Since it declared its everlasting neutrality on October 26, 1955, the national holiday, the Alpine country of Austria has gone from strength to strength, boasting a staggering twenty Nobel Prize laureates, including seven in physiology or medicine, five in chemistry, three in physics and economist Friedrich Hayek. Brainiacs Christian Doppler and Sigmund Freud, and actors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Christoph Waltz are sons of the landlocked republic, too.
On May 4, 2014, it was Lemawork Ketema’s chance to storm into the history books as the first male Global Champion of the Wings for Life World Run. Running for his life to escape persecution in Ethiopia, the political refugee wanted more than anything to prove himself, to be adopted into Austria’s family. On May 3, 2015, he will face the man he raced against across continents to be crowned Global Champion. The Peruvian, Remigio Quispe will leave his village in the Andes to join Ketema on St. Pölten’s starting line in beautiful Donautal, a fast, flat track, which should add to the thrill of the race against these two.
So in celebration of the small country and its big day coming up, here are some humorous guidelines of what to never say to an Austrian:
1. “I love kangaroos!”
And so do we. Problem: There are none of the fluffy marsupials around. You are either American, or we need to have a serious talk with your geography teacher. Australia is just a little over 14,000 kilometres (that’s 8,600 miles, for the not-so-metric-crowd) away. If you intend to stick to Australia, here’s something for you. www.wingsforlifeworldrun.com/au/en/melbourne/
2. “Do you yodel?”
Yes, all the time. That’s why we don’t have cell phones or text messaging. In fact we break into yodelling at any occasion that seems fit. Really? Come on!
3. “What language do you speak?”
OK, that’s a tough one. Technically it’s German. The Germans, though, might disagree. Austrian has staggering number of accents and dialects, some that sound a bit German that make speakers from the beautiful western state of Vorarlberg completely incomprehensible to his fellow countrymen from Vienna; even villages around a city have massively different accents. When it gets really bad – and it does! – we have to fall back on to the age-old international communication tool of waving our arms around. It’s that bad,
4. “I love the “Sound of Music!”
Good for you. No Austrian in his right mind will ever admit to having heard or – God forbid – seen the movie. It’s the ultimate no-go and an entirely valid reason for having your citizenship revoked. If you want to stay friends with the Austrian people, you should keep your love for the Trapps running, singing and yodelling their way across mountained meadows to yourself. We mean it.
5. “It’s such a beautiful little country.”
Ouch. That really hurt. To us, Austria is still the long-gone Austrian-Hungarian monarchy, minus the emperor, his moustache, Hungary and all the other beautiful regions that used to make up our great nation. At least now the borders of our country finally resemble our favourite food: Wienerschitzel, a breaded and deep-fried veal schnitzel.
6. Do you wear Dirndl and Lederhosen?
OK, this would pass as an acceptable question; however, it depends on whom you ask. If you strongly believe we brave the harsh Alpine winters in short skirts and leather shorts, then we have to disappoint you – no. However, we might crack out the traditional clothes to have a beer at one of the countless little town parties and parades. Alright, make that two beers.
7. “I’ll be back.”
Oh yes, that’s a funny one. So what? Arnold Schwarzenegger was born in Austria but has long moved on to govern other people, those of the Great State of California. Don’t get us wrong, we appreciate you visiting our wonderful country, just don’t do it with the most over-quoted line from a 30-year-old movie. Thank you.
8. “You are so polite.”
Thanks, we know. It’s part of the gig, would you please have a seat. Since the only thing the Swiss have contributed to mankind is the cuckoo clock, and the Germans are too busy building cars and highways, we Austrians like to think of ourselves as the last frontier of kindness and politeness. Alright, maybe with the exception of the Viennese. They even scare us.
9. “May I call you Franz?”
No, you may not. We Austrians have a tendency to start getting hysterical and even rude if someone simply starts addressing us by our first name. That’s what we have last names for. Family and close friends are an exception – you are not. To make matters worse, we are obsessed with academic titles to a degree that wives of doctors call themselves “Mrs. Doctor”.
10. “Do you live in the mountains?”
Contrary to popular belief, we do have real cities. Yes, there’s a pretty serious chance of running into a mountain or hill, but no, we have not yet retreated to caves. Stay tuned.
So Happy Anniversary, Austria. Enjoy your holiday on October 26 and good luck on May 3, 2015. If you want to join the Wings for Life World Run at the SPORT.ZENTRUM.Niederösterreich join the race here.