Friday, January 29, 2016

Belgians vs. Austrians

Obviously a comparison between Brussels and Vienna would be unfair, but also comparing Belgium and Austria would make no sense, as geographically different. On the other hand, I always say that when I leave Brussels I will miss the people. This implies a superiority of Belgians with respect to Austrians (or better, Viennese). It is true? Just for fun (don't take me serious here), I compare the general behaviour of inhabitants in common situations in their respective capital cities.
On public transits. Austrians do not need to validate their ticket every time. Belgians should do, but often they do not and the driver simply does not care about. Austrians stand in front of the door during the journey and do not move in more empty areas of the bus or tram. Belgians do the same. Belgians stand in front of the door also when the bus or train stops, not caring about people who have to get off. Austrians have learned to clear off the exit. Austrians stand on the side of the door when the tram or bus arrives, waiting that passengers get off before getting in. Belgians try to get in before the passengers in the bus or tram can get off, extending the time required at the stop. Most of public transportations in Vienna are accessible to everybody, but when there is an old tram, with steep steps, people and the driver are ready to help mothers with strollers, elderly people, or whoever needs help. In Brussels, who has mobility limitations needs a car or a taxi: buses stop too far from the pavement to use the dedicated platform, some tram lines have only old cars, with steep steps, in many underground stations there are no lifts and escalators often do not work. People are too distracted, with the nose in their smartphones, to see who needs help. Drivers sometimes even close the doors when people with difficulties are still on the doorway. On escalators, Austrians stand on the right side and walk on the left, if you stand on the left they yell at you. Belgians often do not even realise that somebody tries to overtake, but apologise and move to the side as soon as you ask way. Drivers are kind and answer to stupid questions also in English on Austrian transportations, but are really dumb and often do speak just French in Brussels. Belgians vs. Austrians, 0:1

At the restaurant. Belgians are kind, always illustrates the suggestions for the day, come for the order only when you call them, don’t bother when you finish, bring the bill only on request, and do not expect a tip. Viennese can be quite rude, as soon as they realise you are a foreigner they insist for the tip, remove your plate as soon as you take the last bite and if don’t order something else they bring immediately the bill. Generally prices are lower in Austria than in Belgium, but this does not justify a similar behaviour. Belgians vs. Austrians (Viennese) 1:0

At the supermarket. Belgians are extremely slow, not organised at all, and talkative with everybody. Austrians are super fast, become nervous quit easily if they have to wait, but everything is smooth and precise. Honestly, I don’t like these extreme behaviours, I get nervous in Belgium because too slow and stressed in Austria because too rude and fast. Belgians vs. Austrians 0:0

On the road. Austrians drive quite good. Bicycles have the priority over other vehicles, but also over pedestrians. For this reason, bicyclists might be quite arrogant and travel too fast on the dedicated lanes. Belgians drive like crazy. Park everywhere, bumping into the other cars to get a larger place or simply jumping on the pavement for an easier parking, not considering pedestrians or cyclists. Bus and tram drivers are not much different, though. Belgians vs. Austrians 0:1

Asking information. Belgians are extremely kind. In Brussels, most of the people I asked to were foreigners. I was asked many times, too. However, also my experience in Flanders, where there are more locals, is extremely positive. Generally people understand and speak also other languages than Dutch or French (with some exceptions). Austrians, outside Vienna, are also extremely kind. Young people speak English and Italian is a common language close to the border. In Vienna, there are a few locals and they are not always much kind, especially with foreigners or tourists, because always in a hurry, but if you ask in German to elderly people they tell you also a lot of interesting facts about the place. Belgians vs. Austrians 1:1

Midi vs. Naschmarkt
 Police officers. Belgians can be hard, but are generally relaxed, kind, ready to help and provide information, even making jokes, and speak French and Dutch, sometimes also English and German in town. At the border or at the airport they are perhaps also too relaxed… they chat to each other, like Italians, rather than seriously checking what is going on. Austrians are efficient and helpful in Vienna, do not speak much English but are not annoyed by touristic information. However, police officers at the border are really rude and often clearly racist. Strict on rules, especially with foreigners. Even if Belgium has failed an efficient control on the borders, just considering the approach, Belgians vs. Austrians 1:0

Conclusions. There isn’t an objective superiority of Austrians or Belgians. Both of them have faults and good points. The people I will really miss are those I work with, those I know much better, not the average Belgian or the many foreigners that live in Brussels. For the same reason, I missed a lot the Austrian efficiency but I don't like the average Viennese, even though people are more helpful when necessary in Vienna. Clearly, Belgium is more open minded than Austria. In many situations in Vienna, I had a privileged treatment because able to speak basic German and because with a PhD. I can understand the issue related to the language, very often I feel frustrated not to be able to express myself in French, but I find extremely stupid to consider people differently, depending on their academic qualification or noble title. Therefore, I think, sometimes I will miss Belgians... but not riding my bike in the city.


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