From the Kerala to Vienna, a multicultural success story
Vienna’s 12th district, Meidling, tends to be a very interesting place to live in. It is of course very convenient, with the enlarged railway station in the vicinity of the Schönbrunn Palace, and it is also really getting more and more cosmopolite. The Matha Supermarket, for instance, opened twelve years ago: they’re selling now about 12,000 products coming from Asia, India, Africa or South America and they are currently expanding. Last Summer they also opened a travel agency and in November they took over a beauty shop close to the subway station.
This is where I met Yu Yun Chang, the only employee of the Matha company who works at the beauty shop. Since most of the people from the supermarket are from Kerala, the South West State of India, I was astonished to see a Chinese woman. Yu Yun is born in Kolkata, like her two parents. It is only one of her grandfathers who came from China to India and today the chinese community in India is estimated at 200,000 people. She belongs more precisely to the Hakka people (80 million people worldwide) who are known to be endogamous. At the age of 23, in 1992, Yu Yun came to Vienna to join her husband who was already living in the Austrian capital. They both became Austrian citizens even their German is not perfect and they today they speak a mix of Mandarin, Hakka and German with their 13 year old daughter. Yu Yun worked as a hair dresser, took classes to learn German but still encounters difficulties to find a job in an Austrian hair salon. This is why she started to work for the Keralan owner of the Matha company, speaking a mix of English and German with them.
Before being allowed to take a picture of her, I had to ask the two bosses and this is how I enjoyed chatting with Babu Kudiyiriukal and Joby Maramangala. Both in their early forties, they first worked as male nurses in Viennese hospitals before they could work at Matha. They overtook the direction of the shop for a few years and eight to nine people are now working for the shop. The travel agency they opened for a few months is running pretty good and they plan to open a snack bar (Imbiss) in the next year. I already enjoy the samosa or the biryani that they sell but the supermarket does not sell a lot of fresh products, apart from the vegetables, or the Indian sweets (I recommend the laddu they have). Each Wednesday, they also have fresh fish for very good prices (I tried most of them and was never disappointed). Clients are coming from Africa, Philippine, Latin America or Europe and the employees speak German, English, Malayalam (spoken in Kerala), Hindi, and some of them also speak Tamil (as there is a large Tamil community in Kerala). Babu was proud to mention they sell the hottest clili in the world, the bhut jolokia.
Matha is definitely a place to discover, to buy exotic products of course, but also to discover the cosmopolitan part of Meidling! You can start with their website…
On the same topic, see The Babelian part of Meidling!
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