Not everyone goes to the Opera in Vienna.
Not everyone spends two hours at Cafe Central.
Certainly not everyone goes to Budapest for a weekend.
Who can afford these opportunities? Who is aware of how the systems to participate work?
I have been to the opera several times because I love opera, have the time to go, and know how to get standing room tickets for three or four Euros. An amazing deal, but still not feasible or worthwhile for everyone.
Money is uncomfortable for me to talk about because how much we earn, spend and save, as well as how much we are willing to talk about it, often leaves an impression on others about our morals and socioeconomic status. Time and place also contribute to how people talk about money, as I’ve noticed from my time in New York, Atlanta and Vienna.
I find myself often irritated when people talk “too much” about prices, wages, bank accounts, etcetera. What constitutes as “too much” in my subjective perspective? Of course I understand that, unfortunately, money strongly dictates quality of life and is a determining factor for many choices we make. I’m not an economist, and I am basing these observations on the small fraction of people in the world I have met. People who are largely privileged.
Ah, and there it is, privilege. There’s no “right way” to talk about these things when everyone has vastly different definitions. That’s part of the problem, nobody wants to offend each other. I do my best to consider others’ perspectives, but it is still hard for me not to get irritated by how people spend their time and money, though I think more so I am bothered by how people talk about money. Things are cheap, things are expensive, I saved a lot, it was a great deal, I couldn’t afford that, I would never pay that much… the list goes on, and I use these phrases, too. I’m not trying to censor anyone, but the overwhelming focus on money can be frustrating to me, which I realize only someone in a position of privilege would say. Maybe people have different thresholds for money talk, or maybe some people don’t care.
Like many other college students, I am bothered when people don’t recognize their privilege, or their relative position among other people. As not to put myself on a pedestal, I know I am guilty of being inconsiderate.
Enough rambling, what does this have to do with my time in Vienna?
The first world problems of not knowing how to spend my time and money, comparing my choices to those of other students and knowing they are doing the same.
Specifics: accepting that some people will fly to a different country every weekend, affording to go with IES Abroad on a day trip to the Wachau in April, being excited about a bag of pasta for 75 cents, treating myself to a Cinderella cocktail at the Vegan Ball, not knowing how to confront people who owe you cash… the list goes on.
There is no “right way” to talk about money, or everyone has a different idea of the “right way.” I do my best to save and spend according to my personal situation, and remind myself that every individual’s situation is unique and frankly, none of my business. When I don’t want to talk about money, I stay quiet or politely say I don’t want to talk about it. There is little more I can do.
There is more we can do in other ways. My heart goes out to the victims and survivors of the shooting at Parkland High School, but sentiment is not action. I am searching for ways to cause change in my home country from overseas, because I cannot sit by and watch tragedies happen without reacting. Simultaneously, I am determined to help people here in Vienna. Is it my place as an American to volunteer with a project that supports refugees and migrants in Vienna? I hope I can help in any small way while I am here.
Lastly, global climate change is very real. The North Pole is currently warmer than parts of Europe and plot twist, coal is not the answer. Next week, I will visit the offices of the European Union and the United Nations in Vienna and hope to learn more about how these coalitions address finances, violence, refugees and migrants and climate change.