Monday, August 14, 2017

Water Baby

Austria is known for its beautiful lakes and mountains (and indeed many more beautiful things). While I do love those mountains and am a passionate skier, I hardly ever go hiking. When I do, I always think that I should do this more often and when I see photos taken by my hiking or mountaineering friends, I am always very impressed. This does not mean that it would ever occur to me to choose mountain over lake on a hot summer day. Mountains, for me, are just a beautiful backdrop that I would not want to miss, but lakes, they are to be used actively. A hot summer day spent in a place where there is a body of water, is a day wasted in my book. Whenever I have the opportunity to visit my parents, I will always make sure to take a swim in my beloved Wörthersee, THE most beautiful and most"swimmable" lake in my very biased opinion. Its turquoise water has a hypnotic power over me and I am very grateful to have grown up in this scenic part of Austria. On the first day of June, I bought a 3-months card for Vienna's public outdoor pools (which includes one pool at the Old Danube, close to my new place of work) and I am proud to report that I have already got more of my money's worth out of that card (which retailed at EUR 60.50) by having used it 20 times so far. Even if it is just a quick dip in a lake, river, or chlorinated pool - I am true water baby and summer=swimming for me.

Monday, August 07, 2017


Statue of Lady Justice
Sometimes I really don't "get" women even if I am one myself. I don't know if it is a side effect of getting old(er), but I have noticed that I am getting really impatient when women of my age still hysterically complain about their perceived imperfections the same they did when we were teenagers. Case in point 1, a classmate who feels like such a horrible hirsute grizzly bear that she has been dreaming about/saving up for IPL treatment for years because, in her opinion, her horrible hairy legs cannot otherwise be exposed to the general public (traditional methods like shaving or waxing apparently don't suffice) that she choses to stay indoors on most sunny days. 
Case in point 2, a colleague whose remark, when I complimented her on the dress she was wearing, was a 5-minute monologue along the lines of how "this is actually the only dress I can wear because all other cuts look just awful on me because of my ridiculously narrow shoulders and if they are any shorter you would see my ugly varicose veins...". While I cannot comment on those hidden away "ugly" veins, this lady is slim and has a really good figure.
What is it that so many attractive and smart women (of all ages) still have to put themselves down and are their own most relentless judges? Actually, it is the good looking and intelligent ones in particular who seem to be afflicted by this disease. So much energy is put into finding flaws about their appearance that I sometimes wish they could reinvest it into something positive, like not commenting about other women's outfits or bodies for a starter. 
So much for the theory anyway and I won't claim that I am the perfect poster girl for this "campaign" of mine just yet, but for once, I have long stopped highlighting my own flaws and can graciously accept a nice compliment when I get one. Not converting any opportunity that presents itself in the bitchy comment you have at the tip of your tongue is a little harder, but I like to think that I have improved in this regard (to the point where the Empress one remarked "ah, sorry, forgot that you don't bitch any more") even though I'll probably never get a halo fitted. Other than that, I am effing awesome, and so are YOU!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Time Management

Image from
If you are not Austrian, nor have ever worked in Austria, you might be surprised to learn that Fridays are not considered "full" working days here...unofficially, that is. Any place that has office hours (banks, municipal offices, insurance companies, you name it) is generally not open for business after 2 p.m. max on Friday afternoons. Unless you work in the service industry or in shifts, many companies have flexitime and your weekend is likely to start at 3 p.m. ish, or even earlier.
Problem is, that until now, I had never worked at this time of "normal Austrian company". My first employer, Coma HQ, was Japanese and it was a civil service type environment where we literally had paper punch cards and to obey set times. If you punched in one minute late, it showed up red, rather than black on the card, and you were expected to apologise. If you were Japanese, that apology needed to be accompanied by a humble bow.
My second employer, the Firm, was an American corporation and our working hours were stated in our agreement: 9-6, Mondays to Fridays. We did not have a punch or system that monitored our presence (although I am sure that type of data is recorded in the backend). During my first 5 years I hardly ever left the office earlier than 6 p.m. on Fridays and if I did, I felt slightly guilty and quite naughty.
Now, at the tender age of 45, I seem to finally have joined the majority of Austrian office workers and enjoy early starts into the weekend. The deal for me at HN is 40 hours, overtime not being paid and time not being recorded (again, it likely is tracked somewhere), but how you divide your working time is up to you. The colleagues in my room are early birds who make it to the office around 7:30 and accordingly leave around 3:30 p.m. I find it hard to shake off my 9-ish arrival routine, plus these days getting my pre-work Starbucks fix involves a little detour and thus don't get in that much earlier than I used to at the Firm. Accumulating time to be able to leave early on Fridays, guilt-free, definitely is an incentive, though. On Fridays, the office is more or less deserted as everyone seems to work from home (at least in summer) on that day of the week that is supposed to be "no meeting day". Suits me fine.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Inputs and Outputs. [Sic!]

Every corporation or business entity has its own acronyms, frequently used phrases and codes. I'm gradually getting used to the new lingo and technical terms. I had anticipated that most communication would be in German, but surprisingly more English is spoken and written there than I had expected and my all time favourite "cringe triggers" are major currency. As I have a (bad) reputation for being blunt and outspoken I have shut my mouth so far and not corrected people when they generously used wrong plurals, saying they were still "collecting feedbackS", "asking for more inputS" and so on. I have just innocently offered my proofreading services "should you ever need them... since I studied English, you know." A daily exercise in self-restraint, believe you me.

Monday, July 17, 2017


It's incredible how time flies. With 2 weeks in my new job under my belt those times of blissful weekday dolce vita seem far away already. It feels like I have worked there for much longer and yet many impressions are really striking and new, for me with my background at the Firm probably more so than for somebody who worked at a "normal Austrian company". At the Firm, discussions about entitled employees were rife when I left, essentially those people who behave like spoilt brats and demand more and more without appreciating what they have. Well, one of the first things I did when familiarising myself with the intranet at HN was checking the "benefits" site. My verdict: Mehp. Not that exciting when you are used to so much more being served to you on a silver plate. I have since heard several colleagues, both tenured and new remark on how lucky we are to have so many benefits. It's all relative, I guess. I was even more humbled when, as part of my onboarding experience, I spent one day each at a store that sells HN's products and services, and with colleagues from the customer support service line. Those employees, all considerably younger than myself and earning less than half my salary were so incredibly motivated and proud to go the proverbial extra mile for their customers that I was really impressed. I don't remember ever encountering such enthusiasm at the Firm, even though people had so many more privileges right from day one. It's a bit like when you (well, I, for sure) wondered as a child what it would be like to work in an ice-cream parlour or sweet shop where you would be allowed to indulge in free samples every day. Would you still crave ice-cream or chocolate after months, or years even of working there and feel like the luckiest person in the world? I feel like I worked in the chocolate factory those past 10 years and few colleagues (myself included) actually appreciated all the delicious goodies they were served every day beyond their first weeks.

Monday, July 10, 2017

New Kid on the Block

The question I answered most often last week was "AND, how was your first day/week in your new job?". The answer I gave was always the same: "Super nice colleagues, very nice so far, but the hardware/software shock was just as hard as I thought it would be." Just to give you an idea - it has been years since I worked with Windows and have never in my life tried to schedule a meeting with MS Outlook. OMFG! What literally was 2 clicks with Google calendar now takes about 15 separate steps and makes me want to scream. I didn't even know Internet Explorer is still around and it feels so much more non-intuitive than last time I used it (which was probably back in 1995). I'd love to meet some of the software engineers responsible for making me feel like a computer-illiterate granny and shake them. Very hard. Possibly also slap them.
The first thing I did was order a laptop sleeve for my work laptop (a HP Probook...not TOO bad) as the laptop case that came with it is reminiscent of what might be cutting edge design in North Korea. I asked a colleague if it was o.k. to have stuff sent to the office and she said that it was as long as it was something like books, which could as well be for professional use, but "you know, we've had people who had fridges sent to the office."
I was introduced to so many new people last week at work that my temporary storage obviously reached max capacity. At the second of two birthday parties on Saturday, I managed to re-introduce myself to somebody I had just spent 5 five minutes talking with...

Monday, July 03, 2017

Back to *School*

While half of Austria is in summer holiday mode (summer holidays in Vienna have already begun and students in other parts of Austria only have one week to go before they are off for 2 months, too) and you can feel a lazy vacation vibe in the air, yours truly, however, is swimming against the current and is beginning her new job today. It's a somewhat weird feeling to already have enjoyed a good dose of summer - thanks, dear weather gods for working with me, here! - and have the type of tan lines in June that I usually only see at the end of August, if at all. I am definitely well refreshed and ready for returning to a new treadmill, but I feel very out of synch with my teacher friends who are now breathing a long sigh of relief after intense weeks running up to their well-deserved summer break. For me, it's back to "school" now and I am very curious to find out how I like my class and teachers.
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