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May 30, 2014

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Consul general thrilled to introduce Austria

AT the beginning of 2013, Silvia Neureiter decided she wanted a change in her professional life, and when she saw Shanghai on the list of available postings abroad, she applied immediately.

The current Austrian consul general came to Shanghai this February and says now she’s experiencing the slogan “Better City, Better Life” in person.

“Coming from Austria, where we are proud of our architectural heritage, Shanghai with its incredible skyscrapers is a huge change for me,” she says. “It makes Austrian cities feel very small by comparison. I find Shanghai at night particularly beautiful, when all the buildings are lit up.”

Having read a lot about China and Shanghai before coming, Neureiter was very excited when she heard she would be transferred here.

“Any doubts I had about moving to such a foreign culture from my own were quickly allayed when I arrived: Shanghai presented itself as a very open, supportive and livable city. I received a warm welcome and am quickly feeling at home,” she says.

Neureiter was born in Graz, capital city of Styria, which is a southern province nicknamed “the green heart of Austria” for its wonderful forests. Neureiter moved to Vienna for her job in the Foreign Ministry. So far she has been posted in Belgrade (Serbia), Luxembourg, Sofia (Bulgaria) and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). During the past 10 years she worked in the ministry in Vienna.

In 2013, the bilateral trade volume between China and Austria reached a record level of 9.8 billion euros (US$13.60 billion) as a result of close cooperation between Austrian and Chinese companies and business leaders.

“Both large-, small- and medium-sized companies from Austria have discovered the advantages from such cooperation,” Neureiter says. “China’s economic and environmental goals are a part of this, as Austrian expertise and know-how are considered a valuable commodity in China.”

Austria is also a favorite destination for Chinese travelers. Throughout the year, visitors can enjoy the beautiful countryside, architecture, wine tasting, taking a cruise on the Danube and of course skiing in winter.

“We have musical and cultural events throughout the year, which people from all over the world attend,” Neureiter says. “Salzburg and Vienna are already famous in China, but there are also many smaller cities such as Graz, Bregenz, Linz and Klagenfurt that offer wonderful music events and beautiful architecture.”

In Shanghai for only three months, Neureiter says she has not yet had the opportunity to travel around China. She enjoys traveling tremendously, however, and she has already purchased all the China travel guides she could find in Vienna.

“This is one of the things I’m most looking forward to,” she says. “You have so many world heritage sites and fantastic countryside and history here.”

In her free time, Neureiter also enjoys reading and strolling through the streets, watching life in action.

“This is a special joy in China, where much of life is lived on the street rather than behind closed doors,” she says.

Her latest hobby is learning how to write and speak Chinese, spending every morning learning from a list of Chinese vocabulary.

For Neureiter, one of the biggest drawbacks of being a diplomat is that they are rotated to a new country every four years. But it can also be an advantage.

“As a tourist, one can only learn part of a country, but if you are posted there for three or four years, you can really immerse yourself in the culture, language and history,” she says.

Through events such as the Austrian Days and the coming Viennese Ball in June, the consul general is able to share Austrian culture with China.

The second Viennese Ball in Shanghai will be held at the Hyatt on the Bund on June 7 after its debut last year. What most people don’t realize is that the Viennese Ball is actually a season of balls starting on the 11th day of the 11th month, ending with the fasting season, according to Neureiter.

It’s customary for Austrian children to learn ballroom dancing at an early age and accompany their parents to a ball at the age of 16, where the girls dance as debutantes, officially marking their introduction into society.

The internationally renowned Schönbrunn Palace Orchestra will perform again at this year’s ball. While last year featured Johann Strauss’ work, this year the musicians will present the music of Franz Léhar. Violinist Lidia Baich, soprano Monika Fischl, tenor Laszlo Maleczky and the young Chinese tenor Jinxu Xiahou will also join the ball.

“Last year’s ballet performances proved so popular among our Chinese guests that we asked Gregor Hatala to return again this year with Chelsea Andrejic,” says Neureiter.

Real debutantes will dance at the ball this year. Graduating students from the German school will be performing the Fächerpolonaise by Carl Michael Ziehrer, after which they will dance the debutante dance to “Im Krapfenwald’l” by Johann Strauss.

“We are offering Chinese guests the possibility to experience a traditional Viennese ball in the comfort of their own city, to immerse themselves in our culture and history for a night,” says Neureiter.

The Viennese Ball in Shanghai

Date: June 7, 6:30pm

Venue: Hyatt on the Bund, 199 Huangpu Rd

Tickets: 1,888 yuan per person

The price includes a cocktail reception, banquet dinner and dancing. Group booking is recommended if you want to be seated with friends. Shanghai Daily will deliver the tickets to your designated address.


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