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Ethnicity, Race and Culture: Austria

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Essay Topic I: Ethnicity, Race and Culture: Austria Austria is not a big country; it’s ranked on 115th place in total area and 92nd in total population. But not so long ago the Austrian-Hungarian Empire was one of the “big players” by the end of the 19th century in Europe. That Empire has been a mixture of many different and strongly varying cultures and ethnicities, which remains as one of the reasons why it probably fell apart and got divided into different nations.

So what is it now, that makes an Austrian an Austrian and why is he so much different than somebody from Hungary, Czech Republic or Germany; this is the main topic of this essay. The first part of the essay will give a short overview of what ethnicity, race and culture in general stands for. Therefor I will give a short introduction about these topics and try to explain how they are used today.

Later on, my focus and the main part of this work will include aspects in which Austrian Culture influences people (in Austria and in general) and try to find answers to the question: “What is typically or specific for the Austrian culture and the national identity? “ To make this essay a little bit more thought-provoking, I will divide the main part into two parts. The first will consist of features which I perceive from being an Austrian citizen; the second part will attempt to give an indication of features that caught the attention of people who were not born or raised in Austria.

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Before I start with my major writing, first a short anecdote about the Austrian dialect, which is, let us say, an indicator for Austria’s culture and race: “The Austrian dialect is about as pretty because the talk resistant changes between self-indulgence and pulling oneself together back and forth play. It thus allows an irreplaceable wealth of right projecting temper. ” This short quote from the German author and poet Christian Morgenstern gives already very precise and helpful “informations” about culture in Austria.

To understand what the author was trying to say with this quote you have to appreciate the remarkable gap that lies in between Austrian and German culture. Even though most people in the world (if they even know where Austria is located! ) think of Austrian Culture as a very similar to the German culture, which might be not even so far away from the truth but indeed, there are important and noteworthy differences. One of them is that Austrians can be projected with the adjectives “cozy”, “comfy” and “unhurried” compared to the adjectives Germans are illustrious for in the world, such as “detailed”, “precise” and “hardworking”.

From my point of view it is quiet right to say that a big part of the Austrian Culture lies somewhere in between, and that is what Christian Morgenstern was trying to say with his quote. But before I go too deep, let us start from the very beginning: What is culture? Well, this is not an easy question to answer because there are various definitions for this word. I will state here two different definitions of culture. Geert Hofstede defined a very common set of models for international cultures.

For him culture “is the collective programming of the human mind that distinguishes the members of on human group from those of another. Culture in this sense is a system of collectively held values. ” (Hofstede 1990, p. 20) Whereas Edgar Schein, who was written one of the best and informative books on organizational culture, defines culture “as the deeper level of basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by members of an organization that operate unconsciously and define in a basic `taken for granted? fashion an organization’s view of itself and its environment. ” (Schein 1994, p. 7) From these two definitions it is already quite obvious that culture has very much to do with groups. A basic need of groups is the ability to communicate, both at a superficial level (for which ordinary language largely suffices) and also at a deeper level of meaning. At this deeper level, words, actions and things can become filled with special and specific meaning for the group, such as group-specific jargon and language, rituals for greetings, meetings and other group processes and last but not least artwork and artifacts that symbolize and remind the group of their history (cf.

Schein 1994, p. 24;25). And Austria has a long history with a rich tradition. Austria’s geographical location at the crossroads of Europe determined its historical multiethnic makeup. As Austria is comprised with nine provinces and bordered by eight countries with their own distinctive cultures, the people of each province tend to be different. Surrounded by so many other cultures, Austria has often been subjected to cultural “invasions”, which are the source of the differences among the provinces. Another source of the diversity is the Alps, which cover 62 percent of the country.

The distinctions also occurred because different groups settled in Austria. In addition to the Celts, Romans, Hungarians, and Germanic groups, many groups from central Europe arrived during the Middle Ages. Now we have defined Austria’s conditions of culture and its heritage. Let us move to the next important topic: “National Identity”. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, identity is defined as "those attributes that make you unique as an individual and different from others" or "the way you see or define yourself".

Identity can therefore be seen as the positioning of the "self" as opposed to the "others". This concept refers to individual rather than to collective identity and may be determined by the gender as well as the territorial, cultural, social, religious, ethnic, linguistic and national identity (cf. Smith 1991, p. 15). Going beyond individual identity to collective identity and approaching the concept of national identity, the definition gets more complex. It is not about identifying a single individual, but about detecting characteristics of a whole center of population.

In another approach, the second construct, the nation can be defined as "an extensive aggregate of persons, so closely associated with each other by common descent, language, or history, as to form a distinct race or people, usually organized as a separate political state and occupying a definite territory” (The Oxford English Dictionary 1933, p. 30). So now we have well-defined the terms culture and national identity and these definitions leave very much space open to examine the Austrian lifestyle and culture. Therefor it is very difficult to answer questions like “What is typically Austrian? ” without generalizing excessively.

The struggle lies in the problem, that if you have grown up in a place, you perceive many things differently than foreigners would and, which makes the situation even more complicated, you don’t notice things foreigners might consider odd. To me, the situation is a little bit easier; I was born in Croatia and moved to Austria when I was 5 years old, so I am able to take both sides of observation, the inside and the outside. My first part of observation about the “Austrian soul” precedes me to the baroque and catholic legacy that, I think, goes hand in hand with Austrian Culture and National Identity.

This means that Austrian society is strongly influenced by a baroque, Catholic tradition that is fairly subtle in terms of actual religious life (only 7 percent of all Austrians attend a weekly service, which is Western-European standard; in Poland it is 20 percent, in the United States of America 40 percent! ). Nevertheless, the tradition of strong family ties, opulent architecture, food and feasts, as well as celebrations and ceremonies is something I see as concerned with the Catholic legacy of the country.

Formality and certain ways in which you engage with people socially is very hierarchical and much stricter regulated than in English speaking countries. Families receive significant public benefits for staying with newborn babies for two years and employees are required to secure a mother? s (or father? s, but that is still very uncommon in Austria) job for three years. This leads directly to the very next shaping factor in Austria, the socialist tradition. The socialist tradition of the country is mostly based on the reforms of the1970ies.

Education is more or less free from primary school to university (when a conservative government started charging about 700 Euros in fees per year, there were many demonstrations all over Austria). Health care is public. Transportation, culture and arts, libraries and other infrastructure is heavily funded by the public. That has significant social implications: Austria? s university graduates are among the oldest in Europe (in 2005, the average age of receiving the first degree was 27) and its retirement age is among the lowest. For several years, the political trend is to cut the social system down and liberalize the country economically.

Many Austrians find the sheer thought of responsibility and initiative distressing, though. Austrians also have a reputation for being conservative and xenophobic, especially Germans like to think of us as a hostile, grumpy bunch (which we might well be with respect to Germans). The political spectrum of Austria is in fact shifted slightly to the right compared to Germany: The German conservatives are the "rightest" party, whereas Austrian populists standing clearly right of the conservatives have pioneered populist political movements in Europe.

To understand this, I think it is necessary to distinguish between political contents on one hand and political style on the other. In terms of actual content, the rightwing populists of Austria (and of other European countries) are not necessarily more radical than the Tories in the UK or even the democrats in the US. In terms of style, Austrians have very little constraints when it comes to being straight-forward and public statements are often made by Austrians that would be regarded as being highly politically incorrect in many other countries, despite of being wide-spread views.

Another mechanism that came up my mind while writing this essay is that Austrian people have original views in foreign things. I think that there are several reasons for this. Partly it? s the Austrian mentality to rant openly about whatever bothers you. Partly - especially with rightwing issues - it is also that Austria defined itself with the aid of Western nations as the first victim of Nazi Germany, completely failing to acknowledge the role as a major culprit, which it also had, until into the 1980ies. There was much less of a progressive turnover than in Germany after the war.

But the key-question remains: Are Austrians more xenophobic, racist, Semitic than the rest of Europe? Drawn from own experiences and those of friends from other countries, I would say "most likely not". As everywhere, cities are more open and cosmopolitan than rural communities. As everywhere, education makes people more tolerant. But just because it is quite likely to hear from an Austrian a grumpy complaint about Eastern-European burglars, Turkish youngsters molesting people on the street or Nigerian asylum seekers selling drugs does not mean that such stereotypes don? t exist in other countries.

Enforcing political correctness (socially or legally) fights symptoms, not causes. In terms of causes of intolerance, I don? t think that Austria is doing significantly better or worse than other Western countries. And the openness in talking about pretty much anything will at least allow you to listen to people and get a direct handle on what they honestly think. Another important aspect of the Austrian culture and its soul is the priority of domestic life. Austrians love to build, repair, extend, maintain, refurbish or modernize their houses. They also love gardening and spend ours in garden centers. Houses and gardens are important social stages for dinner parties, BBQs or occasionally just staying in and watch TV. Garden-culture is something you find everywhere in Europe, the obsession with house-building and fixing is a more continental or even Germanic manner (a variation of the same principle is "washing the car"). The priority that homes and families have for Austrians might contribute to the stereotype of the bourgeois mountain people. Speaking of mountains: The natural beauty of the country gave rise to a pronounced outdoors culture.

Mountaineering, skiing, rock climbing, paragliding, cycling, skiing, camping, skiing, swimming, just strolling and - of course - skiing are really big in Austria and we love to spend our weekends climbing pretty much any hill-resembling thing pointing out of the landscape. Then we sit on top of it, drink beer and watch the valleys. From my point of view, I don’t think there? s a rational reason why we are doing this. A colleague of mine once tried to explain it with a nation-wide UV light addiction; others think it? s coffee and “Red Bull” that drive us up the hills.

Probably all nonsense. In the end, and I am only guessing here, we climb mountains simply because we can. This was the first part as to give my perspective of what is typically Austrian from the view of an Austrian. My next part should be seen as a form of an outside view of how Austrian people and their behavior are seen in the rest of the world. However, I am often amused by the little things that foreigners notice as typically Austrian. Having grown up in the country myself, I often take things as natural or granted that are somewhat odd to an outsider? s eye.

From talking to people that have been to this country before, I have learned about the Austria-specificity of a range of features. Long conversations with a friend from Germany revealed a lot of Austrian culture to me that I had previously been unaware of. This included one of his observations on the way people in Austria attribute certain habits and features to the origin on a person: If somebody is Tyrolean, he is expected to like hiking, be conservative and hate Italians. Carinthian accents are immediately associated with ski- and surf-instructors, alongside with their stereotypical courtship behaviors.

If somebody acts provincially in Vienna and it turns out that he is Upper Austrian, everybody goes "Ah, that? s why…". According to my friend, the "tribal affiliation" of the Austrians is much more pronounced than in Germany. Something that I have been already aware but not considered as typically Austrian is the love to their titles and degrees. Austria has an impressive list of 819 titles and degrees. Many people get their title or academic degree included in their passports and they even a master ("Magister") degree is written before the name.

Most titles are used instead of a name when referring to a person directly, for example "Herr Magister" or "Frau Doktor". Recent years saw the arrival of the Anglo-American "MA", "PhD" or other "new" degrees. Most elderly Austrians are confused by these and try to translate them. This leads me to my last feature of Austrian behaviors that I concluded while talking to foreign friends of me. If you ask Austrians about an upper-class, it is likely that they will look at you somewhat confused and refer you to the wide middle-class and the longstanding socialist traditions that effectively eliminated at least the most pressing poverty.

Upper-class as a concept is something strange to Austria - and yet there are few countries that have a stronger correlation in education or income and life expectancy, income of children, social status, and so on, than the German-speaking countries. I am always fascinated how well the upper-class is ignored in Austria and yet maintains its behavioral and social rituals that often date back to the days of the monarchy. If an Austrian tells you that there is no real upper-class in this country, ask how many friends he has that went to one of Vienna? international schools; ask about the last time he went to the Salzburg Festival; if he would feel comfortable dining and using the correct cutlery in one of Salzburg? s top-restaurants; or if he has heard of the "Adelsclubs" of Vienna (associations for Austria? s ex-nobility). Austria has a long history with a long tradition. For the development of Culture and National Identity this is a very significant aspect, also when talking about what is typically for Austrians. Even to myself, as I already ive here for 20 years, there are facets about the Austrian culture that have not been revealed to me so far. Through attending numerous sociological classes and talking to friends from Austria but also from foreign countries, I was able to get a profounder and closer look on what makes an Austrian an Austrian and that there are reasonable explanations for certain aspects and behaviors. This will be important for further investigations, because I think that Austria’s culture (and every culture worldwide) is just about to experience major changes.

Factors like immigration, migration and especially the immense changes we are going through thanks to globalization and all the issues that come with it, will show if historically grown cultures have the capability to survive such a thriving and lavish lifestyle, as we are experiencing right now in the western Words: 2. 965 Words: 2. 965 hemisphere. References: Austrian Culture. Hephaestus Books, 2011 Brown, Andrew; Organizational Culture. Pitman, London, 1995 Culture of Austria-Hungary. General Books LLC, 2010

Lichtenberger Elisabeth; Austria: Society and Regions. Austrian Academy of Sciences, 2000 Schein, Edgar; Organizational Culture and Leadership. Jossey-Bass Psychology Series, 1994 [Paperback] Simpson, John; Weiner, Edmund; The Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press, 1989 Stein R. Conrad; Austria. Enchantment of the World Series. Children’s Press, 2000 Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Available from: http://plato. stanford. edu/entries/Nationalism [Accessed April 2012] Culture and quality: an anthropological perspective

Available from: http://intqhc. oxfordjournals. org/content/16/5/345. full [Accessed April 2012] Wikipedia, Austria, last modified on 21 April 2012 Available from: http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Austria [Accessed April 2012] -------------------------------------------- [ 1 ]. Wikipedia, Austria [ 2 ]. Christian Morgenstern, German author and poet (1871-1914) [ 3 ]. Brown, Andrew, Organizational Culture. Pitman, London, 1995 [ 4 ]. Schein, Edgar, Organizational Culture and Leadership. Jossey-Bass Psychology Series, 1994 [ 5 ]. Wikipedia [ 6 ].

Lichtenberger Elisabeth; Austria: Society and Regions. Austrian Academy of Sciences, 2000 [ 7 ]. Stein R. Conrad; Austria. Enchantment of the World Series. Children’s Press, 2000 [ 8 ]. Lichtenberger Elisabeth; Austria: Society and Regions. Austrian Academy of Sciences, 2000 [ 9 ]. Austrian Culture. Hephaestus Books 2011 [ 10 ]. Austrian Culture. Hephaestus Books 2011 [ 11 ]. Culture of Austria-Hungary. General Books LLC 2010 [ 12 ]. Culture of Austria-Hungary. General Books LLC 2010 [ 13 ]. Culture of Austria-Hungary. General Books LLC 2010

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