I live in a small country of under 8 million inhabitants. Tucked into central Europe between the Alps and the Danube, it’s a nation with a big (partly ugly) past and a comfortable present. I’m not a citizen but I call the country and its capital, Vienna, home.
You know you live in a small country when…
- The nation’s pop radio station hosts a Saturday dilemma call-in show called “Frag das Ganze Land” (Ask The Whole Country).
- The radio stations give a traffic update for the whole country every half an hour.
- The national radio and television broadcast stations literally translate to Austria 1, 2, or 3.
- On the day after Christmas there’s a call-in thing where people ask for gift parts that are missing or things that need repair and other folks in the area respond to help.
Having digested the reality of being a small country after a couple hundred years as the seat of a sprawling empire, Austria’s residents take a particular pride in identifying in the collective.
So here we are in the midst of the pandemic and all of Tyrol is under strict quarantine. In the rest of the country restrictions of freedom of movement have taken hold and aside from trips to the grocery store, to work, the pharmacy, to help others or to get outside (alone or with household members only), everyone should stay indoors. So far, so good.
We typically listen to the pop radio station in the kitchen, mostly in the mornings but now that we’re at home all day, we tend to listen more often. Besides the hourly news, there are now regular slogans slipped in alongside reminders about the new conditions.
“Wir, gemeinsam, jetzt.” (We, together, now.) Various guests are on talking about various organizations available for support: hotlines and agencies. This morning there was mention of a serious uptick in calls to the youth hotline – “Rat auf Draht” (Advice on Call) and that more helpers would be added to the bank of responders. The notion of creating a national village of helpful neighbors is never far from the surface and generally I think that’s a good thing. If it seems a little over the top, I think, at least they are sharing reliable, fact-checked information and getting it out to major portion of the country’s citizens. In these times, knowing this can offer relief and comfort.
Under these circumstances, I feel fortunate to live in a place that seems to have clarity of purpose and a plan for mitigating the worst-case scenarios. It’s a small country and that advantage has rarely been more obvious to me than right now.