Graz Interview #4 – Isabella

Interviews with locals and expats offering their own perspectives & recommendations for living in the lovely city of Graz.

I’m happy to introduce you this time to an Austrian! Isabella Keilani is a long-term Graz resident and has her own language coaching company, providing training to improve client’s German & English skills using the NeuroLanguage Coaching© method. Isabella also offers group on-line German classes for A1+/A2 & B1+/B2. Plus she has a fun facebook group “Stayhome German – Deutsch lernen Für zu Hause” where she posts weekly discussion topics so people can practice their writing skills. Isabella also teaches yoga and offers regular classes in English at the YoDA studio in St. Leonhard (on-line too during the current lockdown).

She has lots of great tips to share with us!

Welcome Isabella!

What do you enjoy most about living in Graz?

I am originally from Leoben, a town that is about 75 km away from Graz. I came here to study at Karl-Franzens university 29 years ago and have enjoyed living here ever since.

Graz is small enough that it doesn’t take you long to get anywhere. We have a great network of bikeways and if I feel like going for a run, all I have to do is literally leave the house to find myself in the middle of nature.

At the same time, it has a great city center with a fascinating history, a lot of hidden treasures and some really nice places to hang out.

What are your favourite places to eat / explore / relax?

My favourite places are the university quarter and especially Rosenhain.
I like walking up there and seeing the colours change according to the seasons.
When you sit at Cafe Rosenhain, you have the most wonderful view over Graz and I really like their coffee.

And if you – like me – spend a lot of time working on the computer, a little bit of green, the sweeping view a great conversation with a friend are a great way of letting the mind relax.

Another place I really like is the garden of Eggenberg castle. This is where I used to study for exams when I was at university, the place where my kids started to learn how to ride their bikes without support wheels (the rough Styrian way on pebbled paths) and where I like to go for walks with friends and family. In this lovely public garden, you can walk underneath trees that are several hundred years old, watch and feed peacocks, stroll up the wonderful rose hill or see if there is an exhibition on in the castle.

For food, I can recommend Pad Thai at Glacis where you can get wonderful freshly-cooked Thai curries served by super-friendly staff. If you like home-cooked Vietnamese cuisine, Vina on Grieskai is a great place to go. Besides organic beef dishes and home-made sauces without glutamate, they offer great jackfruit juice and their famous Vietnamese coffee. Vina is a very small restaurant, so booking a table in advance is highly recommended.

For trying out some wonderful local dishes, I’d suggest going to Der Steirer in Belgiergasse where you can get high-quality breaded chicken, Sunday roast but also a variety of seasonal and vegetarian dishes. Be patient with the staff – the restaurant is well-frequented and so the waitresses and waiters, as well as the kitchen staff, can be quite under pressure at peak times.

Do you have any advice for people first arriving in Graz (adjusting to the culture etc)

Coming from rough Upper Styria myself, I can say that the people in Graz are generally very open and welcoming. They might not approach you but are always happy to help out or have a little chat with you if you take the first step. Some friendly words and a smile often go a long way and humour rarely fails to break the ice. Sometimes grumpy neighbours – especially the more senior variety – can make life a little hard for you. I found that acknowledging their concerns (noisy children, meticulous garbage separation, open entrance doors) can help win them over as can offering support or staying in the staircase for a little chat. 

As you are a language teacher 🙂 where are your top tips for learning German?

A great way of learning German is doing things in German. Graz has a lot to offer in that respect: You can take part in a guided city tour, join a cooking workshop or a guided herbal tour. Try out a yoga or pilates session in German or take an introductory course to archery

Whatever you are passionate about, there will something available in German. In the beginning, it will be hard, but if the subject matter fascinates you, you will ease into it quickly. And these events are usually great places for getting to know and to talk to German-speaking people.

And most importantly – overcome your shyness and start speaking. Only by making mistakes we can get ahead and learn!

Of course, you can get around in Graz with English – whether you buy school supplies at Libro or have a question at the tax authorities (wait – I’m not so sure about the last one) and of course that’s comfortable. But the earlier your start leaving that comfort zone the easier it will get for you to grow into speaking German and making friends here. Be bold and be selfish – if people draw funny faces and pretend not to understand what you are saying in German – ignore that! You have a goal, and the sooner you start experimenting with your own version of German, the sooner those very people will start being baffled by your great progress and congratulate you on your brilliant German.

Any other thoughts or suggestions on Graz you would like to share?

Graz is more international than it seems at first sight. There are a lot of international initiatives here like the IWA (International Women’s Association) or CINT – Club International. Take advantage of what they have to offer. They are usually a great way to meet people and help you find your way around Graz.

For more personal recommendations you can read my other interviews here.

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