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Austria - no, you mean Australia, don't you? A small country,right? Does it belong to Europe?
Unfortunately I hearthese questions a lot here in America. But Austria is morethan just a small, faraway country. It's my home country, aplace in the heart of Europe with a wonderful landscape:deep-blue lakes, mountains which never seem to end, and, ofcourse, big cities, like our capital, Vienna, with a hugehistory! Austria has about seven million people, nine statesand is part of the European Union.
I feel at home if Ijust touch the grass, hear the noises of the forest next to myhouse or walk around and smell nature. My hometown is in themiddle of Austria with 6,000 people and has Italian, Chinese,Greek and, of course, typical Austrian restaurants. Comparedto America, our shops are pretty small, but you can get almosteverything in our town. In the western section of town aswimming pool, tennis courts and a huge soccer field invitepeople to participate in sports whenever they like. In thesummer, the kids usually play soccer, take long bike rides orgo to a nearby lake.
The rest of the yeareverything is different. School and homework are reallyimportant, so no one has time for sports. Some kids joinclubs, like judo or climbing, which take place in the evening.In winter, we have a three-week vacation, so everyone can goskiing, snowboarding or just have fun in the snow. If this isnot enough, you can attend a sports school. My brother attendsa skiing school where he skis every day, but it takes twoyears longer to graduate.
Because schools are open onSaturdays, there's not much to do on weekends, but everyonegoes out Saturday night. When you're 16, you can go to discosuntil 1 a.m., drink beer and smoke. As soon as you're 18, youcan drive, stay out until 3 a.m. and drink as much as you want(if you have the money).
You might think we haveproblems with addiction to cigarettes and alcohol, but themajority of kids don't. The reason, I think, is that teens inAustria are more mature. We think about our future and theconsequences of our actions. Most people marry be-tween theages of 25 and 35 years old, because they want to accomplish alot before they settle down and raise a family.
I'm notsaying it's better or worse than in America; it is justdifferent. See both sides, then make your decision how to liveyour life. In my case, I think my future will be a combinationof Austrian and American habits.
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By Deane M., Brookline, MA
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