Vienna, Austria Report of what it's like to live there - 08/15/09

Personal Experiences from Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria 08/15/09

Background:

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

My 5th overseas posting.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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

Government.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Direct flights to Wash DC - 8 hrs.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Townhouses for US diplomats. Many US diplomats live in compound areas known as "the American ghetto."

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

Expensive! About twice what one would pay in the US. There is a 50-60% COLA for US diplomats.

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

Cold-weather clothing

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

McD's, WienerWald, etc. There are tons of nice restaurants. Dont forget the thousands of coffee-houses.

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

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic pouch and DPO.

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

Expensive! 10-15 Euros/hour.

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

Yes --- but they are expensive. There are excellent hiking and biking trails in the Vienna woods --- a mere 20-30 min from downtown

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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?

Safe.

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

Yes.

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

Yes.

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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?

In Vienna, none. Most educated people speak English. But it helps to know some German, especially in the countryside.

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

Lots.

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Transportation:

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

Public transport is safe and affordable. Many diplomats living downtown do not own a car.

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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?

Bring a well-maintained vehicle. Parts and repairs are expensive.

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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. It is pricey.

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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?

Local plans are good but expensive.

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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?

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

Good.

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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?

Hmm - tough.

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

Formal at work, more casual otherwise.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

Tick-borne encephalitis.

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

Few. Vienna is a very safe city. School-age children ride public transport (bus, tram, Metro) safely on a regular basis.

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

Excellent medical care is available. Excellent dental care is available 1 hour away in Hungary (e.g. dental tourism).

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

4 seasons --- cold winters, nice summers.

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Schools & Children:

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

AIS is the best of the lot; it's academically demanding, with a full IB program; some kids also attend VIS.

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

Few. AIS and VIS can handle only kids with mild special needs, on a case-by-case basis; the International Montessori Pre-School [downtown] can accomodate children with special needs on a case-by-case basis.

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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?

Lots of pre-schools available, but pricey. There are 2 excellent International Montessori pre-schools, one near the UN and another located downtown. Daycare costs 10-15 Euros/hour.

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

Yes, plus there are lots of huge public parks.

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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 --- lots of diplomats, corporate expats, educators.

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2. Morale among expats:

Varies. Many love it. But it takes time to get used to.

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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?

Vast. The ball season is a treat --- over 600 formal balls in a 2-month period.

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

Yes. It's a nice city for families; there is an active night-life for singles and couples.

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

Yes.

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

Some --- but better than it used to be. The city is quite international, with lots of immigrants from Turkey, the Balkans, Africa, and Asia.

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

Wow! Explore Vienna and its environs; Austria is a beautiful country, with much to see and do. Plus. Budapest, Prague, Slovenia, and Italy are only a few hours' drive from Vienna. Austria has many gorgeous national parks as well.

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

Tourist kitsch; antiques; art; clothing; food.

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9. Can you save money?

Good luck!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely.

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

bad attitude.

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3. But don't forget your:

good cheer, curiosity, and friendliness.

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

Graham Greene, The Third Man.

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

Graham Greene, The Third Man.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Vienna is a beautiful, charming city, with a lot of history and culture, set in the middle of Europe.

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