Austria is a country of wealth and high culture, with beautiful nature and wide opportunities for education and business. The standard of living in Austria is really high: in 2015, the country was on place 15 among other world leaders.
Austria, particularly Vienna was ranked many times as the best city in the world to live in. Nevertheless, living in Austria comes with its advantages but obstacles as well.
In this article, I summarize all the pros and cons of moving to Austria, which also relates to Vienna. You want to know them before relocate to the best city in the world.
Pros of Moving to Austria
Public Services and Transportation
The public sector together with transportation is excellent in Austria. In no other European country are so many kilometers traveled by train, bus and urban public transport compared to the number of inhabitants as in Austria. Trains and buses are highly efficient and have extensive networks.
The country also well connected with other European cities, especially in Germany and Switzerland. There is no need to have a car especially if you are living in the city, village inhabitants will need to stick to the bus and train schedule.
To buy a ticket for a year ahead it’s the best option, otherwise, you might pay too much.
Austria also provides excellent social security (high-quality schooling and healthcare). There are more than enough doctors and hospitals places then the need. Therefore patients receive appointments on time.
In addition to the quality, Austrian healthcare is also extremely affordable, with 35% of expats describing the price of insurance as very good.
Quality of Life
Undoubtedly Austria has one of the highest quality of life in the world, in fact, it ranks second out of the other 65 countries with similar characteristics.
As we already now Vienna ranked many times as the best city in the world to live in mostly because of quality of life.
Moreover, according to the most recent ranking of global cities, the “Quality of Living Survey 2019” carried out by the Mercer Group, Vienna is rated as the most livable city in the world for the 10th time in a row.
Public services, level of pollution, healthcare and education all this makes Austria climb these rankings and attract more foreigners, many of them even don’t want to leave the alpine country and end up to stay lifelong. Reason for this that the quality of life, it’s probably the first thing people look at.
You also will be happy with the balance between professional and personal lives while living there. Austria offers one of the best work/life balance in the world.
Schools and Education
Austrian higher education is free for EU/EEA citizens, which is not common either in Europe or in the world. Students outside the EU will need to pay a small fee, which normally does not extend 1500 EUR per year.
The public school system is free in Austria and has a very decent level of teaching. After secondary level (age 10-17) students normally attend vocational school if they haven’t left earlier.
I found this system genial since young individuals in Austria leave school with a sort of qualification and they are capable to take a job in their fields. Some people use it as preparation for the job some eventually go to university.
Austrian education focusses more on humanities majors, in comparison to Germany, where engineering and science are most common. In general, science, fine arts, music, literature, philosophy, and the humanities dominate Austrian colleges.
Food and Drinks
This can belong to the pros as well as to the cons. For me it definitely a disadvantage of living in Austria, but some people might love this food!
Traditional Austrian cuisine is some of the best comfort food in the world, especially if you love cheese, carbs, cake. Country cuisine is based on meat, all kinds of noodles (Käsespätzle) and potatoes.
Some traditional dishes of Austrian cuisine:
Tafelspitz: This dish contains beef boiled in a broth and is considered Austria’s national dish. It is traditionally served with apples, horseradish, and chives sauce.
Liptauer: This is a spicy cheese spread that is served over a slice of bread.
Selchfleisch: This dish contains meat that has been smoked then cooked and served with sauerkraut and dumplings.
Wiener Schnitzel: One of Austria’s most famous dishes, it is a specialty of Viennese cuisine. Wiener Schnitzel is a very thin, breaded escalope of veal that is then deep-fried.
Erdapfel Salat: Austrian potato salad that is marinated in vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. It is a typical accompaniment for Wiener Schnitzel.
Sachertorte: This is a chocolate cake filled with apricot jam that is traditionally served with whipped cream.
Apfelstrudel: In English, this is Apple Strudel. It contains layers of thin pastry with apple filling, cinnamon, and raisins. Best apfelstrudel in the world made in Austria.
Topfenkuchen: It’s an Austrian version of cheesecake, where instead of cheese they use quark or curd cheese which much more leight and creamy. My favorite type of cheesecake.
Austrian cuisine also mixes with alpine cuisine, which is mostly simple, hearty and delicious. Some of the best and world-known meals from the Alps are fondues, raclette, mountain cheese.
In general, food from Austria influenced by Central and Eastern European produce, textures, and flavors. While savory Austrian food focuses on meat, poultry, root vegetables, and dairy, Austrian desserts are based on flour, chocolate, soft cheese, compotes, and jams.
Despite the variety of food in Austria, you still will see people eating Wiener Schnitzel and fries almost each second day.
If you are a white wine lover Austria will make you happy with its tastiest wine sorts. Vienna itself has a huge area of vineyards that are within city limits.
As a neighbor of beer capital – Germany, Austria loves its beer and very proud of it. The country produces different beer sorts, within total of 170 breweries. People who drink alcohol won’t be disappointed in the country.
Besides alcoholic beverages, coffee culture is huge in Austria, especially in Vienna, sometimes I think, that Austrians drink more coffee than anyone else in the world. It can be seen in the amount of coffee automates all over the country, they can be found even in the supermarket.
Apart from the countless outdoor activities, there are restaurants, theatres, cinemas, sports, leisure and much more.
In the big cities, you will get opera shows almost every day, excellent museums, students get massive discounts for almost all cultural events and organizations. For example, an evening in the standing room of the Staatsoper will cost you 3,5 EUR.
Speaking of outdoors: the natural beauty of the mountains. and lakes will encourage you to go out and explore. Austrians love to spend their weekend away on nature while doing mountaineering, rock climbing, paragliding, cycling, camping, swimming and just strolling and – of course – skiing is really big in Austria.
For relaxation, there are also many thermal baths around the country. Beautiful mountains resorts offer a perfect weekend getaway.
Cities like Vienna, Graz, Innsbruck famous for its cozy cafes, offering strong coffees and local desserts, including pastries, strudels, and chocolate cakes. And of course, I couldn’t forget to mention shopping and going out opportunities in Austria, which are plentiful. Each city center is dedicated to fulfilling customers wishes.
Many towns and cities also offer regular markets and are great to find locally produced cheeses and sweets, fruits and vegetables, jams, and sauces.
When Christmas is coming closer, almost every town will host a Christmas market. It is very common to go there after work or during the weekend to enjoy some mulled wine and food from all the different food stands.
Austria has temperate climatic zone the same to many other European countries. So if you are European, it might not be a big change for you. It seems to have a good balance: summers are pleasant, winters not too cold or rainy and the rest of the year quite enjoyable.
You will see more sunshine than in northern countries like the Netherlands or Finnland. However, sun lovers may find themselves traveling South whenever they can (Italy is not that far).
To enjoy winter in Austria you need to enjoy outdoors, particularly skiing and snowboarding. The Alps is a place you wanna be when it’s wet and gray in the town.
For exapmle Vienna has long, grey winters and daily maximum temperatures in December and January barely creep above freezing. So if you spend a winter in Vienna you will need to either wrap up warm or spend a lot of time in the coffee shops.
Austria has borders with the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland. What makes it a perfect location for exploring around! If you are interested to be in the heart of Europe and visit all these neighbors – Austria is a good place to be.
Expats love spending time in Austria but if they do get bored, they have plenty of alternatives to choose from. Thanks, great public transportation system travel around is very easy and budget-friendly.
A couple of hours on the train and you are in the Hungarian capital Budapest. Or maybe you prefer to take a ride to Venice?
From stunning landscapes to incredible culture Austria got it all. Diversity in Austria’s natural features is as surprising as it is beautiful. Mountains, lakes, parks, rivers, waterfalls, forests and much more are waiting for you.
The Alps were responsible for most incredible nature pieces such as lakes, swamps, hills and glaciers among other dramatic features. Many foreigners appreciate in Austria that mountains are always close.
If culture is something are you looking for, you will fall instantly in love with Austria and particularly Vienna. This city alone has 50 museums, over 26,000 theatre seats.
The first cultural impression which foreigners notice is imposing architecture such as churches, palaces, opera houses, theatres and of course the famous Viennese coffee shops. The most common style is baroque, which shows its elegance on buildings.
Moreover, Austrian palaces, art, music, and literature is something you don’t want to miss on. Concerts and festivals happen also pretty often.
Austria one of the most culturally orientated countries I have ever visited. Countless visitors from around the world travel to the Austrian capital each year to discover the cultural specialties of Vienna.
Reason for this its past, and influence by Italy, Poland, Germany, Hungary, and Bohemia.
Cons of Moving to Austria
Job and Career
First of all – it’s not easy to find a good job especially as a foreigner, furthermore the unemployment rate is getting higher.
If you don’t speak German and consider a move to Austria, think again about it and maybe start to take classes. Having skills in the German language will increase your chance to work and study here.
Besides, Austria might be the wrong place, if you want to make a career. There aren’t too much of international dominant companies and in addition, the Austrian market is conservative.
Locals prefer a steady and safe job which equals their qualifications rather than a rapidly climb career ladder. It’s too stressful for the Austrian point of view, therefore career orientated Americans might not be happy while working in Austria.
In case you don’t speak german expect to experience some difficulties with locals while moving here. Many people do not speak English as well as people do in other metropoles in the world.
In addition to the less than warm welcome, the language barrier continues to prevent expats from feeling at home in Austria.
Moreover, if you finally decided to learn German, be prepared to dedicate more time to this than it would be for regular german. The reason for this many dialects Austria has, depending on the region you are in.
German alone considered being more difficult to learn than other Western European languages (most people require 750 class hours to become proficient), because of its complex grammar rules.
Statistics show that less than 18% of expats coming to Austria said that learning the local language is generally easy. This is particularly problematic since many foreigners noticed that life is hard in Austria without speaking german.
High Cost of Living
Statistics show that Vienna is 56% more expensive than Budapest and 20% more expensive than Ljubljana. Although Vienna is not the most expensive place in Austria in comparison with city Innsbruck and region Vorarlberg close to the Swiss border.
Austria considered being one of the most expensive countries in central Europe. It can be a big drawback for international workers willing to come to Austria. Local salaries aren’t compensating these high expenses people have to cover.
Despite general satisfaction with life in Austria, many expats are not happy with the cost of living here.
There are two major problems when it comes to the cost of living and property prices and taxation. In fact, one-third of expats in Austria are unhappy with the affordability of housing, some even say that the pay isn’t really enough to cover my rent.
Rent, food, going out and traveling/transportation are the biggest expenses that you will have while moving and living in Austria. The use of trains or buses as transportation can be quite costly if you don’t have a year or month ticket.
They also notice that income isn’t enough to cover everything they need for their daily life. So as we can see the main problem is the high cost of living as well as not equivalent pay for these spendings.
What does it cost
Rents in the heart of the cities are a lot higher compared to other areas. For example, a furnished, 2-bedroom (85 square meters or 900 square feet) house on the main street is likely to cost at least 1,350 EUR per month, while the same-sized house in an inexpensive location can cost you 1,025 EUR.
Similarly, the cost of renting a furnished 1-bedroom or studio (45 square meters or 480 square feet) apartment is approximately 800 EUR within the city center and about 600 EUR in other parts of the city.
Austria is known to have one of the highest food prices in Europe, but you could minimize your costs by purchasing items from supermarkets such as Lidl and Hofer in a bulk. This german discounts can save you quite a lot.
Foreigners find meat, fish, turkey, chicken expensive in Austria. Things get worse during the winter months when fresh fruits and vegetables of limited variety and in short supply. Even those food items that are manufactured in Austria are limited in selection and generally expensive.
Eating out in Austria can be quite an expense. A 3-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant is likely to cost you around 50 EUR. You’ll pay from 12 EUR for a single-course meal for one at an inexpensive eatery and about 7 EUR for a combination meal at a fast-food joint.
Student cafe (kantine) is the cheapest option, you can use it without being a student, the average price for a meal 5-6 EUR.
The first impression of Austrian might be that they are unfriendly. Sure the culture is totally different if you come from the USA or for example southeast countries.
People in Austria, on the other hand, more official with strangers and it takes more time for them to warm up and build trust. In general, Austrians have a reputation for being conservative folk.
Some foreigners will see Austrians as rude, due to their straightforwardness and honesty. It’s just a way people interact here, but can be misunderstood as disrespect, oddity or even grumpiness, especially at work when you speak with your manager/chief.
It will take some time for you to get used to the communication with Austrians, but in the end, you will understand they are good people. And remember we generalize here, so you will be prepared for everything, there are some unfriendly people, but not all of them.
Although speaking from statistics Austria ranks second to last in the friendliness subcategory, which means most foreigners experienced Austrian as unfriendly. In fact, only 5% of expats describe the country as very welcoming.
There also has been some criticism of Vienna as an unwelcoming city, at least at first. Expat stories abound of spending years living in the city but making few friends outside the expat community.
In addition to this, English is not as widely spoken as in other European capital cities, despite its location and cosmopolitanism. Once (and if) accepted by the locals, you will undoubtedly enjoy it – but it may take a while.
Although Austrians enjoy meeting foreigners making friends with locals can be difficult as they tend to be private about their personal lives. In Austria, people usually have made most of their friends by the time they graduate from university, most times even earlier.
Besides, Austrians don’t have the same after-work drinks as many other countries do. They leave the office as soon as they finish, it’s not common to stay longer at work or go to a nearby bar after a hard day.
For this reason, build a connection with your colleagues apart from work can be very challenging or almost impossible. Austrians prefer to keep private and work-life separately.
It could be hard to build a genuine connection with someone, as they don’t open up for foreigners and might show only the surface of themselves. So you might get to know many people, but you rarely will know them truly.
Keep in mind that in Austria all meetings with friends have to be scheduled, a sudden visit can lead to misunderstanding.
It is advisable to call in a couple of weeks, and preferably in a month and set the date and time of the visit. The Austrians are very busy and pedantic people who are not used to wasting time.
People smoke cigarettes everywhere, all the time and with no hesitation whatsoever. It’s officially permitted to smoke in public areas, restaurants, and bars. Many people use this opportunity, but if you hate smoking it might be the worst place to be. Or you can avoid smoky places like this by going out less.
For some nations, it will be a negative thing about moving to Austria, however, for me it’s positive. Plan your time is important, maybe not to extend it done by Austrian people. They like to have full control over the next weeks and months.
They are almost impossible to force to do something wrong. And they love everything to be planned for the year ahead. Therefore, adapting to them, you have to plan absolutely everything. You will not be able to get the service of a notary, a lawyer or a doctor without the weeks before agreed appointment.
High Taxes and Low Salaries
In Austria, most employees pay between 42% and 48% of their income in tax. Depends where you come from it might be better or worse. Many people experience shock while paying this amount to the state, but with the time they get used to it.
Taxes rates rise with income and get very high, very quickly. For all who earn less than 31,000 EUR – tax rate 35% is applicable, what isn’t that bad. On the other hand, in Germany, you will pay 36% for a gross salary of 40,000 EUR, which is a much better deal.
Austrian employees with salaries between 31,000 and 60,000 EUR will need to calculate with 42% in taxes. The highest marginal tax rate is 55% for people, whose yearly income exceeds 1,000,000 EUR.
On average people pay 42% on taxes of their gross salary, but it depends on many circumstances, such as your relationship status, the existence of kids, etc.
Another factor many expats noticed it that if they are in good trade (but not always), especially engineering, medicine, IT, chemicals, petrol, etc., they can make a lot more money working and living in the USA & Canada or other countries with powerful economy. Salaries in Austria isn’t that high.
The average salary in Vienna is 47,000 EUR gross which does not make it a high paid place in comparison with the high cost of living. It’s rare when a person earns more than 100.000 EUR in Austria, while in the USA it’s quite normal.
Tax rates continue to be an issue, with one-quarter of international workers reporting that they considered this factor to be a potential disadvantage before even arriving in the country.
Shut Down Sundays
Sundays in Austria must be free by law, that’s why everything is shut down and people enjoy their weekend. For Austrian it seems to be so, but foreigners experience Sundays as the worst part of the week, which can be depressing and inconvenient.
Be organized and do your shopping on other days, most people prefer Saturdays, but I will recommend picking another day, since it can get pretty crowded.
Even grocery stores closed on this day, together with many cafes and restaurants, together with all retail except the fuel stations and a few small kiosks. How you supposed to enjoy your weekend if everything out of service?! That’s still not understandable for me and other foreigners.
Going out can disappoint you, again depending on where you come from. In small Austrian cities rarely something happens, mostly on the weekends. It is not as lively as in Berlin or Prague.
However, don’t expect it to be the best parties you ever had, people prefer casual, cozy and relaxing. You need to head to Vienna for the best parties and celebrations in the country. Student city Salzburg is also known for its good nightlife.