“Ihre Fahrscheine, bitte” (“Tickets, please”)

24 Jan

The public transportation system in Vienna works, one could say, on the honor system. You do not need to show your ticket when you get on but you do need to have one in case you encounter a Fahrscheinkontrolle (ticket inspection). Surely one of the less popular jobs in Vienna is that of “Kontrolleur” (ticket inspector), mainly because they are subjected to a fair amount of animosity.

Very early on I noticed how the atmosphere in a tram would change for the worse as soon as the (in those days) two middle-aged Austrian men stood up and asked to see tickets. The first time I experienced it I saw how a dog who was peacefully and happily sitting next to his master’s leg slunk under the seat and cowered there as if in fear of great evil. (Yes, dogs are allowed on public transportation in Vienna–but they, too, need to have tickets.)

It doesn’t happen often, but today I heard the dreaded phrase, “Ihre Fahrscheine, bitte”. And immediately noticed something different. The voice that spoke had a distinct foreign accent. Turkish, perhaps. And I thought, “Ah, one more unpleasant job the Viennese have outsourced to the Gastarbeiter.”

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For those of you who don’t know, Gastarbeiter was the term used to refer to migrants who came to Austria and Germany, often from Turkey or then Yugoslavia, to work and then return to their countries for their retirement. They usually took over jobs the Austrians and Germans didn’t want to do like sweeping the streets. These days¬†the fastest growing group of Gastarbeiter in Austria–who often work as waiters, for example–is the Germans!

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