Topic I: Ethnicity, Race and Culture: Austria
Austria is not a big country; it’s ranked on 115th place in total area and 92nd in total population. But not so long ago the Austrian-Hungarian Empire was one of the “big players” by the end of the 19th century in Europe. That Empire has been a mixture of many different and strongly varying cultures and ethnicities, which remains as one of the reasons why it probably fell apart and got divided into different nations. So what is it now, that makes an Austrian an Austrian and why is he so much different than somebody from Hungary, Czech Republic or Germany; this is the main topic of this essay.
The first part of the essay will give a short overview of what ethnicity, race and culture in general stands for. Therefor I will give a short introduction about these topics and try to explain how they are used today. Later on, my focus and the main part of this work will include aspects in which Austrian Culture influences people (in Austria and in general) and try to find answers to the question: “What is typically or specific for the Austrian culture and the national identity?“ To make this essay a little bit more thought-provoking, I will divide the main part into two parts. The first will consist of features which I perceive from being an Austrian citizen; the second part will attempt to give an indication of features that caught the attention of people who were not born or raised in Austria.
Before I start with my major writing, first a short anecdote about the Austrian dialect, which is, let us say, an indicator for Austria’s culture and race: “The Austrian dialect is about as pretty because the talk resistant changes between self-indulgence and pulling oneself together back and forth play. It thus allows an irreplaceable wealth of right projecting temper.” This short quote from the German author and poet Christian Morgenstern gives already very precise and helpful “informations” about culture in Austria. To understand what the author was trying to say with this quote you have to appreciate the remarkable gap that lies in between Austrian and German culture. Even though most people in the world (if they even know where Austria is located!) think of Austrian Culture as a very similar to the German culture, which might be not even so far away from the truth but indeed, there are important and noteworthy differences. One of them is that Austrians can be projected with the adjectives “cozy”, “comfy” and “unhurried” compared to the adjectives Germans are illustrious for in the world, such as “detailed”, “precise” and “hardworking”. From my point of view it is quiet right to say that a big part of the Austrian Culture lies somewhere in between, and that is what Christian Morgenstern was trying to say with his quote.
But before I go too deep, let us start from the very beginning: What is culture? Well, this is not an easy question to answer because there are various definitions for this word. I will state here two different definitions of culture. Geert Hofstede defined a very common set of models for international cultures. For him culture “is the collective programming of the human mind that distinguishes the members of on human group from those of another. Culture in this sense is a system of collectively held values.” (Hofstede 1990, p. 20) Whereas Edgar Schein, who was written one of the best and informative books on organizational culture, defines culture “as the deeper level of basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by members of an organization that operate unconsciously and define in a basic `taken for granted´ fashion an organization’s view of itself and its environment.” (Schein 1994, p.17) From these two definitions it is already quite obvious that culture has very much to do with groups. A basic need of groups is the ability to communicate, both at a superficial level (for which ordinary language largely suffices) and also at a deeper level of...