Exchange Diaries: From Vienna To Kingston

By Philipp Lürzer (Comm '13)

When I told my friend back in Austria that I would leave Vienna to study in Kingston for one semester, he told me that I was insane. “All you’ll find there is a high security prison,” he said, recalling the time he had passed through the city a couple of years earlier.

I boarded my flight with mixed feelings. On the one hand I was excited to move to the other side of the Atlantic, but on the other, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Was Kingston really a one-horse town?

Now, one month after touch down in Toronto, I can only laugh at my initial concerns. Kingston turned out to be a great getaway for a student in his last year of studies.

Since arriving, I’ve come to learn of three main differences between Vienna and Kingston.

1. Chili Lemongrass Beef? – Yes please!

I naturally expected the culinary offerings in Canada to be quite different from what I was used to back in Austria, so I was quite surprised when I walked past Amadeus Café, the Austro-German hotspot on Princess St. The restaurant is run by a German family and offers very good and authentic Austrian and Bavarian dishes. Still, I didn’t fly 8,000 km to continue eating Flädlesuppe and Semmelknödel.

Instead, I wanted to try as many different Canadian dishes as I could; this was easier said than done. It took me a while to learn that the only “truly Canadian” dish out there was poutine – and to tell you the truth, I ended up not being a big fan. What I do like, though, is the vast variety of international cuisine offered in Kingston. Thai, Japanese, Italian, Greek, American… the list is endless! Back in Vienna I would have had to spend a significant amount of money to have dinner at a good Asian restaurant. Here the food is more reasonably priced, not to mention delicious.

2. Always on the go…

Another big difference between Canada and Vienna is that Canadians seem to do everything on the go whereas in Vienna people tend to take their time. Take dining out at a restaurant, for example. When I go out for dinner with my friends in Vienna it isn’t unusual to stay at the restaurant for several hours. The waiter wouldn’t hand us the bill until long after we had our last bite of Apfelstrudel. Here in Kingston, on the other hand, we are presented the cheque before we’ve even swallowed our last sushi roll. I have to admit that I sometimes miss the cozy atmosphere of a Viennese café.

At the same time I enjoy the perks that come with thinking “on-the-go”; being able to take a blueberry muffin and coffee from Tim Horton’s directly to my 8 a.m. class, for example.

3. The people

I have heard it many times before: “The people in Canada are so nice!” This is something that I can only emphasize. When I landed in Toronto, Laura, one of the five girls I now live with, picked me up from the airport. She immediately made me feel welcome in Canada. This is also true for the rest of the people I met at Queen’s. When I came to Kingston it felt like coming home rather than moving into a new place.

The Viennese, on the other hand, are a rather disgruntled bunch. The waiters in my favorite coffee house might very well make you feel like you did something wrong – even if you only ordered a shot of espresso. A Canadian visitor might be thrown off by this causeless conduct. I say bring it on! The grumpier the better.

Here are a few photos of life in Vienna-quite a contrast from Kingston’s transit system and coffee shops!

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