An Attempt to describe the Austrian Mentality
by Alexandra Umfahrer
Edited by Galina Toktalieva
Photo by editor
I`m Austrian and I love my country. Nevertheless, some things go wrong and I want to criticize them by means of loving criticism.
To assign a general mentality to a nation can easily lead to prejudices and racism. Not all Austrians fit the characteristics imposed on them. Not all Germans are punctual and industrious, not all Italians are hot tempered. So not all Austrians are the same. But here are the most characteristic traits of nation, how I see them. According to social surveys, the usual reaction of people after a suicide of common contact in USA is: „It`s a shame, he could still do a lot in his life!” – but in Vienna such reaction is:” He’s so lucky, he came to better world!”
The Austrians are fascinated by prospect of morbid escape, they play with the idea of death and are intrigued by it, by its mysterious power and inevitability. It is not the belief in a better kingdom of Christianity that is captivating for us. Death is a permanent part of the Austrian soul. It`s rather a romantic, melancholy longing, which should not be equated with clinic depression, but perhaps with mild forms of it. Austria is the country with very high suicide rate and this shows that romantic longing or attraction to morbid perfection was fulfilled. It´s not accidental that Sigmund Freud found his “wish for death” in Vienna.
Erwin Ringel, a famous Austrian psychoanalyst describes Austria as a land of neuroses. In his important book “Die oesterreichische Seele” Ringel says that the reason for neurosis is result of more than usual emphasis on obedience, politeness and frugality in national upbringing. Because of this tendency, we are forced to look relaxed, goodhearted and nice, concealing our natural negative impulses and aspects. We invite others only in our visitors-room – comfortable, clean and pleasing, where everything goes smoothly. In the backroom, concealed from yeas of others, where we spent most part of our lives, we store all our negative attitudes towards the world, denying that those shadows are real part of ourselves.
It is not so extreme as with Jekyll and Hyde. Nevertheless, neuroses and ambivalence are a fixed part of the Austrian identity.
Now to the most painful part for me: the racism. It is not wise to call a whole country as racist after one or two politicians. It’s horrible and I blame the economic crisis and political situation, but after all 70 % of our population have not elected the FPOE.