Fear of the New

Xenophobia is Reignited by Romania’s Entry into the European Union

Opinion | Anca Lucian | February 2007

I wonder if, now that Romania has joined the EU, people in Vienna will still stare at Romanian license plates. It just happened in the last six months, driving around and being given "the look," as my license plate gave away my identity.  It hadn’t happen before, maybe because there was no concern that we would be invading, and that the barbarian hordes would spill over the borders as soon as they opened.

But when the accession was finally approved in June 2006, it started. For the first time I saw a friend being called a "sch*** Rumaenisch" by an old lady passing by, because he’d stopped his car in a bicycle lane to let me out, next to two other Austrians doing the same thing.

Two weeks later, same place, same situation. This time a male cyclist shouted the same words, although there were three Austrian cars parked in the lane, not just pausing to let someone out. Though shocked, I understood him better than the old lady as the car had actually crossed the lane. Nevertheless, I heard the same words later for the third time, addressed to me from an Austrian car as I was driving around the Ring, my window half way down. This time I didn’t know why…

I hope it’s just a temporary trend.

People are always scared of the unknown. But here, in the West, or home or the East, or wherever, we are all the same human beings driving around and, at times, breaking the rules, no matter what nationality we are.

And that’s nothing new, nothing unknown.

Other articles from this issue