From an early age, Markus knew he wanted to be a hairdresser. His sister had to pay the price.
Did you cut your sister’s hair?
‘Not my sister’s hair, but her dolls. All her Barbies were mangled. I guess it is true: my job is my passion.’
And he’s good. Asked about his best quality, he answers: ‘I am a super colourer, and a super stylist, but I am best at listening.’ Cutting hair is not an easy job and listening is an important part of it. ‘Every person is different. Every head, every haircut, is different. They can choose whatever they like. But you have to think for them too because it is also about fashion. Meanwhile, you also have to talk with them about everything. You have to be able to switch. And to find out what they really want. And that’s the difficult part. It’s very intimate.
But how do you find out what the customer really wants? How do you help the customer?
‘Mainly through talking and with magazines. Not look books.’ He takes a magazine from the pile and shows a girl with purple hair. ‘I don’t do this. Out of 1,000 customers, 500 want…’ He leafs through the magazine, searching. ‘This kind of blond. That is natural, stylish, pretty.’
Markus is also experienced in getting people to come to his shop.
Do customers come from all over or just from the neighbourhood?
‘At the moment, a lot of our customers are from the neighbourhood. But the shop is cool. We are more well known than before, and people like saying they’re a customer; it makes them feel cool. You can look inside the shop.’
And the door is open.
‘Like Amsterdam. You see the window, you see the girl, and you go into the establishment.
Like the Red Light District.
‘Exactly. That’s how it works. They see you, they see what you do, they come.’
Markus is interested in much more than just his job. He starts by saying he is not very interested in politics, yet he has some outspoken opinions about issues that are usually considered highly political. When asked about Brüno for example, the gay Austrian film character created by Sacha Baron Cohen, Markus – who himself is openly gay – answers: ‘It wasn’t funny and it wasn’t Austria. I thought it was bad. It was too much. It made it seem like all gay people are dumb and superficial.’
But gay people are now more accepted in Austria than before, according to Markus.
But what is it like to be gay in Vienna, is it accepted?
‘Much more nowadays. When I’m walking down the street, I never have a problem. Not even when I’m with my friend. He is from Tirol. Tirol is different, but Vienna is very free.’
Tirol is conservative?
‘Yes, but that is the countryside. Gays from all the states come to Vienna.’
Austria’s most famous gay is the bearded lady who won last year’s Eurovision Song Festival.
Conchita’s victory is good for Austria and for gays in Austria. ‘Our country has always had a reputation for being right-wing radicals. But now we have a new bard. A transsexual. That is important, especially at a time when, for example, Russia was so extremely anti-gay. The whole of Europe chose her, I find it superb, and yes, I am proud.’
The few times Markus has had problems with being openly gay is with Turkish people. He thinks that they refuse to integrate. ‘We have a problem with them. Those who come from abroad only socialise with each other. The Turkish always live together in one quarter. It’s like that in Berlin and in Vienna. And also the shops there are only Turkish. I think it’s important that this doesn’t happen, because it’s bad for Austria. Austria has to remain Austria. So you have to mix, and not have all the Turkish shops together. Many don’t speak German, and that’s bad. You have to integrate. If you don’t speak the language, you cannot integrate.’
However, it is not only the Turkish people who refuse integrate. According to Markus, the older generation in Austria can be very stubborn. ‘The best is to take a bit, and give a bit, and make the best of it. And don’t say: I don’t like it. But the older generation is like that. ‘
Besides, the immigrants are not the only ones who only socialise with each other.
In Vienna, one quarter is completely Jewish. They speak with no one else. They think outsiders come to take their land, but that isn’t the case.’ In Markus’ opinion, immigrants shouldn’t impose their culture on others. ‘When I go to Spain, I want to experience Spanish culture. And it’s not like all the Spanish suddenly have to live like I do. People who say so are daft. It only creates problems.’
This does not mean that Markus is against immigration. Not at all. He is especially fond of the people coming from Eastern Europe.
EU citizens can live and work everywhere they want. Are there many new Eastern European people here?
‘A lot of Hungarians. Nice people. My ex was a Hungarian. They all learn German very quickly. Every job they do, they do it perfectly. The same goes for Slovakians. Very cool people come out of the mix. Not only in terms of appearance, but also because of their attitude. I know a family, Chinese with black. Their children cherish both the African and the Chinese culture. It is important to bring this culture with you. You can only learn from it.’
So, apparently, Markus thinks the EU is good idea.
Are you pro-Europe?
‘I think Europe is good. But we are not ready for Europe. Because everyone is proud of their country and now we have to become one country.’
Markus is also proud of his country, but he nevertheless calls himself a European.
‘For me it’s important where you live and where you come from. Therefore, it’s Europe for me. Your roots are in Holland, and you might be in Austria today and Germany tomorrow, but you are always moving within Europe.’
(interview by Mark, written by Max Kievit)