he felt, only rarely seeing other foreigners like himself. He paints a picture of a society that has yet to understand, much less accept, Turkish culture arriving in Austria’s capital.

As I listen to my grandfather tell his tales of starting a new life here, eventually bringing his family to Austria and deciding to call Vienna his new home, I can’t help but think how far we have come. Even though it has been more than 60 years now – a long time, but also the very recent past – this first wave of guest workers were, in a real sense, pioneers, who have left their mark on a city with a long history of fending off Turkish advances. 

Today, Turks are the third-largest ethnic group in Vienna. 

However, I find the true impact to be cultural. One does not need to look very far to find evidence of our shared histories. From the way we eat, drink or even speak, Turkish culture has made its way into Vienna’s heart in such a way that it has become almost impossible to imagine Vienna without us. 

Even so, modern Turks living in Vienna are a far cry away from their guest working forebears. We have become doctors, professors, lawyers, artists, athletes and politicians, all living and working right here in the Austrian capital. And yet, even though the Turkish DNA has embedded itself deep into Viennese society, we still have our cultural differences that will most likely never be understood by the Austrians (ask anyone who’s ever been invited to a Turkish wedding to see what this looks like!). 

But we also have things in common. 

We both enjoy sarcastic humor, spend hours gossiping and socializing in cafés, and have a long list of regional dialects that border on being new languages entirely. All things, that in each culture are at the heart of who we are. So let us honor our linked cultures by celebrating this diverse community and showcasing what it feels like to live in Vienna as a Turk. On behalf of the Turkish community and all our great writers who contributed to this edition, we wish you happy reading.



Emre Günes