One Out of 757 Thousand: How Lizette came to Tirol from South Africa
“From the beach to the mountains” is Lizette’s life story in short. “Beach” refers to Lizette’s youth in South Africa, where she lived only ten minutes from the sea. Cape Town was the home of the then 19-year old Linguistics and Sociology student Lizette. I want to know how she came “to the mountains”. “Well, even Africans go on a holiday,” is her answer. She gives me a challenging look, spiked with merriment. It was a trip to Europe in the company of “many oldtimers”. Actually, it was a pilgrimage that had been organised by the parish priest of her South African community. Her father backed out of it. “He was scared and he told me that I was much more interested in Europe than he was anyway.” Thus, Lizette went on her father’s journey to visit churches—and to find the love of her life. Which she did not know by then.
Lizette says things like: “Tiroleans are like frozen vegetables.”
“I wanted to open a beach bar.”
“Café Lizette” is situated in a steep cobbled lane at the heart of the old town district of Hall. There, I meet a 52-year old, radiant woman. Lizette is beaming with joy and happiness, ending her sentences with an ardent „woasch?“ (Tirolean dialect for ‘you know?’). She has been living in Hall in Tirol since 1984 and is married to a Tirolean. Pink is the predominant colour in her Café, rounded out by signs with “wise” sayings, which put a smile on my face. Like this one: “Enjoy life. There’s plenty of time to be dead.” Lizette has made her dream come true in 2016. “Many years ago I had that idea of opening a beach bar in Hall. Where people could stand barefoot in the sand, having a drink. Even in the winter!” Well, Café Lizette is not exactly what you would call a beach bar, however it does by no means stop Lizette’s enthusiasm.
Pink is the predominant colour in Lizette’s Café.
“The Café is my fifth child.”
Lizette is a mother of four and the Café is her fifth child. “I always compare it to having a baby. The first time with a newborn can be pretty hard. The baby needs full support, you have to feed it and change diapers all the night. It cries at night. You have to put all your time and energy into it. Now, one year later, the child can walk alone. I don’t like making plans, I prefer to live in the present moment,” says Lizette. She laughs a lot while we talk to each other. Does she have any hobbies, I ask? “Well, I like being at home, inviting friends, hanging around. That’s kind of my hobby. We don’t like sports.”
We, that’s Lizette and Manfred, her husband. “It was love at first sight.” They met during Lizette’s trip to Europe in Hall in Tirol. He approached her on a meadow at Gasthaus Thresl Inn in Heiligenkreuz, Lizette tells me. He was a car mechanic. “Actually, he is not the type of man who simply walks up to a woman, says hi, and gets to know her. He was very shy and timid.” Manfred took her to Innsbruck and showed her around town. “And we fell in love with each other.” They got engaged, married and their first child was born—all within one year. Today, Lizette has four grown-up children and two grandchildren. “I am a valuable asset to society, to the country, to Tirol and to Austria. Don’t you think so? Having so many children…”
“It was love at first sight,” says Lizette about her husband Manfred.
“This spiritual freedom here is priceless.”
Lizette’s good humour is as well her best weapon to deal with prejudices and racism. Growing up in the South-African apartheid system in the 1980s, she knows what it means to live in freedom. “They always told us: White is right.” She says it was great growing up in South Africa, especially for the country’s relaxed attitude and way of life. But people there need to be rich to ensure their children are getting a good education and to life in a safe place – and that is completely different in Tirol. “Here, everyone lives in a safe place.” She also likes that people in Tirol do everything on their own, they don’t have servants and garden boys. “I really like that people are free here. Although I am Protestant. You pay your church tax and that’s it. That’s a completely different story in South Africa, where there is much brainwashing when it comes to religion. It’s not the same here, I like that. This spiritual freedom is priceless.”
“I thought I was stranded in wilderness.”
It was by no means easy for Lizette in Tirol in the 1980s. It felt like living in a time machine in the beginning, when she moved from the megacity Cape Town to Hall in Tirol. “I just couldn’t believe how people looked at me, how they stared at me. I caused quite a stir with my dark skin.” And people kept asking her, the big-city dweller, silly questions, like: “Have you ever seen as many cars as here?” Yet at the same, the Tiroleans and she had something in common, says Lizette: “I thought I was stranded in wilderness and they thought I was a savage.”
Lizette moved from the South African megacity Cape Town to the small town of Hall in Tirol.
“Tiroleans are like frozen vegetables.”
Her husband turned from car mechanic to acclaimed comedian – which is thanks to Lizette in part: “I forced him to do what he is really good at. That’s it.” His family didn’t know that Manfred was such a funny person. “This talent appeared when we got to know each other.” Lizette’s open-heartedness and contagious laughter encouraged her husband to entertain people as “Luis from Ultental”, one of his most successful roles on stage. Lizette too has some things to say, like: “I like living in Tirol. The Tiroleans are like frozen vegetables, you know: The vegetables are frozen immediately after being harvested and thus they actually contain more of their original nutritional content than vegetables that endure cross-country transportation and a long period of storage before they reach your table. Frozen vegetables are crispier and crunchier than fresh vegetables once you defrost them.”
It was not before 2016 that Lizette was able to fulfil her dream of running her own Café. In the years up to then she had taught children how to dance and instructed elder people to dance Salsa and eventually worked as a Native Speaker in kindergarten. She’s her own boss now at Café Lizette. “As a mother of four I am used to serve and to pamper. Everything here is homemade, the bread, the cakes, the spreads, everything.” She took over the Café from Helmut, her brother in law. His clientele was mainly older gentlemen. They all have gone. Nowadays, it’s their wives who are having a great time here.
Usually, things are really happening in Lizette’s Café – we visited on her closing day.
If there is one person who changed Lizette’s life, it’s of course “Manni”. Thanks to him, she ended up on the other side of the world. Naturally, she has changed, too, says Lizette, “because we are constantly growing and changing.” She had to learn how to control her spontaneity. “That’s typically African, we live in the present moment. We don’t plan everything.” There are times when she still wonders about people in Tirol: “If it’s hot outside, we don’t do anything. Tiroleans get out all the same, conquering the highest hills on their mountain bikes. I certainly won’t go cycling in hot weather.” Moreover, she finds that people here do plan everything. “I only plan what’s important. Everything else I do the African way, without planning.”
“I am considered slim and slender there.”
On her trips to visit her family in South Africa, she always thinks, „whoa, they are all really big and fat! I am considered slim and slender there. Yet, two days later, I don’t see that anymore. All I see is their smiles and their laughter. All I see is happy and content people.” The European obsession with one’s figure is still very strange to Lizette. “Women in Tirol do sports instead of having dinner. People here live to work, to earn money. So many families are in dispute over the estate of their deceased. In Africa, people work to live.”
“I realized that I can’t make other people happy. That just doesn’t work. But I can share my happiness with them.”
“Boring people say: The party is boring.”
Lizette is very proud of her children. Adrian, Jule, Nico and Jasmin are aged between 19 and 31. Jasmin has two children of her own, thus Lizette is as well a proud granny. Lizette is upbeat, positive and engaged in life to the fullest—asked what advice she would give her grandchildren for life makes her think for a while. Her answer: “Always be your own person, be honest. Many bad things happen because people are not honest to themselves, they lie to themselves. I realized that I can’t make other people happy. That just doesn’t work. But I can share my happiness with them.” That’s why Lizette considers herself the most important person in her life. “You have to love yourself first, before you can deeply love other people. No other person can make you happy. That’s your own job.” It’s like going to a boring party. “Boring people never, ever stop complaining about the party, and how everything seems to be going wrong for them. Then I say: how can a party be boring? There is food, there is music, so what else do you need to have fun? Boring people just never have any fun. They want to be entertained, they never consider having fun themselves.”
While I am talking to Lizette, people walking by say hello to her – it seems as if everyone knows her and she seems to know everyone in Hall. There are no newspapers or magazines in her Café. People don’t get here to read the papers. And they don’t get here to browse the worldwide web. So why do they get here? “Network old school: they get here to talk. It’s a place to socialise and that makes me really proud. That’s the way it should be.” When we say goodbye to each other, Lizette gives me a hug as if she wants to defrost me.
Photo Credits: Tirol Werbung / Carlos Blanchard
You will find Lizette’s Café at the heart of the old town district in in Hall – and online at: Café Lizette