Today I would like to share Tania’s story with you. Tania comes from Latin America and had an intriguing journey to end up here in Vienna. She has been a part of Women of Vienna since the beginning and has also been working on her own project which features the stories of multi-cultural couples. I’d encourage you to check it out!
I was born in a really, really small town Nicaragua that is so small that if you look it up in google maps you won´t find it. . You have to travel a whole day by bus to get to any major cities. My father is from Austria, even though he is my step father, I don’t see anybody else as my father other than him. He was doing social projects when he met my mom and afterwards they decided to be together and to form a family. And he took us as his daughters, so to say. Ever since then they have been together and that is how my whole traveling around the world started. My father was not really happy, well, he liked Nicaragua, but he didn’t like it for us, for the girls, he wanted us to have a nice education. So the first years of my life, until I was five, we traveled around Nicaragua doing social work. Then my second sister came,.
We travelled around a lot and until he noticed that it was enough of Nicaragua. He wanted to come back to Austria because of our education and because he wanted my grandparents to meet us and so on. So we came to Austria for one and half years. It was not that much. We were in Linz, I was there and was in school and made some friends. I was actually the one who could talk in German the most. But then my father found a job in Guatemala, in Central America, and it was a really good position. So we went back and we lived there for ten years.
Guatemala is the place where I can say I grew up. I went to school there and I even graduated there. It was an Austrian school, so I got my Matura actually. Eighty percent of the classes were in German, even math and chemistry. That was the worst for me. In 2010 I got the Matura and I was expecting to stay in Guatemala and to start college there. I was used to it, I was used to depending on a car and my parents and how everything worked there. But the contract was over so my father decided either we would go back to Austria or we would go to Nicaragua. My father said, “But your mother is from Nicaragua, why don’t we give Nicaragua a chance.” So we went to Nicaragua.
I was really down. I was so used to Guatemala. I had everything in Guatemala, I had this picture that I was going to be in Guatemala for a long, long time, I had friends there, and my whole childhood was there. I had a boyfriend. Nicaragua to me was like a small town. I had been there, but I didn’t remember what it was like to live there. I just had this picture of me being born in a small town where there was nothing, not even college, not even cell phones, nothing. And college didn’t start until March and we had arrived in December. My little sister went to school and my parents were working so I was at home alone the whole time doing nothing and chatting on Facebook with my friends in Guatemala. They were asking “ when are you coming back?” and I had this idea in my mind that after four years I would go back.
My parents came to Austria in that summer, but I was in college so I couldn’t come. My father realized how amazing Austria was. They were here for a month and he saw how my sister could go out and not have to worry about if she would come back. So he realized that he was not that happy in Nicaragua. So he gave me the chance to choose whether I stayed in Nicaragua and finish college or come to Austria. If I came to Austria, I had to come by myself for a whole six months. When they came back to Nicaragua in the summer I was in Guatemala visiting my friends. And my father told me, “If you decide to travel to Austria, you have to come tomorrow from Guatemala to Nicaragua because you are flying in two days.” I decided to go. I went to Nicaragua by bus and we talked that night, I packed my things and I came to Vienna. In two days.
I only came to Austria for holidays or vacations, so I didn’t have that many friends here. When I visited I was just with my grandparents traveling around the country. I liked Austria a lot, it’s beautiful. But I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be here. I had the Austrian Matura though so getting into the university wasn’t that hard. Some of my friends from Austrian school in Guatemala where already here too. But it was hard because I didn’t have many friends and if I did have friends, they were male friends. My sister is like my best friend and I was really missing her a lot.
I came here without knowing anyone, without knowing the system, without knowing how things work. And it was not even the career I wanted; I wanted to study graphic design or photography, but in Austria you have to be really good to study it. I didn’t even get the chance because I wasn’t prepared. In Guatemala you just choose your career, you pay the tuition and you get in. But here in Austria it’s different, if you haven’t had the preparation and you haven’t been working on it for a whole year, you don’t have any chance.
University was another thing. I was used to university being small groups. You know everybody, you get along with everybody. Here, on my first day, there were 700 people in the auditorium. It was impossible to get to know someone. You saw the same people just once or twice during the semester. And Austrian people are hard to get to know, so it was really double trouble for me in the beginning. If they asked me something they were always like, “Where are you from, what is your story?” They never asked anything else. That was it. That was enough. They were just being polite.
The first month I was really happy because I hadn’t had the freedom for years of just going out at night. Nine in the evening I could just take the bus and go out and do anything. In Vienna, I like that everything is thirty minutes away. It was really the first time I felt free. But It actually took me a lot of time to think about what I was going to do with my life. If I am here in Austria, I want to get to know the Austrian culture, the Austrian people, the Austrian way of life. That’s when I actually decided I was going to finish school and start being involved in Austria and start doing something for my life.
At that time I had met a boy, a Hungarian boy. We have been together for two years and he actually changed my life, changed my way of seeing Vienna. He was not that happy with Vienna either and had the same kind of problems I had of coming here. When I met him I changed my whole idea of being in Vienna. We hate Vienna and love Vienna at the same time. We love that we can go out and do something fun like go and watch the cinema outdoors. Or take the bus for thirty minutes and you are in the woods. We enjoy that a lot about Vienna. But there are other times when I want to pack my things and go. Leave Vienna. This is not my country, not my culture, not my people, not my language. I miss my language. I miss just being able to express myself and not having to think about what I am going to say. But actually, I am very grateful to be in Vienna. Everything that happened to me, it happened for a reason.
My entire life has been really multi-cultural. I grew up with an Austrian dad and Nicaraguan mother. Both cultures were mixed at home. I say Danke, or Guten Morgen or Guten Nacht. I don’t use Buenos Noches, I use the German words. But at home we speak in Spanish. My father wanted to talk to us in German , but he didn’t feel comfortable speaking in Hochdeutsch and didn’t want to teach us dialect. We are constantly living in a dilemma if we want to live Austria and be a part of it, to try to be a part of the whole system. Or we could go back to Nicaragua or Guatemala where we can feel more at home. But on the other hand you don’t have the opportunities that you have in Vienna. The doors are open for you to try whatever you want. Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve done so many things that, in Guatemala, I think I wouldn’t have done. Like right now I am doing a free radio show. And I’m starting a master’s in journalism. I didn’t imagine that my career would have such a turn. Vienna really opens up with doors for students to really be someone in that field, not just study to have a diploma.
My whole life I have had influences of both cultures. I never imagined having a boyfriend from another culture. So it’s a third culture in my life. I was thinking about it once, if there are many couples who have the same problems as us. Not big problems, but problems with communication. I can speak three languages, but I can’t make myself understood. It’s so complicated. And he speaks Croatian, Hungarian, English and German so between us we have five languages and it is still hard. I asked him once, “Do you think there are many couples who have these problems, these problems with communication and culture where you just don’t get each other?”
That’s how my project started. I started just posting on Facebook and many couples came to me. The first couple was from Austria and Mexico. And one was Michelle, from Bosnia and United States. All the stories are so amazing. I can only post little details from their stories in my blog, but I have so many little things in my head that they told me. Such cute little things that they do to make it work. Even though the language may be trouble, they still fight for their relationship.
I’m in search of a home. In the future I plan to have a house and be stable and not travel around. When I tell my story sometimes people think I am trying to brag,” Yeah, I’ve been there and there and there”. But somehow this moving around has had an influence on me. Sometimes it’s not so easy. Like making friends and having to leave them.
I became an adult here in Austria. In Vienna. I realized it was time for me to grow up. But it’s really hard to grow up when you don’t have someone to share that with. I cannot say, “oh yes, were going to meet with a childhood friend of mine,” or something because they are all on the other side of the world. And when I tell my boyfriend we are going to get married, he asks me, “Which of your friends are you going to invite?” and that is hard to answer because my real friends are back in Guatemala or Nicaragua. I know many people, but there’s no one person who is mine, who I would want to have in my wedding or something. But I try to stay positive and to get to know people. For example, we have been hanging out a lot with one of the couples I met through my project. She’s from Greece and he’s from Turkey and I never imagined that we would get along with people from such different cultures so well. But they had the same problems as we did. She told me that when she gets upset, she wants to yell at him in Greek, but she has to stay patient because he doesn’t understand her. And it’s the same problem we have. It’s nice to have friends who understand.