Tea With Strangers in Vienna

Sitting in our Airbnb in Prague, my best friend and I made a decision. While she would be off to Budapest the following week to speak at a conference, I would take the train to Vienna to explore.

I’ve wanted to visit Vienna for a long time. I remember hearing about it when I was living in Hamburg years ago. Happily sitting on the train that Sunday, I was beyond excited to get into this new city and spend a week learning about Vienna’s history.

Aside from museums, walking around and reading about Vienna’s history and culture, I was also working full-time. I chose different coffee shops scattered throughout the Ring so I would get the opportunity to walk through the city I was so keen to learn more about.

One one such occasion, I had walked from where I was staying, close to Augarten, up to Stephen’s Cathedral and planned to find a cafe from there. A quick search on Yelp for nearby cafes later, I had one great option, lots of recommendations, free Wi-Fi and a two-minute walk from where I was standing.

I entered the crowded cafe to see packed tables all over the space. The waiters and waitresses were running around trying to give out as many bills as possible to open up seats for the stream of people walking in from the rain.

Standing at the front of the cafe and scanning for a seat for one, I saw two elderly ladies. Sitting eating the same lunch in a round booth with one chair free at the end of their table. They looked at me and made a motion that I should join them at their table, and quickly because surely someone else would grab the spot if I wasn’t fast.

This wasn’t the first time I’d been invited to share a table in Vienna. The first time was my second night in town. I went to an Austrian pub for dinner and when I couldn’t find a seat the waiter went “Oh, just join another table of course.” While it seemed really natural to him, I had experienced that in Canada, where I’m from, or the U.S., where I’ve lived for the past year.

That second night in Vienna I joined a table with two Austrian men who didn’t bat an eye at me sitting on the edge of their table for six.

At the cafe, I sat down with these two ladies, now used to the fact that we might share a table over lunch. The difference between that Austrian pub and this cute central cafe being, that these two women spoke perfect English.

While the Austrian men and I didn’t converse much and were a few chairs apart, I was sitting close enough to have a quiet conversation with these two lovely ladies.

One was from Denmark and the other Norway. They had been best friends for years and every now and again would meet up in different European cities in order to catch up and explore. They were right in the midst of walking through Vienna when it started raining and they popped into the cafe, probably 20 minutes before I did.

They were curious about my work and how I was able to be working from this cafe. Remote work is an interesting concept for most, but they grasped it really quickly and were thrilled at the freedom it offered.

I kept working away drinking tea while they finished their soups, and we all left around the same time.

I love people. So the opportunity to share quick stories with a couple of traveling friends that I now aspire to be like one day, had me smiling and happy for the rest of the afternoon.

Next time someone walks into a crowded cafe or restaurant and doesn’t have a seat, I’ll definitely be offering them a seat at my table, no matter where I am in the world, because who knows what great person I might meet next. :)