For many people, Germany and Austria seem to be the same, till the moment they have lived there for a while. Some prefer Germany, some Austria. Austria is considered to be one of the best countries in the world to live in. It’s at the top of the rankings for quality of life. At the same time, Germany has the third-biggest economy in the world.
From a geographical point of view, Germany and Austria are neighbors and speak the same language. Whether weather, leisure activities, mentality, or culinary delights – are different.
As an expat you want to get the best of your experience abroad. For this reason, we will take a detailed look at life in Germany and Austria. Therefore, you can be sure which country suits your lifestyle and preferences better.
Related: “Is Germany a good place to live?”
Education and Student Life
First what you need to pain attention to if you are a future international student is an education in Germany and Austria.
Germany does not have free Universities in comparison to Austria. Although tuition fees do not exist in Germany, the semester contribution is mandatory for everyone and cost several hundred euro.
On another hand, study choice is much broader and diverse, as there are more Universities in the country. Despite that fact, many Germans go to study abroad because they could not receive a place at the local universities. In 2016, more than 30,000 students from Germany were enrolled at Austrian universities.
Germany has many so-called student city, where University is a highlight, and students are the biggest part of the population. It’s fun to live and study in such a city, living costs there also tend to be lower.
The students in Austria are usually very satisfied with their choice. At public universities, the study is free for EU/EEA citizens. Public transport can be used around 1 EURO per day and a room in a shared apartment can be easily found in contrast to other German cities, such as Munich or Hamburg.
Career opportunities depend mostly on your educational background and language skills. In both countries speaking fluent german will bring you much better chances at work.
Although Germany has more companies that operate internationally, so you can survive only with English.
It also has the 3rd biggest economy in the world, logically your career can skyrocket there. Usually, people work at least 2-3 years before they get promoted. Germany is certainly a good place to be for all finance/business, logistics, IT, and all kinds of engineering professionals. Check out what salary you will get in Germany.
Don’t forget Austrian companies are successful all over the world too. The problem is that nobody knows it. However, everyone can recognize Red Bull, Swarovski, Raiffeisen Bank.
Exports (goods and services) make up to 60% of GDP in Austria, offering jobs for international workers. Specialists in marketing, the information technology sector, engineering are desirable and climb the career ladder quickly.
Post-study Work Permit
Germany and Austria have their regulation for international graduates who want to stay and work in the country. In general, both countries allow students from abroad to get a job in the country afterward.
EU Blue Card in Germany is an opportunity for graduates of German Universities to step into the corporate world and stay in the country.
The problem is that to apply for this residence permit graduates will need a) of course to find a job and b) salary must be at least 55,200 EUR or 43,056 EUR for shortage occupations. To find such a job offer is a difficult task, and many graduates fail at this moment.
Austria represented Red-White-Red Card – residence permit for non-EU/EEA graduates and highly skilled professionals from abroad.
Conditions for application are much softer than in Germany, for example, the minimum gross salary of the potential worker must be 2,416 EUR or 28,992 EUR per year.
Graduates can easily find a job with this level of compensation since the average salary in Austria is around 48,000 EUR.
Health insurance in Austria
In Austria, private health insurance is often cheaper than 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 in Austria’s comparison biggest 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.
German companies often practice flexible working time in order to have a good work-life balance. Employees are only allowed to work 8 hours per day and so 40 hours per week.
Germans finish their working day punctually to spend the rest of the day with family, enjoying the outdoors or just free time. Overtime is still happening but not often.
Many people work part-time in Germany, especially women with kids. Companies are very open to this type of employment, normally it is easy to find a part-time job in your industry.
Austrians work 8 hours per day plus one-hour of lunchtime. Work-life balance and spending time with the family is very important here, that’s why on Fridays all workers are free after 3 pm.
Overtime rarely occurs, but if so will be reimbursed with an additional bonus of 50% in money or time balance.
Recommended to read: Benefits of being an employee in Germany.
Cost of Living
This is a huge point and can be determinative for many people before moving abroad. Germany isn’t that expensive country in comparison with Switzerland, France or all scandinavic countries, but it is still not the cheap place.
Prices differ significantly between the large cities in Germany. You would need more money for living in Munich than you would in Dresden, for example. Small, university cities also tend to be more affordable.
The biggest monthly expense is as always – rent. However, rents in German cities very vary. As a student, you will pay between 290 EUR and 560 EUR per month for a room in a shared apartment or sometimes a single flat.
As a professional, you might want an entire apartment, then expect to pay from 600 to 1,000 EUR for a one-bedroom flat.
Overall, Germany is cheaper than Austria with some exceptions like Munich, Hamburg, and some others. Though employees will receive a salary in accordance with living standards in that city or region.
Austria is quite an expensive place to live, especially if you aren’t opting for smaller eastern cities, where costs are lower. Bigger cities on average are more expensive to live in.
Although Vienna is still more affordable than Paris, Copenhagen, London, Luxembourg, and Amsterdam.
If you are a student a room in Vienna or Innsbruck won’t cost you less than 400 EUR. Looking for an entire apartment? The price starts from 600 EUR.
Shopping could make pocket light, Austria produces many high-quality goods and sells for an accordingly high price. While buying groceries opt for Lidl and Aldi, German discounters. Yes, local products are trendy but unfortunately expensive.
International Expat Life
Germany is more international than Austria, the reason for this is simply the size of the country and the number of international businesses.
For example, even relatively small (700,000 people) german town Düsseldorf has 8,400 Japanese inhabitants. Companies like L’Oreal, Henkel, Trivago create a great international atmosphere, and it’s without mentioning Berlin, Munchen, and Hamburg.
Austria has expats as well, in this beautiful land of mountains, valleys, historic cities there’s something for everyone. However they prefer Vienna, there are British, Canadian, American communities, and Germans that can be found anywhere.
To happily live here choosing the place could be crucial. Big companies can have their corporate centers in small towns too, but you should opt for a bigger town like Vienna, Graz or Linz. There you will find most of the international workers.
Standard of Living
Both countries have a high standard of living. However, Austria has less poverty, social tensions, or refugees than Germany and is way more relaxed.
Moreover, Vienna had been awarded as the city with the highest quality of life eighth time in a row. German cities are on the list as well, Munich is in place 4.
Overall Germany has a clean environment, low crime rates, lots of leisure-time and cultural attractions, well-developed infrastructure, good transportation.
The ratio of prices and earnings is well matched, you can find ways to save but also to spend a lot. Frankfurt has the 9th highest wages in the world and the relatively low cost of living, thus people there can afford more.
Safety is not the strongest part of some German cities like Frankfurt, as well as the availability of health services.
What we just said about Germany can also be related to Austria, except for the safety issue. Purchasing power is higher in Austria and so on an average salary. Furthermore, employees receive 14 payments in the year (in Germany it’s 13). Drawbacks are a small number of international airports and high living costs.
I would add that Austria has a slightly higher quality of life, just from my experience.
Only Russia has more bordering countries in Europe than Germany. Germany opens doors to Western European countries as well as to Eastern. If you love weekend city trips it might be a wonderful country for you. Short train right and you are in French, Dutch, Czech, or Swiss capital.
German neighbors: Austria, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, France, Luxembourg, Denmark, Poland, Switzerland, and Belgium.
Austria is neighboring eight countries that are perfect for the occasional vacation too. Unlike Germany Austria has more options for eastern or southern trips.
For example, you can take a train to the financial capital of Italy – Milan, or Hungary – Budapest. Capital of Slovakia – Bratislava is just 60 km away from Vienna.
You can be in stunning Italy just in a few hours of car drive. A short flight from neighbor Zurich airport will bring you to Barcelona, or Nice in south France.
Austrian neighbors: Italy, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
Germany is an extremely diverse country with a large variety of different landscapes. It stretches from the North and Baltic seas to the Alps in the south, where the border with Austria also lies.
The landscape is predominantly flat and the climate is moderate with chilly temperatures. But there are also highlands, rolling hills, lowlands, beautiful lakes, and rivers. Forest covers a huge percentage of Germand land, almost a third.
Germany is all about diversity when Austria has mostly scenic alps and lakes.
Austria is a landlocked country and lies in the heart of Europe, that is what attracts so many foreigners. Due to its central location, Austria is easily accessible to people from many countries.
It has stunning mountains like the Alps, parts of the Dolomites, and the Salzkammergut. Germany has got only Zugspitze. Temperature and climate are the same as in Germany.
The culture in Germany is versatile and has everyone something to offer. It includes philosophy, music, literature, cinema, art, architecture, and design.
Some of the world’s biggest music festivals take place in Germany. The country has originated many famous classical composers including Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Handel, Johann Strauss II, Wagner, and more.
It has all: operas, theaters, museums, art galleries, open-air cinemas and much more.
Germany owns a unique architectural style with many buildings from the Middle Ages. In fact, 46 German cultural and natural heritage are part of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Oktoberfest is the biggest cultural event in Germany and beer festival in the world.
Austrian culture is more noble, refined, and stands out. Same as Viennese. The country of Mozart is known for classical music and modern art, Germany on another hand for modern music and modern art.
Austria has been influenced by its past and neighbors: Italy, Poland, Germany, Hungary, and Bohemia, that’s why you can see the Baroque style in architecture.
Vienna is renowned as the European capital of classical music. Since Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Johann Strauss were associated with this city.
Austrian opera and museums are world-famed. Austria also has stunning castles, palaces, and buildings, among other architectural works, many of them belong to UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Even if German traditional cuisine is renowned around the world, people don’t know more than sausages, potatoes, and meat. But it’s the basics of German cuisine. Indeed more than 1,500 different types of sausage are produced in this sausage paradise.
German dishes vary with kilometers, people tend to eat differently in the south than in the north. The southern area of Germany, Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, have what is called a “Deftige Küche”. This means it is a very rich food with a lot of taste, meat and is usually quite heavy.
In Hamburg however, you will find a lot of dishes with fish. Hamburg and the Northern parts of Germany are located on the coast of the Baltic Sea and Northern Sea, which makes it the perfect place for freshly caught fish.
Like all other developed countries, Germany has adopted many international dishes into its cuisine and daily eating habits. Italian dishes like pizza and pasta, Turkish and Arab dishes like döner kebab and falafel, could be found everywhere.
The Austrians like it hearty and traditional. Starting with a hearty beef/pancakes soup, continuing with roasted pork or a delicate Tafelspitz and apple strudel for a perfect conclusion.
Austrian cuisine has been influenced above all by Hungarian, Czech, Jewish, and Italian cuisines, from which both dishes and methods of food preparation have often been borrowed. Goulash is one example of this.
Austria is known primarily in the rest of the world for its pastries and sweets. Vienna, one of Europe’s gourmet capitals for both food and wine, is home to many delicious local treats.
This country loves to use fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Austrian cuisine ranges from schnitzel to mouthwatering cakes, sausages, and hearty stews.
In Germany, you can enjoy 13 national holidays in addition to your minimum of 20 weekdays leave.
Austria also has 13 national holidays and at least 25 weekdays of leave per year and 30 days if the employee had been for 25 years in the company. Choose Austria for longer holidays.
Entertainment/Things to See and Do
In terms of entertainment and things to do within your city or country, Germany has lots to offer. From concerts, festivals, celebrations, parties, nature spots, parks, lakes, and rivers, cities to visit countless architectural sights, cathedrals, etc.
Germany is so diverse, you can do weekend gateways only within the country and still haven’t seen everything.
Austria has all its mountains and lakes. If you love to ski or snowboard, a perfect place to be. In big cities, you can enjoy going out, visiting cultural events, museums.
Vienna offers a huge cultural program or parties, it will keep you busy all weekends and evenings of working days.
Overall, Austria has fewer things to do and entertain. Yet if you desire something new, a short car drive will bring you to another country and therefore to new adventures and actions.
Airports in Germany and Austria
Germany has many airports (539) and better travel possibilities. The country connected well itself with trains and flights between big cities.
Austria has only 52 airports, which can make travel by air difficult. There is no airport in the western part of the country, to take a flight I need to jump on a train to Vienna, where the biggest International Airport is, or to Zürich. Most traveling is done by car.
Sunday is Closed?
Everything is shut on a Sunday in Germany AND in Austria. Everything. Only airports, main train stations, and gas stations remain to be open.
Although Germany has a bit more things to offer on Sundays, like cafes, bakeries, some shops. Austria likes to shut down everything, completely. They appreciate the outdoors too much.
Also, read “What to do on Sunday in Germany“? Yes, when everything is closed.
The Best Cities to Live in Germany by Job Opportunities
These cities have great job opportunities for expats and are quite international. Many high-ranked German companies are located there. Furthermore, all cities have exellent infrastructure.
They ranked well in the top cities of the world to live in, so you won’t be disappointed after moving to any of them.
My personal recommendation will be Munich or Frankfurt, due to its location, connection to other European capitals and of course job opportunities. And by the way Frankfurt has the biggest airport in Europe.
The Best Cities to Live in Austria by Job Opportunities
Austria has a few big cities and the rest is middle-sized. But don’t worry you can get an awesome job even in the village. Life in these Austrian cities is laid pack and still offers excellent opportunities for international workers.
For all you foreigners Vienna is highly recommended, thus your expectations will be fulfilled.
Also read: Best Cities to Live and Work in Austria.
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