Vienna, Austria Report of what it's like to live there - 11/13/17
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?
This is our first expatriate experience.
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?
Washington, DC. Direct flights of about 9 hours are available into IAD.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing varies considerably in style and price, depending on the district in which one resides. Even with our requirements of a garage and personal green space (for our dog and to be able to barbecue), we were able to find housing that exceeds our requirements (in that we have both a personal garden and easy access to a large park with dog zone) in an enviable post code. From our house the commute is 20 minutes on public transportation to the center of Vienna.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Mainstream grocers in the "expat districts" are offering a much wider variety of items than from when we first arrived; there are more specialty markets (Asian, Turkish, Russian, Italian), as well. Compared to Washington, DC the costs are about the same.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Real peanut butter. The options are improving, though.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
The local post offices are more than adequate for sending and receiving packages; oftentimes, though, one must be prepared for the queues.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Housekeeping and general maintenance help is available, mostly through word of mouth or social media groups. Compared to DC the costs are much less. Specialty help (painters, for example) tend to be more expensive.
3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Credit cards with PIN are becoming more accepted; cash is still very much the preferred currency. Bankomats ("ATMs") are common and do not charge service fees. Paying bills "automatically" with IBAN transfers are also popular. In many ways, Austrian banking is more advanced than in the US.
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are at least two churches offering English-language services regularly; in addition, I have seen announcements for one of the churches in a popular expat district (19th) that now offers an English-language service, though I do not know if this is permanent.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
More local language is needed outside of the Inner Stadt and the expat districts. Local language classes are numerous and run across a wide price range, depending on the level and intensity of instruction.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Possibly. Not all of the trams are accessible, and not every private shop is easy to navigate for someone with mobility issues.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Absolutely, within the bounds of common sense. And cost-effective, as well. A regular annual pass amounts to â‚¬1 per day; student passes for the school year are â‚¬40 or â‚¬65, depending on the student age. The system is easy to understand; and the ticket machines offer information in multiple languages. Traveling on public transport is on the honor system, though, and if caught without a valid ticket the fine is quite high.
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?
I would advise against bringing an older car that might not pass strict European inspection standards.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, there are at least three options; installation times are short at worst.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
With EU-wide roaming having an Austrian mobile phone offers greater flexibility than a non-EU plan.
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?
Coming from the US, our dog did not require quarantine, but had to be micro-chipped (he already had one). Vienna is super dog-friendly, and this may be either a good thing or a bad thing for some. Dogs in general are well-trained and are welcome just about everywhere. Veterinarians seem to be everywhere, as well, and the costs for visits and necessary vaccinations are lower than in the US.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Numerous. Several expatriate organizations and the two main charity groups have volunteer opportunities.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Formal dress is preferred at the many balls in Vienna; often the invitation or ticket will indicate how one should dress. Formal dress is never out of fashion when attending an opera.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
There are some sketchy areas along the GÃ¼rtel at night, but not really in areas that expats would be in, anyway. There are also panhandlers and the like typical of a larger urban area, but really, nothing more is needed than what commonsense might dictate.
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 of high quality in general. Those with private insurance have the luxury of scheduling appointments and not having to endure possibly long wait times.
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?
Vienna is a clean city; its air is fresh and its water is among the finest in Europe. Seasonal allergy sufferers might be a little uncomfortable in the spring, but there's always a nearby Apotheke (pharmacy) with a qualified pharmacist to suggest a remedy.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
The number of stores and restaurants offering specialty groceries and menus has skyrocketed in the last five years, with many options now available for all kinds of diets.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Winter can come early and can be cold and gray for long periods of time. But a good walk in the vineyards or the nearby Vienna Woods cures everything.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
International schools are offered across many platforms: Christian, French, Russian and Swedish, along with the two most-known international schools. Admission is selective at the AIS Vienna; our experience with the school has been positive.
2. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
The Sports Unions offer a wide variety of programs; there are several indoor swimming pools, as well.
1. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Social media has made being able to connect with locals and fellow expats easy. There seems to be a group for everyone.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Speaking only for families, yes, this is a great city in which to live.
3. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Gender inequality simmers below the surface, but seems to be less so of an issue with the passage of time.
4. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Exploring the country outside of Vienna. The other states, outside of the known touristy places (Salzburg) are very different.
5. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
This is not a shopping post. Stores close by 8 PM on weekdays, 6 PM on Saturdays, and are closed all day on Sundays. Bratislava is an easy trip for a Sunday shopping fix; and Prague has stores and a mall filled with European labels (and they are open on Sundays).
6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Safety, cleanliness, and a general higher standard of well being.
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:
Nationalism. As an American, I chose to integrate rather than have "America" shipped to me via post. Many friends have not, and they seem to be less happy for it.
3. But don't forget your:
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
The Woman in Gold (movie).