I have one particular memory where I am eating outside at a restaurant in Vienna and a beggar comes up to me and my husband, shares a ”pity” story and asks for money, thus interrupting our conversation and general dining experience. In this specific event, one of the waitresses saw what was going on and asked the beggar to leave, but the beggar ignored the waitress and persisted in their deed, going to the couple next to us. The waitress, obviously upset, did what she could to direct the beggar away from the diners, but the beggar continued.
I have never encountered something like this before in my small town in Connecticut — having a beggar step in front of diners outside at a restaurant and ask for money. So you can probably understand why this shook me up a bit. To me it was like my privacy was invaded. Though we should ask: if we were in the beggars shoes, would we do the same?
While I don’t want to get too off topic, I want to mention that like every city in this world, there are street beggars and homeless people. It’s simply from my experience, certain people in Vienna have no fear asking for money while you’re eating outside, and when they do ask, it’s a break from a pleasant dining experience into facing an individual with a less-fortunate life. Through some research, some of these people who beg for money work for Romanian/Bulgarian mafia, where they give most of what they make to the leaders. They live a pretty harsh life, perhaps because they come from a harsh life where their country’s economy is poor and the people are not really taken care of.
In other cases, you have street-vendor workers, or people who sell magazines/newspapers who have permission from restaurants and cafes to go inside and sell/advertise their goods while you’re eating. I experienced this today when I went to one of my favorite cafes where my conversation with my husband was hindered by a man trying to sell us newspapers. We ignored him, but I mean, honestly, would you like to have your dining experience interrupted by magazine/newspaper sellers?
This is simply another cultural difference I like to share in this blog today. Everyone requires money to survive in this world, and specifically in Vienna, I’ve observed how people will beg, sell and/or advertise their products while you are dining. It is what it is.
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