Tips and advice to thrive in Austria

Hi,

When living in a foreign country, you have to adapt to a new environment, various cultures and different social codes.

How did you manage to adjust to Austria?

How long does it take to feel at home? Would you say it is an easy process?

According to you, what is key for a successful integration process in Austria?

Thank you in advance for sharing your experience!

Priscilla

Hi Priscilla :)

I will try my best to answer the questions you have asked.

Q: How did you manage to adjust to Austria?

A: This is a very broad question, and kinda takes the other questions into account.

In my personal experience, I was lucky.
Since I married an Austrian, and came across here instead of her moving to me, it was much easier. Friends, community, and family etc. were already here when I came across, and this made it a whole bunch easier for me to assimilate into the Austrian lifestyle and culture.
Going through the motions of transferring things like medical aids, bank accounts, money and so forth taught me much in the first weeks of being here in terms of how the system works and gave me the opportunity to ask anyone and everyone I had to talk to as many questions, as dumb as they may have been, so I could fill any gaps in my knowledge.
Having some skills and qualifications that are always needed helped me a ton, as I am able to study and work freely here without any hindrances, which makes things like medical aid and tax alot easier.

It took a little bit more time for me to get used to engaging people here, since walking up to someone here and saying 'Howzit' does not have the same effect as it does in my native country. It was a slight struggle to learn about the personal boundaries of the people here, how to identify the body language and reactions of the locals. Once I learnt it however it became far far easier for me to talk openly with new people I met.

Q: How long does it take to feel at home? Would you say it is an easy process?
A: Well... Feeling comfortable and feeling at home are two different things. I don't think that I would say I feel 'at home' here in Austria. After almost 2 years, I still permanently feel like a very comfortable and happy tourist when I am alone, and I still act like a tourist, this is not a bad thing though. It is more just me being me, than feeling alienated in any way.

I feel at home when i am with my family here back in my wife's home town and with our friends there, but outside of that, each part of Austria is a culture and history unto itself with different dialects, traditions and opinions. It will probably take another year or two, and for some of the legalities I need to follow to drop away before I feel completely comfortable and 'at home' here :)

Q:According to you, what is key for a successful integration process in Austria?
A: The language, the history and an open mind. These three things are incredibly important.
I cannot stress this enough.
It doesn't matter how much you know about the culture until you can speak the language, and it doesn't matter how well you speak german (Dialect or no dialect) without knowing some of the culture here. Speaking decent german here, and being able to bring up a topic that is popular will immediately make people feel more comfortable with you here and allow you to make friends.

As for the open mind: It is not your home country, do not expect or force people to react or act in the same way people from your country do. Respect their culture, and learn their customs before you start to break down their layers. This simple rules of "Shutup and listen" has opened a ton of doors to me, and led making some great friends here and being invited to some memorable events that, had I spoken my initial thoughts on the topic without hearing them out and going there to experience it, would never have happened.

Hope this helps you out, have an exceptional day further!

Ah, that reminds me: My reply is based on me NOT living in a capital city :) I live in Tirol and Steyr, in the country side with the smaller communities. I am sure living in a larger city or in an area with a dense population would give a person an entirely different experience.

Hi Priscilla!
I was lucky in that I spoke German fluently. The job market in Austria is VERY restrictive, as they strictly follow the 'Kollektivvertrag' regulations- an agreement between the government, trade ministry and unions to lay down how much everyone should get paid, also depending on their experience within that trade. Having been in retail for 35 years, it was nigh on impossible to get a job in any form of retail, as the wage rates increase every 4 years, and they will always choose someone with far less or no experience and save themselves money in the process. So I had to change tack and go into reception work, and am now approaching 4 years experience in that position. The job centre do help as best they can, and did actually send me on a receptionist course to Vienna (I live in Schladming, Western Styria), and paid for my course as well as accommodation.
I soon discovered that Austrians in hotels think they can speak better English than even native speakers such as I. They begged me to keep my English as simple as possible when translating. Sadly even the Russians speak better English than they do, and do not receive the credit for understanding far more than their basic knowledge.
The Austrian National Health system is second to none, and far quicker than the NHS in England. I have received far more treatment than I would have ever received in the UK, and would still be waiting for treatment. They are even sending me on a Kur (special spa treatments tailored to your needs, in a Hotel Spa of their choice for up to 3 weeks!) Here in Austria you are eligible for a Kur every five years if your health requires it.
Although the price of food is very high here, it is of the utmost highest quality. Skimmed milk even tastes like full fat ordinary milk because the milk has such rich flavours, and the consistency too still appears to be ordinary milk whereas in the UK the skimmed milk appears to be cloudy white water with very little taste. Semi skimmed is just as good. If you find a local butcher, use him, as his meat will always be very tender compared to the multiple supermarkets Billa, Spar, Hofer, and Lidl. Exception would be the wonderful range of sausages for cooking or smoked, which are more or less the same everywhere. Cheese is excellent everywhere, as well as cheddars also being available here. They have also caught onto chutneys and marmelade. There are also English shops in Vienna and Salzburg, but their prices are high for obvious reasons. Twinnings tea also available here.
Generally the Austrians are otherwise friendly and naturally curious about 'foreigners'. With the exception of Vienna, they are trustworthy. You could leave your front door unlocked, your bike outside, equipment on your pick up, and none of it would disappear. Bread is also excellent. In some parts of the country the internet connections can be chronic. TV is too, with an obscession with 'Krimis'-crime mysteries, which seems to dominate the schedules whether Austrian or German. Local radio stations have a charming habit of playing pop music from the 60's and 70's if you catch any, and the German music scene is very schmolzy and rarely avant garde. Plenty of Euro Pop then!
Hope you manage to settle in soon. Remember your Euro Health card, otherwise without you are scuppered. There are some tricky things you need to sort- you need to register, ask your friendly estate agent for advice here. You also need to be entered on the land registry if you are buying property in Austria. Getting an Austrian National Health card can also be tricky, and you need to go to the local health authority office to apply for one, who can be considerably reluctant to do so.
It is best to have clear prospects of a job, or expect to be unemployed for a good while, with the UK picking up the benefit tab (if we have'nt voted out of course...) The employment agency will have to obtain proof you are eligible. GOOD LUCK!

I live in Vienna, and the city keeps winning prizes for highest quality of life in the world.

For me, I wonder: have these people ever encountered the bureaucrats here?

My biggest, most heartfelt warning to anyone considering living in Austria is: stay away from the Jugendamt. Stay away from the entire family court system. Because they deal in "civil" law, they, apparently, aren't even legally obliged to grant citizens proceedings based on facts. That -- as pretty as the city is -- is a severe human rights violation.

Next: be extremely over-diligent in your dealings with the Finanzamt. Pay the astoundingly exorbitant fees that accountants require, so as to not be isolated or bullied by the Finanzamt. The Finanzamt is the local version of the Internal Revenue Service.

Also: be aware that bureaucrats can and do lie to you directly in your face with a smile. They will tell you the exact wrong thing to write on some form, which can cause you months, if not years of agony. It is my impression that some of the bureaucrats do it on purpose -- just for sadistic "fun" or because they are bored with their lives. You have to check and recheck what you are told by the bureaucrats here.

Be ready to pay for legal consultation, and if you are lucky, maybe you will enjoy the beauty of the city, without the Kafka-esque & quite oppressive treatment of the bureaucrats.

The Vienna Police, in my opinion, are quite good however -- they know how to follow procedures and will not beat you up or shoot you or incarcerate you for no reason, etc.

Good points of view in here! Maybe is a god thing to expose us to the darkest side of this beautiful culture and country - what do you say, guys? For me - I am interested in finding out what is not really ok in Austria - this will help us to better prepare for the contact with Austrian culture!

I just want to ask in here - what about the schools? Are the schools "safe"? How can a child be integrated in an Austrian school?

Thanks - Bonnyta

Wow... Can't speak for everyone, but my personal experiences here were initially tough, because in order to live here you have to jump through hoops. But once you are integrated, you are good to go. Haven't been harassed by police, or disrespected by anyone higher up. Been to court once or twice for some issues and that was resolved accordingly.

From what I have found, if you just show others respect, you are automatically given the same. Don't lose your temper, you are an adult, and can treat people nicely even if you are having a bad day.

If you are going to go somewhere expecting the worst, why not just stay where you are and make it better? :P

Hei - I am NOT expecting the worse! But, having the living abroad experience, too, I try to find out the bad points...because the good ones are welcome anytime! Is this bad? Sorry for being ...negativistic - I am just afraid, and this is natural!

Hi again Bonnyta!
I cannot speak for all schools in Austria, but my wife is an English trainer for conversation in our local Hauptschule (aged 10 till 14), and all the pupils and teachers are fine compared with most state schools in England. There is virtually no vandalism or theft here. The Austrian children at this age still have child like innocence about them, and have still good manners even beyond this age. One thing to remember is that 'full' time education here starts at age 7. Before that your children attend Kindergarten, where basic lessons are given. Schools run from 07.30 till 12.00 or 13.00 depending on the age of your children. I think senior school leading to exams are open a little longer. All teachers are viewed as Beamten/civil servants, and hence have extra rights to normal workers, which annoys everyone no end here. Of course they fight tooth and nail to keep those rights. 9 weeks paid holiday a year, 25 hour working week, and if long term sick also get paid as if working. Also if a teacher decides to pursue a political career, his position is kept open for him regardless, in case he returns. Same for long term sickness. Depending on your child's age, they will quickly integrate the younger they are, and make sure they also befriend local kids to help their language skills. Also watch Austrian TV which again helps. Hope this post helps you again,
Rod

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