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Nine things you need to know when relocating to Vienna

Vienna skyline
There is a lot to sort out when moving from one country or another, but don't neglect these nine crucial points. Photo: Dimitry Anikin/Unsplash
Vienna waits for you, Billy Joel sang, but he forgot to mention the mountain of administration and culture shocks also waiting. Martine Pey, who has lived in Vienna for more than 20 years and works as a relocation consultant, spoke to The Local about her top tips for moving to the Austrian capital.

1. Take care of necessary bureaucracy 

The first step when relocating to Austria should be to complete the Meldezettel, which is the compulsory address registration certificate. Without a Meldezettel you won’t be able to rent an apartment, get a mobile phone contract or register for family allowance, so make sure it is at the top of your to-do list.

READ MORE: Meldezettel: Everything you need to know about Austria’s compulsory address registration

2. Learn the language

Learning German is more of a long-term goal and it’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s important to have some basic language skills, even if just for simple tasks like buying groceries. When I first moved to Austria from France I made some simple mistakes, like buying powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar because I didn’t have knowledge of the language. Learning a few basic words can really make a difference when you arrive!

3. Understand the rental market

Finding a good home can be hard when you first move to Austria as most adverts and websites are in German. It can be confusing when comparing offers because some prices will include utilities, like heating, whereas others won’t. To prepare for this, I would suggest translating some key words and terms to make sure you understand the advert before booking a viewing. Another tip is to get help from a colleague, a relocation company or a friend with good German skills. 

Also, don’t make the mistake of visiting the same flat with two different agents. If you decide to take it they will both expect the commission (known as a Provision). Apartments are often listed with several different agencies and tenants can end up receiving two invoices from two different agents for the same property.

RENTING IN AUSTRIA:

4. Get help with contracts

It’s crucial to understand a rental contract before signing it. Google Translate can help to an extent but it can’t tell you if a clause is unusual or illegal. I recommend people seek advice from a tenant’s association, a lawyer or a relocation company before signing a contract. Examples of unusual clauses include having to repaint the entire flat, or a two-year non-cancellation clause. This is illegal but most people that have recently relocated to Austria won’t be aware of it.

5. Explore the city

When moving to a city like Vienna it’s a good idea to spend some time visiting the different districts before making appointments to view apartments. People often do the opposite and start searching for a flat online, then realise they don’t actually like the area when they visit it.

The best way to explore a new city is by bike or public transport to get an understanding of the local infrastructure and to identify the most attractive areas for your needs. In Vienna, many residents use the Qando transport app. It helps people to find the fastest route between where they are and where they want to go.


Keep an open mind and visit as many neighbourhoods as you can before deciding where to settle. Photo: Dan Visan/Unsplash

6. Find a doctor

Finding a doctor in Vienna is quite easy. Around 70 percent of doctors are public, which means visits are covered by social insurance payments. Plus, there is no obligation to stay with the same doctor in Austria, so if you don’t like one, you can try another practice.

New residents in Vienna can find a doctor by using the Praxisplan platform (an online search tool). Praxisplan allows users to submit their criteria, including whether they would prefer a male or female doctor and any language specifications. Alternatively, new residents can speak to friends or colleagues to get recommendations. 

READ MORE: How the Austrian healthcare system works

7. Don’t be afraid to seek advice from professionals

In Vienna, new residents can visit the Expat Center, which is financed by the Vienna Business Agency. They offer free advice on a range of topics, from launching a business to finding a relocation company or even help with formalities.

8. Be prepared for cultural differences

Many people think that Austria is similar to Germany but it’s actually quite different and I advise anyone relocating here to have an open mind. Try not to make too many comparisons with your home country or neighbouring countries. Austria can actually be quite laid back and there is almost an Italian bohemian quality to the culture. Today, all countries in Europe look similar with the same shops and brands, but Austria is a bit different and there is something special here that people should be aware of.

9. Make an effort to integrate 

Integrating into Austrian life can be difficult for international residents – especially for couples without children who don’t meet other parents through a school. Austrian people often have their own lives and don’t always have space for new friends that don’t speak German, so it can be hard to meet new people. Loneliness can become a problem when relocating to Austria but engaging in some activities can be worthwhile, like walking a dog or joining a badminton group. Another problem is when a spouse stays at home while the other is at work and we are currently in the process of creating an expat club in Vienna to help new residents with integration.  

Martine Pey is a founding partner of Recom Relocation in Vienna.

What are your tips for people relocating to Vienna, or elsewhere in Austria? Get in touch at [email protected] to share your comments, and we may share a selection in a future article.


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