Vienna, Austria Report of what it's like to live there - 01/16/13
Personal Experiences from Vienna, Austria
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
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?
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
(The contributor is affiliated with the U.S. Government and has lived in Vienna for one year, a fourth expat experience.)
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Apartments in the 1st district all the way out to the 19th. Even in the suburbs (19th district) there are many apartments and just a few single-family dwellings.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get pretty much everything you want here but, again it can get pricey for some of the more exotic things, like maple syrup. Prosi is a great international supermarket that also sells Duncan Heinz cake mixes, chocolate chips and other miscellaneous things that you wouldn't find at a typical grocery store. Julius Meinl is an amazing high end grocery store that also sells some things you wouldn't normally find. Both have their own websites.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Can't think of anything.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
McDonald's, Burger King, KFC - none of which are all that good. Austrian fast food is at sausage stands and yummy sandwich shops. You'll also see Asian noodle stands, doner kebap stands and pizza stands on nearly every corner. Traditional Austrian fare (schnitzel, goulash, etc.) can get a little heavy, but there are lots of international options as well. Since Vienna is a major European capital, the prices can get astronomical for some of the high-end fancy places, but you can eat cheap, too.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Through the Embassy DPO, but there are government mailboxes and post offices everywhere.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Available and pretty expensive from what I hear.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes - they're not on every street corner but they do exist and seem to be comparable to the U.S. Beware of the co-ed spas if you're at all modest.
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?
I have never had a problem using either, but it's recommended to get an Austrian bank account just to make bill paying easier, and just in case you run into the one store that won't take any of your cards because they don't have a microchip like the Bank of Austria cards.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Not much if anything available for English TV. Most expats I know use a VPN service to dial into U.S. programming.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
None really. It's nice to have some German, but you can get by just fine without it. Pretty much everyone here speaks some English.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Cobblestone streets in the 1st district could be a slight challenge, and many places have stairs with no elevators. Lots of restrooms in restaurants are downstairs in the basement.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
They are not only safe and affordable, they are way more practical than trying to drive here most of the time. Most of the people I know take public transportation rather than try to get their car out of a garage or try to find parking. Most of the districts in the city have 2-hour restricted street parking, and you have to either use pre-paid parking vouchers on your windshield (no street machines here) or pay for it on your cell phone.
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?
You can pretty much bring anything, although you may have to order parts for American cars from the States. Audis are everywhere.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, I think our bill is about 30 Euros a month for a landline telephone and wireless internet.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Cell phones here are great, and Vienna really takes advantage of them. You can pay for parking, your metro tickets, and tons of useful apps put out by the city for getting around: bus schedules, getting a taxi, etc. I highly recommend getting a smart phone to take advantage of all of that.
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?
Not that I'm aware of. You can bring your dog into stores, restaurants and public transport. They're very serious about people cleaning up after dogs and dogs must be well behaved. Lots and lots of rules about dogs here but they're readily accepted as members of society.
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Dogs are more valued here than kids, so you'll find NO problems with vet care or kennels.
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?
Maybe in some of the UN missions or other government agencies.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Pretty casual, considering it's a European country, but that said, you'll see a lot of Prada and Gucci clad women wandering the Graben as well.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Although crime is reportedly on the rise, there are still many stories of someone leaving their cellphone on a bus bench and coming back hours later to find it's still there.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Water and air are fine and there is a constant army of men cleaning the streets each day. I've heard of some pretty fine treatment in hospitals as well - cappuccinos and massages in your hospital bed.
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?
Perfect, except for the massive number of smokers here. And that is interesting, considering how much they're also into wellness, Nordic walking, organic food, etc.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Nice summers (although there were a few hot days near or just over 90F) and cold winters. In the summer the sun starts rising at 4:00 am and doesn't set until after 9:00 pm - long dark winters.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Our child attends AIS, but I don't have enough experience with the school yet to make a firm judgement. So far, they seem okay, although I wish the communication between parents and teachers was better.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
There are plenty of speech, occupational therapy, and other services available for kids. There is a kids' hospital here as well.
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, there is a little league baseball group here, soccer of course, horseback riding, bowling, etc. I don't think I've seen American football for kids here - not even at AIS.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Pretty large. The U.S. has three missions here, so everyone is pretty spread out.
2. Morale among expats:
People grumble about the unfriendly Austrians and no cohesion among the American community but I also know a lot of people who LOVE it here.
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?
As much or as little as you want.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes, yes, and yes, although you'll hear how much the Austrians don't tolerate children well. I haven't found it to be overly problematic. And, in fact, Austria has a ton of things geared towards kids, starting with a playground in every park, lots of kids' museums and gigantic indoor play parks, plus an entire group of hotels specifically geared towards small children (Google "kinderhotels in Austria").
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Vienna hosts one of the largest AIDS charitable events, the Life Ball, each year, and it is widely attended by celebrities (including Bill Clinton), as well as an array of flamboyantly-dressed individuals. It also has a week long Gay Pride event where, among other things, all the city's trams are decked out with rainbow flags.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
I've heard some reports of bias against darker-skinned individuals, and they still seem to hold a 300-year-old grudge against the Turks.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Wandering the many alleys of the medieval First District. Touring the countless museums in the city. Taking a weekend trip to the wine country along the Danube.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
All types of sports, lots of parks, hiking in the Vienna woods, sailing lessons along the river, river cruises, museums, all types of concerts, road trips, tons of outdoor festivals practically year-round, shopping, eating. On a short 2-year tour you'd have to work hard every day to get it all in.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Travel, nights out on the town, concerts.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The history and culture are fascinating. Beautiful Gothic and Baroque buildings with sterile plain buildings interspersed - sad reminders of the bombings during the war. Gorgeous countryside ranging from rolling green hills to magnificent snow-capped mountains. Highways are immaculate with all the conveniences. Winters can be cold, but the Austrians enthusiastically embrace it, starting with Christmas markets in November and outdoor ice-skating rinks until Spring. Schools close for a week in February so families can go skiing.
11. Can you save money?
You could, but it wouldn't be as much fun.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
Good walking shoes.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Only in Vienna
Have only seen it in the museum gift shops here but it's full of interesting hidden bits of history that you can see through out the city that you probably wouldn't notice walking by it on the street and wouldn't read about in guidebooks.
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
The Third Man
- though there is a cinema here that shows it non-stop.