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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

The downsides of Vienna you should be aware of before moving there

There's no lying: Vienna is a great city to live in; it often tops world quality of living rankings, and for a good reason. But there are certain downsides that you should know about.

vienna, pratter
Vienna is a beautiful city, but there are also downsides to living in the Austrian capital (Photo by Anton on Unsplash)

Vienna is a beautiful, multicultural city. There is plenty of history, beautiful architecture, many green areas and everything is nicely connected with its public transport – available for as little as one euro a day for residents who purchase the yearly ticket.

The Austrian capital is constantly topping rankings of best cities to live in, and it’s affordable too, especially when considering the rental prices not only for other European capitals but even inside of Austria.

Saturated markets make it tough for renters in touristic cities such as Tyrol and Salzburg.

However, not all is perfect in the imperial city. Here are a few things you should know when moving to Vienna.

It’s not known for its friendliness

While Vienna ranks top for the quality of life, it has also shown up in international and expat ratings as the world’s “least friendly city”.

The Viennese grumpiness is famous even among Austrians, and if you bother a local, they will let you know. However, people are also very private and extend the courtesy of giving you your privacy, which can be confused as unfriendly.

It’s also not easy making friends with the locals, especially if you arrive in the city not knowing anyone to help bridge that connection.

Housing can be expensive – and very difficult to find

Affordable housing is one of the advantages of living in Vienna, but that can be tricky. The ridiculously low rents you hear of are usually because of either state housing, very old contracts, or both.

People who are just moving into Vienna usually can’t benefit from either offer and will end up with much higher rent or taking forever to find an affordable place.

READ ALSO: Property: How to find a rental flat when you arrive in Austria

Making matters worse, the moving-in costs are very high in Austria’s capital. You usually pay two to three (sometimes more) months’ rent as a security deposit, then you probably will need to pay for the brokerage fee (unless you are lucky to find one Provisionfrei place) of two months’ rent.

You might also be asked to pay for an Ablöse, which could include furniture or reparations that a previous tenant made to the house.

Finally, first rent is paid upfront, so it’s not uncommon for people to spend almost a year’s worth of rent before ever setting foot in a new place.

READ ALSO: Renting: Austria to scrap brokerage fees from 2023

That’s not even counting the costs of furnishing a new apartment or paying for bills such as heating and electricity.

They speak German, sort of

Well, duh. Austria is a German-speaking country. Although learning new languages is always a positive thing, German has a well-deserved reputation for being very difficult.

Between the different cases or learning if an inanimate object is masculine, feminine, or neutral, it can be difficult.

Although most Austrians, especially in Vienna, can speak English, they are not known to willingly do so. Many expats have tales of when their Austrian acquaintances decided “they should’ve learned German already”.

When you finally do learn a bit of the language, you also realise that not only Austrian German is different from the Hoch Deutsch you might learn in a course or an online app, the Viennese also have a particular dialect that, while it’s not nearly as complicated as Vorarlberg or Tyrol regional accents, presents its challenges as well.

READ ALSO: These eight words show just how different German and Austrian Deutsch can be

You might get by with English or a broken version of German for a very long time in Vienna, though, but it won’t be pleasant. And, as mentioned, the Austrians will let you know you are not doing well enough.

Xenophobia and racism

There is no going around this: despite being a fairly historic multicultural city, Vienna still suffers from cases of xenophobia and racism.

The civil group Zara, which works to dismantle racism in Austria, received almost 2,000 reports of systemic racism in 2021. These are not just the countless instances of people suffering in their daily lives with comments and actions in the streets, but allegations of systemic racism, including cases within the Viennese police.

Almost every single foreigner in Vienna will have stories ranging from them being told they were “good immigrants” to cases of physical violence.

(Here’s a link where you can find counselling centres for racism cases)

Smoking

Austria, and Vienna in particular, is a smoker’s paradise. Only recently has smoking been banned in indoor public areas (and there are still groups trying to bring it back), and people are still very much into it.

You will smell it everywhere, at any time. Taxi drivers smoke inside their cars (though not with you in them anymore), doctors will smoke just outside your door before a house call, parents smoke in children’s parks (some of them even had to add “no smoking signs”), and people still smoke inside their homes with all windows closed – it’s a cold country after all.

And speaking of which…

The weather is insane

Obviously, Austria has cold winters; after all, skiing is the national sport.

But Vienna is a big city, you won’t see beautiful mountain snow scenery here. Instead, there will be Gatsch, that muddy snow that has the power to ruin your day.

Or your endless night, since the Viennese winter is famous for being long and grey, with very few sunny days.

As for summers, they are hot. Extremely hot. The I’m-getting-scared-about-global-warming type of heat. Many Viennese skip town (and country) altogether, especially as heatwaves become more common in Europe.

Bureaucracy and taxes

This can be challenging. Even though Vienna aims to be a more welcoming city for businesses, with expat centres offering free advice to startups, the whole country is founded on bureaucracy.

Things need to be done by mail (even when you want to go online, your government-issued password will arrive in the good old post), most government workers are not even allowed to speak English with you and sometimes reading about Austrian laws and regulations feels like walking into an unbeatable maze.

And then there are taxes.

EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s church tax and how do I avoid paying it?

One of the reasons why Austria can afford such an extensive social system (and it is good: from public transport to social housing, parks, and the many social payments) is precisely because you pay a lot in taxes.

If you are a self-employed person without a company to pay its part into the system, then, well, be prepared to pay up. Social security payments can eat up almost a third of your earnings, and then you’ll still have to pay income taxes.

A small-town vibe

Don’t ever say this to an Austrian, but if you come from a country with big cities, even the capital Vienna (six times larger than Austria’s second most populous city Graz) can feel like a small town.

There are entertainment options, but nothing compared to European metropolises like Paris, London, Berlin or even neighbouring Budapest. New restaurants and bars are not easy to come by, and, notoriously, the country closes down on Sundays (and after work hours).

Since shops and supermarkets are not allowed to open on Sundays, even the busiest commercial streets seem like ghost towns during those days.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about supermarkets in Austria

Austrians will fiercely tell you this is part of their defence of the quality of life, that workers are entitled to a day off, and that Sundays are for families or going outside. But when you are left with an empty fridge on a Sunday morning, that can be tough to swallow.

It is still worth it

Despite all of this, Vienna is still one of the best cities in the world to live in.

It might be hard to make new Austrian friends, but they will be live-long adventure partners once you do. Finding a place downtown might be tricky, but you can also look around all over the city because the public transport is so good and Vienna so safe that there are really no bad neighbourhoods.

Once you start learning German, it’s easy to see how much fun the language can be. I mean, it’s a language that calls a hospital a “sick house”, an ambulance a “sick car”, a nurse a “sick sister”. It’s like playing with Lego blocks and building something unique. Or being ridiculously specific and describing a feeling like wanderlust or fernweh.

It’s also a multicultural city. About a third of its residents are foreign-born or with a “migration background”. Walk the streets of Vienna, and you will hear languages and see people from all over the world.

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

The weather is crazy, but nobody enjoys each and every season quite like an Austrian. The city is wholly theirs, and there are several options (free, outdoors, in nature) to enjoy yourself all year round. The small-town vibe makes it so that you can recognise your neighbours, you can ride all over town and enjoy every part of the city or, of course, hop on a bus or train and be in a different country in minutes.

There’s no redeeming quality when it comes to all the smoking or the bureaucracy (and, of course, the racism) – sort these out already, Vienna!

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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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