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

Personal Experiences from Salzburg, Austria

Salzburg, Austria 03/18/11

Background:

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

No, this was not my first time living abroad. I lived in Sydney Australia for 6 months in 2005.

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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?

I am from New York City. It is easy to get from NYC to everywhere. When travling to Salzburg, it is easiest and cheapest to fly into Munich and then either hire a shuttle or take the train to Salzburg. You can get a driver for about 50 Euro, I have used SMS in the past and they are very good (www.mietwagenservice.at).The drive is around 1.5 hours. Salzburg does have an airport but you would need to layover somewhere else first. With a major carrier like Lufthansa, Austrian Air or Swiss Air, you would need to layover in Frankfurt, Vienna, or Zurich respecitively and get on a small puddle jumper. If you are already in Europe, budget airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet fly frequently to the UK and other places right into Salzburg.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I lived there for almost a year - Sept 2006 to June 2007

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

Placement for a Fulbright Teaching Assisstantship

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

There are all types of accomodations - houses, apartments, etc. I would say that most places within the city can be reached within 20-30 minutes by bus (faster if biking/driving).The airport and Europark (big mall with IKEA) are on outskirts of town and this may take 45-60 minutes, but you will not be traveling to these places on a daily basis.

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

You can get almost everything in Austria as you can in the US.Groceries are slightly more expensive than in the US though. That being said, the quality is much better. They are very organic and the food will be fresh. Sometimes you may need to go to more than one store to get all of the things on your shopping list, but that is part of the charm!There are also markets that you can get fresh food from. Stay away from the market in the Altstadt as they will just rip you off, but every Thursday there is a good one near Mirabellplatz where the locals go to stock up for the week.

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

One thing that you may want to ship is hygiene products. Even though everything you need is available, it is often more expensive than in the US and in smaller quantities (don't get me started on how a small bottle of shampoo costs more than buying shampoo and conditioner in the US).Plus, we Americans are spoiled by the products that we like and use everyday.

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

They have the whole spectrum. There are a couple McDonalds, lots of pizza places, and kebab! There are lots of stalls around for a quick Wurst (usually 2 Hot Dogs served with a roll).There are definitely nice restaurants available - the Hotel Sacher restaurant is nice and set right on the Salzach and next door is the Cafe Bazar. On Getreidegasse there is an interesting place called Carpe Diem (owned by the Red Bull guy) that serves a lot of their food in cones - definitely a place to try (www.carpediemfinestfingerfood.com).A good midrange place near the Altstadt is Republic Cafe (www.republic-cafe.at). There are plenty more options than this. Cheap would be under 3 EUR (kebap/McDonalds), mid-range would be around 6 EUR to 15 EUR, and expensive would be 20+ (but it can get expensive quickly).

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

They have everything.

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

The average amount, although I have heard that bed bugs are more prevalent in this alpine climate (but not the gross NYC kind).

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Daily Life:

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

Same as you would in the US.The Austrian post office does take the longest lunch break (Mittagspause) of all businesses in the country though.

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

I would think help is easy to find. Even the college dorms have people that clean each room once a week. This is probably a country though where you could afford cleaning help a couple times a week, not everyday, if you didn't want to spend a lot. I would think there are good nannies available/I am sure you can bring your own.

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

Yes, they have many facilities and most are new. I loved my gym that was on Alpenstrasse (the name is escaping me though).

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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?

ATMs are prevalent, unfortunately none of the Austrian banks have a deal with US banks to bypass fees (like Bank of America has with Barclays, Deutsche Bank, BNP, and Macquarie - just off the top of my head).The use of credit cards can be tricky. Any area that has a lot of foot traffic (i.e. tourists), it will be easy to use a credit card. A lot of places will only take cash though once you get out of those areas (unless things have changed).For example grocery stores and even the eletronics store (Media Markt) will only take debit cards. Once you are there for a couple weeks you will figure it out.

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

I believe they do have some English langauge services available. The country is largely Roman Catholic, so I assume you could find at least one service a week in English. I also think there are some protestant services in English available based on some expats I knew that belonged to a specific church.

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

Yes, you can find English language newspapers in Salzburg. You will have access to British reading materials and the Wall Street Journal Europe is printed in English. They do have some English TV too, although much of it is dubbed. Most movies will be played in English and MTV Europe is in English with subtitles. I only know about the basic TV stations though, I am sure you could buy cable TV or satellite. In addition to TV in German, you can get Italian TV too.

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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?

You could live in Salzburg without knowning German if you wanted. However, I would advise learning enough to be able to navigate the transportation systems, go grocery shopping, ask directions, understand numbers, eat in a restaurant, and salutations. Most people will speak English, especially those under 30ish, but not everyone will (and outside of the tourist areas is where you go to the mom and pop places).They will also really appreciate the effort and it will just make your life easier to get a few things down.

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

Someone with disabilities would not have an issue navigating the city or using public transportation for the most part. Part of the appeal of the city is being able to hike up hills and take in the views, but I am pretty sure most of these points are now accessible by elevators or the furnicular.

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Transportation:

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

Yes, all transportation is safe, affordable, AND EFFICIENT! Buses will run in the city until around 11pm depending on the line, trains will vary, and you can get a taxi anytime by hailing one from the downtown area. Transportation gets cheaper if you buy day/week/monthly passes for the mode and the line you use the most. For national trains you can buy a VORTEILScard (www.oebb.at) which will give either students or families discounts both within Austria and Europe. They will also have specials that combine a train ticket with ski lift tickets, for example.

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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?

Unsurprisingly, German cars are popular. Most people will not be seen in an SUV, but I think 4 wheel drive would be helpful in the winter.

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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, this is avaiable, I am not sure of the costs though. I believe it will be cheaper with a contract, similar to that of cell phones.

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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?

A1 is the main cell phone carrier in Austria. Outside of Austria it links up to the Vodafone network. If you are there for 2 years, definitely sign up for a plan as that will be the cheapest. A1 also has a line called "B Free" which is the add credit as you go method.

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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?

I do not think so, just do not take a flight that connects in the UK.

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

Austrians love their animals, there are lots of vets and I would assume kennels as well.

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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?

This can be hit or miss. Austria is very protective of their jobs. Some things may be available, but the biggest hinderance would be not speaking German. I knew a smart British girl that had to work at McDonald's because she was not a native German speaker(and that was even with EU work authorization).That being said, this is a tourist economy so I am sure you could find something related to assisting English speaking tourists - being a guide, ski instructor, etc. - or teaching English at a school or on the side.

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

The dress code is similar to that of the US.At work it is business casual and in public people where a lot of jeans.

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Health & Safety:

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

No

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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?

No major health concerns, except buy medical insurance if you go skiing just in case you need to be heli-vacced from a resort. The quality of healthcare here is high. The Landeskrankenhaus (hospital) in Salzburg looks like a mini city and you can find all specialties here as well.

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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?

AMAZING! I have never breathed cleaner air. Also, you will not see water as blue or clean in the US as you do in Austria. The Salzach River, which runs through Salzburg, reminds you of this every time you see it.

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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?

They have a climate similar to that of the US East Coast - mild spring and fall, hot and sometimes humid summer, and snow 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?

I do not have children but I would assume there are options. I found this website: http://english-schools.org/austria/, and it does appear there is an American school in Salzburg and an international one in St. Gilgen (in the Salzkammergut about an hour from Salzburg).I worked at an EU boarding school, that being said, boarding schools are a very popular option for Austrians in general so it would make sense that there would also be plenty of international/American boarding school options around Austria and Central Europe.

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

I know my school was able to make special arrangements for a girl that suffered from depression and eating disorders so I think the country as a whole is very aware of possible problems. I definitely think there are special needs schools in the area. I also know there is a large school for the deaf outside of Munich.

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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?

Again, I am not familiar with child care, but this is a developed place, you can definitely find quality care here, although possibly pricey.

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

I would assume so, this is a pretty active population. There is definitely skiing!

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Expat Life:

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

Large enough. Salzburg has a fair amount of expats, but not an overwhelming amount like some other European cities. The majority of the English speaking expats will be British or Irish. That being said, there are some Americans, but most of them are in their early 20s. There are also a good amount of people from Germany and Italy here as well.

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2. Morale among expats:

Positive! Salzburg is a pretty easy place to get use to and there are always things to do. Plus, it is easy to travel in and out of, so if you are feeling a little homesick you can go home for a week and then come back. A lot of the European expats will head home at least one weekend every two or three months.

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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?

Lots to do! Whatever you want you can do in Salzburg. Most of the social life will revolve around going to beergardens/pubs.

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

Yes! Everyone can enjoy Salzburg!

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

Yes, Salzburg and Austria as a whole are very open to this lifestyle. There are a few gay bars around the city, one of the more popular ones is right at the base of Linzergasse before you cross the bridge to the Altstadt - they are always having parties and other events.

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

Austrians unfortunately can be slightly racist. The target of many of their insults are the Turks that live in the city. Statistically they feel even stronger emotions towards the Turks than the Germans. The main source of conflict is to those Turks that have not assimilate nor speak German, those assimilated will not have an issue. Austrians are not as politically correct as Americans, so do not read too much into their comments if something rubs you the wrong way, much of it is out of ignorance.

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

The highlights are the culture (music, cafe's, beergardens, museums etc.), healthy lifestyle (yes, even with all the beer), and the ability to travel.

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

There are tons of things to do in this area. The cultural activities are great!There are tons of concerts, plays, operas, museums to enjoy. They have a great cafe culture where you can go to one of the many cafes and have some "Kaffee und Kuchen" (coffee and cake).In the evening the beergardens are the place to be social (there are many pub options too).There is a soccer, hockey, and american football team all called the "Salzburg Red Bulls" (the Red Bull creator lives in Salzburg) that you can go watch. This is only a sample of what can be done inside the city. A short distance away are world class ski resorts, hiking trails, and water activities. With in two hours you can be in Munich or Interlaken, 4 hours will take you to Zurich and Vienna, and under 8 you can be in Budapest, Milan, Venice, Strasbourg, Prague etc.

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

The thing you will see most often are Mozart Balls (Mozart Kugeln) - only buy the massed produced ones in a local Austrian grocery store (not the one on Rudolfskai).My favorite handmade Mozart Balls are from Cafe Habakukon Linzergasse, they are 1 EUR each. Do not waste your money on the Cafe Furst ones, which are the most advertised "handmade" ones. Towards the end of November and through December a Christmas Market will open in Salzburg, definitely shop here for cute things. Smokers, or incense burners, are a unique gift item.

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

A major advantage to living in a place like Salzburg is that you will still have a pretty high quailty of life while getting to enjoy a new culture and one of the prettiest places on earth. The environment is just so clean and healthy here. Also, Salzburg in a prime location for traveling. There is an airport and all trains going East/West AND North/South will stop in Salzburg. I remember going to France on a Saturday and Slovenia the following Sunday - this is not something you can normally do elsewhere in the world.

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11. Can you save money?

Probably not too much. If you are getting paid in American dollars it may be hard, as my big "savings" came from when I liquidated my Austrian bank account and converted euros back into dollars. That being said, if you are a good budgeter you could save as it is not ridiculously expensive like other places.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes!

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

High heels and fancy party clothes and American chocolate and beer.

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3. But don't forget your:

Skis, bike, sneakers, love of beer and interest in traveling/learning about new places.

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

If you like a lot of history with your travel books, check out "The Rough Guide to Austria".Another book that talks about Austria is Bill Bryson's Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The Sound of Music, but do not expect people that live in Salzburg to know or care about this American classic.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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