Archive | Austria and the Austrians RSS feed for this section

Georg Kapsch: The departing head of the Federation of Austrian Industries

13 Jun

This is something that really struck me when I moved to Austria – how the relationship between management and labor was more collaborative than in the U.S.A. There was a sense that Austria as a whole could only do well if everyone was doing all right, that economic success could not happen on the backs of one group.

In this interview, it becomes clear that Georg Kapsch is of the old school. A departing president of the body representing (big) business talking about how to close the gap between rich and poor and how to make sure everyone gets the education they need to be a contributing member of society? Seems pretty radical these days. I hope his successor is on the same page!

A link to the interview is below. Unfortunately, you do have to subscribe to the digital edition to read the whole thing.

https://kurier.at/wirtschaft/georg-kapsch-diese-sommerschule-ist-zu-wenig/400938857

The ORF reporting in the time of the coronavirus

25 Mar

As I was listening to the news this morning I was impressed and grateful for the ORF coverage and general approach to reporting on the coronavirus crisis. One thing they have done is set up a toll-free number where people can call and leave their questions on an answering machine. The questions are then grouped according to concern, the ORF has people getting definitive answers, and the answers are announced on the news. After that, the questions and answers are available on their website. A real service in a time when clear and reliable information helps people take the steps they need to take.

The ORF, by the way, is the national broadcasting corporation in Austria, rather like the BBC is in the U.K.

NYTimes: My Lockdown Diary, From a Small, Old Town in Italy

15 Mar

My Lockdown Diary, From a Small, Old Town in Italy https://nyti.ms/2IJA34u

I read this an hour or two ago and now the ORF (Austrian broadcasting) has just announced that Tyrol is being locked down along these lines.

Political colors in Austria

8 Jan

I may have written before about the colors of Austria’s political parties–black used to be the color of the ÖVP (the conservative party), turquoise is the color of the new ÖVP under Sebastian Kurz, red is the color of the SPÖ (the social democratic party), pink is for the NEOs (the neoliberals), blue is the color of the FPÖ (the right-wing nationalist party), and green is, I believe, self-explanatory.

Commenting on the new coalition government, formed by the turquoise and green parties, President Alexander van der Bellen (formerly of the Greens now an independent) said he hoped for a red-white-red government. Nothing to do with political parties this time. Red-white-red are the colors of the Austrian flag.

Only in Austria?

5 Jan

Austria has the reputation of being “gemütlich”–one of those words that is well-nigh impossible to translate. If you look in the dictionary, the primary suggestion is “comfortable” but “gemütlich” means much more than that. It implies, among other things, an appreciation for a slower pace of life and a preference for quality of life (if a choice must be made) over standard of living as well as for relaxation over precision.

At the same time, it’s not uncommon for Austrians to be very pragmatic in their pursuit of “Gemütlichkeit”. The image above, from today’s Kurier, informs readers of the best times to take vacation, where “best” is defined as getting the most days off while still using the fewest vacation days (and this in a country where five weeks of vacation per year is the legal minimum).

How does this work? Because Austria, unlike the U.S.A., celebrates its holidays on the day they happen, we have something called “window days” (“Fenstertage”). These are the days that fall between a holiday and a weekend. The graphic above shows where the window days fall in 2019, making it easier for people to get the most out of their vacation days.

Only in Austria?

At it again

7 Oct

Austria cleaned up at the EuroSkills competition (for people learning trades and crafts) for the fourth time in a row with a total of 21 medals. Russia (a rather larger country than Austria, if I may point that out) came in second with a total of 19. The Russians did have more gold medals (nine to Austria’s four), but still. I’m so glad there are still countries that promote and reward the trades!

NYTimes: Cleaving to the Medieval, Journeymen Ply Their Trades in Europe

8 Aug

Cleaving to the Medieval, Journeymen Ply Their Trades in Europe https://nyti.ms/2uzbiyq

The Times makes the point that this is a tradition mainly in German-speaking countries. That’s in keeping with the respect for apprenticeships I’m so fond of writing about.

The trades

18 Mar

I have reported in the past on how well Austria does in international competitions of apprentices. Today in the Kurier is an article about how the chosen representatives are already intensively (and, according to the vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce, “conscientiously”) preparing for the WorldSkills competition in Abu Dhabi in October. As usual the competitors are honing their professional skills as well as preparing mentally. This year, in addition, they are working with top sports trainers to improve their performances. Austria takes this seriously. It seems to be almost as much a part of the national identity as the dominance in skiing. And long may it last. I think it’s great that people who make a point of doing their jobs spectacularly well have the chance to gain national and international recognition, not on the basis of how much they earn but on the basis of what they physically produce.

They’re at it again

10 Dec

The EuroSkills championship has just taken place in Göteborg,  Sweden, and once again Austria has done extremely well for such a small country (see below).

At the top of the list is Lisa Janisch, painter. She had the highest points of all competitors and with that got a gold medal and was “Best of Nation” and “Best of Europe”. The tasks she had to complete: painting an inside door in two colors, putting up wallpaper, painting Göteborg’s opera house on a wall (with some technical details I can’t translate because I don’t understand them), speed painting, and finally using a technique of her choice to decorate a 2 m2 wall area. (She chose to paint her shadow on the wall using a sophisticated stucco technique.) She said the hardest part was  completing these tasks well in the time allowed and that she was helped by the fact that she had been practicing all day, every day for months until her boss told her to go home and get some sleep. I continue to love the fact that there are competitions for work performance.

From today’s Kurier the list of winners:

And the former president …

4 Dec

And the former president of Austria, Heinz Fischer, recently was at a gala concert in the Musikverein to celebrate pianist Rudolf Buchbinder’s 70th birthday. One thing I have always appreciated about Fischer is that he likes classical music and can often be seen at concerts, usually without any obvious security. The first time I saw him, I was dissecting a concert with some Austrian friends and interrupted to point and say, “Der Bundespräsident!” They glanced over and said, more or less, “Of course. What did you expect? He often comes to concerts” and turned back to continue our conversation. What did I expect??? A security detail taking the president out through a back passage, not this short, middle-aged man walking out alone looking contemplative.