Xi Yang

My first year in Villach (Kärnten)

Xi Yang
Home town: Shanghai, China
Age: 31
Start: 2019
Hobbies: meditation, yoga, cooking and hiking

Yesterday my son went  out into the street from a restaurant in Villach town centre. Suddenly he saw an ice cream shop. He stared at the ice cream with shining eyes, like most children who are three. I apologized straight away to the waitress, because my purse was still in the restaurant where we had just eaten. I wanted to pull my little one away. The waitress smiled and said “What child could say NO to an ice cream? Come on, choose a flavour.“ I couldn’t believe my ears. What? Really? A free scoop of ice cream? Finally my son had a scoop of chocolate ice cream in his hand. He looked so happy and said “danke“ to the waitress. She watched him and also enjoyed the moment.

My mother-in-law couldn’t understand anything but she knew what had happened. “It’s just like when I was a child. Then society was as simple as here. If children are lucky they get an ice cream for nothing” she remarked. I could hardly believe it. My childhood was nearly 30 years after my mother-in-law’s. Society had changed. I was born in Shanghai and lived there for 20 years. Then I studied further in Germany and since then I have lived in Rotterdam, The Hague, Stuttgart, Mannheim and Hamburg.

Last year I moved to Villach because of my husband. The town is in the state of Carinthia, on the border with Italy and Slovenia. Before I came here my German friends said: Austria is not Germany, although we speak the same language. The people there are rather conservative. Now nearly a year has passed. I have experienced something else. Definitely, you have the feeling that the people here are more conservative. Almost every kilometre you see a shrine with Jesus in communities. I have never seen that in any other town I have lived in. Still this is a small town. With every third person you meet you find you have somebody you know in common. I feel that the connection between human beings is more important here than in large cities. The local people are open to foreigners and other cultures. There is a Japanese garden nearby where you can learn Japanese cooking. There are a lot of creative events organized by the CIC (Carinthia International Center). There are also Mentoring Programmes with the aim of supporting immigrants so that they can access the job market as quickly as possible. But what really impresses me is the team spirit of the people, the honest attitude towards life which is like a higher spiritual aspiration.