What’s it like being a Jamaican living in Austria?

In our “Jamaicans to the World” Facebook Live show, founder Xavier Murphy speaks with Althea. She is a Jamaican living in Austria.

Xavier: What is it like being a Jamaican in Austria? Hi, I’m Xavier Murphy, the founder of Today in Jamaicans to the world, we talk to Althea Goldberg, who is a Jamaican living in Austria. Welcome Althea, how are you?

Althea: Thank you I’m fine, I’m doing fine, I’m doing fine.

Xavier: Good, good. Tell us your story. How did you get to Austria?

Austria Monument

Althea: Okay, it started like this. I was living in Jamaica and met my ex-husband. It’s an ex-husband because I married before (I was married before). My ex-husband met me on the workplace and that was in Long Bay and it was just friendship and then he invited me to visit him in Germany and I came and spent three months, it was three months, and then I went back and then he invited me back and I came and spend I think seven to eight months. We got married really quick and then I went back, came back 1998, December the 28th of December 1998, and lived in Germany until 2017, end of April, then I moved to Austria. There were some problems, a lot of problems, wi (we) Jamaicans we have problem. It didn’t work, Let’s say that, it didn’t work out, I tried my best and I said to my ex-husband okay, I will leave.

Xavier: Okay.

Althea: I was in Austria and on the street in Austria. I love to take picture; I am a picture person love to take picture. I was taking a picture and it was a selfie and it was giving me a little problem to get the angle, and then came this man and he said to me, “can I help you?” And I said yes and he took the picture, gave me back the telephone, and seh (say) what are you doing here? I said “I am only here for the weekend.” I was there for the weekend in a hotel and he seh (say) “what are you doing here, if I’m leaving?” I said “no, I’m not leaving now, I just came today” and he asked if he could show me a little around in the town and so. And we walk along and he explained, show me little things and sightseeing, call it sightseeing and then we exchanged number. We changed number because that relationship was finished and we changed number and from there we started to have connection, go on dates to get to know each other because he would like to know if it would work, because he’s out of a relationship and I am out of a relationship.

Xavier: Oh, so there’s a love story in this whole thing?

Althea: Yes, and it was really a love story because for dem (them) the 24th of December it’s when they give the present out to the kids and everything like that. And that’s the day I met him, on the 24th of December and yeah, we started just over telephone, telephone contact and he said yes, we have to meet to know if this will work, and I said yes and we meet, we go there and there and then he said, “would you like, you think you could come and live here?” And I said yes. That time I was still living in Germany.

Xavier: Right.

Althea: I tell my ex-husband I would leave, I would leave and I leave and came here and lived with my call it now boyfriend, but we get (got) married.

Xavier: Oh, great.

Althea: Yeah, we get married in quick time, live here quickly, quick. Yeah, everything was quick. It just fit, it just fit, the pot just fit the cover, the cover fit the pot.

Xavier: I like that, I like that. I’m going to ask you because Austria cold. I know German cold, but Germany is cold.

Althea: It’s the same.

Xavier: It’s the same.

Althea: Di two of dem (the two of them) is the same, it’s the same temperature, the same type of climate. It’s the same type of climate.

Xavier: I guh (I am going to) tell you a secret, I’m going to tell you a secret now.

Althea: Okay.

Xavier: I travelled to Europe some years ago, don’t tell my wife now, don’t tell my wife.

Althea: Na (no) I wouldn’t say a thing.

Xavier: We travelled to Europe and we were doing Germany and a couple other places and my wife says we have to go to Austria. We must go to Austria and do you know the only reason why she wanted us to go to Austria? The Sound of Music, you remember the movie, the Sound of Music?

Althea: The Sound of Music, no maybe…

Xavier: Yes!

Althea: Maybe I know it but…

Xavier: Look it up, you look it up and you know it.

Althea: That’s what I’m saying to my husband, I know the movies, I watch a lot of movies but the name, the name I forget, the Sound of Music?

Xavier: That’s the only reason why we went to Austria, and it was the Sound of Music, and even though it was summer, it was still cold.

Althea: When summer, (when in summer). when yuh seh (you say) summer when August, July?

Xavier: I’m talking bout (about) maybe June, July, and it was still cold.

Althea: It’s true, it’s true.

Xavier: Yes!

Althea: In 2007, when I was living in Germany my mom came to visit me, and it was July and we had was to (we had to) heat the house and she had warm, warm clothes, really warm clothes. It was really cold, we had was to (we had to) heat the house like every second day or something like that. It was really cold, yes it can really cold (yes it can be really cold), yes it’s true.

Xavier: Tell me about Austria, tell me about the people. What are the people like? What is the people (what are the people)…how are they; are they warm, how are the people there?

Althea: Okay, I’m living in the capital, it’s Vienna and I’m right beside the UN building where I’m living. I would say it’s multiculture, it’s multiculture we say it’s a multikulturell, it’s a German word. There’s a lot of people from different countries here, because it’s the UN right there, just right down there, a lot of people. I would say they are warm. They welcome anybody, kaaz (because) tourists. When I tell you about tourists, here it’s like a tourist spot kaaz (because) where I was living in Germany; I didn’t see so many tourists. But, when you go into the first district, kaaz (because) Wien has 23 province, Wien, Vienna 23 province. And the first is the centre of the city where everything goes on and when you go out there and you see people it’s just lively. People sit down enjoying the summer, tourists a lot; you see a lot of Chinese tourists, I don’t know if Japan, Thailand, but tourists from all over the world German, lot (a lot) of tourists. They are very friendly, they are very friendly put it together, they are friendly people. I’m here almost four years, I didn’t have problem nothing.

Xavier: Good, do they have any type of what I’d say culture; from a cultural perspective, the people from Austria. Do they have anything that you’d say man (okay); this is just how their culture is. Maybe it is something like, if yuh (you) cum (come) you have to drink tea or that’s the British. I’m saying that’s the British. I don’t know if in Austria, if you visit someone in Austria, you visit their house the first thing yuh (you) come in dem guh say (they are going to say) come and do this or you know I’m saying is there any tradition, culture from the people that you’ve observed?

Althea: Mhmm, to be honest, I won’t lie to you. I haven’t been, even though I’m here four years I haven’t been around so much.

Xavier: Okay.

Xavier: But like for my mother-in-law and those people. They just (they’re just) friendly, but I can’t give you a specific.

Xavier: Right.

Althea: I can’t give a specific, to be honest; I can’t give a specific, no I can’t.

Xavier: Alright, alright that’s fine. So let’s dive into the other part of what some say is a subset of culture, which is food. Tell us about the food in Austria. What would you say is the thing, if a Jamaica cum (come) there or anybody cum (come) there, they must try. What’s the thing you’d say?

Althea: Okay, you know I know the questions that you normally ask, and I wasn’t prepared for this, because let I (me) tell you. I’m a real Jamaican and I love my Jamaican food and I have problem with food in Germany, problem with food here. But I eat the food, but what they eat here a lot is Wiener Schnitzel. I don’t know if you ever hear that word, Wiener Schnitzel or Schweinebraten, Wiener Schnitzel.

Xavier: Okay.

Althea: Wien, it’s Vienna Wien because in English it’s Vienna and in German it’s Wien. So it’s Wiener Schnitzel, it’s a big piece of beef. It’s original from beef, but they make it some time with pork but it’s from beef and it would dip in first into flour then egg and then bread crumbs and then put into oil and fried. Then Schweinebraten it’s a big piece of pork meat and it is in a brown sauce and they make it with potato dumpling and you get some purple cabbage with it. That is like a tradition thing and they have lot (a lot) of sweet things like Gugelhupf and Mozartkugel. You know Mozartkugel is from here.
Xavier: Right.

Althea: They have lot (alot) of things; they have lot (a lot) of things. So smoked pork, they like steckerlfisch, the fish that they put on the stick and roast it and eat it.

Xavier: Okay.

Althea: Yes, yes, yes.

Xavier: That sounds interesting. So yuh seh (you said) you miss your Jamaican food and you have you know. what is the Jamaican food you miss the most?

Althea: Everything, everything mi (me) miss everything. I don’t eat pork, I don’t eat pork since 20 odd years now kaaz (because) I used to eat a lot of pork when I was back home at my grandmother, and once I eat it I had was to throw up and I tried many times I really spicy it and when wi seh (we say) spicy you know seasoning it and I put ginger in deh (there) and try it again but it didn’t work so I just leave it. I don’t eat pork, but here there is a big supermarket they call it Prosi owned by some Indians and there you go and you get a lot of things. Yuh (you) get lot (a lot) of African food, you get Jamaica rum, Easter time yuh (you) get Jamaica bun, yuh (you) get the ackee in the tin, yuh (you) get the callaloo in the tin. I went there to get Benjamin vanilla, I didn’t get it but I get (got) McLas, it’s a new brand I think in Jamaica. It write Jamaica McLas, I go there get my ginger beer, you get the yam from Africa, you get plantain, green banana, cocoa.

Xavier: You are more fortunate than quite a few of the people that I have spoken to.

Althea: That’s what I was saying. Yes, we get a lot, yes we get a lot.

Xavier: You are very fortunate, because a lot of people I talk to there is not even the African store sell some of the stuff that you’re talking about there.

Althea: I know I listen it, I listen it (I listen to it) and hear and seh (say) oh my God but I was listening this one from France he was trying to do a start-up thing and that’s very nice, that’s very nice but…

Xavier: Good.

Althea: here you have a lot of Africans that have their little shop and they sell their African stuff and you know we have similar things to the Africans. We don’t get the yellow yam, wi (we) don’t get wi (we/our) Renta, St Vincent, but we get a yam and it’s really, really nice, it’s really nice.

Xavier: Yes.

Althea: And the plantain, when it’s plantain time they’re really fit. You know in the cold time it (it is) transported earlier so it get (gets) a little brown but it still can work, it still work.

Xavier: Good.

Althea: You get Cassava, every little thing.

Xavier: I was surprised on my visit to Nigeria and Ghana and they said yellow yam is not the yam there it’s white yam.

Althea: Yeah, it’s kind of white yam.

Xavier: Yeah, and for us yellow yam is number one.

Althea: Yes, I love yellow yam, mi luv mi (I love my) yellow yam with everything. I love yellow yam.

Xavier: You mentioned when we were talking you gave me the German names and the English names or I think German. Austria; what languages do they speak there, is it I believe they speak… some places speak German is it or is it… and there is also another language?

Althea: Right, it’s German, German is the language but I don’t know if you know Austria it has border to Slovakia, it has border to Germany, it has border to Switzerland and few more country, Poland. I don’t know I didn’t do that. I was living in Germany and learned that in my head how many countries border to Germany. Like the border country, the people at the border would say they speak a little, they speak German and they can speak a little of the next country but it’s German is the language only that they have the dialect like how wi (we) have wi (we/our) Patois.

Xavier: Okay, I see and you seem very fluent in German because I can see yuh (you) actually are thinking in terms of how do I say this like? It’s almost like you were deep in German and deep in Germany where you didn’t get to use much of the English, it almost feels that way.

Althea: You hit the nail on the head; you hit the nail on the head. Let I (me) tell you, because you didn’t ask this question where in Jamaica mi (I am) from and stuff like that. Alright, I…what was the question again, my German. The funny thing…

Xavier: The question was, here’s the question, not really a question it was more of an observation I made.

Althea: Right, it take me long to answer. I leave Jamaica

Xavier: During our conversation, it seems like your…

Althea: Sorry.

Xavier: Go ahead.

Althea: I leave (left) Jamaica when I was 26…

Xavier: Right.

Althea: And came here, so after leaving school I didn’t study, I go straight to work. I don’t know if you know Long Bay, there was a big bar and grocery shop ocean view and there I were (was) working, there I met my husband and then came here and I didn’t know that I could go and learn a skill so I didn’t learn a skill. So all I did was watch TV, read the newspaper even though I didn’t understand I read the newspaper. I tek (took) the dictionary and try to translate but it’s very hard to translate but it’s not like how wi (we) would seh (say) a sentence and it goes straight, it mix it turns around. Sometime what we have at the end it’s in the middle or before and I didn’t go to school to learn it and that is the thing everybody say ”oh your German so good, your German so good, you should do this, you should do this”. Yes, I find it hard sometimes to find the English word.

Xavier: You didn’t go to school?

Althea: I then (I would then) have to go to the German word to find the English word that’s true.

Xavier: Exactly, I was watching you and even when we are having the conversation, I’m like you’re actually thinking in German maybe for the most part. Because maybe when you were in Germany as you said, and you and I spoke a little bit before the interview you had mentioned you know you weren’t in a big town in Germany per se so you may not again I’m assuming now you may not have had a lot of English speakers around you.

Althea: No, and when I came there I could count how many blacks on this this hand alone. It was just few, it was just a few black people and my ex-husband he was in Jamaica on his seventh trip, his seventh trip that’s when I met him. And when we came back there were no black people in the area away from two African guy from Nigeria that I know, that’s the only two and there wasn’t any contact. I had was to (I had to) keep on speaking our patois kaaz (because) he would speak patois. That’s why I was laughing and was to say I know what the lady was talking in Spain (I know what the lady in Spain was talking about) that we speak our patios because he’s perfect with the patois. I didn’t have anybody to speak English with and I keep (kept) on saying I lose my English, I lose (lost) my English. I more speak (I speak more) patois than English.

Xavier: Your German is self-taught?

Althea: Self-taught German, self-taught German.

Xavier: Wow, amazing.

Althea: Okay, I went 14 evenings, 14 evenings for one and a half hour but that was just basic. Where you from (where are you from), your name, and if you go there to ask for that. That was that nothing more, I teach myself.

Xavier: Here’s my next question, so when you meet someone in Austria and they find out that you’re Jamaican, what is the typical reaction?

Austria lakeside

Althea: Wow, Jamaica, yes it’s always that, always, because like even my husband now he noticed it. If you ask somebody and they say you are from a next (another) country they would just say, mhmm, mhmm. But when they hear Jamaica it’s just this wow and how you reach here (how did you get here), why did you leave your warm country here or something like that but I used to it (but I am used to it) and they (they are) used to black people, a lot (there are a lot) of black people here and I met about five or six Jamaican already in the International Church.

Xavier: Okay.

Althea: Six or seven yes so Jamaicans are here. There’s a lady here they call, I don’t remember I wouldn’t even call her name now, but like they say she’s the [gunstein?] that’s German. Okay, she was the first Jamaican may be that here (that was here) and she was here over 50 odd years that lady.

Xavier: Oh

Althea: Fifty odd years yes, yes long, long.

Xavier: So visiting Austria, if I was to visit or anybody was to visit Austria is there one place or one thing or experience you’d say to them you have to guh (go) see or you must go visit this, so you must do this, what would that be?

Althea: Oh man, that’s very hard because I like to travel and there’s so many things here so many but, like if you go on the internet, they tell you (they’ll tell you) different things but like. There’s a place not far from here where I’m living they call it Prater, it’s the amusement park. Everything that you can think of is there everything. Madame Tussauds go right back to all these amusement things and what I love I’ve not visited there but I will one day go there. I’ve been to a next one (another one) but not that one. I would love to go to Vienna Opera Ball where they are dress in these white and black suit and dancing all these, what you call it (what do you call it) Cha-cha-cha, Rumba all these things. That is very interesting I think Americans…

Xavier: Is it a one…

Althea: know about it, this big New Year’s ball that they always keep (have) with this man named Richard Lugner and he always invited somebody from America. It’s always somebody from very I wouldn’t say high rank I would say actress or an actor always there, but it’s always a woman because he always want the woman to open the ball. Kaaz (because) the last time he did it was Ornella Muti I think, Ornella Muti and Lindsey Vonn should come the year before and she didn’t come or she was to came (come) and Ornella Muti step in for her.

Xavier: I see.

Althea: Vienna Opera Ball and the First District is very nice it’s amazing it’s like a whole town with lots of huge building, universität, the State Opera House, a lot. it’s a lot to see. But, people that like amusement would go to Prater. They like to go in these amusement park and people that love to dance go there; Vienna Opera Ball.

Xavier: And it’s New Year’s you seh (say) it’s New Year’s they have it?

Althea: Yes, they do it New Year’s but they have a lot more. They have a lot more different, different type of ball. I don’t really know all the names but I’ve been to one where you put on this traditional dress. I don’t know if you ever hear about the Dirndl or the Lederhosen; the leather pants.

Xavier: Not me.

Althea: It’s a traditional dress for German and here and I think some place in Switzerland. Where they wear this leather pants and the leather shoes and the lady in a dress with something like an apron and you well put together and I was on that one; that ball.

Xavier: Good.

Althea: They dance like what I say Cha-cha-cha, Rumba, different, different…

Xavier: And all these different dances

Althea: Waltz and all those, right, right, right.

Xavier: You bring up music, yuh (you) hear any Reggae there?

Althea: Yes, I hear Reggae…

Xavier: You hear Reggae…

Althea: They luv (love) to play Bob Marley.

Xavier: Actually you know what…

Althea: They play Bob Marley on the radio almost every day.

Xavier: You’re right.

Althea: They play Sean Paul, they play Shaggy and Jimmy Cliff, Jimmy Cliff yes.

Xavier: Good, good. You know…

Althea: These mostly they play (they play these mostly).

Xavier: when we visited, we visited Innsbruck.

Althea: Innsbruck, oh that’s a little distance from me now yes.

Xavier: Yes, and we were at a restaurant there and we heard a Bob Marley song come on while we were in this outdoor restaurant and every server at the restaurant knew the song and was singing it you know and we were totally amazed. We’re in this way-out place in Austria and we’re hearing everybody they just knew the song.

Althea: Yes, but it’s the same here, it’s the same here because alright let I (me) tell you. I came here four years and in the four years I met Inner Circle, went backstage right here I meet (met) Inner Circle, I meet (met) Ky-Mani Marley, I met Anthony B and who else did I met? (meet) But these are Jamaicans that cum (come) here and have concert right on the, they call it Donauinsel. It’s a little island they made between the river. This big river by the name of Danube, it’s Donau, Danube and it have two little spring off ; they make an island in between and on that island they have every year. The last three years they have (had) International Beach Volleyball keep dear (there).

Xavier: Okay.

Althea: And they have Africa days, two weeks Africa days.

Xavier: Oh, nice.

Althea: And the headliner is always someone from back out, they were there. I was at the front and I have my Jamaican flag and I singing (I was singing) and dancing and tell them I want autographs, so I got to meet them there.

Xavier: That’s awesome Althea that’s awesome. I guh (I am going) to switch up topics a little bit now. You’ve been there years, do you have any family that is in Europe with you, kids, maybe other family any you know since you’ve been there all this time?

Althea: Okay, now in Austria, I’m here with mi (my) husband and mi (my) husband family. I tell you it hurts but it’s so. I leave (left) my four kids in Germany. I had three sons back in Jamaica and I take (took) them to Germany with me not same time after. I took my youngest son first and then the two last sons and I had a daughter for my ex-husband. They are all in Germany working, my daughter studying now and my oldest son marry (got married) and had two sons, I’m a grandmother sitting down here.

Xavier: Congratulations!

Althea: They’re all there. I visit, okay before the year before the Covid (the year before Covid) that was the year when my grandson, the first grandson born (was born). I travelled every month and visit and this year I was there like January, February, but July was the last I went there because of the Covid I didn’t try to go back and forth I just stay home, I stay home. My four kids are in Germany.

Xavier: Okay.

Althea: They were here to visit and stuff.

Xavier: I see and it’s not too bad in terms of a journey because what train? You take the bullet train or the…

Althea: Right, I take the fast train and my son drive up here.

Xavier: Right.

Althea: The two younger one take the train.

Xavier: Listen Althea, thank you very much for just sharing your story and an insight into Austria. So here is how I typically, I’m closing this out as I tried to get a Jamaican in every country in the world. I need you to teach me how to say goodbye in whatever the most unofficial way they say goodbye because yuh (you) know Jamaican; ketch yuh pon de strangs (catch you on the strongs-catch up on another day), lickkle more (little more-see you later) or whatever. Not the formal, we don’t say a formal goodbye wen wi a seh ih tuh one anedda (when we are saying it to one another). How would you say goodbye to another person in Austria in the most informal way? And you’re teaching me now.

Austria winter

Althea: Yes I know let me say something before okay. You know I have to go back in Germany.

Xavier: Right.

Althea: I was living in Bavaria, so it’s the same thing like here. You (seh) say Wiedersehen, Auf Wiedersehen that mean you see again. But here in Wien, the most people say Baba and it sounds like you seh (said) Papa because I think it was Papa but it’s B-a-b-a, Baba.

Xavier: All right, so here is how we gonna (going to) close out. Althea thanks again. Any final words?

Althea: Final words, okay I would say if somebody would like to come here I want to be honest. If you don’t have a job coming to a job, don’t come. If you’re not coming to a job don’t come. It’s very hard to get a job if you don’t have a job because then you end up doing what you don’t want to do and it’s really hard and please learn the language, learn the language. It’s very important to learn the language because how are you going to get around? You need to learn the language.

Xavier: All right, good points and I’m glad you brought that up very good points there. Althea thanks again and how do we say it now Baba?

Althea: Wiedersehen or Baba, Wiedersehen.

Xavier: Wiedersehen Baba or just Baba?

Althea: Baba, it’s B-a-b-a but when they say it you don’t hear that B, Baba.

Xavier: Baba.

Althea: Baba.

Photos  – Deposit Photos

About the author

Xavier Murphy