Posted by: megaschwez | February 1, 2009

Weird things about Austria

I acknowledge that, broadly speaking, the cultural differences between Australia and Austria can be tagged with the keywords ‘minor’ and ‘endearing’. However, here is the first in a series of things that I think are weird about Austria:

The Shelf (please read with a good hour either side of breakfast)

Take a moment, dear readers, to picture in your mind-hole the closest toilet. You will notice, in your mental picture, that there is water in the toilet, and that the general goal of going to the toilet is to aim into that water. Now, imagine that someone built a shelf inside the toilet, above the water but below the rim. This is what Austrian toilets look like.

The Shelf

The shelf, as far as I can tell, performs the function of a display cabinet, allowing you to cast your eyes on your completed product. Alas, it also allows for maximum circulation of air around said product, which results in a challenge for even Glen-20.

Why does the shelf exist, you ask? Buggered if I know. To enable a review and pride in a task well-executed? For health administration reasons? Unsure. Far be it from me to cast aspersions on an idea I don’t quite understand. But I am here to tell you that there is nothing that comes out of my body that I enjoy inspecting, particularly not a) first thing in the morning b) with a hangover or c) when a. and b. combine. The moral of this story: Don’t ever complain about a little splash. It is by far a lesser evil.


There are at least 5 supermarket chains with catchy yet meaningless one-word names like ‘Billa’, ‘Hofer’, ‘Lidl’ and  ‘Bipa’. However, there is nowhere where I can get obtain all of the following products: Tea, fresh fruit, hair wax, sunflower seeds, vacuum cleaner bag, loofah. Some stores are cosmetics-only, some have only a limited range of fruit and vegetables, some don’t stock household products. And none of them are open on Sundays. I never thought I would miss Woolworths and shopping malls in general.

I once thought the idea of walking down to the town centre to go to the butcher, then the baker, then the cosmetic store, then the grocer was quasi-idyllic. I now know that it’s just inconvenient. Westfield would make a killing here. You heard it here first.

Newspaper stands

Because newsagents aren’t open on Sunday either, every newspaper hangs up a little bag on lampposts around town. The bag contains the Saturday paper and a little slot marked €2 or €1,50. The idea is, the responsible citizens of the Republic of Austria put in their Euro coins and hurry home with their weekend newspaper in their honest little hands.

Having grown up in the crime capital of Western Sydney, a few things immediately occurred to me. 1. Why don’t people just take the paper? 2. Why don’t people take the paper AND break into the money box? 3. Can you IMAGINE that system in Sydney?

I subsequently found out that no one, in practice, actually puts €2 into the slot. Most people put in 1c or 2c coins, just so they don’t look suspicious. Which I think takes the whole thing to a new and more hilarious level. Why don’t the printers just acknowledge that no one pays and just put them out for free? I shake my head in confusion *shakes head in confusion*


  1. 1) ALOL
    2) you have ‘shelf’ as a tag — brilliant
    3) ALOL
    4) OMG A PHOTO OF THE SHELF….. THE SHELF! What were they thinking!?

  2. Dear Megaschwez,

    A very fine opening blog entry, fine lady (I feel this sentence is a ‘fragment’ but I’ve chosen to ignore).

    During this reading experience I felt ill, nostalgic, shocked, amused, bigoted and then wholeheartedly redeemed.

    Jolly good show!

    Madam (MADAM) Tilberry, Esq.

  3. very funny:-)

  4. Ha!! they are weird!!

  5. I am Austrian and nobody i know has a “shelf-toilet”. I think this is a fairytale that you have invented when you were combining a & b of your getting up drunk in the morning ritual.
    Most of the supermarket chains’ names have a meaning: billa derives from “BILLig LAden” which means inexpensive shop. The same for Bipa which is actually BIllige PArfümerie – inexpensive perfumery. The others are not austrian but german which explains why they have meaningless names.
    I never had any problems to get all the listed products above as i just go to billa and bipa and buy them .. It’s simple as that.

    • Tanx constanze, was pissed about the country as having a plan to move in there

  6. damn this is outdated… talking about the newspaper-stands: I never put money in them, but mostly take the papers from one stand to another (mixing up Krone, Kurier, Standard and so on), or even take them and put it on the windshields of some cars!

    Talking about toilets: you can find two different types (this one you show is a Flachspüler, most used ones are so-called Tiefspüler with low water). The “good” thing about the Flachspüler is that it enforces men to sit down, and the main difference from your toilets is that they usually use way less water!

  7. I know it’s outdated, but as an austrian I want to leave a comment.

    Some people here have these toilets you are talking about, but it’s very rare actually.

    About the newspaper stands. It is not true that nobody pays. There are a lot people who actually put the money in. Of course some are exploiting it though.

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