Another reason I live in Vienna – the Austrian mentality

13 Jan

This is perhaps not the most understandable statement for any U.S. American who has spent any time especially in Vienna. The Viennese in particular can be quite grumpy and rather closed. Yet there are parts of the Austrian mentality I treasure and can identify with.

In my early years (about 20 years ago) there was a referendum about (a) should Austria build a hydroelectric plant and (b) should Vienna co-host the World Fair together with Budapest. The Austrians voted yes to the hydroelectric plant (green, modern thinking) and no to the World Fair, which, apparently, they felt would bring too much crime into the country. The money it would have brought wasn’t important enough to them to balance what they saw as the disadvantages. In general, the Austrians are willing to put their money where their mouths are. (Take a look at the tax rate and, on the other hand, the social services some day.)

In a similar vein, I saw today in the free newspaper “Heute” that in an opinion poll 42% of Austrians said yes to the higher taxes and the austerity package the government is proposing. They understand that you can’t go on spending money you don’t have and that you need to get money somewhere (e.g., from taxes) if you have a deficit. I can really respect such pragmatism and only wish my country were willing to let some of this rub off on them.

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