In other words, I am semi-retired. Clearly my four years of university have made me deserve this laid-back lifestyle, right? And I believe that Austria, as a whole, is also semi-retired, so this is a great place for me to be.
There's a great German term that has occasionally be used in English: Gemütlichkeit. According to Wikipedia, its connotation is "the notion of belonging, social acceptance, cheerfulness, the absence of anything hectic and the opportunity to spend quality time." Basically, this is the Austrian lifestyle, particularly outside of Vienna. It seems to me that retired people in America finally take the time to try to attain these goals, but many of us over-worked, stressed-out Americans have no idea how to chill out.
|Bench in the middle of a apricot tree grove|
Despite all these holidays, Austrians are not lazy; most work approximately 40 hours a week. It’s common to start the day around 7 so as to create longer afternoons, or, I believe, to allow themselves time for a longer lunch. As lunch is the main meal of the day, it’s generally taken quite seriously. Many restaurants offer a 3-course meal for lunch for just 5 or 6 euro. I have often caught my school’s principal (and other teachers) enjoying a glass of wine with his lunch at my school’s restaurant, something that wouldn’t exactly fly in American public schools.
|Bench looking at the Danube|
Schools are a great place to witness Gemütlichkeit. Many of my colleagues are taking part in or preparing for their sabbatical year, by working additional hours now or receiving only half-pay for this year. It’s a concept that I have only ever witnessed in universities in the States, and even then, you are expected to DO something during that time. A woman I tutor is on her sabbatical year and spends her time babysitting her grandchildren, reading, taking dancing lessons with her husband, and practicing her English and Italian. That sounds like a great retired lifestyle to me.
Anyway, as the year draws to an end (3 weeks!), I find myself worrying about what life will be like back in the States. I’m going to start working 40 hours a week two days after I return home… when will I have time to read books, nap, cook elaborate meals and gather my thoughts sitting on a park bench!?
|Bench in the middle of nowhere near Mürzzuschlag|