In which a Taiwanese-American girl walks into a Japanese restaurant in Austria and speaks Chinese

Sunday was particularly lovely; despite sleeping past my alarm and waking up at 1 PM, I enjoyed the entirety of the day.

As soon as I got into town I set my mind to obtaining lunch. I seriously entertained the idea of getting kebap again, but then decided that for experience’s sake, I should try something new every time I eat—well, while I’m here, anyway. So I headed to Getreidegasse to try Austria’s take on Asian food. I passed by one Chinese buffet and found myself in the quiet courtyard of Restaurant Nagano.

I was a little thrown off that I didn’t get tea automatically; I had to ask for it. When my bill came I found that it cost €2.80…oi. To the restaurant’s credit though, it was delicious: loose-leaf green tea (no tea bag!) with a hint of peach.
I’ve heard that the sushi in Austria is awful, so for the sake of trying I ordered a two-piece plate of salmon nigiri. It was pretty good; kudos for the fish not being cold, and it tasted fresh and milky. The only thing was, as you can see from this picture, that the fish was sliced THIN. Sigh!
I felt a little self-conscious when I took out my Moleskine to take notes on the food. I probably looked like a very insecure Anton Ego. I hope no one mistook me for a food critic…

For the sake of my wallet I ordered a simple bowl of udon soup. The price was still a little painful at €8.90, considering that I make myself udon soup all the time for next to nothing. Oh well. The noodles were nice and chewy, the broth was savory, and the vegetables and seaweed tasted fresh. I suppose you can’t ask for more!

While it was unnecessarily pricey, I do have to say the food was satisfying and delicious. The highlight of my meal, however, was my conversation with the waitress. While I chewed my noodles and read a book, I overheard all of the staff speaking in Mandarin Chinese.
So rather than speaking in my limited German sprinkled with English, I addressed the waitress in Chinese when she came with my bill. She immediately brightened up—considerably—and eagerly asked me about myself. “And you came here all by yourself?” she asked in awe, when I told her I had come from the US. She thanked me over and over again, even though I only tipped 50 cents, and even though I had done nothing more than order food and eat it all.
It was a lovely, warm moment; it makes my day every time I make a connection with the locals, though funnily enough I have far more extended conversations in Chinese here in Austria than in German. There’s something indescribably beautiful about breaking out from the confines of a limited vocabulary in one language and finding another soul who speaks your native tongue; even if you have nothing else in common it creates an instant bond.
It may sound silly, but I feel like we are all grains of sand being flung from place to place and we rejoice when we are thrown against another particle that came from the same stone.

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