What is Austria?

by Sebastian Beer

"At the Soccer World Championships I watched Austria vs. Cameroon. On one side weird looking people, strange culture and wild rites — on the other side, Cameroon."

Dieter Nuhr, German comedian

By the time you read these lines, WDC XVII in Vancouver will be history, and most of you will be looking forward to next year's WDC in Austria (remember: after WDC is before WDC!). However, it might prove hard looking forward to something when you have no clue about what it's going to look like. Rephrased: what is this Austria, what awaits people who are planning to attend WDC 2008, and why should players — who are not yet sure whether to attend or rather stay at home doing some useful stuff — think it over and decide to come by?

Here are some answers.

Some Basics

So, WDC XVIII in 2008 will be held in Austria.

"Austria?", you might ask; and how could I blame you? For all I know, Austria is the smallest country ever to host a WDC. However, if you for example happen to be a participant of last year's WDC XVI at Berlin, you got to know Germany (as Berlin is a German supply center). How does that help? Well, Germany is the small and rather insignificant country north of Austria (sometimes referred to as "Northern Austria", though people in Germany don't like to hear that very much). And people say that Austria and Germay have a lot in common (though this time, Austrians don't like to hear that).

If Berlin 2006 was out of your reach, you might as well take a look at your Diplomacy board. Yes, the country in red — that's Austria! However, some adjustments need to be done as an update of the geographical situation. First of all, get rid of Hungary (just as we did a couple of years ago). If you don't know how to accomplish that, ask any Austrian — we are sort of experts when it comes to the task of losing significant parts of our territory. Once you've done the trick with Budapest, you should continue and remove Tri as well (don't ask…). Now, you've turned the Austrian superpower from the beginning of the 20th century into basically what it is now: not a superpower anymore (it took us forty years…).


The next thing that is quite inappropriate on your board is the Austrian military power. First remove the fleet. Yes, contrary to your board, Austria is landlocked nowadays, which makes fleets rather useless to us. Remove also the army in Budapest; by losing Hungary, we lost a lot of Hungarians as well (just don't tell them if you happen to see some) and also their units.

Should you leave the Viennese army then, you might ask? No, better remove it too. Military power is not something we Austrians can be all too proud of. What else to say about an army that has "bluff and camouflage" as a motto?


No fleets, no army, no Hungarians… what actually IS there in Austria worth coming to see in 2008?

First of all, there is beer. This is obviously an important thing to say, since in last year's survey a vast majority of players stated that "good beer" is among the most important things to convince them to attend a Con. Very well then — a few facts that speak for themselves: 9 million hectolitres of beer were sold in Austria in 2006. That makes about 100 litres per Austrian a year. Even more, if you take the 0 to 8 year-olds out of consideration, because they don't habitually drink in Austria. Taking into account also that Austria regards itself as a wine-drinking country (31 litres per Austrian sold last year), everything speaks for the quality of our alcoholic beverages (and hence for your coming in 2008).


Taking a look at your Diplomacy board again, you will see that Vienna plays an important role in our country. Compared to the rest of Austria, our capital city (Vienna) is quite big; almost every fourth Austrian lives in Vienna. For comparison, imagine 70 million people living in Washington D.C. ! You get the point. Vienna was actually built as capital city for the superpower Austria you know from Diplomacy. Austria shrank, Vienna didn't.

Outside of Vienna there is countryside. The runner up to Vienna when it comes to large Austrian cities is Graz, containing a massive of 300,000 inhabitants.

Countryside, as I said before.


If you get the impression that every Austrian you meet speaks a different language, you're quite right. Austria is more or less a few mountains and valleys. And since travelling over mountains is quite strenous, people usually stayed in their valleys, adopting to different ways of speaking years ago. Nowadays, we have cablecars. The German we speak in Austria is said to be a funny one. This can easily be proved. A German in Austria will always be understood (though smiled at for his unusual dialect); an Austrian in Germany will have to adopt some standard German, or suffer the fate of not being able to express himself properly. Germans won't laugh at him; they simply will not get what he says.


We Austrians actually are proud of ignoring almost every sport of any wordwide significance. This policy of staying away from any major event of international interest enables us to invest huge amounts of money into sports nobody else is interested in. Therefore we are good at skiing, for example.

And that's basically it.

So, if you come to Austria in summer (and WDC 2008 will be held in August), simply don't mention this topic. Your hosts will be grateful.


Every last bit of artistic life in Austria died several centuries ago. Which is why we are so fond of our history, by the way. The correct reaction to an Austrian telling you about Austrian history is nodding benevolently; also a "marvellous" or "ain't that interesting" every now and then works.

(If you want to get rid of the guy, just ask him about Austrian military victories or, if it is summer, about sport. He'll soon lose interest in the conversation.)


The first thing that comes to everybody's mind if you drop the keywords "Austria" and "movie" is "Sound of Music". This movie might have had the worst influence on the Austrian image abroad. To spare you dropping a brick here: no, not everyone in Austria is singing all the time. That movie is what we in Austria call a "musical".

So do you?

There you have it.

And no, not everyone in Austria is wearing funny clothes. At least not in Vienna, where life tends to be quite "modern" compared to our image. We even have electricity, internet, TV, and women's suffrage (though frankly, not all of these achievements have proven to be useful).


The decisive factor in Austrian politics is the deep and heartfelt longing buried inside every true Austrian soul: love for the Kaiser. It is buried so deeply that we don't care that there hasn't been a Kaiser for almost a century. When it comes to an election in Austria, people tend to forget about ideologies or party politics; they elect whoever resembles the most kaiser-like President, Chancellor, Mayor or whatever there is to elect.

Schwarzenegger, by the way, is currently trying to become Kaiser of the US if you guys over there don't do anything about it. Never forget that this guy is an Austrian. If he gets elected he will behave kaiserly indeed. And lose significant amounts of your territory, maybe to Cuba or Canada or…

Humm. There I stand, realizing that my task actually was to tell you something about our plans for WDC 2008, and I ended up with a beginner's lesson on Austria. Never mind; what I told you might prove useful next year, should you decide to take a look at the Austrian culture yourself by coming to WDC 2008. And there is still enough time to provide more information about WDC in the next couple of issues of the Pouch, so I guess that means you'll hear again from me soon. The eager ones among you may meanwhile take a look at our WDC site:


Where the hard facts about WDC 2008 are presented!

Sebastian Beer
(s.beer@tu-felix-austria.org )

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