Vienna, Austria Report of what it's like to live there - 08/05/09
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?
Munich, Mannheim, Hong Kong, Seoul.
2. How long have you lived here?
Have been living here 1 year.
3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
DC-based travelers should use the direct Austrian Airlines flight; takes about 8.5 hours.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Singles and couples without children generally live downtown; commute time 10-30 mins depending on the mission you are assigned to. Families live in the 18th or 19th district. There are apartments/townhouses available outside of the dreary compound.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Widely available but very expensive.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Laundry detergent and stain treater, any other kind of liquid food.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
McDonalds, Subway, TGI Fridays, Starbucks. All expensive.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
This year mosquitoes are a problem because of the amount of rain. Also, the embassy health unit recommends immunization against ticks (series of 3 shots).
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Available, usually Filipina. We pay 10 Euros an hour, which seems to be standard.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The embassy has a gym. Austrian gyms are available but tend to be expensive and their opening hours may not be accomodating of a US-type work schedule.
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?
Getting an Austrian ATM card is the best thing to do (Bankomat card). Many stores do not take visa or mastercard but will take Bankomat.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, and non-denominational.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
AFN is available free on the compound, but you have to buy a converter box.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You could probably get by with no German, but it just makes things so much easier and more interesting.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Cobblestone streets! Trams are not wheelchair friendly. That being said, there are a lot of old people here who manage just fine.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes, yes, and yes.
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?
Not a large SUV. Anything else should be fine.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, about $50/month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Everyone has one; the market is competitive, so it's easy to find a good deal.
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 don't think so.
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Very high. Austrians love their pets.
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?
Can be. It depends on what you're looking for. German is a huge plus. The embassy recently cut the LEA program, which was a foolish move. EFM jobs are limited.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
2. What immunizations are required each year?
3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
None. This is a very safe city. That being said, use common sense.
4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
High quality medical care.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
4 distinct seasons. Cold but not bitter winter, with some snow in the city, short spring, lovely summer (albeit rainy), nice fall.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
AIS, VIS and VCS are the most popular. Most kids are at AIS but AIS won't accomodate special needs. So far, a positive experience.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
see above. I have heard VIS and VCS will make accommodations.
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?
There is a very expensive, embassy association-run preschool. There are also tons of Austrian preschools that vary in price and quality. We are very happy with the one we chose.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, baseball and t-ball, soccer, etc plus school sports.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
Varies. It's a great place to live. But working here is a different story.
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?
Opera, theater, wine drinking, movies, etc.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes to all.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I think so.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Yes, white Austrians can be very racist and sometimes anti-Semitic. Police tend to profile darker-skinned people and peg them as drug dealers.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
The city has museums, an amusement park, lots of churches, etc. Easy travel by car or train to other central European destinations.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Crafts at Christmas markets; Polish pottery.
9. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
I think so. It's a great place to live, but I have not been satisfied professionally.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
ideas of saving money.
3. But don't forget your:
clothes for all seasons.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Frederic Morton's books.
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
The Third Man
6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Frederic Morton's books.