Now, this may partly because I don’t understand many of the adverts plastered around Vienna, but there feels to be a lot less advertising here than in London. Sure, Vienna isn’t without posters and billboards and video ads, but there’s something about London’s approach to advertising that made me at times feel more like a consumer than a resident.
Everything is up for sale in London. For example, if you’re a company and you want your name on the London Underground map, then for the right price you can do it. (£36 million for 10 years – Emirates Air Line). The city’s biggest new tourist attraction is M&Ms World. The (few) bins in the City of London all have video screens embedded into them, to show you a quick ad while you discard your rubbish. Some were also tracking people’s mobile phones until last year.
Everything is “sponsored”. And while each sponsorship is a little cost saving for the city, in total they add up to seeing company and brand names everywhere.
Vienna does have its own quirks. there are lots of posters on the streets and the Vienna cycle hire scheme is sponsored like the London one. And I was surprised to see a giant Coca Cola advert across the front of one of the city’s main churches:
Part of the reason I find advertising in London to be more wearisome is that it often isn’t selling anything. It’s just raising brand awareness, repeating the same words over and over trying to get stuck in your head. In contrast, a lot of the posters on the streets of Vienna are for upcoming concerts.
Maybe when my German has improved I’ll learn to dislike Viennese advertising as much as London’s. Until then, I’m happy to be faced with slightly fewer recognisable slogans and logos each day here.
London is designed for lunch. Hundreds of thousands of people commute into the centre each day, and the majority buy lunch. It makes grab-and-go meals an incredibly large and competitive industry in the city. Lots of chains have been established to offer everything you could want (sandwiches, soups, pasta, salads, sushi, curry…) and almost everything is made fresh on the day. They are set up for speed, quality and not too ridiculous pricing.
Vienna doesn’t have the same army of suited workers like London. The bakery chains offer sandwiches, but there isn’t much else available if you’re in a hurry.
Vienna’s cafes serve a range of cheap dishes over lunchtime, which are nice if you’ve got the time for table service.
It’s another feature of the city that subtly encourages life at a slightly slower pace.
I like that words in German can be so literal and logical. For example, once you know that shoes in German are “Schuhe”:
Gloves are shoes for the hands and therefore are “Handschuhe”.
Slippers are shoes for in the house and therefore are “Hausschuhe”.
You can buy plenty of drugs in London, no questions asked. All the things which are useful to have around just in case: painkiller, cough and throat medicine, antidiarrheal, tablets against allergic reactions and indigestion. You can pick all of them up in a Boots store, or indeed lots of supermarkets.
And they’re so cheap! Want 16 doses of moderately powerful pain killer? That’s 35p. It makes creating a little box of standby medication very easy.
I thought when I first moved to Vienna that the store DM was equivalent to Boots in the UK, but they don’t actually sell drugs. It’s seems the law here is a lot stricter, so all pharmaceuticals have to be bought from trained staff at an “Apotheke”. Instead what DM sells are various plant-based alternatives without active ingredients.
I’ve also found it harder to find the same super cheap versions of medicines here. I don’t know which approach to the sale of medicine is better, but each time I’m back in the UK I take advantage and do a little drug shopping.
Wine in Vienna is amazing.
No, not the €2 two litre bottles in the photo above (I haven’t tried them), but the ordinary stuff you can get in any supermarket or “Vinothek” which costs €3 or €4 or €5 a bottle. The selection is mostly from Austria, and most of it is nice to drink.
This is odd to me because in London you do not buy a €5 bottle of wine and expect it to taste nice. €5 is the level where it’s just about the cheapest one in the shop and you’re buying it purely for getting drunk / taking to the house party of someone you don’t like.
The reason for this is tax: of a €5 bottle of wine in the UK, €3.80 goes to the government, so the wine is actually €1.20. A €4 bottle? That’s less than €0.50 wine! Plus, the UK doesn’t make much wine (reason: weather) so it’s all imported.
All that means I’ve steered clear of wine while being in London and told people that I’m not a “wine person”. However, now that I’m in a country where it’s basically as cheap as water, bring it on!
You have to be quick when paying at a supermarket in Vienna. The cheaper the supermarket, the faster you have to pay and get out of the way. Checkouts in the UK never used to feel like relaxing places to me, but compared to Vienna they are.
Here’s how it works in Vienna: as in London, food is placed on a conveyor to get it to the checkout. Unlike in London, from there it’s slid (literally pushed) across the scanner by an employee and you’re expected to catch it at the other end. If you don’t catch it, it might stop before the end of the counter or it might end up on the floor. The employee doesn’t care because they’re already sliding across the next item. And the next. And the next. And they don’t stop until the last item when they immediately demand your cash.
You can try and take on the challenge and stuff it all in your bag at the same speed as it’s coming at you, but remember: these guys are professionals! They do this all day every day! It’s unlikely you’ll succeed. Or you can resign yourself to putting all your shopping back in your trolley/basket and moving it to a dedicated packing area to pack in your own time.
“Do you have your own bag?”, “Do you need any help with packing?”, ” Why are you buying this pumpkin?” are all questions I’ve genuinely been asked by the checkout staff at supermarkets in London. There’s a bit more time given to each customer, and possibly even a short conversation.
No chitchat in Vienna. It might distract you from catching the box of eggs hurtling towards you.
It’s odd to have such a frantic ritual in such a normally calm city.
One of my favourite German words is “Glühbirne”. It means lightbulb. The reason I like it is the way it so accurately describes the appearance of a lightbulb: “glühen” means “to glow” in German, and “Birne” is a pear.
Die Glühbirne: the glowing pear.