Meet Timi

I woke up this morning, bleary-eyed, bracing myself for the start of the week, to find this note attached to a bag of fresh vegetables outside my doorway:

Timi, as the note makes clear, is the guy who lives in the flat below mine. We have never met, but he has given me the contents of his refrigerator, and trusted me with his phone number.

How nice is that?!

More to the point, how little does this chime with how Austrians see themselves?

I’m fascinated by national self-image, largely because as a Londoner whose mother was born outside of the UK, I don’t feel very ‘English’, and ‘Britishness‘ is famously an amorphous which doesn’t have much emotional hold on anybody to whom it is applied.

Anyway, along with the nations who suffer from a bit of a superiority complex, there are others which are far too hard on themselves.

When I went to a conference in Helsinki a few years ago, the Finns couldn’t have been more welcoming. I only had to pull out a map in the street and people would rush over and offer to help me find my way. This does not happen in many capital cities. Yet, when I mentioned this to the Deputy Mayor of Helsinki over canapes (hell yes, I was working the room!) he was astounded. “But… we Finns are famously hostile and inward-looking,” he said.

A similar mind-block seems to have taken hold here. Numerous Austrians have casually noted how difficult it must be for me to deal with their fellow citizens, while at the same time being nothing but utterly friendly and open to me themselves. A guy emailing me about a potential language exchange meeting wrote the following: “I was born here and still i’m a nice guy, can you believe it? 🙂“.

I’m not saying Austrians are saints (I’ve already met some total weirdos here), but the more I travel, and the more people I meet, the more my long-held suspision is confirmed that there are no national borders when it comes to good people and arseholes. So, chill out, Austrians! You’re not that bad!

Now, I’m off for some lunch on Timi… Mahlzeit!

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