Extending paid parking zones in Graz

Graz_Parkzonen_2018_10

For those aiming to use the personal car in Graz, another bad news – economically speaking at least: from 1-Oct-2018 the authority in charge of paid parking zones decided to extend them and also to change in a few places the less expensive ones (Green Zones) to more expensive and restricted type (Blue Zone).

The map with the changes was published in big resolution format here. As can be seen, they are marked with the “NEW” note, including the conversion of the Green zone in Geidorf neighborhood to a Blue zone.

As of Oct-2018, the prices for parking on those public streets for short periods are described (in German) here. Summary in English:

Green Zones: from Monday to Friday, between 9-20 o’clock: 0.60 Euro/30min
Blue Zones: from Monday to Friday, between 9-20 o’clock and Saturday between 9-13 o’clock: 0.90 Euro/30min.

Heavy snow, cars and public transport

Now, looking back to the winter of 2017-2018 around here, nobody can complain that it was too heavy on snow – it was mostly wet and rainy, with only 2 REAL occasions of heavy show. Today, with the sun shining in the spring’s sky, I try to summarize the experiences of such occasions, in Graz – for people using cars or public transport, like me.

After the first night of snow, one of the main streets in the city was looking like that:

Snow1

Although it was noticeable that snow-plows were run over night, the continuing snow, until the morning, added a supplementary layer of half-melted snow, making almost all drivers much more careful and driving with much slower speeds than usual. On the main streets, shared also by public transport – the buses are the “hardest” hit, and I don’t mean physically (although accidents can always happen), but in relation with the “punctuality” versus the announced schedule. One on-line application of the GVB-Graz (Quando) allows you to monitor the situation of traffic for a certain direction or the arrival of buses/trams in a certain station – one of them, on this main street, looked quite awful, in the above-mentioned morning:

Bus_monitor_real-time.jpgAs one can see, at 9:35 there were to arrive buses planned to be there more than 2 hours ago …. with delays of 124 – 135 minutes. Of course, one advantage of using such app is that you can sit comfortable in your home and go out only when you “see” your bus approaching – considering the time you need to walk to the station, of course.

Now, when the bus will arrive, there is a good chance it will be already crowded with passengers, who also waited, on the previous stops, quite a good amount of time 🙂 So, be prepared that you might not have place to step in the bus…. and, un-lucky you, you’ll have to wait for the next one; in my case, I was lucky enough and get a place in the “sardine-can” 🙂 among the others, having also a nice “view” of the white street in front of us, where, of course, the bus was also driving quite slow and carefully.

Snow2-inBus

Speaking with other colleagues and friends, afterwards, it was obvious that most of companies and public offices had delays in their work on that day, due to the snow overnight and people arriving quite late (one bus coming from outside Graz, on a steep slope in region Ries, had to stop for almost 2 hours due to an accident there – delaying all the people who were coming to work in that morning on the route).

In the evening, with no further snowing over the day, the city’s employees managed to properly clean the streets, with the traffic of cars and public transport coming to its usual pace:

Snow3-cleaned

Working in an international-company, with German-vs-English languages

After some years working here and discussing with colleagues over time (German-speaking and non-German speaking) – especially over subjects of work-style and experiences we had, I thought is not a bad idea to give some hints (or warnings) to others that would have in their mind taking a job here in Austria, in “international-companies” like most of those employing Engineers are promoting themselves.

Considering you are coming for a job from a non-German speaking country (and maybe with no or very little German knowledge), check if the job-ad mentions anything about this language – like one colleague from Italy put it some years ago: “I can speak some German, but not to professional level, so I use English on the job, even if some colleagues are uncomfortable with it and I get German-written emails; I don’t assume responsibility for technical work in a language that I don’t master good enough for that” – and I think he is fully right.

First contact – interview

If you have no previous knowledge of the working environment, no close friends or acquaintances working in the company X or Y already, your fist contact and impression with be during the Interview stage – most probably with some HR person and one or more technical persons (Managers or maybe even an Engineer doing coding work).

However, it might be that at interview the English is used (like with this colleague and others like him) and you might think English is OK. However, I have noticed some ways of checking that, assuming they are honest with you at interview, of course 🙂 :

  • see how good & fluent the project managers or the technical guy is mastering English (and how comfortable is with it, with long sentences especially), outside the technical topics – if you have the chance to drive the discussion in such “collateral” directions
  • ask for proportion of non-German speaking people in the group, team, project you will work in, at that location/city – NOT in the whole company ! This will also show how well prepared the HR person and the project manager are, in knowing their people and team. Here check if you get a “mostly straightforward” answer (like exact numbers or at least some approximate proportion, like 1 in 4, 1 in 10, etc..) OR if you get a VERY evasive answer – like “in our company we support multiculturalism” or “as international company English is widely used” or other avoidance like that – showing that they don’t know (or don’t want to tell) the actual situation.
  • try to insert in discussion also the situation, that me and others stumbled over time after time for more than a decade: email-communication that, in a long discussion-list, is mixed: written in German by some colleagues at some point and in English at some other points in time. You will have to get a grasp of that “history” too, over technical topics, when that mixed-email will come to you – with you not knowing (or very little) German 🙂 …. if they say at interview this is not happening – good for you; if they avoid straightforward answers with generic-talk like above, then you might reconsider working there without knowing German.

Working there – with “traditional” colleagues

Here I would like to mention situations that were somehow “strange” for me and other “outside” colleagues – also from other companies that I keep in contact with, until we managed to understand more from the mind-set and working-style; you can take this as a small guidance or, if not convenient, try to avoid working here.

“Traditional” colleagues are those born and raised in Austria – and maybe even FPÖ supporters, even if politics are officially banned from interfering with work in an international-company. They are the ones waking-up very early, coming in the office around 7:00 (or up to 8:00 if living outside the main city), having already a coffee break around 9:00, sticking to “fixed by tradition” lunch-break that can be 11:30,12:00, etc… and leaving the office, sometimes like clock-work, at 16:00, 16:30, 17…. depending also on the time their Bus or S-Bahn is leaving (for those not living in the city but commuting from near-by 20-40km villages).

If you get into such a group, due to your job, like one non-Austrian colleague explained to me after some 2 years in such environment, you will not be seen very well if, taking for real the “flexible work time” policy you were communicated by HR at interview, you will come at 9 or 9:30 in office and work until 17-18 o’clock; it does not mean that someone will point a finger at you – but you will discover that you are left “out” from more and more discussions on technical issues, that the project manager is involving you less in tasks compared with the “traditional” colleagues (especially since he might also be one)… and slowly, but surely, you will be “sided” and wondering what the hell are you doing there, at 16:30 in the lab or with a test-bench in front of you and with no colleague around you to talk a bug or issue with. !!

Of course, this situation will not be told to you at interview, especially since the HR person might not even be aware of it – and, strangely somehow, I think not even the project manager is fully realizing it, caught with all the planning work and meetings he/she has to do on daily bases (unless he is really headed towards not having an “Auslander” in his team, in which case is strange that he invited at interview and hired one ?!?).

Working with more open-minded colleagues

This should be the situation that one would expect from an international-company and I appreciate that the group where I work for some years is fitting this category; maybe because also the percentage of non-German speaking persons (or speaking just beginner-level) is over 50% in the group 🙂 … so, English is a must for all of us – both technical and for lunch-breaks. Here is the situation where would be useful to ask at interview the percentage-related question I mentioned above.

In such environment, with everyone mastering English fluent enough (at least for technical matters), you will have more understanding in your daily work, both when about new ideas, digging-up a heavy buried bug, etc… Hopefully also the project manager will be comfortable with this – otherwise you might get “isolated” from management decisions and their communication – see hint above of checking about mixed German-English emails from time to time, in spite of “international-company” official culture 🙂

In such groups the flexible time is indeed flexible (I have colleague coming at 6:30-7 o’clock and one, from a south-European country, coming 10…11 o’clock, except for sometime meetings at 9:00, when he is doing an effort 🙂 ). Also the handling of work load and collaborating with each-other is quite fair and balanced – and I hope more and more companies will go in this direction, in spite of the Brexit, raising of nationalist feelings around Europe and inclusion of a extreme right-party in the Government here, in Austria, at the end of 2017.

Being around German/Austrian managers

Now, this is partially from my experience, partially from experience of non-German speaking management-colleagues. In my experience I noticed that some managers are “traditional” ones, with work-time and policy like in the sub-chapter above. Also, although they know the English language, they feel more comfortable in communication with their group, teams, to use the German language; here I have to explicit examples, without giving names, since I don’t want to risk having the company’s lawyers on my back 🙂 :

  • some years ago, the group manager we have, gathered the whole 40-50 people in the large meeting room for some discussions following re-organizations after the 2008 crisis. The topics were mostly about the projects and work that will be allocated, but also had to be presented in a “soft” way – I assumed. As such, although his slides were written in English, he told us (in English) from the beginning that “such aspects would be better presented in German, because of the language interpretations of some colleagues and , well, you know… is better like that” – and then he switched to German for the rest of the meeting, to the dismay of the ca. 4-5 non-German speaking colleagues present there.
  • also not long ago, his boss, managing a whole location here in Graz, had  similar situation – this time probably 60-70 people gathered for him presenting some time-line plans about new projects and some “exceptional” involvement of our company in some “new-tech” that is to come…. He had also the slides in English, with some 4-5 non-German speaking colleagues present also – some of those from above-mentioned meeting have skipped the current one, having a feeling it will be in German too 🙂 … but meanwhile we got new non-German speaking colleagues hired. So, after this top-manager started to explain in German the topics from slides, at about side 3, one of the new colleagues intervened and asked (politely) if possible to switch to English. Here, this top-manager did an “Austrian-style diplomatic” exit: with a big smile and very “sweet” attitude, asked how many in the room don’t understand German – and some 4-5 hand were raised; after that he said “well, now I will not ask how many colleagues are not understanding English, but … (big smile), well… is better for the majority present to get the explanations in German” – he mentioned also that questions can be put in English and he will answer in English, but the rest of the meeting was continued in German

On top of those events, that I keep in mind as representative for managers that, in international-company, are disregarding the internationally used language for the last 1/2 century at least…. I have the experience of another non-German speaking colleague that worked directly as manager, with those people from above (and others too). He told me, before leaving the company in the end… that in management meetings was noticeable how some managers were having difficulty with mastering the “nuances” of English language when expressing their thoughts – and for sure would have felt much better to have discussions ONLY in German, with (preferably) native German-speaking peers. The keyword “native” is to pay attention to here – even if you learned German to some degree in a class, you might still not master the “nuances” of the native speaker – so, a word of warning of those that are joining companies on managerial position, where “traditional” managers are already a majority !

Driving around, mostly safe – except for racing-cars

I was planning to put down some thoughts about the driving around here, in Graz, surroundings and Austria in general – for people that might be accustomed with some (very) different styles, from other countries or regions of this world, like is (was) my case, too 🙂

First of all, like in any respectable 1-st world country – there are rules …. a lot 🙂 They are collected in the road traffic regulations (Straßenverkehrsordnung), a set of rules started around 1960… and updated from time to time. If you come from another EU country there is not a big difference, similar rules you have in France, Germany, Italy, etc… However, a noticeable aspect here, in my opinion, is the way of driving, of MOST of the drivers – quite peaceful and without “pushy” attitudes at the wheel, towards others. Lately, especially in Graz (can’t speak for surroundings), seems more drivers are loosing patience when starting from the red lights – if you are the first and, when green turns on, you don’t move in the next 1sec…1.5sec, is very likely you will get a nervous “honk-honk” push from someone in the line behind you 😦

Another aspect that is noticeable, in my view, is the very well maintained street marking system (§ 55. Bodenmarkierungen auf der Straße) – the lanes, continuous and stop lines on main intersections; all those can help people to drive in a safe fashion and, in case of an accident, to see very clearly who did an illegal lane change, who drove too much into an intersection when not having priority, etc… Of course, this can be a burden for those accustomed to drive “wherever” there is a space for a car and to “push” the others around, with intimidating driving style – this is not the right country for them 🙂

I can’t speak too much for the “punishment” part, since (thanks God) I have not got into a conflict with anyone on the street or with the Police – maybe because I also use the public transport as much as possible and the car just from time to time. However, due to a recent experience with a certain driver, I thought to put down here my first “close call” in regard with having an accident.

Subaru_aileronFirst the person was driving a Subaru car with “racing style” addition (aileron), like I don’t remember to have seen on the public streets here. The photo is not of that car, but it was very similar as design and size – which made me wonder, driving behind him for some time, if he/she can see properly what is behind ?

The street was one driving away from Graz to the hilly north part, where you have a lot of curves and little chances of overtaking someone if you are in the unlucky situation, like was our case, to have a slow-moving tractor before you (ca. 30-35 km/h). Behind the tractor was this Subaru and behind him I was driving, with nobody behind me. Since I noticed the Subaru driver – opposite to the “racing style” he displayed with the aileron – has no intention to overtake the tractor, in spite of a few straight road-sections where would have been possible, I thought to try, on the next one, to overtake both, since the road was already outside the city and marked for 80km/h.

I have turned on the left flasher, as required, made sure nobody is behind me and, after some 5-10 seconds, when the next straight and long enough road-stretch presented itself, I have initiated the overtaking, with appropriate acceleration. Well… exactly then seems the “racing” spirit woke-up in the Subaru driver who,

  • without probably checking that another car (me) tries to overtake him/her and…
  • without previously showing the intention (left flasher),

simply “jumped” in front of me and, with probably full power, almost disappeared in a cloud of gray exhaust gas, overtook the tractor and reached far, far away on that straight road section. Fortunately, I was half-expecting that this might happen, so I braked hard (considering that I was accelerating) and gave him/her some honk-protest, for such a dangerous overtaking. In my view, he/she broke the road traffic regulations, where is stated that:


§ 15. Überholen.

(3) Der Lenker des überholenden Fahrzeuges hat den bevorstehenden Überholvorgang nach § 11 über den Wechsel des Fahrstreifens und nach § 22 über die Abgabe von Warnzeichen rechtzeitig anzuzeigen.

(5) Der Lenker eines Fahrzeuges, das überholt wird, darf die Geschwindigkeit nicht erhöhen, sobald ihm der Überholvorgang angezeigt worden ist (Abs. 3)


§ 15. Overtaking

(3) The driver of the car doing the overtaking has the priority (right) to change the lanes (according to § 11) and (according to § 22) over the signaling with proper time in advance of the overtaking intention.

(5) The driver of the car that is overtook must NOT increase the driving speed, from the moment that the overtaking intention was indicated by the overtaking car.

Well, that was the lesson for that day – not all the drivers are that “safe” and “law-obedient” around you; and I still wonder if that aileron did not have a part in hindering the driver of Subaru of acknowledging my overtaking….. hmmm…

Sorting and Recycling the garbage… or else!

Something to say about living as a tenant in this 10-20 apartments building, in the city of Graz. In the yard, near the street entry, there is a very nice organized sorting point for garbage, with the aim of recycling some types of materials, as advised (and also enforced) by the state-company that takes care of garbage: Graz Abfallwirtschaft.

For people coming from countries where this sorting & recycling is not applied, not usual or just “at beginning”, it could lead probably to confusion or, sometimes, to “don’t care too much” attitude – associated with (I have to admit) quite detailed sorting criteria one has to fulfill, according to the standards for garbage here 🙂 Actually, this state-company has translated the leaflets about this in quite a number of languages and posted them on their Internet site, for those that are interested: Abfall/ Abfalltrennblatt (mehrsprachig).

Photo1I want to point out in this post what happened when – even to a small degree – those criteria are not respected, as I have noticed not so long ago: the affected garbage bin is simply no longer collected and over time… will overflow.

Since the whole building is of rented flats, as I could figure, probably someone moving-in or moving-out has done a cleaning-up of the apartment and threw out one metallic item that, although not that noticeable among all the rest of the metallic cans, has “disturbed” the precise criteria of garbage sorting of the Graz Abfallwirtschaft‘s employees.

Photo3

They were nice enough to post a warning sign, taped exactly on that metallic object, with the explanation that is does  not belong to the metal bin and the garbage will not be collected until the item is removed. Plus a list of what should be and what not in such a recycling bin.

Photo2Since I was not the one disposing of that item and was a first time since I am here when such “protest/punishment” action happened, I took the appropriate “documentary”-photos and waited to see what will happen.

The pile of “proper” metallic cans continued to grow and the garbage bin stayed like that for around 3 weeks, with new garbage around it. One day, after that, coming home from work, I noticed it was emptied – I will never know if the “guilty” metallic object was removed by the person who put it there or if the garbage-man decided to take it with the other metallic cans…. but the recycling bin was again usable.

I have thought to write this post to point out how “übergenau” (over-precise) sometimes collection of recyclable items can be around here, if one is not accustomed or expect such attitude. In addition, I felt a bit disappointed that ALL of us in that building were “communally punished” by having the garbage over-flowing at the garbage-bins, for the mistake of (I assume) only one person . And from what I noticed, more and more such blocks of flats are approved and were build in the last 5+ years in Graz…. – too bad, it is a fostering environment for “communal-living” problems and disgruntled citizens, on long term 😦 (like in East Europe, not far away !)

Improving the transport with trams 4 and 5

I intended to write about this since last spring, when I have noticed a very good move from the Graz’s public transport company – introducing more trams on the lines 4 and 5, that are connecting the north of the city with the south. As it can be seen from the “advertisement” they had for around 1 week, in some of the main stations, the rate of succession was improved from 10 min. to 7.5 min. Since I am using them sometimes, I can say that indeed this is noticeable, in comparison with the years before – you don’t even need to rush to catch a tram in the station… until you get there, the next one will come.photo1

This I have to praise as a very good support from the city in motivating people to use public transport – at least for those 2 lines, in comparison to crossing the city with the car… because, like I will write in another post, the city is becoming less and less car-friendly !

Heavy price reduction

Going those days for the weekly shopping, I have noticed at one of the well-known supermarkets a “heavy” price reduction – for the Pretzel Sticks. I think I don’t have to write more, the HUGE saving is saying it all…. 🙂

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