Vienna, Austria Report of what it's like to live there - 06/07/16
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 my first European post.
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?
Asia is my home. It's hard to get there because of limited direct 10-hour flights to Bangkok which cost around $1,000 US round-trip. Thai is much more expensive and has an extra flight through Frankfurt (then Austrian Airways to Vienna).
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?
European-style apartments mean tall, narrow bathtubs with the faucet in the middle of the tub with a long-hose for your shower. Only modern apartments will have "normal stand-up showers." The Euro windows are cool. Can open two ways to open them. But remember if you're in town, you are surrounded by (beautiful) buildings which make the roads sounds like freeways.
1,000 square foot apartments feel small. They get hot starting in May. Then your A/C will likely leak. If it's an older building, expect peeling paint, leaky faucets, squeaky floors, and hallways of marble/tile from which you'll hear your neighbor go in-and-out all day/night as they walk their dogs.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Every 2 blocks there are these small, over-priced grocery stores with limited selections (Spar, Billa, etc.) There are also medium-sized luxury gourmet stores, as well as some cheaper small and larger stores. You just have to find them. Stores close at 6:30PM or maybe later. Only a few really expensive train station stores are open on Sundays.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Peanut butter, dehydrated coffee, decaf coffee, American crackers, detergent, refillable hand soaps. (They have fillable hand soaps but you're paying a premium.)
4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Not inside the house in the city. But in springtime with all the flowers - you get tons of bees everywhere.
1. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
For 20 Euros/month FitInn is a basic gym with some locations spread around. Next up, for 60 Euros/month there is Club Danube with a few large gyms. Then John Holmes 90-120 Euros/month with a 99 Euro joining fee. This is one of the two local elite clubs.
2. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Yes. You can even use your old U.S. credit card without the chip at grocery stores. However, you have to look the cashier in the eye, show them the card, announce that it's a credit card WITHOUT a chip and they have to do something to their machine to make it work. Then you have to scan it the CORRECT WAY while you're holding-up the line and everyone (including the cashier) is giving you an evil look. Then press OKAY and sign the slip. (They prefer local Maestro swipe cards.)
3. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You need some German out for signage, train announcements, and shopping Qs and As.
4. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
No. Public transport is wheel-chair capable for buses, trams, and subways. Elevators at each station seem always to work. (Only caveat is that some wheelchair buses are less often and houses/business often have steps.)
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are expensive. You'll easily pay 15-20 Euros within minutes. Buses, trams, and the subway are good and on time. Plus they often have an electronic sign which is fairly accurate as to arrivals. Just know that sometimes you'll have to sit next to smokers who have the smell on their clothes.
It is confusing on where to purchase and where to stamp your fare cards. But you have to do it because they often have a wall of enforcers blocking major exits and examining each person's ticket. You will get fined hugely. No excuses.
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?
You'll get rust from the salt, rain, and snow (even though they try to use gravel instead of salt). If your car is older than 10 years, then you can not insure it. You can only pay for 3rd party insurance. Vienna is expensive for just about everything...including used cars. Front wheel drive is better for snow. Smaller is better for parking. They're not really into SUVs. They prefer estate (station) wagons. Any BMW, Mercedes, Peugeot, Citroeon, and Renault. Some European-made Toyota and Nissans. (If you bring uncommon models then repairs and importing parts may be an issue.)
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
You can choose from A1 or Drei service. Each have locations around the city with English-speaking staff. One way is to buy their little box then pay for a top-up service each month. Can be less than 20 Euros/month. I'm happy. Rarely goes out. Can do your thing. Watch YouTube.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
If you get a portable WiFi box from a local company and pay the monthly (or top-up cost), then you have created your own WiFi network and can carry this around with you in Austria. Then you can use Skype or the Line for free to make phone calls/video calls/Facebook, etc.
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 have noticed that people drive to Hungary to adopt/purchase puppies and drive them back to Vienna.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
You could volunteer with the large migrant population and/or with a very active Catholic charity organization called Caritas.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Austrian Friday men's casual is jeans and the coat from a business suit. If it's a more casual party, even the expat men will come in these bright plaid shirts.
Otherwise, the dress code depends on your job. Plenty of funky paint-splattered work pants with side-holders for tools on the tram. If you're an Austrian wearing a suit to work, then they really dress it up. Once it gets vaguely warm, everyone turns into American-touristy chic with mismatched cotton clothes on workdays.
Older guys wear traditional wool hats and funky local jackets. Many people wear formal wear for the balls.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Home break-ins. Late-night muggings. Haven't heard/seen of pick-pockets. Plenty of drug dealers hanging out in certain locations - even where families go. There are many beggars sitting around (including on the subway/tram).
2. 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?
Austrians rave about their spring water but one has to wonder if there's lead coming out of all those old building pipes.
3. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Spring is bad for everyone, and especially if you are asthmatic. So many flowers.
4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Winter does get very cold, dark, and windy. I often just go directly to huddle inside after work.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Spring and summer gets surprisingly hot! Winters haven't been as cold as I expected. Maybe a few weeks a year it gets below freezing.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
You've got the United Nations here with tons of staff and delegations. Plus the universities bring in international students.
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?
Dog walking. Children's activities. Hiking. Charity work. Church.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good for singles because they can travel and spend money without worrying. Can go to a lot of places. Families could take driving trips.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Seems like it. It is a Socialist city after all.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Austrians are surprisingly behind-the-times in gender equality and thought.
6. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Weather is good (when it's not winter). Easy transport. Plenty of outdoor activities.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
That Austrians have a lower-level of standards. They go cheap in everything about the house and you'll get a slightly smaller refrigerator, microwave, sink, etc. And your bathroom sink won't have a countertop or cabinets underneath. The shelves you'll get will be Ikea-acceptable but not worthy of being in a real home.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Furniture. Electronics. Everything you don't absolutely need because your apartment will have NO STORAGE SPACE. Ikea is here - so you can buy everything from it. H&M is here too. And higher-end international stores.
4. But don't forget your:
Bring your car if you have it. Work shirts.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Sound of Music.
6. Do you have any other comments?
Try living in Bratislava or Czech Republic instead. Close. Cheaper. That's where Viennese go to shop! Maybe even Germany. Cars are cheaper to buy and entrance fees for attractions are cheaper too.