While skimming news over this morning’s breakfast a story from the Washington Post caught my eye, mostly because this isn’t really anything new: “United States lags Europe on paid vacation time.”

According to the article,
“Oh, to be Austrian.
In its latest update on vacation and holiday rules among developed countries, the Center for Economic Policy and Research notes that the United States remains alone as the only rich nation without legally mandated vacations for employees, and with no requirement that official holidays come with extra pay and a compensating day off. 
The closest (miserly) competitor is Japan, where workers are guaranteed at least 10 days off with pay. The Austrians may be all about northern European frugality, but their paid time off tops the heap: 22 vacation days, 13 holidays, and  month’s pay to help with vacation expenses. And if you hang around a place for six years, you can swing 49 days off with pay. If you count weekends, that’s 153 days off vs. 212 days of work in a year-or a goof off-to-work ratio of .72” (emphasis mine)

About that frugality. I’ll share just a couple of anecdotes, which in no way, I have to believe, reflect the character of the entire Austrian population. When one of my friends informed the (Austrian) owner of their house that one of the burners on their electric cooktop had failed, the owner replied, “Well, you still have three you can use.”

When I informed the (Austrian) owner of our house that the sink stopper in the master bathroom did not work; that is, it can not be pushed down at all to stopper the sink, I was told, “Treat it with love.” She refused to replace it.

The master bathroom tub drains has drained very slowly ever since we moved in. It likely has not been professionally snaked in many years, as the entire tub is encased in ceramic tile and is without an access panel.  We have used drain cleaners with no success.  When I asked the owner of our house in the first month we lived here if she would contact a professional plumber to clean the drain, we were told, “no,” because “it is our fault for allowing the dog’s hair to go down the drain.” Right. The owner of our house is not frugal, she is cheap.

About that vacation time. With 153 days off annually, you would think it a challenge to find a sour-puss Austrian, right? What’s not to like about only working 3 out of every 4 days? Even Tony is looking forward to “Summer Hours” at the UN, meaning he can leave the office 30 minutes earlier than usual each work day.

Kudos to me, for I found a sour-puss Austrian today!

Anna Grace and I are departing on a two week holiday to the Balkans and Istanbul once school breaks for the summer, and part of our travel includes the Austrian state train system, ÖsterreichBundesBahn, or ÖBB for short. The ÖBB offers a discount family card, the cost of which pays for itself very quickly. So off to the ÖBB station here in the English-speaking 19th I went today, with passports, photos, and every other ID I thought I might need.

Me: Gruß Gott!  Bitte sehr, Sprechen Sie Englisch?

ÖBB: Nein.

Me: OK. Ich möchte eine Vorteilscard Anwendung, bitte. (I had asked for the family card application. In my best Germ-English.)

I completed the application and returned to Herr Sour-Puss. He asked me something about residency, and I submitted my Residence Card.  In pretty decent English, he stated:

You cannot have a FamilieCard. You are not Austrian.

The fact that he is DEAD WRONG notwithstanding, I realized I was not going to get anywhere with Herr SourPuss, so I thanked him, called him a camel’s ass (in Arabic. Because I can.) and set off on a much more satisfying errand: shoe shopping.

I could compose a long and wending post about the Austrian Postal System and what happens when I forget to ship an online purchase to the UN address and use our home address instead; rather, I will just share the pretty new ballerinas Frau Helpful-and-Pleasant helped me select (in German!) at the Geox store.

Later this week I will engage with the ÖBB folks at different station, one where my Residence Card-holding peers have had success.  Now I must get to the grocery store, as we leave Wednesday for an overnight to “Czech Canada” (isn’t your curiosity piqued?), and Thursday is another Austrian holiday so the country will be closed upon our return.

Oh, to be Austrian.