Vienna, Austria Report of what it's like to live there - 07/18/14

Personal Experiences from Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria 07/18/14


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

Not our first expat experience, and in fact it was our second experience in Vienna.

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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?

At that time, our home base was the DC are, and we were able to fly directly to Vienna from Dulles.

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3. How long have you lived here?

two years

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

Diplomatic posting.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Families tend to get houses, although there are also apartments. Housing is usually very nice indeed. Not huge, but in lovely, park-like areas. If you have an apartment in the center, you may not have much space, but you will have access to all that the city has to offer. Typical commute from outer districts to the embassy or UN varies, but I'd guess 30 minutes on average. Trams come every 2 minutes.

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

Great availability, cost is relatively high.

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

U.S. breakfast cereals and peanut butter is pretty much all we shipped, food-wise. Oh, and vanilla, orange and almond extracts.

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

McDonald's is everywhere. I think there's a KFC near Mariahilfestrasse (big shopping street).

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

There is one tick disease you need to be vaccinated for. Ants are a problem in some of the older houses in the 18th district.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO, pouch, local mail.

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

Availability good -- I do not know cost.

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

The missions have some small workout rooms -- they're squished and a little dingy, but they get the job done if all you want is to run on a treadmill/lift a few weights. There are plenty of gyms competing with each other around the city, too, for not-bad prices, comparable to U.S. gym prices.

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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?

I had no problems using either, although some businesses won't take credit cards, only debit or cash. But largely, that's changing.

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

I know there are two English-speaking Catholic services available (one is at the Votivkirche) but don't know about the others.

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

Always good to know at least how to buy food, and a few other basic phrases. Many people speak English, but one's experience is always better with local language knowledge.

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

On the cobblestone streets in the center, yes, there would be difficulties. However, there are some accommodations, elevators in the subway, etc.

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

Yes and yes!

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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?

Well, obviously it's easier getting German/European parts. Most people drive late-model vehicles. This is not a poor country. If you like going up in the mountains, you'll need 4WD. Carjackings don't seem to happen.

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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?

Let's see, should we call it "high-speed?" It's available, and the embassy makes sure you get it, which is great, but it's not very high-speed, I'm afraid. Maybe it has something to do with all those thick old plaster walls? I don't know.

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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?

There are a few outlets that the mission folks use -- best to get there and then ask around. Costs are similar to programs in the States, and you are locked in -- allow 6 months before leaving to start asking how to get out of your contract so you don't get caught paying extra. I think our "Drei" (3) contract required us to cancel 2 months before leaving.

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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?

Very good vets, no quarantine: pets just need demonstration of good health and rabies shots.

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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?

Probably not, given strict labor laws. Teachers at the English-speaking schools, scientists at Atomic Energy: those are two possibilities.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Not as many as you might think. You can find ways to volunteer through the various international and women's clubs, if you're female. I'm not sure what men do who want to volunteer. Here's an instance where it would really help to have German ability.

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

Relatively formal in the city. Suits and ties at work. If you see someone wearing shorts in public, it's a tourist.

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Health & Safety:

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

Very few. There is little violent crime in Vienna. There are some home break-ins and some pickpocketing, but compared to most of the world, this is a very, very safe place.

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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?

Good quality medical care through excellent doctors and hospital.

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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?

Excellent, especially if you live in the outer districts like the 13th, 18th or 19th, which are higher and close to the Vienna Woods.

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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?

Four seasons, but none extreme. Snow in winter (but not a lot), maybe one very cold week. Fairly cool springs. Some heat in the summer, maybe one or two weeks in the 90s, but not more. Beautiful falls. If you like a lot of snow and skiing, you can get that within an hour or two drive from Vienna for a good 5 months of the year, at least.

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Schools & Children:

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

Several international schools, including the American International School in a beautiful setting next to vineyards and the Vienna Woods. We have not had school-aged kids in Vienna for more than 20 years, so can't really weigh in on this.

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2. 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?

Yes, many.

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

Yes, but I don't know much about them.

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Expat Life:

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

Expat community is split into missions, and, not only that, but often in big posts like this, you don't have high morale. People are off doing their own thing.

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

Go to a wine tavern (heuriger) in nice weather with friends -- like a big picnic in the vineyards. Go to Long Night of the Museums, when city museums are open 'til 1:00 a.m. Go to free filmed concerts, both classical and jazz, at the Rathaus (city hall) in summer and to the Christmas markets in Nov-Dec. Go on the New Year's Champagne Trail on New Year's Eve. Go to concerts and the opera. Hit the excellent (if not very varied) restaurants.

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

Good for all.

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

Yes. There is a fantastic gay pride annual event that takes over city hall every year -- lots of fun.

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

Some racial/ethnic prejudice. Austrians are typically a homogeneous society and the influx of Turks and Yugoslavs in the past few years has some Austrians up in arms. Watch out for nationalism, and keep an open mind, too, to listen to both sides: some Austrians resent immigrants coming in and going on the generous welfare system, while they (Austrians) feel they have worked hard for 30 years and that this isn't fair. You can see their point, but's just one step away from prejudice and often crosses the line.

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

Hearing world-class music. Seeing world-class art. Sitting in a typical Viennese coffeehouse with a newspaper. Hiking in the vineyards and Vienna Woods. Also, discovering neighboring countries like Italy, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Poland and Germany.

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

A few gems that people don't always get to: Kunsthaus Wien, Friedensreich Hundertwasser's museum. The Austrian Folk Art Museum in the 8th district (Laudongasse and Langegasse). It's fun to stroll through the big auction house in the Dorotheum, an 18th century palace, and even attend an auction there. Every day around noon the Lippizaner horses are walked from their stables on Augustinerstrasse in the center across to practice in the palace, and it's fun to watch them cross the street with their trainers -- for free.

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

Julius Meinl coffee, antiques at the Vienna flea market on Saturdays at the Naschmarkt, great white wine (Grunerveltliner).

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

A gorgeous, clean city. A transportation system that works beautifully. A country that begs to be explored. A fantastic arts and culture scene. Being in the heart of Europe.

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10. Can you save money?

Not if you take full advantage of museums, concerts and restaurants, as well as travel around Europe.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

That you still might need a sun-lamp for winter days -- it can get quite dark in winter and, conversely, light very early (4:30 a.m.!) in summer.

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

Oh yes. In a heartbeat.

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

Old American clunker car. We brought ours and getting American parts was a bit of a hassle, although there is an American parts place on Hohegasse in the 14th district.

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4. But don't forget your:

Bicycles, skis and hiking boots. Austrians love the outdoors and if you do, too, you will love your experience in Austria.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Before Sunrise. The Third Man. Amadeus (Director's Cut), even though it was filmed in Prague.

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

Books like Frederic Morton and Paul Hoffman. Histories of Viennese music (Mozart, Beethoven, etc.).

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Musicologist and Episcopal priest Prentiss Dunn offers terrific music appreciation classes in his home. I highly recommend them, and you meet a very interesting group of people that way, too. Email [email protected] or [email protected]

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