Austria is a country of wealth and culture, with beautiful nature and a range of opportunities for foreigners. Austrian living standards are very high, making it one of the best countries to live in the
world. In 2015, Austria ranked 15th among other world leaders.
Moreover, the Austrian capital Vienna was named the most livable place in the world several times. Nonetheless, living in Austria comes with its advantages and disadvantages, which we will explain in this article. Also read our comparison between living in Austria and Germany.
Pros of Moving to Austria
1. Social security
Austria also provides excellent social security, including high-quality schooling and free healthcare. You pay to various social security funds with your taxes and receive excellent assistance with everything you will ever need.
Austrian pension is on a good level. Health insurance covers the costs of the majority of medical treatments. Besides, there are more than enough doctors and hospital spaces than the need. Therefore, patients receive desired appointments and care.
In addition to the quality, Austrian healthcare is affordable, with 35% of expats describing the price of insurance as very good.
The transportation is simply excellent in Austria. The number of kilometers traveled by train, bus, and urban public transport is higher than in any other European country; compared to the number of inhabitants. Trains and buses are highly efficient and have extensive networks.
The country is also well connected with other European cities, mainly German and Swiss. There is no need to have a car, especially if you live in the city; yet, village residents must rely on the bus and train schedule.
A yearly ticket for all types of transportation costs 365 EUR in Vienna.
3. Quality of Life
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.
Vienna has been ranked many times as the best city in the world to live in, primarily because of its 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 make Austria climb these rankings and attract more foreigners; many of them even don’t want to leave the alpine country and end up staying all their lives.
While living there, you will also be happy with your professional and personal life. Austria offers one of the best work-life balances in the world.
4. Schools and Education
Austrian higher education is free for EU/EEA citizens, which isn’t common in Europe and in the world overall. Students outside the EU must pay tuition fees, which generally don’t exceed 1,500 EUR per year.
The public school system is free in Austria and has an excellent level of teaching. After the secondary level (age 10-17), students might attend a vocational school with the desired specialization.
Austrian education focuses more on humanities majors compared to Germany, where engineering and science are the most common. In general, science, fine arts, music, literature, philosophy, and the humanities are prevalent in Austrian universities.
5. Food and Drinks
Traditional Austrian cuisine is some of the best comfort food in the world, especially if you love cheese, potatoes, and cakes. Country cuisine is based on meat, noodles (Käsespätzle), and potatoes.
Some traditional dishes of Austrian cuisine:
Tafelspitz: This dish contains beef boiled in broth and is considered Austria’s national dish. It’s 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 marinated in vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper. It’s a typical accompaniment for Wiener Schnitzel.
Sachertorte: This is a chocolate cake filled with apricot jam traditionally served with whipped cream.
Apfelstrudel: In English, this is Apple Strudel. It contains layers of thin pastry with apple filling, cinnamon, and raisins—the 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 is much more light 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, and mountain cheese.
Generally, Austria’s food is 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 every second day.
If you are a white wine lover, Austria will make you happy with its tastiest wine sorts. Vienna itself has a vast area of vineyards that are within city limits.
As a neighbor of the beer capital – Germany, Austria loves its beer and is very proud of it. The country produces different beer sorts within a 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 Vienna. It can be seen in the number of coffee machines everywhere; you can find them even in supermarkets.
6. Free-time Activities
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 and 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.
The natural beauty of the mountains and lakes will encourage you to go out and explore. Austrians love to spend their weekend away in nature while mountain biking, rock climbing, paragliding, cycling, camping, swimming, and, of course, skiing is huge in Austria.
For relaxation, there are also many thermal baths around the country. Beautiful mountain resorts offer a perfect weekend getaway.
Cities like Vienna, Graz, and Innsbruck are famous for their cozy cafes, offering strong coffees and local desserts, including pastries, strudels, and chocolate cakes.
And of course, we 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 traditional markets, which are great for locally produced cheese, sweets, fruits and vegetables, jams, and sauces.
When Christmas is coming closer, almost every town will host a Christmas market. It’s 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 a temperate climatic zone like many other European countries. So if you are European, it might not be a significant change for you. It seems to have a good balance: summers are pleasant, winters are not too cold or rainy, and the rest of the year is quite enjoyable.
You will see more sunshine than in northern countries like the Netherlands or Finland. 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 the outdoors, particularly skiing and snowboarding. The Alps is a place you want to be when it’s wet and gray in the town.
For example, 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. That makes it a perfect location for exploring around. If you want to be in the heart of Europe and visit all these neighbors – Austria is an excellent place.
Expats love spending time in Austria, but if they do get bored, they have plenty of alternatives to choose from. Thanks to the great public transportation system, traveling around is 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?
9. Natural Beauty
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 have the most incredible nature, including lakes, swamps, hills, and glaciers, among others. Many foreigners appreciate in Austria that the mountains are always close.
Besides, the country ranked 12th out of 149 countries in the Natural Environment.
If culture is something you are looking for, you will fall instantly in love with Austria and particularly Vienna. This city alone has 50 museums and over 26,000 theatre seats.
You will first notice Austrian 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 in buildings.
Moreover, Austrian palaces, art, music, and literature is something you don’t want to miss. Concerts and festivals also happen pretty often.
Austria is 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.
This is because of the country’s past and the influence of Italy, Poland, Germany, Hungary, and Bohemia.
Cons of Moving to Austria
1. 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 are considering 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 an outstanding career. There aren’t many international companies, and the Austrian market is conservative.
Locals prefer a steady and safe job that equals their qualifications rather than a rapidly climbing career ladder. It’s too stressful from the Austrian point of view; therefore career orientated Americans might not be happy while working in Austria. Check out high-demand jobs in this guide.
Related: How to get a job in Austria?
2. Language Barriers
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 prevents expats from feeling at home in Austria. Read this guide on how to get a job in Austria without speaking German.
Moreover, if you finally decide to learn German, be prepared to dedicate more time to this than it would be to regular German. The reason for the many dialects Austria has depends on the region you are in.
Because of its complex grammar rules, German alone is more challenging to learn than other Western European languages (most people require 750 class hours to become proficient).
Statistics show 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.
3. High Cost of Living
Statistics show that Vienna is 56% more expensive than Budapest and 20% more expensive than Ljubljana. However, Vienna is not the most expensive place in Austria compared to the city of Innsbruck and the region Vorarlberg, close to the Swiss border.
Austria is considered 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 for 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 significant 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 housing affordability; some even say that the pay isn’t enough to cover their rent.
Rent, food, going out, and traveling/transportation are the biggest expenses that you will have while moving and living in Austria. Using trains or buses as transportation can be 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 and not equivalent pay for these expenses.
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 is likely to cost at least 1,350 EUR per month, while the same-sized home in an inexpensive location can cost you 1,025 EUR.
Similarly, renting a furnished 1-bedroom or studio (45 square meters or 480 square feet) apartment costs 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 bulk. These German discounts can save you quite a lot.
Foreigners find meat, fish, turkey, and chicken 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 will likely cost you around 50 EUR. You’ll pay 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, and the average price for a meal is 5-6 EUR.
4. Unfriendliness Issue
The first impression of Austrian might be that they are unfriendly. Sure the culture is different if you come from the USA or, for example, Asian countries.
On the other hand, people in Austria are 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 it can be misunderstood as disrespect, oddity, or even irritability, 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 you will understand they are good people in the end. And remember, we generalize here so that 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 experience 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.
5. Making Friends
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. 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, building a connection with your colleagues apart from work can be challenging or almost impossible. Austrians prefer to keep private and work-life separate.
It could be hard to build a genuine connection with someone, as they don’t open up to 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 all meetings with friends in Austria must be scheduled; a sudden visit can lead to misunderstanding.
It is advisable to call in a couple of weeks, 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. Smoking in public areas, restaurants, and bars is officially permitted. Many people use this opportunity, but if you hate smoking, it might be the worst place to be. You might want to 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. Planning your time is important, maybe not to extend it done by Austrian people. They like to have complete 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, to adapt 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 on short notice. A waiting period is usually weeks or even months.
8. High Taxes and Low Salaries
In Austria, most employees pay between 42% and 48% of their income in taxes. It depends on where you come from. It might be better or worse. Many people experience shock while paying this amount to the state, but with 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 – a tax rate of 35% is applicable, which 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% of taxes on their gross salary, but it depends on many circumstances, such as your relationship status, the existence of kids, etc.
Another factor many expats noticed is that if they are in good trade (but not always), especially in engineering, medicine, IT, chemicals, petrol, etc., they can make a lot more money working and living in the USA & Canada or other countries with a powerful economy. Salaries in Austria aren’t that high.
The average salary in Vienna is 47,000 EUR gross which does not make it a high-paid place compared with the high cost of living. It’s rare when a person earns more than 100,000 EUR in Austria, while it’s pretty normal in the USA.
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.
Read more about salaries in Austria in this guide.
9. Shut Down 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.
Be organized and do your shopping on other days, most people prefer Saturdays, but I would recommend picking another day since it can get pretty crowded.
Even grocery stores closed on this day, along with many cafes and restaurants and all retail except the fuel stations and a few small kiosks. How are you supposed to enjoy your weekend if everything is out of service?! That’s still not understandable for me and other foreigners.
Going out can be disappointing, depending on where you come from. In small Austrian cities, something rarely happens, mainly on the weekends. It’s not as lively as in Berlin or Prague.
However, don’t expect it to be the best party you have 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.
Related: Best cities to live and work in Austria.