Vienna, Austria Report of what it's like to live there - 08/23/13
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?
No, we have lived in Canada and Brazil before coming to Austria.
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?
Ha, where is home in this life? From DC, Austrian Airlines (codeshare with United) has direct flights, about 10 hours to Vienna.
3. How long have you lived here?
We arrived August 2012 and are at the halfway point now (we are pretending we don't need to leave next year).
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
My spouse is affiliated with the U.S. Embassy.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is spread out - smaller apartments in the 1st district and bigger units in the 9th, 18th, and 19th districts. Note that some housing is on the smaller side so if you're bringing a lot of things, make sure to inquire about storage space. Commute time varies but generally no more than 30 minutes to the Embassy depending on your proximity to public transport.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Everything is available, for a price! I would say I pay about 30% more for groceries here than in the U.S. which is consistent with the COLA. Some baking items like chocolate chips, baking soda, and vanilla extract can be hard to find.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Vanilla extract - I've only found vanilla sugar and pure vanilla. Everything else you can find here or order online!
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
The usual suspects plus some unique ones like Turkish kebab stands and, of course, Wuestelstands for your sausage fix! Restaurants can be costly if you want good food but there are some good ones in the middle-price range as well - don't expect the same customer service you have in the U.S. I recommend browsing the useful Trivienna website for ideas and suggestions.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Once the ants wake up from hibernation, expect a few (hundred) visitors in your apartment, especially if you're living in an older building. With this year's flooding, we also experienced an increase in wasps and mosquitos. Ticks are also present in the woods and parks so the MED unit recommends vaccinations to prevent encephalitis.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
APO and pouch - APO takes about 10 days; pouch is longer as it's routed through Germany. The Austrian mail system is, unsurprisingly, excellent and in many cases faster than getting APO mail back to the U.S.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Widely available. We have a cleaning person and a babysitter both of whom charge 10 Euros per hour which seems to be the norm.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Available of varying quality and expenses - the CLO just negotiated a good rate with a nice gym but overwhelmingly the gyms are expensive (around 100 Euros per month plus a ridiculous high initiation fee) or run-down. I ended up exercising outdoors in the many parks here (you will see many joggers and Nordic walkers!).
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?
Very safe to use - note though that Austria is still a big "cash only" economy where many restaurants will not accept debit or credit cards so it's a good idea to carry a bit of cash on you.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
I am a native German speaker so it's hard for me to say but it seems like that everyone understands some degree of English! This is a tourist city, after all. But, keep in mind that like in any other city, a little bit of the local language goes a long way.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Having pushed a double stroller around for most of my time here, I have to say the city does a great job of making pretty much everything wheelchair accessible.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
The Wiener Oeffis (Vienna public transit) offers the best system in the world! A yearly pass costs 365 Euros and a long wait for a bus, tram, or subway would be 8 minutes ... Taxis are available as well and not too terribly expensive.
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?
Something small! Parking spaces and garages are tight so leave your SUV and minivan behind. German car brands are most popular here (not surprisingly) but there are dealers and shops for pretty much all types of cars.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes! The Embassy sets up Internet in housing prior to arrival which is fantastic - some people have reported problems with speed but we've never had any issues. The Embassy uses A1 to set up cable and internet (you can choose a package) and I think the costs are under 100 Euros per month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
You need one! Check the TriVienna website for information on how you can obtain one. The main providers here are T-Mobile, A1, and Drei (just merged with Orange).
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?
That's a good question! Most people I know work at the Embassy or have a portable business - that said, the Embassy just got a new GEA who has been a great resource to those seeking outside Mission employment.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
More formal than in the U.S.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
This is about the safest city I have lived in but you still should use common sense precautions, as you would in any major city.
In terms of home safety, there are increasing reports of break-ins and burglaries so be sure to close all windows and use your alarm systems.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is excellent here. The Embassy has a great MED unit and many doctors here speak excellent English.
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?
Very good - pure, fresh mountain air! Although be aware of seasonal allergies here!
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Four seasons so be prepared for all types of weather!
Spring and fall are beautiful and quite comfortable. Summers can get very hot (we reached 103F just a few weeks ago and A/C is generally not available here!) and winters can be....well, long, grey, and cold. This past winter, we had the first snowfall in October and the last snowstorm in April - it was long. But, the Viennese make up for this by hosting a number of Christmas/Winter markets and enjoying outdoor sports, so don't forget to bring your sled and ice-skates!
Schools & Children:
1. 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?
There are many options - the city subsidizes care so expenses are on the lower side (less than 100 Euros per month; private ones are more expensive).
Check out the following search engines to find a preschool:
2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Through the schools and through local "Sport Unions."
For the local options, check out:
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
Depends on who you ask! Most people love it here because there is so much to do and see but the winter can drag on and be a bit hard ....
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?
You name it, it's here! Do not miss the Viennese Ball season or a night at the Opera!
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It's a fantastic city for everyone!
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes - Vienna has a huge annual PRIDE parade!
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
People of Roma descent still report problems, but overall, nothing major. There was one hate crime this year when an African woman was pushed in front of the subway (an accident was averted thanks to the emergency brakes that bystanders were able to pull from the platform) but this seems to be an anomaly.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Taking a tour throughout history by visiting fantastic museums and palaces, exploring the beautiful city of Salzburg, visiting neighboring countries, hanging out at local heurigers (wineries) and just living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world!
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Oh where to start? Museums, zoo, parks (endless), riding the Ferris wheel at the Prater amusement park, exploring smaller Austrian towns, heading to Salzburg, driving to neighboring countries (Slovenia, Germany, Italy etc), hanging out at a heuriger or beer garden, the opera, going on a hike around the Vienna Woods .... yeah, there is LOTS to do here!
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Dirndls and Lederhosen.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Vienna is an absolutely amazing and beautiful city. There are tons of things to see and do - if you're bored here, it's your own fault! There are literally hundreds of museums in Vienna alone, amazing palaces, a beautiful zoo, and plenty of green space.
11. Can you save money?
We are but plenty of people are not.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
ABSOLUTELY! That is assuming someone can actually get us to move away....
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Expectations of customer service or that someone will bag your groceries.
3. But don't forget your:
Sled, ice skates, and warm weather gear!
4. Do you have any other comments?
If you are interested in living in Vienna or newly arriving, I highly recommend browsing through the