Austria is one of the top 10 countries to live in. It provides great opportunities for work & family life and opens the neighboring countries for exploration. Statistics show that almost third expats plan to stay for their entire life in Austria.
The three most common reasons why people come to Austria are:
- Family & Relationships
Austria is most popular among Americans (7%), Italians (6%), and British (5%). Reasons they move to Austria are as anywhere else; some might find a job, marry or study at the university. Nonetheless, there are some valuable points to not choosing Austria to call home; read on for more.
Downsides of Expat Life in Austria
Austria is well-known for quality and affordable high education, the most prominent and oldest University of Vienna, and thousands of multicultural students each year.
However, expats have seen downsides while living in European Center, like the cost of living, high taxation, and communication difficulties due to lack of English/German.
In addition, rankings for personal happiness in Austria are only satisfactory. The reason for this might be the difficulty of settling in. Accordingly to statistics, Austria reaches a poor 54th place out of 67 in the Ease of Settling In Index.
The perceived lack of friendliness of the locals, the trouble finding friends, and the difficulty of learning the local language are the main factors that bring Austria so far down in this category. It all makes the life of foreign citizens difficult in Austria.
Around half of the expats in Austria (51%) believe that the German language is difficult to learn. Moreover, 4 out of 9 respondents say that making local friends is hard, which could be connected to the level of friendliness of the locals towards foreign residents.
26% of respondents are not happy with the local attitude towards expats. On the other hand, 61% of foreigners say they feel at home in Austrian culture, while 58% have no problems living in Mozart country without good German skills.
Austria has advantages and drawbacks, as every country does. Here are 17 reasons why you should never move to Austria.
Reason 1. High living expenses
Living in Austria can be heavy for your pocket. But if you are from the UK or France, you may actually find Austria cheaper than your home country.
On the other hand, people from the US, Canada, the Netherlands, or Spain feel that Austria is more expensive. The country also has a higher living cost than its neighbors: Germany, Italy, and Slovenia.
Statistics show that Vienna is 56% more expensive than Budapest and 20% more expensive than Ljubljana. However, Vienna isn’t the most expensive place in Austria compared to Innsbruck and the region Vorarlberg, close to the Swiss border.
Calculate at least 950 EUR per month for basic life if you plan to study here. In Germany, students need only 850 EUR. While the average salary in Vienna is 47,000 EUR gross, and in Germany, it’s 45,000 EUR gross.
Cost of living in Austria
Rents in the city center 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 will likely cost at least 1,350 EUR per month, while the same-sized home 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 outside.
Austria is known to have one of the highest grocery costs in Europe, but you could minimize your costs by purchasing items from supermarkets such as Lidl and Hofer in bulk. These German discounts can save you quite a lot of money.
Foreigners find canned foods, frozen foods, turkey, chicken, and other meats expensive in Austria. Things get worse during the winter months when fresh fruits and vegetables are of limited variety and in short supply.
Even those food items 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 12 EUR for a single-course meal for one at an inexpensive place and about 7 EUR for a fast food meal.
Student cafe (kantine) is the cheapest option. You can use it without being a student; the average price for a meal is 5-6 EUR.
Reason 2. Cost of goods
Goods are expensive in Austria due to the higher taxes on them. Austria currently has a 20% standard sales tax rate (VAT), 13% for tourism services, and 10% for essential items.
While sales tax in Germany is 19%, 5 % in Canada, 11,7% highest and 0% lowest in the USA, if you love to shop and want to own many things, you shouldn’t move to Austria.
Reason 3. Austrian food
You might think Austrian food was all about Wiener Schnitzel and Sachertorte, but it’s not. It has much more to offer. However, the food culture here will not adapt to your dietary restrictions. It’s hard for vegetarians or gluten-free folks to have a good meal.
Country cuisine is based on meat, all kinds of noodles (Käsespätzle), and potatoes. If these aren’t your favorites (neither are they mine), think twice before going to Austria. Bread, coffee, and cakes are very popular and can be found everywhere.
Despite the variety of food in Austria, you still will see people eating Wiener Schnitzel and fries almost every second day.
Reason 4. High taxes
It depends on where you come from. It might be better or worse. In Austria, most employees pay between 42% and 48% of their income in taxes. Many people experience shock while paying this amount to the state, but they get used to it with time.
Taxes rates rise with income and get very high, very quickly. For all who earn less than 31,000 EUR – a tax rate of 35% is applicable, which isn’t that bad.
Read more about salaries and taxes in Austria here.
Reason 5. You hate cigarette smoke
Smoking is permitted in cafes, restaurants, and bars in Austria. Many people use this opportunity, but it might be the worst place to be if you hate smoking. Or you can avoid smoky places like this by going out less.
Reason 6. You don’t ski or snowboard
The Alps are one of the highlights in Austria. If you don’t enjoy skiing or snowboarding, you might be missing out on important social activities for Austrians.
In wintertime, folks love to go up in the mountains and spend all weekends there. If you live close to the Alps, expect to sit alone, as everyone will go skiing.
Reason 7. You aren’t a beer or “spritz” drinker
As a neighbor of Germany’s beer capital, Austria loves its beer and is very proud of it. It is almost impossible to find a beer that is made outside of the country.
Austrians are big patriots when it comes to this drink, and they will offer you exceptionally their beer. Or you take it or don’t come here.
Another story is spritz, which means wine mixed with soda/lemonade or water. I don’t know who invented this drink, but Austrians are fans of it.
Reason 8. Making friends with locals is difficult
Although Austrians enjoy meeting foreigners, making friends with locals can be difficult as they tend to be very 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.
It’s hard to make new friends as an outsider. In addition, Austrians don’t have the same after-work drinks culture as many other countries do.
Furthermore, it could be hard to build a genuine connection with someone, as they don’t open up to foreigners easily. So you might get to know many people, but you rarely will know them truly.
Reason 9. Housing is challenging to find
Austria has several different housing types, such as houses in the mountains, studio flats, apartments, wood-built lodges, and cottages. However, it’s hard to find a place to live in Austria. Especially in densely populated cities.
For example, in Vienna, there are just not enough suitable apartments for everyone, as the population is growing each year, but houses aren’t built that fast.
Reason 10. Long winters
Those used to more tropical climes will find that winters in Austria can feel exceptionally long and grey, even in Vienna, which is warmer than most regions in the country.
And indeed, the winter goes from the end of October till the end of March/beginning of April.
Reason 11. Austrian German is different from German
Learning Austrian German is difficult as the language is full of nuance and regional quirks despite Austria’s small size. Those already fluent in German should expect many vocabulary differences and be ready to learn a couple of dialects.
Be aware that Austrians don’t like to speak proper German (Hoch Deutsch).
Reason 12. Shops close latest at 8 pm
For those not from Europe: 24-hour retailers don’t exist in Austria; stores shut early in the evening. Many shuts over the weekend. Everything is closed on Sundays. So you will have to adapt and take time out of your day to do groceries and needed services.
Reason 13. Bureaucracy level
As an EU/EAA member, you will have it easier, but still not without visiting a couple of authorities, filling out forms, writing and receiving letters. YEES, they love to write letters in Austria.
Health insurance for Austria
When moving to Austria, you will need health insurance. It’s one of the first things local authorities will ask from you.
In Austria, private health insurance is often cheaper than a public one. Students can take out coverage with Care Concept for a very reasonable price (51 EUR per month). It’s one of the best insurance for international students and expats in Austria.
Moreover, their packages are 100% valid for visa and resident permit applications. I used the Care Austria package for my resident permit application and kept the insurance for the three years I lived in Austria. I never had any problems with it. All my health expenses were reimbursed within a short period.
You can also find suitable health insurance coverage on Austria’s biggest comparison website Durchblicker. Durchblicker is just a convenient tool with no additional or hidden costs. Signing for the policy is possible right on their website. Read over 1,400 positive reviews on Trustpilot, where Durchblicker receives a 4,8 rate.
Furthermore, on Durchblicker, you can also find there a bank account, various insurances, and even the internet provider for the new apartment.
Reason 14. Salary
Generally, suppose you are in a good trade (but not always), especially engineering, medicine, IT, chemicals, petrol, etc. In that case, you can make a lot more living in the USA & Canada or other countries with a powerful economy.
As I already said, the average salary in Vienna is 47,000 EUR gross which doesn’t make it a high-paid place compared to the high cost of living. It’s rare when a person earns more than 100,000 EUR in Austria, while it’s absolutely normal in the USA.
Read more about salaries in Austria here.
Reason 15. Attitude to work
If you love your career and define yourself with what you do, Austrians probably won’t understand you. Austrians don’t usually define their lives by their careers.
It’s very uncommon to overly focus on your job in conversations and such. They differentiate very straight free time from work time. Work-life balance is extremely important for them.
If you are a fairly hardworking person who wants to better themselves, progress, take their job quite seriously, and is competitive, you may find it hard to find many people with the same level of ambition and stamina.
If you want to invest more in your work during the nights or weekends – Austrians might take you for crazy. The attitude to work in Austria is something between Italian and German.
If your goal is to climb the career ladder and work hard, consider moving to Germany instead.
Reason 16. You plan never learn German
If you don’t plan to learn German, life in Austria will be difficult for you. Most people speak English here, yes, but it’s generalized. You might meet many people who haven’t spoken English for years.
In urban Austria, large cities like Vienna, it will be easier to live without German. However, you need to understand that you are missing a huge part of the experience.
If you only speak English outside tourist zones, you will always be viewed as some kind of colonial power forcing everyone to speak badly learned school English and turning even trivial social events, like a short chat at the bakery, into an embarrassing situation for everyone involved.
Each time you are in a group of people, where the majority is Austrian, expect to hear them speaking German. They won’t communicate all the time in English because of you! Unless you move here with a solid level of the German language, you are going to face some serious, serious loneliness.
“Locals can be a little rejecting to foreigners especially if you don’t speak German.”Expats
Reason 17. Dead Sundays
Sundays in Austria must be free by law, that’s why everything is shut down, and people enjoy their weekends. For Austrian, it seems so, but foreigners experience Sundays as the worst part of the week, which can be depressing and inconvenient.
Even grocery stores closed on this day, as well as many cafes and restaurants. How are you supposed to enjoy your weekend if everything is out of service?! That’s still not understandable for other outsiders and me.
Health insurance for Austria
When moving to Austria, you will need health insurance. It’s one of the first things local authorities will ask from you. To find the suitable and cheapest coverage check out this platform. It’s the largest comparison tool in the country.
You can also find there a bank account, various insurances, and even the internet provider for the new apartment.
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