Ashley: Headed towards the goal one step at a time
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Vienna, etc.
My name is Ashley E. Arreola. I was born and raised just outside of Chicago in NW Indiana and have been living in Vienna since 2008.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I recently started blogging just this past winter as I had finished my Masters Degree and was looking for a job. Due to the new amount of free time and desire to do something productive, I decided to start a blog!
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Tell us about the ways your new life in Vienna differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Life in Vienna is much more- as the Viennese like to say- “gemütlich”, or unhurried and cozy. For a major city, the feel of this place is much more comfortable than anywhere else I have ever been, and I’ve felt this energy from the very beginning. I also appreciate the fact that I learn something new everyday. I feel as if even on the laziest day ever, I am still moving forward as each new day brings a new experience whether it is hearing a new Austrian idiom or discovering an interesting fact in history, there is always something new to learn and people wiling to share their language and culture with me. I would not say that I ever really had difficulty adjusting to the culture except when it comes to dating. Gender roles in Austria, or at least in Vienna, differ greatly in my opinion when compared to the American culture. Dating has definitely been a struggle. As far as culture shock is concerned, it seems to actually only occur when I’m home for the holidays.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Vienna? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I was fairly well prepared before moving to Vienna. I had majored in German in the states and had previously spent a bit of time in Germany, so the transition was smooth. The bureaucracy was a bit of a rude awakening, but you get used to it after a while. If I could change anything, I would have brushed up on my American history before moving here. It’s embarrassing when foreigners know more about your country’s history than you, and I’m well educated!!
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Well, one day I was minding my own business sitting on a park bench across a playground while reading a book. It was lunchtime. A man approached me and posed an odd question, “Do you work?” I thought he was being rather rude, assuming that I sit around and do nothing all day because I was enjoying the afternoon off and reading in a park. I said, “Yes, of course I work, but that has nothing to do with you!” He looked concerned and apologized as he didn’t want to upset me. He then posed the question again! I was getting really upset when he said, “I don’t think you understand me,” (in German). As the entire conversation was held in German, I reassured him that I speak the language and in fact do understand the words that are coming out of this mouth, but I still didn’t get why he was bothering me. He clarified, “I want sex.” I was appalled and obviously told him to get lost. He happily went about his merry little way looking for a woman to have sex with him. As if turns out, I was in the 2nd district and found out the hard way that Leopoldstadt is known for sex tourism and prostitution.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Vienna?
- Have all of your official documents in order
- Know your American history
- Don’t speak so loud in public.
How is the expat community in Vienna? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
As the Vice Chair of Democrats Abroad Austria, I have a lot of contact with the expat community here. At first, I was ashamed to be American and did not embrace my identity. It is a process. After a few years though, I began to long for like-minded people but not just any Americans; rather, Americans that had been living and Austria and understood what I was going through. Democrats Abroad has also provided me with so many amazing opportunities (I met Nancy Pelosi in April) that I never would have had back home, and it also connects me to Americans all over the world. The people are amazing and it feels good to be a part of an organization which encourages and supports American fellowship. I thoroughly enjoy being civically engaged.
How would you summarize your expat life in Vienna in a single, catchy sentence?
I’m headed towards the goal, one step at a time.