Road To Nowhere

It has not been easy being British in the number one city so far this year. First up we had the massed descension on the immigration office triggered by Britain’s long-awaited withdrawal from the European Union:



IMMIGRATION OFFICER: Good. Through the door. Line on the left. One ticket each. Next. Brexit?


IMMIGRATION OFFICER: Good. Through the door. Line on the left. One ticket each. Next. Brexit?

MR BARRATT: Ah, no. Freedom.



MR BARRATT: Eh, freedom for me. They said that living and working in the EU was a waste of time, so I could go free and live on an island somewhere.

IMMIGRATION OFFICER: Oh. Oh, well, that’s jolly good. Well, off you go, then.

MR BARRATT: Naa, I’m only pulling your leg. It’s Brexit, really.


MR BARRATT: Heh heh heh heh.

IMMIGRATION OFFICER: I see. Uh, very good. Very good. Well, through the door. One tick..

MR BARRATT: Yeah. I know the way. Through the door…


MR BARRATT: One ticket each. Line on the left.

IMMIGRATION OFFICER: Line on the left.

MR BARRATT: Heh heh.

IMMIGRATION OFFICER: Yes, thank you. Brexit?



Then there were the many references in the media to the “British variant”, seemingly imported by some rogue ski instructors who had sneaked into Tirol for some pre-apres-ski-après-ski. Admittedly, the semantic pairing of British and variant was not unfamiliar to the German speaking world before Corona, mostly because it has been used interchangeably over the years to refer to either British food, plumbing or approaches to sex. That said, the threat and subsequent alarm that B-117 was heading to Austria was so great that certain sections of the over 80s in Austria reportedly took refuge in their cellars (large, well-appointed, hidden) in the belief the cities and towns of the Third Reich, sorry, the Second Republic, were about to be flattened by a series of allied bombing raids. At least they did until the government hurriedly pointed out that B-117 did not apply to a four-engined Second World War bomber but a rather nasty mutation in the Corona virus.

Speaking of which, we were then treated to the wholly predictable spectacle of the first skirmishes in the eagerly anticipated EU-UK blame-game, triggered by the glaring shortcomings in the deal to end all deals. This combined with the embarrassing and badly judged gloating from the British government about their success in being the first to authorize vaccines and roll out immunization, and with the on-going spat concerning who gets first dibs on these jabs which feels like the kind of soul-sapping argument between my two kids, even atop the life quality rankings, it hasn’t felt a good time to be eine Brite.

Under normal circumstances, this would have been more than enough to jump ship and download the “Have you ever considered becoming an Austrian?” application pack, although it seems to become an Austrian I have to pay for the privilege to do so, the cheeky blighters. Which is fortunate, then, that things have calmed down a little since the middle of the month. The roll out of the Article 50 card (the visa on offer to the Alpine Windrush) continues without too many hiccups, although as reported by those excellent people at British in Austria, outside of Vienna there are seemingly some Kinderkrankheiten (teething problems) with some applications (typical excuses include no systems in place, lack of staff and something about a global pandemic). However, the British embassy in Vienna is evidently on the case which is great news for Brexit-Brits in Austria everywhere. But especially if it keeps the UK ambassador occupied and away from his annual winter photo-op riding his bike in a kilt.

Meanwhile, over in the suburbs, I continue to be on a road to nowhere. Keeping busy unloading and loading the dishwasher, contriving reasons to take things to the municipal dump (I am rewarded by Vienna’s newest and most modern – Blumental) and reading the latest issue of Wiener Wirtschaft – the newspaper of the Vienna Chamber of Commerce. Now normally, I ignore this twice monthly (I think) round up all things business related in the number one city, and generally it is found on the kitchen floor ready to catch any remnants from the frenzied eating of two cats. But given that the Chamber has been instrumental in keeping brand Barratt “operational” in 2020, I thought it deserved a cursory peek.

Disappointed, I was not. On page three a question: Sprechen Sie Wirtschaft? a regular feature it seems to explain a bit of business jargon. Up this week: “nudging” (in German Schubsen) which we are reminded is the psychological process of changing behaviour. News, of course, to most Viennese who see the concept of overt nudging as the accepted method when jockeying for position when, zum Beispiel, waiting for the ski lift, trying to get an ice-cream, or boarding a bus.

Or how about this? Taxi news and the launch of the new written test for drivers in Vienna with an emphasis on traffic rules (finally!), an ability to chat (no, really) and an attempt to wean drivers of their satnavs. A typical question will be:

Which taxi can a passenger take at the taxi stand?

  1. The first in line.
  2. The last in line.
  3. One in the middle.
  4. Any taxi.

(The correct answer is any taxi but especially the one or ones which should go to the persons waiting in front of you. See nudging above.)

There is plenty more news, features and comment, but my main interest is drawn to three articles: First up a one-page special about my home district of Lieising where we are informed it has “Vielsietig lebenswert” (it has a lot going for it, more so since I moved here). What this means is that it has a varied landscape, a mix of light industry, farmland, homes, green spaces, 7000 businesses and some Kingfishers. The net income sits above the Vienna norm but more importantly, and if districts had a Tinder profile, it has longer than average network of cycle paths. The average age is 42 which puts me in the realms of elder and it is one of the fastest growing parts of Vienna, which may or may not be a good thing.

Second highlight is a middle-paged infographic about the Chamber’s performance during the Corona crisis. The Top Trump key figures are:

Number of chamber members in Vienna: 143,823.

Percentage of businesses employing 1-9 people: 30%.

Ratio of female to male entrepreneurs: 38% / 62%.

Top topic in 2020: hardship funds.

Number of employees processing hardship fund applications: 182.

Number of hardship applications: 276, 643.

Funds already paid out: 257 million Euro.

And finally, a feature which speaks to the very heart of these pages, a survey of 500 people (between the ages of 20 and 75) which attempts to capture the mood of the city citizenry with the central question: “How much do the people of Vienna really like living here?” There are undoubtedly many ways one could answer this but as a service to my readers I have sifted through the original report (entitled “Stadtflucht”) and all I can safely say without arousing the suspicion of the Chamber, is that the results are mixed. So, in answer to the question of the likelihood of leaving the number one city in the next three years, 32% (patriots) said, “Geh, bitte!” (no chance), 26% (liberal do-gooders) gave the standard Viennese response of a non-committal shrug, and 14% (traitors) said, “get me the fuck out of here”.

Moreover, of those questioned, the top five things people would miss if they traded countryside for city would be the public transport, the shopping possibilities, the proximity to friends and family, access to healthcare and the variety of culture.  What they would not miss, however, and in its own way more revealing, are the unfriendly waiters, the Danube Festival (I knew it) and my favourite, bus drivers who speed off just as you reach the door button.  

The reasons for moving out were numerous but the top three were: more nature /own garden, too many people, and, one for the British to ponder as they wait at the Magistrat clutching their rights to residence gripped by a mounting sense of denunciation, despair and world-beating Viennese angst, (oh no …) too many migrants.  

© 2021 RJ Barratt

Ps – For a comprehensive review of the trip to the immigration office in 2021 read this excellent piece from the Curmudgeon.