Dornbirn, Austria Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Dornbirn, Austria

Dornbirn, Austria 12/02/08

Background:

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

Yes.

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2. How long have you lived here?

6 months.

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

Corporate.

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

Fly to Zurich from any number of U.S. cities, and then take the train or drive.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Mostly apartments.

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

Very high quality but also very high cost.

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

100 Ipods to sell on the gray market.

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

McDonald's, however, it's as expensive as getting a pizza and coke from a Pizzeria. I don't consider it a cheap alternative anymore.

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Daily Life:

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

UPS and FedEx are non-existant here.

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

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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?

Get a local bank, and then get the "mobile TAN" service for making transfers. This can be confusing for Americans at first.

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

No idea. Conservative Catholic area

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

No newspapers, and I haven't bothered with a TV yet.

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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?

Supposedly they speak German here, but many of my German friends can't understand them. the dialect is very difficult to understand. You can get by, but English isn't that widely available, less so than in a "major" city. It definitely helps to take language classes to get by, though you may never understand the locals.

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

I think, like most of Europe, they are fairly considerate on this issue.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Just like the U.S.

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

Yep safe, taking the train across country is as expensive as driving though without the flexibility. Buses don't run on Sundays. You can survive in Vorarlberg without a car, but you can't live.

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3. 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?

The "TÜV" in Austria is the epitome of "big brother" government. I imported a car and would very much caution anyone against doing it. It was the most frustrating experience of my life. No one knows what to do so you have to figure it out. You pay taxes on horsepower and on CO2 emmissions yearly. Approximately 400 Euro / 100 hp which is why most Austrians drive cars with less than 100 hp.

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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, but depends on your definition of "high speed". ~US$40.

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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?

No idea as my company pays for mine. They are very expensive though.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Skype.

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Pets:

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

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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?

No.

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

Smart casual/ trendy.

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Health & Safety:

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

Excellent.

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

Very little crime, but it does happen. Pays to be alert.

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

Great supposedly, but I haven't had the need to use it yet. It can take 4 months to get an eye doctor appointment as they are booked that far in advance. Best job in Vorarberg I think.

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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?

Can rain a lot in the summer, windy in the winter.

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Schools & Children:

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

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

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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?

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Expat Life:

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

Extremely small number of Americans, a few other nationalities but it's not cohesive, unless you count the Germans, but they mostly live in Germany and commute.

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2. Morale among expats:

Most live here with their Austrian spouses, so they seem happy. I could think of better places to be.

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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?

The social life here is pretty poor. Most locals have been friends for life, and won't be bothered with getting to know anyone now, especially if they don't speak German. This applies to all nationalities. there are some bars, and thursday night is the "big" night. However, an American from a largish city may be dissappointed.

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

Great place for families, would be ok for a couple, very difficult to be here as a single.

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

There's no way it could be due to the conservative and 20-years-behind attitude.

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

Yes, this is a very conservative right region. Many "for rent" ads openly state "no foreigners/turks". I've been told the "foreigner" bit relates mostly to Africans and Middle Easterners but I do my best to come across as a local in correspondance, at least in the beginning.

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

Hiking, Mountain biking, skiing and traveling

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

Schnitzel, local beer, skiing.

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9. Can you save money?

Depends on how much you make I suppose, but things are expensive here. The government also likes to take it. Tax rate is 40% + but if you add up the other taxes I'd imagine the real tax rate is closer to 50% or more but for this you get a government who's bureacracy is the model of inflexibility and waste. However, they're here to protect you from yourself.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Probably not.

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

Gore-Tex jacket and hiking boots. Skis and mountain bikes, as they are expensive here.

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3. But don't forget your:

Open mind, sense of humor and the ability to shake off Anti-American sentiment.

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Parts Quantum of Solace, the new bond movie, were filmed in Bregenz; 15 minutes North of here.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Austrians, as a general rule, are very inward focused. I think the only place you may find more internationally minded Austrians is in Vienna. The rest of Austria is 20 years behind and focused mainly on themselves which makes their criticism of the international commununity smack of self-righteousness. However, they are happy people who are fairly happy with their lives. Everyone is extemely fit and make most of us Americans look lazy. Vorarlberg is great if you like the outdoors, if not, don't come here. When it rains, there's nothing to do. Combine rain with a Sunday when virtually everything is closed, and you might as well stay in bed.

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