January 20, 2007

Western Europe's America Problem

When my father and I arrived in the United States as immigrants from Romania — by way of Vienna — in the summer of 1960, we spent a number of weeks living with American families in the greater New York area. Some were Jews, like us; most were not. But all spoke some German because our English was virtually nonexistent at the time. What impressed me no end, and will always remain with me, was how all those people adored my Viennese-accented German, how they reveled in it, found it elegant, charming, and above all oh-so-cultured. For business and family reasons, my father had to return to Vienna, where I attended the Theresianische Akademie, one of Austria's leading gymnasia. The welcome accorded to me in that environment was much colder and more distant than it had been in the United States, not by dint of my being a Tschusch and a Zuagraster, an interloper from the disdained eastern areas of Europe, but by virtue of having become a quasi American.


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