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Racism in Vienna?

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1. Posted by koss (Budding Member, 6 posts) 15 Mar '08 00:08

koss has indicated that this thread is about Austria

Hello everyone!
I am finally in Vienna thanks to many of your advises. The place is great and atmosphere is very romantic. However, I am encountering racism in many occasions that totally turns me off and ruins the image of this beautiful city.

To tell you about myself, I am a Korean-born American who lived in the States for 22 years. I am in mid-30s and I speak fluent English, dress formally, and well-mannered in the "western" etiquette. When I walked around the streets with my wife, many people would glare at me and my wife. This is not the typical "German stare". This was scornful glares with disdains and contempts. We had hardest time trying to find somebody who would take picture for us. Teenagers would follow us and make "oriental" gestures and noises. This was when I was in full formal suite going to and returning from a classical concert.

They seem to be polite and greeting among caucasians, even when they are strangers. I wondered if this was because we did not speak German, may be like French. But I highly doubt this case because we were scorned even before we speak a word. I have been to Germany, UK, Swiss, and Turkey, but never have experienced rudeness at such wide-spread level.

Is this a misunderstanding? Am I doing something to offend these people somehow? Please let me know if I can do anything about it before it totally ruins our trip.

[ Edit: Edited on Mar 14, 2008, at 11:15 PM by koss ]

2. Posted by t_maia (Moderator, 3291 posts) 15 Mar '08 00:20

From my gut feeling the reason is that you dress too formal for an American tourist. You fit every stereotype of the Asian (Chinese and Japanese) tourist with your business suit. Vienna also has the little problem of being "stuck up", ie Viennese people seek out people of their own class and above for contact. They value titles above everything. You're a complete outsider with your background, so you are beneath them. There is also a high chance you ran across the minefield of what is Austrian etiquette. What is acceptable in the USA or Germany can be a total fauxpas in Austria.

Finally, what does your wife look like?

[ Edit: Edited on Mar 14, 2008, at 11:23 PM by t_maia ]

3. Posted by mee (Full Member, 138 posts) 15 Mar '08 02:31

I know people in Vienna are not always nice, but I'm surprised they were that rude. I live here for 2 years now, and I think you were just unlucky. You wrote something about teenagers, and I guess they were rather poor (I can't express it in a better way).
Where exactely were you when you were stared at? You might have noticed, the subwaystation Oper/Karlsplatz is the place where a lot of drug addicts and homeless people spend their nights (and days sometimes). Even I'm rude when I'm down there, not because it's not safe (there's security now), but I just don't like it... The "Gürtel" (U6) is not the nicest place either.
There are many racists in Vienna, but usually they're unfriendly towards people from the east of europe and sometimes Germans. I study chinese, and therefore know not only Chinese, but also Japanese people, as well as Koreans and Cambodians (and Eurasians). Most of them grew up in austria, but since you really can't see an accent, they could be tourists. I never realized they were treated differently. Just yesterday there were chinese people in the cable car, and everybody looked interested, and they were friendly. (Americans listen to me too when I speak german in the US.)
In my opinion viennese people like asians more than americans. Maybe that's why thery were staring.

As I always say: I like Vienna, but it would be nicer without the viennese people.

4. Posted by gaviscon (Budding Member, 68 posts) 15 Mar '08 05:37

Hi Koss, I understood how you feel and it is annoying too. I am Chinese who lived in UK; we did encounter many occasions like this when we are touring Europe, like you said some people being rude to you, teenagers making fun of you- even in Uk sometimes teenagers did that too........ well, this is Europe... once you know the back ground of their history then you able to understand why some people still have such bad behavior. Just have a :) then walk away. It is nothings wrong with you, don't let this matters turn you off visiting Europe, however. Let me tell you-I don't like to visit HK and China (I am very sorry to say that) some people there are even worst

Cheers have a nice day.

5. Posted by Mel. (Travel Guru, 4567 posts) 15 Mar '08 14:51

Hello Koss :)

U sure are meeting some rude people. Embarassing for the those Europeans of us who hate rascism.
I live in the South of Germany which is as conservative and unaccepting of foreigners as Austria is.
I am Irish and they tend to like Irish people more than other foreigners but we still regularly are given the message that we dont belong and dont fit in. The smallest and most insignificant things we do that are different are a made a big deal out of here. I am not surprised that people behave towards u as they do in Austria. At least I am generally not so noticable as a foreigner until I speak so I dont encounter hostility from strangers who dont know me. People did warn me that Bavaria is like this before we came here to live but I didnt think it could be so bad. It is that bad. Try your best to ignore the rascists and the narrowminded. They dont own the world and fortunately the laws in the European Union are anti rascism but these laws mostly only protect from physical abuse and not rascist comments and unfriendly facial expressions.

Mel.

[ Edit: Edited on Mar 15, 2008, at 1:54 PM by Mel. ]

6. Posted by koss (Budding Member, 6 posts) 20 Mar '08 03:40

For all fairness, we did have better experience in other parts of the town. The area around Karltnerplatz was exceptionally bad. We were basically walking from Stadt Operahaus to a concert at Musikhaus and then to Stephensplatz afterward at night. I don't know why t_maia is interested in what I was wearing, but I wore formal clothings out of respect for the the greatest orchestra performing one of the most glorious concert hall in the world. I was in blue suit & tie with black raincoat, and my wife was wearing black skirt with gray suede jacket. I presume that t_maia is not saying that Asians should not wear nice clothings.

I do admit there are many roudy, unrespecting tourists from Asia and America, but we strive to be different, as I am well-travelled in many parts of the world and have great respect for different culture. We did notice that underground near Karltnerplatz is not a nice place to be, and avoided it as much as possible. I think people were not as rude in other parts of the city and we even met some friendly people. We were wondering if cold, rainy weather might also have something to do with the people's attitude. I came to Vienna in the summer of 1989 and it was beautiful city of romance filled with smiling, nice people and classical music was flowing out of everywhere. Now most of the buildings and concerts are still there, but I cannot help but feel that sweet memory is replaced with less-than-friendly people and hollow, commercialized name-brand shops trying to grab your dollar/euro. I guess 18 years have been a long time

We did enjoy the city and its rich culture & history. Perhaps we will visit one again in this summer.

[ Edit: Edited on Mar 20, 2008, at 2:45 AM by koss ]

7. Posted by EyvindPt (Budding Member, 5 posts) 21 Mar '08 07:17

hello. I'am from Portugal and i've been in wien for 3 days and i didn't notice any kind of racism, i'am caucasian but i only speak portuguese and english, but i've really seen some people from other coutries making noise and breaking the quieted city, maybethe wien citizens have some kind of alergy to that foreigners, btw, it was the most beautiful city i have visited.

Best regards

Miguel

8. Posted by kidgibnick (Budding Member, 26 posts) 25 Mar '08 18:43

People over there, especially in Switzerland become jaded of Korean tourists because they come by the bus loads, don't speak english very well if at all, and make their otherwise beautiful town more touristy than ever...

It's a shame, but your appearance may lead them to believe you are "one of those tourists" since you are not a national.

In America, ethnic people aren't questioned as to whether they're American or not...one can assume most people are from here and know the language. BUT in Europe people move around so much, it's hard to know who's from where....so especially in a place like Germany, Austria, Switzerland...if you aren't a caucasian national and look muslim or asian, you're likely not from there, and aren't "one of them."

9. Posted by curlysammy (First Time Poster, 1 posts) 19 Apr '09 12:00

Hi koss,

don´t listen to the people who tell you that there is something wrong with you, there isn´t , definitly. This people seem to be the kind of persons that attacked you..Well, I have been living in vienna all my life, and I m really not surprised what happened to you. I am a student and my origin is arabic, and I am dressed very well, that means in high standard designer labels, but it doesn´t stop the austrians to hate us, foreigners. Even the most of the austrians are not as well dressed as me they behave the same way they did to you. The reason for them to act like that is mainly, because they are not confident enough in themselves. I had this problem all my life. I feel a lot of jealosy as well,but if I would have been an austrian it would´t be that bad, I m sure. Don´t bother about them, and just take it with humour...
The best advice is , leave Austria or vienna as soon as possible, like me, I will move to London...
wishes,and good luck, sam.

10. Posted by Redpaddy (Inactive, 1004 posts) 19 Apr '09 12:31

It happens the world over. I live in the UK and racism is just terrible here. Vienna isn't the friendliest city I've visited and the locals didn't exactly go out of their way to help me when I was in difficulties there. I found the Tyrol much more laid back. Then again, it's a capital city and they're always a little clicky and whether it's Vienna or Vilnius, Vaduz or Victoria, they're always a little harsher round the edges.

[ Edit: Edited on 19-Apr-2009, at 12:31 by Redpaddy ]