The Local Austria wanted to find out what it is like for parents from different countries to bring up a child in the city and how the Viennese parenting style compares to 'back home'.
From praising the financial support available for parents to complaining about administration and opinionated strangers, here's what they had to say:
Lu-ying Yan-Newman, 39, originally from Taiwan, has lived in Vienna for over twenty years and now has a three-year-old son Leon with her British husband John.
“I think nowhere is better than Vienna to bring up children. The financial support you get is great. For dad’s too – John could take two months paid paternity leave. Taiwan doesn’t have this. Vienna is also a good city for parents as it’s easy to take a buggy everywhere – apart from the old trams – and the pavements are well done. There are also building regulations for creating spaces for children, especially with new housing, so there’s always a park nearby. One bad surprise was the childcare. I applied to five and six kindergartens before he was born and when I wanted to go back to work when he was 11 months old there were still no free places. In Taiwan people go back to work after three months. I was lucky because my mum looked after him for ten months. If I didn’t have my mum here, I would have had to stay at home. I made a conscious decision to speak to him in Chinese as I think it’s the biggest gift I can give to him. In Taiwan I think parents do too much for their children – they are princesses and princes. There is pressure on the kids. I had a Tiger mum and now I’m grateful although I maybe would have wanted more time in my childhood. I learnt in Austria to give [Leon] more freedom. My husband’s family had lots of freedom growing up in Britain. But I don’t want to be laissez-faire too much so we talk and come to compromise.”
Eugene Quinn, 48, originally from Britain, moved several years ago to Vienna where he now heads up urban culture organisation spaceandplace. He has a three-year-old son Josef with his Austrian wife.
“There is no better place to bring up children. It’s easy, people have more time here. For example, I was able to get three months paid paternity leave, even though I’m a freelancer. I think that’s harder to do in the UK. Children are more innocent here. There is much less paranoia. You don’t get very many ‘tiger’ parents here but there is a lot more sport and activity integrated into everyday life. One negative is that things are very structured here and that ‘wholesome’ desire is not very good for creativity or innovation. I’m almost certain this is reflected in the schools so I’m a bit worried when he comes to go to school. And there isn’t a shortage of people to comment on your parenting, whether it’s on the U-Bahn or in the park. There’s a whole army of normally older women who lay down the law. They’re often not wrong but have a limited idea of being a parent. But given the option, I would choose Austria every time.”
Veronika Kovacsova, 32, is Slovakian but spent ten years living in the Netherlands before moving to Vienna in her late twenties. She has a nine-month old girl Iida with her Finnish boyfriend.
“Not being married made things a bit more difficult. We had to apply for my boyfriend to have parental rights at the local district office, which would have been automatic if we were married. The administrative side of things here is still a bit ‘unmodern’, not up to date. In Finland everything can be done online – it wouldn’t be so hard to automate some forms in Vienna. In the Netherlands there is no public childcare but here you can choose between public and private, which is heavily subsidised, and you get two years paid childcare although I think maybe for years 0-3 there are fewer spaces. I wanted to start work again but didn’t succeed in finding a public place so went private. When it comes to language, one thing I was told is to be consistent. The foremost reason [for speaking in the native language] was that I thought it would be good for her brain to be able to switch easily between languages. Of course, being able to communicate with her grandparents is also important. I also like that there are lots of BIO [organic] options in the shops here, much more than in other countries. For example, BIO baby food and diapers.”
Bernado Mariani, originally from Italy, has lived in Vienna for ten years, where he and his Austrian wife have a four-year-old boy.
“Generally speaking our experience is very positive to the point where I would struggle to find things I don’t really like here. There are particular arrangements in Vienna that are unique, like the kindergartens are free. Money isn’t everything but there is this financial aspect that is important. When I compare that to other countries, certainly to London, where kindergartens are so expensive and you have to have a salary to pay for childcare. Parental leave is another positive experience. You can choose different schemes, length, and can divide up maternity and paternity leave. My wife took 12 months, I took two months. I found that an extremely positive experience. The other thing I like is it’s a great place for children, there are all these amenities, playgrounds, children can’t get bored here. The other thing is the space they have around them – the green space. Even the kindergartens try to get a green space. The place where our child goes is amazing. They have a parkland – that’s a bit unique, even for Vienna. When I compare it to Rome, it’s a dream amount of space. It’s unheard of there. If I really want to be negative about something, there is a recurring issue here about needing connections to get into this school, or that kindergarten. There’s a bit of competition. This wasn’t our personal experience but we have heard that from others. The very good ones receive more applications and we’ve heard this criticism that you need connections to get in. This is not a very transparent society, compared to other places further north.”
Have you had a different experience of parenting in Vienna or elsewhere in Austria? Let us know at [email protected] or in the comments below.