Vienna, Austria Report of what it's like to live there - 08/05/11

Personal Experiences from Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria 08/05/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, also lived in Bogota, Colombia

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

DC. Nine hours direct to Vienna from Dulles.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1.5 years

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Foreign Service

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Varies widely depending on preference. City living is convenient and safe, still relatively quiet. Other districts may offer convenience to schools, but be wary of taverns (heurigers) up in the hill areas. They can be loud, and late.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries are expensive. Utilize the commissary, especially if you have a family. School lunches are almost unaffordable.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

A healthy supply of corn tortillas. There is NO good Mexican food here. And I mean....NONE! We've looked.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

MacDonald's is good and cheaper than a restaurant, but it costs a fortune compared to prices in the US. Better quality. Good pizza take out. Asian delivery. Cost is HIGH. This is the most frustrating part of living here.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

The big grocery chains have it all.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Ticks, mosquitoes. Very few bugs in general.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO. Awesome!

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

A maid is 10 Euro per hour. Be cautious...homes get burglarized fairly routinely while people are on vacation. Homes are cased, no question about it.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is a good gym at the VIC. It caters to expats.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Plan to always have cash. Always! ATMs are available near tram lines and in the city. Very few places take credit cards, even sometimes large restaurants and public places, where in the US you would expect a debit/credit card to be taken. Grocery stores are getting better.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, plenty.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

There is not much in the way of newspapers, and the magazines are costly. TV is available through SKY, a London company. It's good, and reasonably priced: 115 USD per month for hundreds of channels, including American sports channels. You will have to look pretty hard to get US news.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

A lot more than you'd think. There is a real fear of looking dumb among this culture. So if someone does not speak English, they will respond with disgust. Make a strong effort to learn basics ahead of time and use the local phrases even if you think you sound dumb. It goes a long way to get what you want (but do not expect a smile).

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Not many, actually. The outskirts can be hilly, but the access to public transportation is pretty great.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Absolutely! Both safe and affordable. Best I've ever seen.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Any type. Smaller is better.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, there are 2 main companies. One is contracted with embassy but is slow. The other is difficult to communicate with but provides fast internet speeds. 74 euro a month for digital cable.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Don't buy one in the states and expect it to work here. Either get a cheap pay-by- the-minute phone or plan to invest in a phone AND plan here.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No, but be ready to have a last-minute shuffle with paperwork and import issues.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Great. Everyone I know who has pets has no complaints. There are kennels, vets and food, as well as an abundance of supplies.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not that I have seen. You must speak German, fluently.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Dressier than you're used to in the US but not overly so. Women dress up and wear heels, make up all the time and are very concerned about fashion. Men are often in suits, esp at work, and tend to be dressier in restaurants than in the US.Being from the West Coast, it was even more significant of a change.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Tick-borne encephalitis. If you hike, camp or like to be outside, do your homework and read up on the vaccinations, which, btw, are not FDA approved, if that concerns you. Allergies are bad here.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Great. Allergies are pretty high. Zero pollution.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot and humid in summer. Cool and temperate fall. Cold, snowy winter, warm beautiful spring. The essence of four seasons.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Great education. Slightly difficult to interact with locals. There is a palpable fear of foreigners here.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Shop around. The main schools are not open to dealing with special needs. Ask lots of questions.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Schools. Other than that, you must speak German.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

HUGE. There are 3 missions here, as well as the United Nations. The community is incredibly diverse (the expat community, that is).

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2. Morale among expats:

Good. It is what you make of it, and it depends on your priorities. If you want to be close with the embassy, you can. If you want to make local friends, that's quite easy, too.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Exists, but it's quiet. This is not a party city. It shuts down early and it's not rowdy.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Anyone will love it here. I understand the night life isn't the most exciting, but it does exist.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

This is a very xenophobic society. There is no attempt at hiding it, either.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Salzkammergut, Salzburg, Eastern Europe, cheap flights to anywhere in Europe/surrounding areas (for us it was Rome, Paris and Cairo).Biking, hikes, fantastic public parks and pools.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Museums, parks, learn about Austro Hungarian empire, see Eastern Europe, bike ride, walk, swim, hike, fish, boat, take pictures, let your kids run to the park, enjoy a stress free life.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Experiences more than items. Music classes, instruments, tours,and trips to see the rest of Europe. Wonderful locally-grown (and very healthy) food, but it is expensive.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Beautiful city. Lots of things to do both for singles and family. It is a safe city with museums, movies, shopping, great public transportation and good international schools.

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11. Can you save money?

Don't even consider it.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Of course!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Excess anything. There is not a large amount of storage space.

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3. But don't forget your:

German dictionary.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

"Living in Vienna" by the American Women's Association

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Anything related to classical music.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

There is a lot to see and do in and around Vienna. There are two major flaws: the cost of everything, and the attitude of the locals. Eventually you realize that neither of these things is going to a) change, or b) do all that much damage. Just be ready for it and enjoy one of the cleanest, safest and most centrally located places on the planet!

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