Expats in Vienna

more than a year ago
So you've decided to settle down in Vienna; perhaps you've met your sweetheart here, or have been dispatched to work here by your boss. Whatever brings you to this city, do keep in mind that just as anywhere else, you'll be confronted by both pros and cons of living in a foreign country and in a different cultural environment. While Vienna has long been a cosmopolitan city with headquarters of major international organizations, such as the UN, OPEC or OSCE, and it does have a sizeable expat population, you will still be facing certain dilemmas ranging from how to find an apartment, where to send your children to school, and not least important, how to make yourself comfortable and find a circle of friends here. We have assembled some useful information for you, and while it is by no means all-inclusive, we believe that it will help you make a good start.

To the benefit of Vienna, it is one of the easier cities to live in for several reasons:
  • It has one of the highest standards of living in the world and has continuously been rated the best place to live by Mercer and other rating agencies;
  • It boasts excellent infrastructure. Public transport is quite affordable and runs on time, and the city streets, for the most part, tend to be kept clean and safe;
  • Vienna has good healthcare system although you should expect somewhat longer waiting times to see a specialist than, for instance, in the US. Family physicians are usually quite accessible and you don't normally have to wait long. For EU citizens, healthcare is available via pan-European e-card;
  • It has countless opportunities for cultural and intellectual fulfilment and features a number of world-class museums, theatres and opera houses;
  • Vienna's greenery and recreational areas are meticulously maintained and the city has vast opportunities for exercising and sports;
  • Although Vienna is quintessentially a German-speaking city, language shouldn't be a serious problem. Many locals, particularly of the younger generation, have a superb command of English and are willing to use it. That said, don't expect every corner baker, hairstylist or plumber to understand you, try to pick up some useful phrases in German before you arrive or sign up for a language course when you are here.
Yet, despite those numerous advantages, it's not that everything is hunky-dory in this city, and there are certain bumpy areas you should beware of:
  • Vienna is a costly city to live in. Food, especially that of high quality, tends to be on the pricey side, as are most services and utilities. Although not quite as outrageous as in London or Paris, living in Vienna is substantially more expensive than in cities like Berlin or Prague;
  • Finding a suitable place to live in might be your biggest challenge. Due to extreme shortage of prime real estate, many apartments in Vienna tend to be old, unfurnished and seriously overpriced. Furthermore, 95% of property is rental, so buying an apartment, should you wish to do this, may prove nearly impossible, especially for non-EU residents (unless, of course, you are an oil tycoon or a famous opera star);
  • Although they are used to foreigners (and perhaps exactly for that reason), the Viennese don't usually accept outsiders with open arms, which explains why making friends in this city may turn into an uphill battle. It certainly helps to have a sizeable expat and immigrant community, but the truth is that no matter how long you have stayed in Vienna and how well you've mastered German, you will be reminded time and again that you are a foreigner here.
  • For many expats, especially those coming from English-speaking countries, impersonal and often sloppy customer service in Vienna can be a bitter pill to swallow (see our Snooty Service box). Since there isn't much we can do to change it, just take it in stride and get used to it. After a while, it simply becomes another routine.
Browse our expat tips and listings here.


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