Not too surprisingly it is rather cold here. It is still bearable, however, and also slowly getting warmer. There is quite some snow but it is also not too bad. It actually looks really nice… Life is mainly different because I am only working on my computer now, so I spend way too much time indoors and with my computer. But of course I try to go for walks every day and I was also supposed to help with breeding bird counts, but this has to wait for later in the year (as most birds that breed here won't start before the snow is gone, which will still be a couple months at least).
Apart from the climate and the fact that I don't have a job, of course there are many things that are quite different here. Well, here where I live, the main difference is, that public transport is barely existent and it is quite hard to get anywhere without a car. Of course I don't have to go too many places so it doesn't matter too much but I sometimes wish there was a route taxi that I could take, that passes every five minutes, rather than the train that goes every 2 hours and costs like ten times as much as a route taxi would cost. But you also get used to that and, as I said, I don't really have to go anywhere, which helps.
Daily life is much more structured and less flexible than in Mexico. You actually have to go to the supermarket to buy food, you can't just wait on the street for a vendor to come along. Of course, this means that, if you don't have a job, you can't just go and sell food on the street to earn money. Instead you go to the AMS and apply for unemployment benefits. I didn't do that because I am unemployed but not looking for a job and these people don't understand the difference. Well, state agencies in general don't understand the difference. But I sometimes miss the flexibility of Mexico. On the other hand, sometimes it is nice to have everything the way people think it's supposed to be.
Also, surprisingly - I never noticed that before - capitalism is much more visible here than in Mexico: in a very obvious way, but then it is obviously also easy not to notice it - because we're so used to it. In Mexico there is very little advertising in public spaces. And if so, then it is usually advertising for events or for other entertainment (like fun parks). In Mexico (at least in rural Mexico) it just makes no point to have advertising for food, clothes or mobile phones. Most clothes are purchased second hand or on markets where brands are invisible, mobile phones mainly need to be cheap and practical and the nice colors and whatever else the ads promise are not interesting and food is usually bought for what it is: milk, yoghurt, fruit, chicken, tortilla and so on. It is not about the design of the packaging and the brand label that's on there. I am sure people know the brands but they are unimportant because usually there is no choice: small stores only hold one brand of milk - because why should they have more? So the advertising may reach the consumers but it won't change their behavior (I doubt that someone will walk further to buy in a different shop just to get a different brand of milk, that otherwise is all the same). And for this reason shops are just what they are. There is no need to make your shop look better than it is or better than the shop next door. I find it funny - and sad - that in Europe literally everything seems to be marketed in a certain way: using a certain language (number one, the best, experts, and so on) and the colors and big symbols that they use. Why do I write about this? After being away for a while I started to look at all these things from a different perspective and it seem more stupid than ever that we have to be persuaded in all these ways to buy things we don't need, and apparently it works, because otherwise the financial crisis would be much worse than it is and I dare say people all over the world were much better off than they are if we started to realize what we need and what we don't and to stop making an industry of making people believe they need more than they do (sorry for the long sentence!).
Funnily I always wondered walking around in Mexico, how all those little shops manage to survive - I now know they do because capitalism isn't as powerful there as it is here. All the little shops survive because none grow to become really big and rich, meaning the others can continue. They won't get rich but they have enough to survive. Because no one else gets rich. Anyways…
What is really nice about Austria is that there are many hiking paths. You don't have to hike on the streets. And you can actually climb mountains - that is, once the snow is gone. This way you can actually see nature. Of course, the birds here are a little bit boring compared to Mexico, but they are still beautiful - more subtly.
Of course ways of life in the cities in Austria are very different from life in mountain villages. Mountain villages are interesting in many ways. They like to conserve traditions, good and bad. They have their own dialects, they usually have rather strong communities and usually people are rather friendly - compared to people in the city (of course there's friendly and unfriendly people everywhere but this is talking about averages). Many mountain villages, however, get a lot of (ski)tourism. Like everywhere, in places with lots of tourists people stop being friendly. I guess, the tourists are to blame for that. Anyways in Bad Aussee, it is rather interesting that people are on average still friendly despite the tourists. Or maybe because of them? It is also true that, like San Cristobal or Tulum, there is only a certain type of tourists in Bad Aussee. There are lots but it is still not the mainstream tourist destination. In any case, they are friendly but you can also tell that they are not very open and I must look different enough for them to think I don't belong here, as I get those looks all the time. I admit, I don't know what makes me look so different, but it's probably the same thing that makes Mexicans accept me more easily. Not without reason the famous trans-gender Austrian winner of the European song contest (if you don't know it, leave it that way) comes from this region. I must say I feel with him/her, growing up in this place and not fitting in, is not easy. I personally was lucky enough to have a lot of nature around me, making me feel like I did fit in, even though I didn't.
One more important thing to understand is, that winters here are not just a part of the year. Well, they might be now, but say 100 years ago, they weren't. Winter in Bad Aussee often meant that the village was completely blocked from access from outside. Snow on the streets and avalanches made it impossible, often for weeks, to leave the place. In the winter the days are very short and the nights are long. Winters used to be very hard and dangerous. This explains the many traditions that evolved around this time of the year. The point of all of them is to fend off evil spirits. It starts in December with the "Krampus" that accompany the "Nikolaus" (Santa Claus), on the 6th of January the "Glöckler" have the same goal, and finally in February the "Fasching" (carnival) again. In general all of these festivities try to visualize the bad spirits by people dressing up in scary costumes and in some way the fight between good and bad is visualized (usually people don't get hurt, but they do get drunk and as a result some do get hurt after all). Or they make a lot of noise to fend off the evil spirits. Part of each of these traditions is also food sharing. This is how in earlier times, poor people got food from the rich (like the Potluck in Canada). Of course today it is mainly sweets that the children get and people tend to vote for parties that support the idea that if you can't get rich on your own you should be poor, but at the same time within the community they also tend to care for each other to a certain degree.
Now, all of these traditions are known in all of Austria, however, Bad Aussee has its own way to celebrate these festivities and they are much more elaborate than in other places in Austria. This week is Fasching. This includes mainly people dressing up as someone else, and making jokes. Of course, it includes also parties and lots of alcohol. But in Bad Aussee there are several traditional costumes, that do not exist in other places and each of them has their function: "Trommelweiber" (men dressed up as women) play music, walking through the whole town with their drums and trumpets. "Flinserl" (people dressed up in very pretty, shiny robes) have bags full of sweets and when children say a little rhyme they will get sweets (they are kind of like living piñatas). "Pless" (people dressed up with a basket on their head like a helmet with a stick with a dirty cloth attached to it) try to beat people with the cloth, that is wet and dirty from the snow. I am not sure if the general idea is to clean people but normally you would get wet and dirty instead. These are the main figures in the game. Everybody else just dresses up in whichever way they like and play the game throughout the whole town. Now, all of this was true when I was a kid, like 20 years ago. Knowing Bad Aussee it will have changed somewhat but not too much. I am now in Graz though, so can't go and check. The food are the traditional "Krapfen", which used to be available only in February but now you can buy them year-round everywhere. And the "Beigel" which are only known in this region and you can still only buy them around this time of the year. They are basically bread that is baked in a circle. Normally two people share one Beigel and it is traditionally parted this way: both people grab the ring with one hand from opposing ends and just pull. The ring is torn into two pieces which tend not to be equally big and everybody gets the piece they hold.
I personally keep away from all the festivities and keep calm and enjoy nature instead. And being back in Austria, I also take the chance to meet up with friends again before the football season starts.