Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Black people in Austria - The life of a young Austrian from Ghana

Via Blackinnrw

A story on Afrikanet about a second generation black Austrian with a Ghanaian background who feels rejected in Ghana and in the country he considers home.

Read parts of the story here. The photo is not from the orginal story, but is of the photo series of Philipp Horak about black people in Austria.

A “true Viennese"

Kofi Akwanpa likes to consider himself a “true Viennese with a Ghanaian background.” He was born 25 years ago in Vienna. He was born in Austria, speaks and writes perfect German and studied in Austria: but he does not feel accepted by the austrian society.

Kofi Akwanpa speaks perfect German and is even very proud to be able to speak and write Viennese dialect as well. When asked what his mother tongue his, the proud answer is: “German, of course.” “I went to school here, I studied in Austria and have my friends here. To put it another way: I was socialised in Austria.”

Although he travelled to Ghana with this parents every second year from the age of two, he does not feel socially integrated in Ghana, even though “I highly regard both country and people.”

It was important to the parents for their children to gain first-hand experience of both cultures. Kofi remembers skiing holidays in Tyrol, Vorarlberg and Styria. “We were always the only African fam- ily wherever we went skiing,” he says.

Kofi’s childhood memories also include vacations on farms and excursions to several tourist destinations in Austria such as Mariazell, Großglockner, and even Melk and Radenthein, a smal town located in Carinthia, the southernmost Austrian federal state.

Kofi feels Austrian and thought his home was here. But after finishing his university studies he had to undergo painful experiences. After graduating with a business degree from the Vienna University of Economics—”with distinction,” as he points out—he wanted to start a career in banking. He dreamt of a rosy future, he says, because “I am very good with numbers and people. These had been my strengths for years.”

He wanted to start his career from scratch and applied to a well-known Austrian bank for a job behind the counter. As he puts it, he wanted to engage in “direct contact with people.” This proved to be an unrealistic dream for a black Austrian. His application was turned down. Several weeks later he found out from a friend who worked for the same bank that employing a black person at the counter was feared to have “a negative impact on the traditional Austrian clients.”

Read full article at Afrikanet

Black Austria photo series of Philipp Horak at

Black Austria - An Anti-racism campaign in Austria (2007 - 2009)at


  1. I was born and raised in Ethiopia. My father is Austrian, my mother Ethiopian. For 19 years I lived a beautiful life in Ethiopia. I was a proud Austrian and Ethiopian, celebrated two New Years and two Christmases. I loved spending every second summer vacation in Austria and the years when my family stayed in Addis Abeba, my siblings and I would dream about Almdudler, Manner Schnitten and Prater. Then I moved to Austria and somehow a bubble popped. Suddenly, I was slapped with the fact that I am not the Austrian I had thought I was. I looked differntly and people would ask me where are you from, why do you sound so German, why did you come to Austria, for how long will you be staying, why did your dad come back. People would have a check list in their minds and after every point was ticked off, I became irrelevant, boring and then I was ignored. In the course of the last 6 years, I have had a lot to do with Austrians, I mean "bio Austrians" and somehow I came to the conclusion that I just felt uncomfortable, observed. I always had to explain myself and no one was really interested in who I am ,in this moment, no they cared about the fact that I grew up in Africa (mind you Africa is not a country, i grew up in Ethiopia). Nowadays, i do not have many "bio Austrian" friends, I hang out with people who have a "Migrationshintergrund" because that is all i will ever be in Austria.. someone who has emigrated, an outsider, a foreigner, an other. I really do not care, because I love that I grew up in Ethiopia, I saw things that made me the person I am today, but I have had it to try to fit into this society. It's time for me to face the music and understand that I am not an Austrian, I am only the Austrian I used to be before I came to Austria...I was more proud of that identity then.
    Now to Kofi's story. Imagine if a person is born and raised in Austria and still this society does not accept you, just because you are differnt (not Austrian whatever that's supposed to mean. That must be tough and it shows me once again how difficult it is to be accepted into this society.
    Wish you all the best Kofi

  2. I am Tanzanian, born in Tanzania, but grew up in Geneva, Switzerland. I now live in Vienna.

    I have also never felt like I belonged to either country. I speak fluently French (language spoken in Geneva), went to Swiss public schools, graduated from the University of Geneva and I have a Swiss Bar (law). However, until today, I still do not feel like a Swiss, as I am kept reminded of my skin color and my origins. Although I am very proud of my color and my origins, I do find it shameful that we are still categorized despite the fact that we are as integrated as any other Swiss persons in Geneva.

    Being a lawyer, I h went through the exact same experience as Kofi when job hunting. And it's tough. Although nobody says it explicitly, every single person in the legal field knows that it's all about the image of the firm and the clients, so they avoid hiring "exotic" looking people, especially Africans. I however managed to find a position in a big law Firm once I had stopped putting my picture on my applications and I could finally get an interview.

    Now I have moved to Vienna. I have to admit that although I love this city and I have created a network of reliable people, I have never felt more of a foreigner in Europe as I do now. Like for Kofi to Vienna, Geneva was my home, and even if some people were always there to make sure to remind you that you are a foreigner, I could at least defend myself (with the language, accent, style...everything but my skin color is Genevois). Here, people stare in buses and tell me random things sometimes that I do not always understand, but I can see and detect when someone is saying something negative about me (I have an intermediate level of German only). It's frustrating.

    When I go to Tanzania, I am also an alien there. Because my Swahili is not fluent, they (= relatives and other people) see me as not really being from there. Although I feel much more confortable in Tanzania as everyone "looks like me", I do not feel any strong connection to my country other than my holidays there during the summers and my desire to return there in future for some projects. But I don't know if I could live there and ever feel as confortable as in Geneva.

    Europe is most definitely not ready to accept Africans as being European, no matter how many generations later. But I do believe that once you know that, then it makes it ironically easier to live here. I know my own origins and I know who I am, so I've learnt to not let anyone define who I am.

    So Kofi, this is my message to you: no matter how frustrating it may get, just hang in there. I doubt that anything will change anytime soon. But the positive thing is that no matter what they say to you, what they do to you, you are an Austrian, whether they like it or not.

    Cheers to all and wish you all the best.


    1. I am becoming very afraid of Austria I have lived in Africa all my life but am thinking of studying in Austria so far I have not heard a good report from any blacks living there I'm now mortified, is it safe there though I mean for blacks? Will they attack you or they will just look at you?


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