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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

The downsides of moving to the Austrian mountains

Many people move to the Austrian mountains with idyllic thoughts of a simpler life surrounded by nature, but what is the reality? The Local’s Hayley Maguire, who has spent four years in Tyrol, explains what you need to know.

The downsides of moving to the Austrian mountains
Living in the Austrian mountains is a dream come true, but not without some challenges. Photo by Stephen Seeber / Pexels.

Living in the Austrian mountains is a dream come true for many people – and with good reason.

The Alps are a natural playground of mountains, lakes and forests with lots of space and fresh air to enjoy.

The standard of living is incredibly high with a world-class healthcare system and a strong focus on work/life balance.

But life in the mountains is not without its challenges, such as long winters, difficulties with learning the local language and a slower pace of life.

If you’re considering moving to the Austrian mountains, here are a few downsides you should be aware of.

FOR MEMBERS: Six things to expect when you move to the Austrian mountains

Everything is expensive

If you move to the Alps after living in an expensive city like London or Paris, you might think living in the Alps is cheap, or at least comparable to other European locations. 

But don’t be fooled – living in the Austrian mountains is not cheap. In fact, it’s really expensive.

While there are plenty of free outdoor activities to enjoy (hiking, running, cycling, cross country skiing), everything else seems to come with a premium price tag, from food to rent and petrol.

According to the comparison website Numbeo.com, local purchasing power in Innsbruck in Tyrol is 15 percent lower than in Vienna. 

To break it down even further, groceries in Innsbruck are six percent higher than in the capital, restaurant prices are almost 19 percent more expensive and petrol prices are seven percent higher.

The result is a beautiful place to live but one that will certainly make your bank account work for it.

READ MORE: Cost of living: 45 ways to save money in Austria

You need to learn German – and dialect

Austria is officially classed as a German-speaking country, but the reality is most Austrians speak a dialect

In the Alps, locals either speak a form of Alemannic, which originates from Switzerland, or a variation of the Austro-Bavarian dialect that is prominent in large parts of Austria.

Dialects then vary further between provinces and districts, sometimes to such an extent it can sound like a different language.

Essentially, Austrian dialect is a spoken language, not written. This means if you go into a restaurant, the menu will probably be in German. Or if you have to fill out an official form, it will be in German. But the people working in the restaurant or local government office will probably speak dialect.

This can cause confusion for people hoping to practice their German skills – especially when language schools in the Alps teach Hoch Deutsch (High German), which is rarely spoken by local people. 

However, life is made a little easier for English speakers as many people in Austria have a high level of English-language skills – especially in bigger cities and tourist areas.

The solution for many international residents in the Austrian mountains is to speak a mixture of German and English (otherwise known as Denglish), with a few dialect words thrown in – depending on the area.

Austria: Just how good does your German have to be to gain residency and citizenship?

Rear view of Man sitting on rope bridge looking at Mountain landscape. Lonely man enjoying the view from Schlegeis Stausee (Schlegeis Lake) in Tyrol, Austria. Man looking at Schlegeis glacier and beautiful blue lake in the mountains of Tirol, Austria.

The job market is limited and salaries can be low

The Alps region of Austria is mostly made up of small towns and villages with a couple of bigger cities like Innsbruck and Salzburg. This means the job market is limited when compared to Vienna, Graz and Linz.

For many people that move to the mountains, this can result in making a career change or working on a freelance basis and working with companies remotely.

But for those that do choose to find a job locally, it’s worth nothing that many districts in the Alps have some of the lowest wages in Austria.

For example, a 2021 salary report by StepStone showed the average gross national salary in Austria for full-time work was €52,000. But in Tyrol the average salary was €49,028 (apart from in Innsbruck where the average salary was €51,700). 

One of the reasons why salaries are lower in Tyrol is because only 47 percent of people in the province work full-time all year round. This is due to high levels of tourism and hospitality jobs with many hotels and tourism businesses shutting down temporarily between the winter and summer seasons.

This has an impact on people’s earning potential, which is something to consider when moving to the mountains. 

FOR MEMBERS: Can I work for my foreign employer as a self-employed person in Austria?

Be prepared for lots of tourists in the winter

According to the Tyrolean government website, around five million people visit Tyrol each year and there are more than 340,000 beds available in hotels and holiday accommodation.

The only exception to the tourism boom was the winter of 2020/2021 when the industry shut down due to Covid-19 and the subsequent restrictions. For the first time in decades, locals enjoyed skiing and snowboarding on almost empty slopes and there was excited talk of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the region without tourists.

In reality though, the Alps need tourists for local economies to thrive, and most businesses welcomed back winter tourists with open arms in late December 2021.

For local residents, it meant a frustrating return to traffic jams, full car parks and busy ski slopes, but it’s all part of the experience of living in the mountains.

The weather is extreme

It’s well known that the winter season in the Austrian mountains is long and cold with lots of snow. But many international residents end up being surprised at just how warm the summer months can be.

It’s not unusual for temperatures to reach the early 30s in the peak summer months of July and August, often followed by thunder storms in the early evening. 

But in the recent years the weather has become quite extreme.

A prime example is from July 2021 when torrential rain flooded the city centre of Kufstein in Tyrol and the river Kothbach burst its banks in Salzburg causing damage across the city. And in March 2022, forest fires were reported in Tyrol after several weeks of dry conditions, despite thick snow still coating the mountains.

It’s also not uncommon for snow to fall on the mountains for a couple of days in August before the temperature rises again and it’s back to bikini weather.

The trick is to always keep a pair of sunglasses and a warm jacket close to hand, so that you can be ready for anything.

READ ALSO: Six of the best things to do in spring in Vienna

Moving to the Austrian mountains is still worth it

Despite a few drawbacks of living in the Austrian mountains, the lifestyle is still worth it.

Yes, residents spend a lot of money on rent and daily living essentials, but being able to access hiking trails, natural lakes and ski resorts without having to travel more than makes up for it.

Just be sure to do your homework before relocating, learn some German and don’t be afraid to connect with other internationals living in the mountains. They can help you to navigate the local culture and provide tips on the best places to live.

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Vienna legally

Got an unwanted mattress, fridge, or sofa? Here’s how you can legally get it off your hands in Vienna.

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Vienna legally

If you find yourself with a large piece of furniture or big household appliance that has seen its prime and is not bound to the trashcan, then you might be wondering where to dispose of them – legally, that is.

Even if it is not uncommon to see furniture or appliances next to the big trashcans often placed near households and apartment complexes, it is illegal to leave them there.

Different cities have different methods – some will even pick up trash at specific times and places. To know how your city deals with bulky waste (Sperrmüll), you can google “Sperrmüll + the name of your city”.

READ ALSO: Why does Vienna’s waste department have a helicopter and a military plane?

Vienna has several waste collection points where you can leave bulky waste, electrical appliances, hazardous waste (in household quantities) and other old goods for no charge.

The use of the Wiener Mistplätze is subject to certain quantity limits and requirements, but they are to avoid industrial use. Therefore, most households will have no problem with the limitations.

Here you can find several collection points in Vienna.

It is worth pointing out that delivery to those sites can only be made by cars with Viennese license plates, on foot or by bicycle. Furthermore, no trailers or company cars are allowed to leave trash at these collection points.

What can you bring to the collection centres?

This is the place to bring large sheets of plastic foil, bulky or large metal parts and electrical appliances, for example.

Additionally, you can bring small amounts of bulky waste, wood, styrofoam, large cardboard boxes, green waste and used tires to any waste collection centres.

Depending on what you are disposing of, you might need to go to the Rinter centre, one of the larger ones.

READ ALSO: Hasta la mista, baby? How to vote for your favourite Vienna trash can joke

The centres also have a separate division where it is possible to donate old items still in good condition, the so-called 48er-Tandler-Box.

Tableware, small furniture, electrical appliances, clothes, toys and other items can be reused and bought at a low price at the 48er-Tandler reuse shop.

Most centres are open only from Monday to Friday during business hours, but others are also available on Saturdays.

What to do if I don’t have a car?

If you don’t need a car but still need to dispose of a large appliance, the Viennese solution varies.

Some will take public transport with a couple of friends trying to help them carry an old sofa via the u-bahn, although that can get a little tough at peak hour. 

Alternatively, you can borrow or rent a vehicle to try and save costs.

READ ALSO: The downsides of Vienna you should be aware of before moving there

But Vienna City also has a service that will pick up the trash for a low fee – even if it is located in the attic, a basement or a courtyard.

It’s the Entrümpelungsdienst und Sperrmüllabfuhr der MA 48. You can also ask for the “dump service” when the city of Vienna brings a trough (the smallest can fit 12 cubic meters).

Once you fill it up, they will remove it and take it to the appropriate place.

Costs will depend on the amount of trash, the size of the appliance, and where in the household it is located.

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