After completing my education in South Africa and starting my journey into the world of job seeking in London, I remember constantly hearing the phrase “I am sorry but you do not have enough experience in this job field”. I would turn away wondering how on earth I am supposed to get any experience if no one will hire someone with no experience? A slight catch 22 if you ask me, which is why I think that Austrians definitely hit the proverbial nail on the head when they decided to opt for a more practice orientated education system.
Children start school when they are six years old and go to “Volksschule” or primary school. After four years they continue onto “Gymnasium” or secondary school for another eight years. This is the general compulsory education in Austria, with secondary schools focusing on preparing students to enter a university for advanced academic study. Secondary schooling is broken down into two stages from the age of 11 to 14 and from 15 to 18 years old. The latter includes the high school exit exam, or Matura.
This type of education dates way back to medieval craftsmen days and is still used as a labour based method of teaching today. Using a theoretical and practical training system, Austria’s youth are professionally trained in companies (about 80% of training takes place in the organisation), where experience is gained on the job and where careers have been tailored to the business world.
Whether you decide to send your young whippersnappers to a €20 000 a year private international school or to give them a more cultural experience in the public school system, the Austrian educated child will be accepted by foreign investors with open arms. Employers generally tend to favour the specialised skills adopted in this type of education system.
Staying connected to friends and family on the other side of the globe is important when you first move to Austria. The easiest way to do this is via the Internet. There are a wide range of Internet providers and it’s relatively easy to get connected. In the meantime most hotels, restaurants and especially all McDonalds’ have free Wi-Fi, “Gratis WLAN” hotspots, so you just need to ask for the password if they are locked.
The Telekom Austria Group is the largest telecommunications company in Austria and the umbrella company for all Internet service providers. I wouldn’t bother with out-dated dial up access as its slow and high-speed access (DSL) has dominated the broadband market. However, if you decide to go with the dial up option, you just need a normal analogue phone-line and an account with an Internet service provider. If you have a fixed telephone line, you can plug your computer in and get online that way. Most dial-up ISPs offer either a pay-as-you-go service or a contract where you pay an amount per month for limited access.
It is advisable to go with the high-speed option (DSL), as it is faster and the cost is less. Many mobile phone providers have packages that include your Internet Wi-Fi and TV services. All you need is a computer, a linking element for the data line and a service provider. Simply book an appointment with the technician when you are in the phone shop, to arrange a time to come and install the router or modem.
Flat rates are common but be careful when it states “unlimited”, as it might be unlimited up to a certain size. Read the small print to avoid a surprise bill.
I was always told that looking online was the best way to find a property to rent in Austria, but from personal experience the properties are not always what they seem from the pictures and descriptions. It is advisable first to speak to friends who live in the area, as personal relationships have paired me with the best properties. You could even consider sharing on a temporary basis, as this is a great way to get acclimatized to a new environment and meet people who will advise you on the best and worst areas to rent in the country. As well as possibly translating for you if you are lucky.
Apartments generally start from around €400 per month plus utilities. It is helpful to research the average utility costs for the property to lower the risk of surprises. The majority of tenants rent properties through estate agents, but they can be very costly. Sometimes they can ask for up to 3 months rent in advance, so it is advisable you first look around yourself before considering this option. Your deposit will go into a savings account and is likely to earn interest (although interest is at a low in Austria at the moment). You will only get your deposit back subject to rent arrears or damage to the property.
Rental agreements are generally from 1 – 3 years in duration and often the longer you rent for, the cheaper the price will be. Usually it is custom to provide 3 months notice prior to terminating a rental agreement.
Remember that most properties are unfurnished unless specified and strangely sometimes without kitchens. Watch out for older properties that have old windows that may let drafts in and increase your heating costs.
Austria is the land of rolling hills, Mozart and the Sound of Music and it is known for it’s exorbitant property prices. Currently it is one of the most expensive places to buy property in the world. Aside from its inflated costs, there are significant benefits to purchasing a home in Austria. The processes involved with buying a home are generally orderly, quick and there are no buying restrictions on foreigners.
Properties in Austria are built to last and withstand severe weather conditions. This is why you will find homes that are still standing after generations. Fees associated with buying property in Austria are government regulated and valuations are not commonly required.
In brief the property purchasing strategy is as simple as; selecting a property, making an offer via your estate agent, the vendor has a fixed period to accept or reject your offer and then the date of completion is agreed upon. You will then need to pay about a 10% deposit into a trust account into which funds are transferred to cover purchase and fees. Fees include; legal fees, land registry costs, agency fees and stamp duty and once the contract is signed the notary will pass over the money to the vendor.
The average monthly cost of purchasing an apartment in Austria is dependant on the location. Rural properties are generally half the cost of flats in city centres, but ski resort areas have greater inflated costs as well. An apartment in the city centre will likely be around 4500 Euros per square metre, whereas the price outside cities usually cost about 2500 Euros.
Registration costs are generally 4 – 5% of the property value and the entire process from start to finish can take up to 6 weeks before you finally have a foot on the property ladder in Austria.
Over recent decades, television has seen incredible changes. In the age of technology there are now numerous options for viewing pleasure. Austria is no exception to these changes, with file sharing and streaming sites now taking over. Expats will likely find that TV in Austria is not the same as their home country, especially considering that most TV stations are entirely in German. However, watching television in German is a great way to pick up phrases and learn the language.
The main Television provider in Austria is Osterreichischer Rudfunk (ORF), which is based in Vienna and consists of two main channels. Cable and satellite TV are available, as well as commercial and German channels. There is an annual fee for having a television licence and costs vary between areas. The average cost per year is around €250 for a standard license.
If you are a sports enthusiast, Sky Austria has over 200 channels, but you will need a satellite dish for this option. Some apartment buildings come with this option, but you may need to buy the dish if not. The costs associated with satellite television can be pricey, depending on the package you choose and whether you need the dish.
Most expats utilize the World Wide Web for their Television needs and therefore, an internet connection is essential. Online streaming is the new wave of entertainment and websites like Netflix and Amazon Prime are some of the leading companies that provide this service. You can purchase devices such as an Apple TV or Chrome-cast, which allow you to view your streaming websites on your television via a wifi connection. These are a great option if you want to watch shows or movies on a screen larger then your computer and create a normal television viewing experience.
When I first moved to Austria I had never heard about International schools. I was working in a bar and came across a group of 16 year olds hanging around in the back of the bar (yes you can drink certain types of alcohol in Austria when you are 16). I remember this young lady sitting apologizing for the behaviour of her friends and offering to help me clean up their mess. Later on, once the group had stumbled out of the bar, she came up to have a chat with me. It turned out that she attended an International School in Vienna and was visiting her friends who all attended the public school in the area. This was the first experience I had with someone who was in the private school system.
I found out that there are a number of International schools scattered around Austria, but the majority of them are in the capital city of Vienna. Education in Austria is compulsory from age 6 until 15 and International schools follow similar curriculum to most education systems This may make it easier for expat children relocating to Austria, but it might also isolate new expats from the real experience of moving to abroad. Although private schools can be expensive, smaller classes with devoted teachers and more attention to detail may be highly beneficial.
Parents should note that when you move to Austria, you can negotiate an allowance for school fees into your employment contract. This can help considerably if you have multiple children to educate. Furthermore, it is recommended that parents bring school records and recommendations from previous teachers when applying to international schools.
A thing most expats face when moving abroad is when the best time to go is. This topic can cause unrest and even argument and the answer is highly subjective to the family or individual. However, there are some things that can be worth thinking over to ease your mind.
If you have decided to relocate to Austria and you have the flexibility to decide when to make the move, then you may want to consider these few things first.
As with any alpine country, Austria’s residents are highly dependant on weather conditions. If you are moving in the summer season you may find the weather very welcoming and mild, however if you relocate in the winter months, be prepared for a frosty greeting.
No matter when you move, there is always a chance of bad weather, so don’t let it get you down if there is a freak snowstorm when you arrive.
Urban or Rural
If you are moving to one of the city centres of Austria, you may want to review the festivals and events that are held in that city. The holiday seasons also influence the number of visitors and population density of Austria’s urban areas. Travel times and delays may be significant if you arrive in the middle of a holiday or festival celebration, so keep these events in mind when you book your flights.
The rural areas can also fluctuate with season and holidays. The alpine regions of Austria have two distinct “peak” seasons – summer and winter. These are flooded with hikers and skiers respectively, so you may want to pick an offseason time to move.
All of the above things considered, the best time to make the move to a new country is when you feel it is right. If you are ready for whatever lies ahead, you will be fine accepting what greets you when you get there!
It is always important to review the visa requirements and documents you will need for your new country of residence. The first step in this journey is to ensure that you have an up to date passport and you know what visa you will apply for.
European citizens do not require a visa to enter, live or work in Austria. Austrian visas that are available for non-EU passport holders include Tourist visa, Schengen visa, working visa or a resident visa. The type of visa you apply for is dependant on your intentions and desired length of stay.
Non-EU passport holders are generally required to obtain a tourist visa to enter into Austria. However, there are a number of countries that are able to enter Austria and stay for up to 90 days without a visa, including Canadian and US citizens.
Austria is a signatory Schengen country and therefore grants Schengen tourist visas to non-EU citizens. This visa allows holders to travel around and visit any of the signatory countries whilst the visa is valid.
Tourist Visa holders are not permitted to work whilst in Austria or any Schengen country.
If you intend to work in Austria, you will need to obtain a work permit before you arrive in the country. You can apply at the Austrian embassy in your country of origin and you will need to allow time for the application procedures.
Your employer will need to confirm your employment and explain why you are a necessary employee over an Austrian citizen.
There are a variety of work permits you can obtain and you can review them all here.
If your plan is to relocate indefinitely to Austria, then you will need to obtain permanent residency status. If you have been living in Austria for a decade, you are eligible to apply for residency. Expats that have lived in Austria for less than 10 years, can still apply for residence by proving that the are making a significant contribution to the country. The contribution is determined based on categories including; economic, scientific, cultural or through financial investment. The contributions may qualify you to utilise the Austrian economic citizenship programme.
The beauty and diversity of Austria is one of the reasons many people relocate to the country. With the awe-inspiring Alps and the vibrant, cultural cities, it is easy to see the attraction. This diversity also raises an important question for many expats relocating to the country – Do I want to live in urban or rural Austria?
I suppose the best way to answer this question is with another question.
What is your reason for relocating to Austria?
If you are retired and you’re relocating to find a slower pace of life, or if you want to take in more natural beauty, then perhaps the rural areas are for you. However, if you are relocating for employment opportunities, or you want to be close to cultural events and festivals, then the city life may prove a perfect fit.
Whatever your reason for relocating, here are two of the top destinations that other expats have chosen.
With a population of over 1.7 million people, Vienna is by far the most popular Austrian destination for visitors and expats. The city boasts more than 25% of the country’s population and a high quality of life rating. The city hosts many festivals and events each year and is bursting with cultural flare. There is a significant expat community in Vienna, so you will likely notice international influences as well.
The province of Tyrol is considered the “greenest” in Austria and is the least populated. Tyrol is at the heart of the Austrian Alps and contains the best ski resorts in the country, with the highest peak of 3797 metres. If you are looking for an outdoor adventure lifestyle with a serene backdrop, then the province of Tyrol will not disappoint.
When you relocate to another country, one task you will likely be faced with are international money transfers. Of course you will need to have an Austrian bank account set up before you can complete a transfer, but this is an easy process in itself. International wire transfers that can be completed from your home bank to an Austrian bank, or vice versa. However, this traditional method can take weeks to receive funds. With today’s technology, there are a few other ways you can make international transfers.
Foreign Exchange Companies
If you have travelled to another country before, you have likely used a foreign exchange agency of some sort to convert money from one currency into another. Some of these companies also offer international money transfer options to clients that want to send larger sums of money from a bank in one country to another country. Generally these venders offer a better rate then most banks, so do your research to find the best company.
You will need your SWIFT code and BIC information in order to complete a transaction with the Society of Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). This service is generally one of the faster options for moving money abroad.
This method is generally only possible if you have set up an arrangement with your bank before you depart the country. You may even need an additional person on your account to make the bank draft for you once you have left. A trusted family member in your home country is usually a handy option to have if you intend to transfer money overseas often.
Whichever method you use to transfer your money from your home account to Austria or vice versa, you will need to budget for fees and completion time. It is also useful to be aware of each countries bank holidays to ensure you aren’t left waiting for your money to clear.
One of the hardest things about relocating to a new country is deciding what to bring. This rings true for many expats moving abroad, but there are simple solutions that can help you determine what you will really need in your new location.
Know the size of your belongings
When considering what you should bring with you and what is replaceable, it is necessary to consider the size of your items in relation to your new home. This is especially true to appliances and furniture. It is good to know the size of your furnishings before you move them half way around the world, so measurements are key. Also, most counties have a certain standard size to the average home and the sizes can vary greatly when comparing them. For example, homes in the US are generally much larger than those in most EU countries.
Will things be cheaper to replace?
Answering this question may be difficult if you have never visited your new county before. However, there are many online resources that can help you decide what things cost in your new country of residence. Shipping things that are replaceable overseas can be a significant financial burden, so a little bit of research can go a long way.
Renting vs. Buying
If you have not visited your desired country before, it may prove very useful to ease into buying new things once you arrive. Smart expats are increasingly opting to rent before they buy. This applies to renting a new residence or furnishing it too. Renting furniture is a great service that is available in most Austrian cities.
Whether you have visited first, are renting to be smart or you have already bought your new dream home, these tips will help you decide on what things you really need to take with you.
If you are looking for some of the tastiest international cuisine in Europe, then Austria has a lot on offer. You can find almost any type of dish you desire here and there are a few that stand out in each major city. Here are some of the most recommended eateries to try out.
Hill Restaurant – International Grill
This lovely restaurant is located in a suburban area outside the downtown area in northwest Vienna. It holds the title as the best place to eat in the city on Trip advisor and boasts some of Thomas Göls’ best creations. The price tag ranges form 9CHF – 36CHF and there is an extensive wine list on offer.
This elegant steakhouse is located in the Ritz Carlton Hotel and offers a high class dining experience. Of course meat is the main menu item, but there are also vegetarian friendly options. With valet parking and a selection of 12 steak knives to choose from, you will not be disappointed by this unique restaurant experience. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
Restaurant Anna – International
Located in the Palais-Hotel Erzherzog Johann, Graz, this lovely restaurant will not disappoint. The chefs offer tasty Austrian and international cuisine with prices ranging from 6-28CHF on the menu, or set menu options for a more unique dining experience. Open Tuesday – Saturday for dinner only.
Restaurant Esszimmer – Austrian & International
This top dining destination offers a set menu of 5 courses that includes wine pairings and for lunch there is a 3-course menu on offer. The price tag is high end, but customers have awarded the restaurant as the best in Salzburg. Open Tuesday – Saturday for lunch and dinner only.
Whatever your palette desires, there is an abundance of restaurants available in any major Austrian city to suit any budget. The fun is in trying them all out and deciding for yourself!