English Comedy Night
Patrick Lamb was born in Sheffield, but has lived in Vienna since 1999 as an illustrator, teacher and translator. Since this, his interest in comedy has steadily grown, performing sets all over Europe. Now, Patrick organises the English Comedy Night in Vienna and Graz, and has written this piece to tell us all about it!
How English Comedy Night started:
Dave Thompson, an experienced comedian from the UK, offered me the chance to perform in a regular comedy night he organises in Budapest. We discussed the potential for a similar English comedy night in Vienna, with UK comedians flying over to do both shows. I agreed to organise and compère a monthly show, starting in April of 2016.
The May show saw Aera, our venue in the 1st district, already filled to capacity and it has been that way ever since.
How the shows work:
I begin the show, warm up the audience and then introduce the opening act. The opener then does the remainder of the first half. After a short break I welcome everyone back and then bring on our headliner. The headliners are very established, successful comedians who also perform regularly on television and radio.
We advertise the shows on Facebook and through the Vienna Internations comedy group. Various online expat communities have been kind enough to help us get the word out. We also use traditional print flyers and posters and have had mentions in Metropole, the English-language magazine, the Kurier and soon, the Falter. By now, I think a decent number of people are aware of English Comedy Night.
We’ve reached the point at which we need to move to a larger venue, so in January we will perform our first show in the Kulisse – with double the number of seats, so I will be busy in between now and then publicising that.
We expanded to Graz in October. Okello Dunkley, a comedian from New York opened for us. He’s now producing and performing comedy in Vienna, too. Check him out at the Tunnel in the 8th district.
The guests who come to English Comedy Night are from all over the world, and that is really exciting! We have audience members from 30-40 different countries. The demographic tends to comprise of well-educated professionals around 35-45 years old – a nice bunch of people to entertain! They are also mostly very cultured and well-behaved. Little or no heckling, which is something I can’t stand.
We have had terrific comics coming over to perform. The headliners in particular are much lauded talents: Dave Thompson, Geoff Boyz, Mark Maier and Geoff Whiting. John Moloney asked me on Twitter if he could come over and do the show. He was over in September with Sally-Anne Hayward – that was a great night!
What I have learnt:
One of the benefits for me about organising English Comedy Night is watching the other comedians perform. Many of them have been very kind with their advice on how I can improve. So far I have mostly developed my act here in Vienna, isolated from the UK comedy circuit, which is where fresh talent tend to learn and grow as performers. So that has been very important for my work.
It has been challenging to write new material every month, but it has given me the chance to do more current affairs material. Performing regularly has helped me to become more comfortable on stage, more relaxed. I really enjoy doing the show.
English Comedy Night will be in Bar28 in Graz on the 7th of November and then in Vienna, in Aera, Gonzagagasse 11, 1010 Wien, on the 8th of November.
More details can be found on the Vienna English Comedy Night Facebook page.
I am also looking forward to ‚Gossip‘ – my new, third solo programme which premieres in Aera on the 17th of November at 20:00.
Have you always lived in Vienna?
No, I’m originally from Tirol. My girlfriend is originally from Vienna and brought an architect here to design Balthasar’s.
What made you want to open a coffee shop?
My family works in the restaurant industry and have done for 200 years. I had a restaurant in Tirol for 25 years, then sold it in 2007. I was free. This life is much more relaxed. I can work during the day – we close at 7, so I can have a social life beside my work. Restaurant life is 24/7.
Have you always been interested in coffee?
Yes, for more than 20 years. I took barista classes, then opened the shop!
Where does your coffee come from?
I have a great friend from Bavaria who is the roaster. He roasts all our coffees and is very connected with the farmers. For us that’s so important – to make that chain sustainable. We are involved in every step. We know what the farmers are being paid, we know what soil their plants are growing in. The most important thing for us is the people behind the process – from transport, roasting and last but not least what we do here with our machine.
Some people say yours is the best coffee in Vienna!
We try hard! It’s so hard to say what’s the best coffee, but we try really hard to make the best for us.
Did you find it hard coming to Vienna, where there is already such a strong coffee shop tradition?
I think it’s not too hard to open a coffee shop in Vienna. The traditional coffee houses are one side of it. The core for them is not the coffee, it’s the ambience. It’s the ‘special spirit’, but it’s not the coffee! What we have built, the coffee is so important. So if you come to somewhere like Vienna, where it’s well known that people like to drink coffee all day, it’s a playground!
So you decided to take a more modern take on the traditional coffee shop model?
Absolutely. We always wanted to work with fresh pride. Even all out chairs and tables have a history. That’s so important to us – rather than to buy something from the industry, we prefer to get hand-crafted things.
Would you ever consider opening another one?
No, never! (laughs) It’s great like this. It wouldn’t be a problem to open a second one, but I think it’s so important to be focused on just one thing, to ensure a stable quality. Two or three shops – yeah it could work – but I think the quality would drop.
Do you think your expertise in the restaurant industry help drive your coffee shop to success?
Actually, this is a light version of running a restaurant! It’s very easy!
Do you have a family?
I have three children, all of whom are studying in Vienna. Two are actually abroad for half a year, but my youngest daughter lives here and works here as a barista.
Did they grow up here?
No, in Tirol. They just came here to study. But it’s great we’ve all ended up in the same city.
Did you choose Prater specifically as the location for Balthasar’s?
I didn’t know anything about Vienna. But now I think I’m very lucky to have ended up here. I love the second district. It’s so colourful; Such a wonderful combination of colours and cultures. I prefer this. I would never want to have a coffee shop in the first district.
How do you like Vienna compared to Tirol?
I love it. I love it. When I go home [to Tirol] for three days, I’m so glad to come back to Vienna.
What do you like about it?
It feels very alive here – such great culture. It’s so easy to get everywhere. I really love the city. It’s not too big, it’s not too small. Actually everything is really close – you are well connected to the airport. For me in 20 minutes! It’s really easy to get everywhere. I know this from other cities, it really can be a problem if everything is so far away. But here it’s a village!
The International Experience of Austria: One Story
I am always up for an adventure; a challenge that will be big enough to reap great rewards. In this case it was making the grand decision to attend university in Austria, as opposed to staying in my comfort zone in America. It’s the path I took to get here that I have to thank for my new life in Vienna.
I grew up in a close-knit family in the suburbs of Chicago, but at the young age of three months, I began regularly travelling to Europe to see my family. I was never a girl to be tamed, I always thought outside the box. I always wanted to do things that would make for a good story. This was particularly evident when I decided to draft in a foreign military hundreds of miles from home. Call me crazy, I know, but the idea came up after four months of volunteering on a wildlife reserve in Israel. I was immersed in a completely different culture; living in the desert, eating hummus and riding camels. People constantly asked me why I would choose to volunteer in a “war-torn” country and would be scared that I may not make it home, but once I lived in Israel it didn’t take me much time to realize what made it such an amazing country.
Israel is many things, but “war-torn” is not one of them. Although there are some issues with Israel’s neighbouring countries, it’s not on your mind when stepping foot on the beaches of Tel-Aviv.
It was like a dream being surrounded by tanned bodies, warm water, and delicious food, but these weren’t the reasons for my decision to draft into the army. I just decided to do it. There was no grand hope of becoming some heroic soldier, saving the world or solving the problems within this divided state. I did it to force myself to experience change and adventure through the ultimate act of stepping out of my little bubble. The challenges were fierce, the questioning of my decision was constant, but the friendships I made were unbreakable. When you force yourself to do something completely ridiculous and outside of your comfort-zone, words can’t describe how much it influences your life.
I never thought that leaving America would change my life in the ways that it did. Because of my constant desire to travel and explore, I landed myself in a foreign military job.
After returning home from my service I felt out of place in America. I had problems connecting with other Americans, sharing stories they would never understand and experiences they didn’t really crave. I sought to travel more because I always knew that by travelling you would meet people who shared at least one common interest with me. Then life fell into place and I met my Austrian boyfriend on a Euro-trip in Spain. I guess you could say it was love at first sight that night in Barcelona, but I didn’t know I loved him then, I just knew that he had something that kept dragging me back…an intriguing, irresistible, and mysterious aura around him.
After quite some time holding a relationship through Facebook, Facetime, and letters, I finally decided this would be the drive to begin my next journey. Another continent to live on, with a different culture, new language, and plenty of opportunities. College was a constant battle for me because I knew that I wanted to study but I didn’t want to stop living spontaneously. This was the answer, I was able
to leave my bubble in America once again and challenge myself in a completely fresh and organic way by getting a degree, while still feeding the fire in my soul that craves adventure. If you are ever doubting your decisions to do something drastic and completely outside of your comfort zone, don’t blink one second because I promise you even with all the hardships it may bring, you will learn more than anything you could be taught in school. You will grow in ways you didn’t know were possible, and you will finally feel like you’re living your life the way you want it.
Austria's Love of Bureaucracy
There are many reasons to choose to study in Austria – the universities are fantastic, the museums and other cultural attractions are spectacular, and the natural environment is breath-taking and pristine. The bureaucracy, however, is not one of those reasons.
Austrians have long had a strange attachment to complex bureaucracy. Back when Austria was still part of Austria-Hungary, serving in the civil service was a huge part of middle-class and aristocratic life. Working in the imperial bureaucracy was like being a member of a powerful club, and so civil servants were incentivised to keep their procedures complex and difficult to understand for the layman. Forms, stamps, signatures in triplicate, and a mind-bogglingly complex way of speaking – regular Austrians needed to overcome all of these things just in order to get by in daily life.
Thankfully, the Austrian bureaucracy has diminished somewhat since its heyday in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Nonetheless, it is still very difficult for new arrivals to navigate, especially for those who do not speak perfect German.
In order to receive a student visa here in Austria, you must first arrange health insurance.
This can be done with the public health insurance provider, the Gebietskrankenkasse (GKK), but only if you are very keen to experience old-school Austrian bureaucracy first hand.
When you try to organise your student health insurance through GKK, you are faced with a series of difficult challenges and frustrating inconsistencies.
To begin with, everything has to be arranged in German, from the first meeting to the final contract. And as everybody knows, it’s not wise to sign any contract you can’t read beforehand! In addition to the language barrier, there are also often delays and a mass of supporting paperwork that must be brought in, often after first having it translated out of your native language.
In contrast, we here at FeelSafe pride ourselves on the speed and fuss-free nature of our service. With us, your student health insurance can be arranged completely online, without the hassle of needing to upload any supporting documentation. What’s more, it only takes a few minutes, and the health insurance is normally confirmed within a few hours – a bit change from the weeks it can take going through GKK. And all this at almost exactly the same price as it would cost you to use the public option!
So as traditional as the state bureaucracy is to Austria, avoid experiencing it first-hand when you buy your student medical insurance by using FeelSafe, and spend that time experiencing all the other cultural adventures Austria has to offer!
Austrian Universities outside of Vienna
Last week’s blog focused on universities in Vienna, and the huge range on offer here. However, there is so much more to Austria than Vienna. Living in Vienna, it can be easy to forget how big Austria is, and how much it’s other cities have to offer in terms of education. This week, therefore, we’re going to take a little bit of a tour around Austria, and explore all the possibilities it offers international students – all of whom, of course, FeelSafe is ready and able to provide student health insurance plans to, to help them settle in to their Austrian studies.
Lower Austria (Niederösterrreich) is the beautiful state that surrounds the metropolis of Vienna. It is rich in natural beauty, full of caves and thermal springs, and of course, institutions of higher education. Krems and Sankt Pölten, the capital, host the Danube University, the New Design University, and two separate Universities of Applied Sciences! Although obviously not as populous as Vienna, these universities offer unique experiences for international students who would prefer to be away from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis, and is particularly well suited to students of health and life science, and design.
Further to the west, the beautiful city of Salzburg, with its UNESCO-recognised baroque city centre, plays host to its own public University and the Mozarteum, along with several private universities. The Mozarteum has a particularly interesting history – its origin lies with Mozart’s widow, who organised an association of music lovers in his home town, and stands now as one of the foremost conservatories in Europe. One pronounced advantage of studying in Salzburg as an international student is its proximity to the snow. It’s not unknown for students to attend a lecture in the morning, and by afternoon to be hitting the slopes – which is not a bad way to be at all.
Graz, Linz, and Innsbruck, the other large cities of Austria, all also have fantastic universities for international students to attend. The University of Graz is the second-largest university in Austria after Vienna University, teaching over 31,000 students; Johannes Kepler University in Linz features a Virtual Reality Center, which helps emergency workers train for catastrophes and allows physicists to conduct experiments too difficult to be carried out in real life; and the University of Innsbruck was the first institute to examine the body of the famous Neolithic ‘ice-man,’ ‘Ötzi’.
Austria offers a hugely diverse range of educational experiences for international students to choose between. There is only one constant: whichever one you choose, FeelSafe is there to provide you access to easy, inexpensive, and high quality health insurance, and to make your stay just that bit easier and more enjoyable.
Vienna is a city of universities. As befits a city that has long been associated with intellectuals and the life of the mind, and one that has been a home to Freud, Wittgenstein, Mahler, and many other luminaries, Vienna has a strong culture of tertiary education. Not including Colleges of Applied Science (Fachhochschulen) Vienna is host to sixteen separate universities, both public and private.
The largest universities in Vienna are the eponymous Vienna University, the Technical University, and the University of Economic and Business. Between them, these universities teach almost 150,000 students. The student population in Vienna is heavily international, lending studying in Vienna a cosmopolitan, diverse feel. 25,000 international students study at the University of Vienna alone. (and, of course, being international students, need health insurance in order to receive their student visa to Austria – a service which FeelSafe provides with pride and efficiency).
Apart from the large public universities, Vienna also hosts many smaller specialised private universities. The Music and Arts University, as the name suggests, is specialised for teaching music – a perfect fit for Vienna, which has long been renowned for its culture of classical music, and as the home of Mahler, Strauss, and Schönberg. Speaking of famous Viennese names, the private Sigmund Freud University is also located here in the Austrian capital. It specialises in teaching psychotherapy, and is the only university in the word to offer a degree in the subject at an undergraduate level.
Vienna is, therefore, an excellent city to study in as an international student, as it offers both a high quality of education and a diversity of specialities. Regardless of whether an international student chooses to study at a private or a public university, however, they must secure a student visa within a short period of time after arriving here in Austria. Before the visa can be issued, an international student needs to be able to demonstrate two things: their enrolment in an Austrian educational institution, and evidence that they are covered by appropriate student health insurance.
Amidst all the hubbub of the first few weeks of arriving in Austria and diving into your studies, it can be difficult to remember to arrange for student health insurance before the crucial date by which you must apply for your visa. This difficulty often results in students needing to leave the country altogether and then re-enter it, often during the middle of studies, in order to conform to the regulations are health insurance and student visas. Luckily, FeelSafe is aware of these difficulties, and our simple online registration allows you to bypass any such difficulties and immerse yourself in Vienna, the city of universities. It’s just one way FeelSafe is making Austrian student health insurance faster, better and easier!
What Makes FeelSafe Different from Public Cover
GKK is the public insurance company in Austria. They have been operating for a long time in the market. Their basic cover is available to international students. FeelSafe, however, offers everything GKK does, and more – and for only a fraction more per month. In this blog post, let’s compare what what the two providers cover.
What GKK covers:
- No online purchases. To get covered by GKK, you have to go to their office during working hours (which are limited), take a number and wait in line.
- Only German spoken. Employees of GKK do not necessarily speak English. Everything, from the contracts to customer support, is in German. If you’re just starting in Austria and don’t speak German fluently, you may miss important information.
- Basic medical services:
- Full guarantee of cost coverage for stays in public hospitals in a multi-bed room
- Medical treatment (public doctors)
- Brand medicines and generic medicines
- Physiotherapy, ergo-therapy, logopedics
- Medically indicated psychotherapeutic treatment
- Dental treatments
- International student health insurance
- 100% guaranteed. The health insurance in accepted from all authorities (e.g MA35)
- Same prices
- Full guarantee of cost coverage for stays in public hospitals in a multi-bed room
- Medical treatment (public doctors)
- Brand medicines and generic medicines
- Physiotherapy, ergo-therapy, logopedics
- Dental treatments
FeelSafe not only offers everything that GKK offers, but much more besides. Whereas GKK offers you the basics, and takes a lot of trouble to sign up to besides, FeelSafe offers you more, more quickly, and with a lot fewer hurdles to jump to get it.
What makes Feelsafe different:
- Online services. You can buy your health insurance online in 5 minutes and in this way avoid any long queues.
- Live chat. Live chat is available on our front page. Ask questions and get the answers you need in real time. In English, too.
- Speedy Confirmation. Confirmation of your purchase is sent via e-mail within 24 working hours.
- Extra medical services (beside all the services that the public option offers):
- Transportation back to your home country when medically necessary.
- Medical treatment (private doctors)
- Medical treatment (complementary medicine)
- Homeopathic medicines
- Home visits by a public or private doctor
- Repayment for glasses or contact lenses up to € 379,- / two years
- Helicopter transport from difficult to reach locations after an accident
MSc. Emi Trepçi
FeelSafe and the new approach towards health insurance!
FeelSafe is a company that offers different types of health insurance. Our targets are international non-EU students, guest professors, researchers, scholars, and expats, but with or without jobs and families in Austria.
With that in mind, one might think that FeelSafe is nothing more than a normal insurance company, but in fact there are several factors that distinguish FeelSafe from most of the insurance companies that are nowadays in the Austrian market.
Since when the company was founded it was a priority for the co-founders to help foreigners coming to Austria for educational or working purposes. When international people (specifically non-EU citizens) come to Austria, they tend in the most of the cases to find themselves confused or lost in all the paperwork and the bureaucracy of the local institutions. The language barrier especially can exacerbate these difficulties.
Uniquely among private insurers, FeelSafe can amazingly offer almost the same exact prices that the public insurance company offers.
The process of getting information about the services and buying them is really fast, easy, and efficient. On our website there is a live chat where you can ask any questions you might have and get answers on spot. All the communications are done in English, to avoid any communication difficulties.
Of course, internationals face plenty of complexities when they first arrive in-country, but since nobody can solve everything simultaneously FeelSafe decided to focus in on making health insurance as fast and easy as possible.
Giving people the opportunity to buy a health insurance online makes a big difference. No longer must international students wait for hours in long lines; everything begins and ends on our website. With our confirmation guarantee, students and researchers are all set for their visa or residence permit application within 24 working hours. Our insurance is fully accepted by all Austrian authorities, including MA35.
All these things FeelSafe offers go to improve the stay of internationals in Austria. With this efficient and fast service, you will have all the more time to enjoy everything Austria has to offer!
And if you’re into adventurous and extreme sports, why not indulge yourself? After all, you’re fully insured. FEEL SAFE all the time!
MSc. Emi Trepçi