So this week, I’ve been in Austria, visiting friends that I met during my Erasmus, friends who were only in Strasbourg for one semester. And although I love Austria, I don’t think it’s a place that I could see myself living in.
First of all, there is a lack of multiculturalism. As someone who is from London, I’m used to seeing multiple races on a daily basis. I’m used to interacting with different people from different backgrounds. And for me Austria was the complete opposite. There was, however, what I call ‘a reasonably healthy Asian population’, which means I saw more Asians in Austria than I expected, which was not a lot. As for people of my own skin tone, I saw less than 20 in 5 days, and only 3 women wearing hijabs.
This may be weird to some, me noticing, and counting the different minority groups that I came into contact with in Austria, but it was such a shock for me. I visited 3 different cities (Vienna, Linz and Salzburg) and saw no diversity. Salzburg was for me the worst city for multiculturalism because I saw zero people of colour, and I received a lot of stares and weird looks from the Austrian natives.
This led me to have a conversation with my Austrian friend that I was visiting, and she admitted to never noticing the disparity of representation in Austria, to her it was perfectly normal.
I’m from the city that just elected its first Muslim Mayor, whereas for her a Muslim person in such a high position would be impossible in this day and age. My Austrian friend did proudly mention that for the first time in Austrian history, there is a Muslim woman in one of the nine Austrian cabinets, however one of the key reasons to the Muslim woman’s appointment was because she does not wear a hijab. My friend, did say that if said woman did decide to wear a hijab, she along with other women will feel offended because in Austria women who wear hijabs are automatically seen as oppressed women. I find this ridiculous, I have a lot of Muslim friends and family members, some who wear hijab, some who don’t, and all of them out of choice. Of course I know that some women are forced to wear a hijab, but to assume that all Muslim women do it due to oppression is oppression. By forcing them not to wear a hijab, you are taking away their freedom to choose to wear a hijab.
So although, I love Austria with its rich history, and the fact that Marie Antoinette was born there, I don’t think that I could ever live there. Five days of being stared at as if I’m an alien is more than enough. And also I like the idea that I can hold a prominent position in politics, despite my religion, race or gender. I love London.