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Living in Germany vs Austria Guide: A Honest Comparison

Colorful apartments near lake

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. Weather, leisure activities, mentality, and 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. Read how living in Switzerland compares to Austria and Germany in this post.

Education and student life

If you are a future international student, you need to consider the quality of 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 costs several hundred euros.

On the other hand, study choice is much broader and more diverse, as there are more universities in the country. Despite that, many Germans 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 cities, where the university is a highlight, and students are the biggest part of the population. Living and studying in such a city is fun, and living costs 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 for around 1 EUR 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

People talking in cafe

Career opportunities depend primarily on your educational background and language skills. Speaking fluent German will bring you much better chances at work in both countries.

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. Usually, people work for at least 2-3 years before they get promoted. Germany is undoubtedly an excellent 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 that Austrian companies are successful all over the world too. The problem is that nobody knows it. However, everyone can recognize Red Bull, Swarovski, and Raiffeisen Bank.

Exports (goods and services) make up to 60% of the GDP in Austria, offering jobs for international workers. Specialists in marketing, the information technology sector, and 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) a salary must be at least 56,400 EUR or 43,992 EUR for shortage occupations. Finding such a job offer is a difficult task, and many graduates fail at this moment.

Austria represents Red-White-Red Card – residence permit for non-EU/EEA graduates and highly skilled professionals from abroad.

Requirements for the application are lower than in Germany; for example, the minimum gross salary of the potential worker must be 2,416 EUR or 28,992 EUR per year. Yet, in October 2022, this requirement was eliminated.

Now applicants only need to earn a salary for the particular job that is common in Austria (regulated by collective agreements).

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

Work-life balance

Man carrying baby on his back

German companies often practice flexible working times to have an excellent work-life balance. Employees are only allowed to work 8 hours per day and 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; typically, finding a part-time job in your industry is easy.

Austrians work 8 hours per day plus one hour of lunchtime. Work-life balance and spending time with the family is crucial here. That’s why on Friday all workers are free after 3 pm.

Overtime rarely occurs, but if so, you 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

The cost of living is one of the most important aspects of moving abroad. Germany isn’t that expensive compared to Switzerland, France, or all Nordic countries, but it is still not a cheap place.

Prices differ significantly between the large cities in Germany. For example, you would need more money to live in Munich than you would in Dresden. Small, university cities also tend to be more affordable.

The most significant monthly expense is, as always – rent. However, rents in German cities vary significantly. 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 to rent an entire apartment, then expect to pay from 600 EUR to 1,000 EUR for a one-bedroom flat.

Overall, Germany is cheaper than Austria, with some exceptions like Munich, Hamburg, and some others. However, 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 costly 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 them at a 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, which is simply the size of the country and the number of global businesses.

For example, even the relatively small (700,000 people) german town of Düsseldorf has 8,400 Japanese inhabitants. Companies like L’Oreal, Henkel, and Trivago create a great international atmosphere, and it’s without mentioning Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg.

Austria has expats as well. There’s something for everyone in this beautiful land of mountains, valleys, and historic cities. However, they prefer Vienna. British, Canadian, American communities and Germans can be found anywhere.

To happily live here, choosing the right place to reside is crucial. Large companies can also have their corporate centers in small towns, but you should opt for a larger city like Vienna, Graz, or Linz. There you will find most of the international workers.

Standard of living

Cars parked outside the apartment

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 also on the list, and Munich is in place 4.

Overall, Germany has a clean environment, low crime rates, lots of leisure time and cultural attractions, well-developed infrastructure, and 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 a 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 the 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.


Only Russia has more bordering countries in Europe than Germany. Germany opens its doors to Western European countries as well as to Eastern. If you love weekend city trips, it might be a wonderful country for you. A short train ride and you are in the 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. The capital of Slovakia – Bratislava, is just 60 km from Vienna.

You can be in stunning Italy just in a few hours of car drive. A short flight from neighboring Zurich airport will bring you to Barcelona or Nice in south France.

Austrian neighbors: Italy, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

Landscape diversity

Person walking on snowy mountain

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 considerable percentage of German land, almost a third.

Germany is about diversity, while 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.


People watching opera

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 the 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, and Germany, on the other 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 which belong to UNESCO World Heritage Sites.


People eatinf food on a food plate

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Even if traditional German 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 and 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-weekday leave.

Austria also has 13 national holidays and at least 25 work days of leave per year and 30 days if the employee has been working for 25 years in the company. Choose Austria for longer holidays.

Entertainment/things to see and do

People walking on flea market

Germany has lots to offer in terms of entertainment and things to do within your city or country. 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 and visiting cultural events and museums.

Vienna offers a large cultural program and 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 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.

Is Sunday closed?

Everything is shut on a Sunday in Germany AND Austria. Everything. Only airports, main train stations, and gas stations remain open.

Although Germany has a bit more things to offer on Sundays, like cafes, bakeries, and 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

Aerial shot of city in Germany
  • Munich
  • Dusseldorf
  • Frankfurt
  • Berlin
  • Hamburg
  • Stuttgart
  • Nuremberg

These cities have great job opportunities for expats and are pretty international. Many high-ranked German companies are located there. Furthermore, all cities have excellent 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

A square in Germany at night

Austria has a few big cities, and the rest is middle-sized. But don’t worry, you can get an excellent 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.

  • Vienna
  • Salzburg
  • Innsbruck
  • Graz
  • Eisenstadt
  • Klagenfurt
  • Linz
  • Villach

Also read: Best Cities to Live and Work in Austria.

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