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Like most Filipinos, coming to Austria is a dream come true. I know a number of “kababayans” who are willing to give up everything just to get hold of that much coveted Austrian visa – kahit tourist visa lang, total may paraan daw naman para maging legal!
I came to Austria in the early 90′s. I had mixed emotions when I left the country, sad and yet excited. Leaving my family and friends made me sad and upset. I was not willing to let go of my old life then. I was afraid to start all over again. But part of me was also excited just to be able to set foot on the other side of the world.
But nothing could ever prepare me for the culture shock that I was bound to experience. People I met on the streets were so courteous and never missed to ask – “Wie geht es Ihnen?” (How are you?). I always got tongue-tied and for a while I did not know what to say.
Weather was the hardest adjustment of all. From a tropical country where we only knew sunshine and rainy season, I got introduced to the four seasons with extreme heat and cold. Spring can be very uplifting for spirits, too. It gets you out of the winter depression moods.
Looking to the brighter side, I have observed Austrians to be very law-abiding citizens. They have so much respect for and fear of law enforcers. Nobody wants to get pulled over for any traffic violations because it stays in their records for sometime and it can be a factor for high insurance premium.
Who can complain about the medical and insurance system? I lost count of the number of consultations I had since I got here but I never paid a single Euro. Support systems are everywhere, even for alcoholics, gamblers, drug addicts, unwed mothers… this list could go on and on.
It’s just been more than 20 years since I got here. Yet, in spite of all of these struggles with the weather and culture, I still can say that I am blessed, for whatever reason. No matter how difficult the circumstances, there is always a reason to be thankful for. That attitude keeps me going the extra mile.
Living in Austria is like starting life all over again. Somehow we have to start somewhere, and for most, it could mean starting at the bottom. Change is the only constant thing in this world. But with prayers, family and friends, we know we will get to where we want to go. A long journey begins with a single step. Slowly, but surely.
Mag. Hector Pascua