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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

‘I don’t miss the guns’: How Americans feel about living in Austria

There are just shy of 10,000 Americans living in Austria. The Local reached out to them to get an idea of how they feel to live here.

'I don’t miss the guns': How Americans feel about living in Austria
An American flag. Samuel Corum / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Austria and the United States have a long, shared history. 

The countries remain important yet sometimes rocky allies in a number of areas, while the cultural legacy of the US’ ten-year post-war occupation has made an impact on Austrian history. 

It’s perhaps no surprise then that Austrian is a popular destination for Americans, with 8,542 Americans resident in Austria, according to official Austrian statistics. 

READ MORE: How to save money while travelling around Austria

But what draws American people to live in Austria? And where in the country are they based?

The Local Austria reached out to Americans who lived here to ask them all about their experiences and to find out which parts of the country they were attracted to. 

Here’s some of what they said to us. 

‘I don’t miss the guns’

Philip Rusch from San Francisco moved to Vienna in 1991 and originally planned to stay for one year. 

Almost 30 years later he still calls the city home and has seen Vienna develop into the multi-cultural place it is today.

He told The Local: “Vienna has changed considerably in the past thirty years.”

“It was dark and dreary thirty years ago and was pretty much a meat and potatoes place. I remember there was just a few Thai restaurants in Vienna, for example.

“Not only are there now more English language speakers in Vienna, but Austrians are less afraid to speak English now it seems.”

When asked how the lifestyle in Austria differs from the USA, Philip said: “The quality of life in Austria compared to the United States is simply better.

“I don’t miss the guns, the lack of public health care, the commute or the poor public transportation systems in most of the USA.”

Lizzy Hajrlahovic from San Diego, California, moved to Salzburg to be with her husband in 2018 and she enjoys living close to nature.

She told The Local: “I mostly enjoy the nature aspect of being here as I’m used to no seasonal changes and just hot, hotter or disgusting hot [weather]. 

“Here, I’ve experienced noticeable season changes that I’ve enjoyed and winter is my favourite because I can experience a snowy Christmas for once.

“I’m a huge fan of being able to take my son outside our door and have a flowing creek to play in.”

However, not all of Lizzie’s experiences in Austria have been positive.

She said: “I have faced more prejudices and biases due to my looks.”

“I’m judged daily for this and I found that the locals do not appreciate being told truths when they’re confronted on their own words.”

READ MORE: The best places to live in Austria that are not Vienna

Another American citizen in Austria is Isabella Claire who moved to Linz, Upper Austria, to be with her Austrian partner just before land and air borders were shut down in March 2020.

She had been studying in Spain and made it onto one of the last flights from Spain to Germany before crossing the border into Austria.

Isabella told The Local: “We were just planning to ride out the pandemic together for a few months and then I would go home in July as planned.”

“When travel plans threatened to keep us apart and my visa was running out, we decided to get married. 

“Once we managed all the paperwork and got married, I figured out how to get my courses for my senior year of undergrad online from Austria and did just that.”

Isabella and her husband then moved to Klagenfurt in Carinthia in December.

She said: “Living in Linz as an American was definitely easier than Klagenfurt because there are so many expats and overall it wasn‘t too bad. 

“The bureaucracy was the hardest part for me because we had to deal with the BH [Bezirkshauptmannschaft] and Rathaus a lot. 

“The language was hard at first but luckily I picked it up quite quickly and in Linz you could get around enough with English.” 

Why do Americans live in Austria?

There are many different reasons why Americans move to Austria, ranging from work to study to love.

Jacki Hafellner, from Rochester in New York, moved to Graz in 2016 to be with her husband after originally spending a summer in the city in 2014 for an opera programme.

She told The Local: “I met my husband seven years ago when I was singing at the casino. 

“I gave birth to our oldest son nine months later in Philadelphia and then spent a year teaching in Tampa, Florida, with our son in daycare while my then-boyfriend was in Graz. 

“I quit my job a year later and moved here so we could all be together.”

Work and family are the most common reasons for Americans to move to Austria, but the nature and landscape is often cited as a reason for staying long-term.

Lizzie, from San Diego, said: “Waking up to beautiful views is still my favourite part of being here.”

“Back home, I woke up to annoying sounds and traffic outside my window.”

But Isabella in Klagenfurt said that although she enjoys living in Austria, it’s a tough country to move to.

She said: “I wish I could say that people who want to move here without any family or job can do it easily with the right effort, but that is just not the case. 

“It’s really a hard country to immigrate to, especially on your own with no family member or company to sponsor you.”

Where do Austria-based Americans live?

As to be expected, Vienna is the top location for Americans in Austria with the largest number of US residents living in the nation’s capital city.

The data from Statistik Austria shows that there are 4,492 American residents living in Vienna.

This is more than from other English-speaking nations with 4,447 British people living in the capital, 556 Australians, 133 from New Zealand and 925 from Canada.

READ MORE: Where in Austria do all the Americans live?

After Vienna, Lower Austria is the second most popular location for US residents living in Austria with 923 Americans based in the province.

Next, 738 Americans live in Salzburgerland, followed by 643 in Styria, 604 in Upper Austria and 528 in Tyrol.

The Austrian provinces least populated by Americans are Carinthia with 303 US residents, Vorarlberg with 206 and Burgenland with 105.

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

What is Austria’s Mutter-Kind-Pass and how is it changing?

The Mutter-Kind-Pass is hitting the headlines as the Austrian Federal Government plans a reform of the scheme. Here's how it works now, why it is necessary and how it will change in the future.

What is Austria’s Mutter-Kind-Pass and how is it changing?

The Mutter-Kind-Pass (Mother-Child-Pass) was launched in Austria in 1974 to ensure the health and wellbeing of pregnant women and their babies.

It grants pregnant women free access to essential examinations and consultations, and serves as a record of healthcare.

But big changes are on the cards for the pass as a digitization reform is planned for the coming years, while disputes continue about the cost of the scheme.

Here’s what you need to know about how the Mutter-Kind-Pass works, why it’s necessary and how it will change. 

FOR MEMBERS: What are the rules about turning on the heating in the workplace in Austria?

What is the Mutter-Kind-Pass?

The Mutter-Kind-Pass is a small, yellow passport-style document to provide and track healthcare for pregnant women and young children in Austria.

It is issued to a woman when a pregnancy is confirmed by a doctor and contains records of medical examinations during pregnancy. As well as health check-ups for the child up to five years of age.

The Mutter-Kind-Pass exists to ensure pregnant women and children get the necessary medical care they need.

For example, women in Austria are entitled to five medical check-ups throughout their pregnancy including blood tests, internal examinations, ultrasound scans and consultations with a midwife.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Am I liable for ambulance costs in Austria?

Who can get the Mutter-Kind-Pass and how much does it cost?

Any pregnant woman living in Austria can get the Mutter-Kind-Pass (and subsequent health examinations) for free.

However, all examinations must take place with a doctor that is registered with a health insurance company in Austria.

Women without health insurance need a confirmation of entitlement from the Austrian health insurance fund that is responsible for the area where they live.

This is a required step before any examinations can take place free of charge.

Why is the pass necessary?

The Mutter-Kind-Pass and its mandatory examinations are primarily used to detect any illnesses or possible complications early. 

The expected date of delivery is also entered into the Mutter-Kind-Pass, so the document is needed to receive maternity pay in Austria.

Additionally, proof of examinations are required to receive the full entitlement to childcare allowance (Kinderbetreuungsgeld). This means the pass should be taken to every maternity-related appointment, as recommended by the Österreichische Gesundheitskasse.

How is the Mutter-Kind-Pass being reformed?

On Wednesday 16th November, Minister for Women and Family Affairs Susanne Raab (ÖVP) and Minister of Health Johannes Rauch (Greens) announced a reform of the Mutter-Kind-Pass.

The most notable change will be a transition from the paper booklet to a digital app in 2024, as well as new services and a name change to the Eltern-Kind-Pass (Parent-Child-Pass).

Raab said: “In addition to the services in the area of ​​health care, we will introduce parent advice, which should be a compass for the new phase of life for new parents.”

The new services will include counselling, an extra consultation with a midwife, an additional ultrasound, hearing screenings for newborns, nutritional and health advice, and multilingual information in digital form.

Photo by Juliane Liebermann on Unsplash

In the future, parents-to-be and new parents will also be offered parenting advice when they have their first child, for example on the compatibility of employment and childcare, on the division of parental leave or on the effects of part-time work on pensions.

“The mother-child pass has been an essential part of maternal and child health in Austria for decades. Now we have managed together to further develop this important instrument in a contemporary form”, said Rauch.

READ NEXT: EXPLAINED: What you need to know about parental leave in Austria

The implementation of the parent-child passport is a comprehensive, multi-year project and will begin with digitisation from next year.

The annual budget for the Mutter-Kind-Pass is currently €62 million and an additional €10 million from EU funds has been allocated to cover the cost of the reforms. 

However, there have been debates in recent months about the general cost of the pass. 

As a result there are ongoing negotiations between insurance companies and the Medical Association about the reimbursement of fees for providing healthcare and examinations.

READ ALSO: ‘Better and cheaper’: What foreigners really think about childcare in Austria

Der Standard reports that the Medical Association is threatening to discontinue the Mutter-Kind-Pass at the end of the year if an agreement on doctors fees cannot be reached. If that were to happen, expectant mothers would have to pay for examinations.

Currently, doctors receive €18.02 per examination and the Association is calling for an 80 percent increase.

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