Women

Gender differences in Austria

As great part of my life I lived among multi-language folks (including national minorities in Kyrgyzstan), my ability to catch the meaning at non-verbal level developed to degree of intuition that small children and domestic animals have from the start. Analyzing my communications, I noticed that while small part of me followed the words, other part was busy observing not what people said, but how they did it, registering slight changes in mimic and tone.
Kids see aura of people and feel their emotional vibrations – this electromagnetic nimbus around head, which for many may occur imperceptible, but glimpse of which anyone can catch if looking somebody straight in the eye or at space between eyes longer than usual, as children often do.
In Austrian emigration my tendency to judge by voice and emanations developed extremely. Sometimes my moods were euphoric or sank down only because somebody looked at me in the wrong way.
After years of experience I gathered observations that seemed strange and didn’t fit any concepts I read about. The cornerstone of my physiognomy was comparative analyze of people reactions in social situations in their gender variations. I discovered that Austrian men and women reacted in many situations differently, especially if confronted with certain problem.
To start with, in numerous cases, when I searched for assistance in social institutions, the female representatives, were rarely helpful. Moreover, they tended to aggravate the situation by bureaucratic approach and intentional withdraw from support. The problem presented to them could be seen as insoluble, if only it would not be solved later by male clerk of the same level. Administration, immigration organizations, employment office, bank, supermarkets, hospitals, practitioner watch rooms and drug stores, restaurants and libraries- everywhere where I searched for assistance or service, expressing readiness to rely on kind advice, women were normally inclined to follow only formal rules, which hardly gave space to initiation and helpfulness, and men were apt to act on impulse of compassion and sympathy, even bringing novelty in codes. Men as usual demonstrated also more profound competence and wiliness to cooperate. Later I concluded that on some reason it was much easier to touch functionary and employer heart, if he was a man, and  when  confronted in office by dame, I knew from the very beginning that the case was lost. Female employers, who summoned me for interview appeared to be strict in nature and prospect to see them satisfied as part of my professional duty gave me creeps. It seemed hard to please educated middle-aged self-important European woman, who presented to world her synthetic smile and elegant outfit, but stayed ever cold in her core.
Even during shortest social interactions, many women showed unavoidable detachment and tended to bring note of negativity in the scenery.
Sometimes they demonstrated not only toughness, but also ruthlessness. I will never forget one dame from Graz Landesregierung, who supervised my visa issue and kept me in state of horror for a few years, and only intervention of higher authority, who occurred to be male, secured my further stay in Austria.
I felt bewildered about the phenomenon and wondered, what could be the reason of such great gender polarity of attitudes. Femininity for me always meant humanity, empathy and mercy. They say one must respect rules, though any cruelty can be justified by following the rules. When one neglects ethics and acts according to rules only, the concentration camps with gas cells may sooner or later appear in the scenery.
But strong half of humankind never stopped to surprise me. Executive males often proved readiness to assist and demonstrated such “feminine” qualities as compassion and tolerance!
Trying to find more further testimony of my observations, I decided to make small experiment recently visiting number of Vienna drug-stores with plea to provide nose-spay for me without doctor receipt. Story was that I could not sleep with blocked nose (true) and that my doctor was on vacation(false). Such spray was in the list of medicines not available for free sale.
I visited all drug-stores in my neighborhood and some in center of Vienna. The results confirmed my theory, that female druggists tend to act on formal rules and males on impulse of compassion. Four female druggists refused to dispute any sale without receipt, two females listened to complains with compassion, but stayed in limits of their duties, one young male accompanied his reject with sincere apologies, and eventually one older male druggist after giving me inquisitive look, provided medicine, breaking the rules.
At first I thought, may be my personality type and appearance were more applicable to males, than females, and perhaps subconscious competitiveness between females played definite role here. But often I appeared to be poorly dressed, without make up or hairdo, and communicated to glamorous ladies of responsibility who in no case could see concurrent in me.
Women, in spite of all emancipation gains, till now stay true to their motherhood mission, and this mission affects all they do in life far beyond borders of fertile age. As if females stay for ever true in their mind to task of fertility, cherishing in their own face all unborn children and demonstrating higher level of egocentricity, than males. Manifesting her maternity core in everything she does, woman may present to people around quite ruthless image of mother-wolf, protecting her offspring.
But there are always exceptions in the rule.
Sometimes I visit Thalia shop, looking through books and gladly seeing one wide-hipped woman in spectacles, who works in book order department. She has soft white hands and the sort of halo about her. Her utterly positive vibrations and her humorous kind smile many a time helped me to restore my feeling of self-worth.
Other is the young woman in one of Hütteldorferstrasse drugstores. She has pale, luminous face, framed by mass of dark-brown hair. When meeting with her for the first time, you may be struck by her strange, quiet half-smile, which radiates intimate warmth. You may feel urge to come back and repeat exciting experience . But then you may be a bit disappointed, when you discover that her mystifying smile is always there at her face for everybody.

Galina Toktalieva

Kyrgyzstan-born author residing in Graz, Austria

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1 Response

  1. Alberto says:

    Dear Galina, I’ll come again visiting your blog ‘couse it’s so interesting. At the moment I’m so busy, with my mom in coma in hospital and my mother in law dead two months ago so our life goes actually a little complicated. I promise you I will come again soon.
    Alberto