Vienna, Austria Report of what it's like to live there - 08/06/11

Personal Experiences from Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria 08/06/11

Background:

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

3rd expat experience - Shanghai, China and Beijing, China being the first 2

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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?

US (midwest).took about 12 hours Vienna-Amsterdam-US or 10 hours Vienna-Washington DC

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3. How long have you lived here?

2008-2010

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

US Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

singles, couples, and young families mostly live downtown. Families with school aged children live in the outskirts of they city near the International School. Commute time can be 5-45 minutes, depending on which embassy you're working at. We liked our beautiful apartment in the old city (Sigmund Freud once had an office in our building)

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

Expensive. If you are affiliated with the UN, you can shop at the commissary, which is cheaper and has a good selection of products from the US. We brought staples from the US in our shipment, which helped defray costs

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

I'm glad I shipped staples and baby supplies such as diapers and food - all of which are, of course, readily available in Vienna, but very expensive.

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

There are MANY restaurants (even Mexican, which in my experience is hard to find overseas).As with everything in Vienna, it's expensive and we didn't eat out that often, but there are lots of different cuisines to choose from besides Austrian food if you're tired of schnitzel.

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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?

Lots. You may have to go to certain stores (such as Spar or DM) to find them, but they're readily available. Europeans seem more interested in non-GMO than organic (in my opinion)

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

none

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Daily Life:

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

DPO. It usually took about 2 weeks, but around the holidays things took over a month to get to us.

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

Nannies are easy to find but expensive compared to what they cost in developing countries (about 10 euros/hour).

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

Yes, but they're expensive. I preferred to walk in the city or hike in local parks for exercise.

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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?

They can be used extensively. We had no problems.

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

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

Our apartment was USG owned, so it came with AFN.Newspapers and magazines are easy to find at local shops.

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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 don't NEED much, but any German you can speak would be helpful. Austrians aren't super interested in customer service, so knowing some German would be helpful with that.

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

It would be hard.there are a lot of stairs and hills and IF buildings have elevators, they are TINY (e.g. might not be able to fit a wheelchair or scooter)

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Transportation:

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

The subway/bus/street car system is extremely comprehensive and relatively cheap. I never drove in the city - my son and I went all over the city on public transportation. It's clean, safe, and trains/buses/street cars come every few minutes. I loved public transportation! I didn't take taxis - too expensive (similar to US prices).

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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?

As with many places overseas, smaller is better. Vienna has many dealers, and service/parts shouldn't be a problem (although it's expensive - an oil change cost is $150). We never used our car in the city (public transportation is excellent), but we used to to travel in the region a lot. Gas is 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 was *super* fast, but it was fine for us.about 50 euros/month.

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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?

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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?

No, but they will need current vaccinations and a EU-compatible microchip.

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

Excellent. The Viennese adore dogs. More than they like kids, in our experience!

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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?

To work on the local economy, you'd most likely need to know German. There are a few jobs at the embassy. I wanted to work but couldn't find anything.

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

More formal than in the US. Suits and ties at work. Outdoor activities are more casual (obviously).

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Health & Safety:

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

not that I knew of. I felt very safe

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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?

Excellent. People are medevac'd to Vienna. I had several friends who had babies there, and they had very good experiences.

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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?

very good. Vienna is exceptionally clean

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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?

Spring and Fall are beautiful. Summer can be hot and there is very little air conditioning. Winter is rainy and dark.

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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?

The American Employees Association runs a preschool (Embassy children have priority).I also knew some people who sent their children to Austrian preschools/daycare (German language).Nannies are about 10 euros/hour, which can get very expensive if you're working full time.

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

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Expat Life:

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

Very large.

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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?

Lots to do (see above). However, I found the sense of community very lacking in Vienna compared to other posts. Perhaps it's because this is Western Europe, so people think it should be easy to acclimate.

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3. Morale among expats:

Varies - winter can be very depressing with the dark and rain. I was frustrated by the Austrian's general attitude (often surly and unhelpful to strangers). It can be hard for spouses to find work. Spring/summer/fall are glorious, and there are lots of fun places to travel, which improves people's mood.

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

Good for everyone. There is lots of green space and parks, many cultural events, lots of great places to travel

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

Definitely yes.

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

There is a lot of immigration right now, which the Austrians aren't necessarily happy about. I never personally experienced problems, but I heard stories of people being harassed

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

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

Parks, hiking, zoos, museums, wine/beer festivals, film festivals, circus, cultural events (music/opera/theater), travel to nearby cities/countries.we tended to do outdoor activities b/c they were cheap and we had small kids

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

Local travel.

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

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you're very frugal. Western Europe is expensive.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

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

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3. But don't forget your:

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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. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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