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WHAT CHANGES IN AUSTRIA

Everything that changes in Austria in May 2022

From the return of the oral Matura exam to pool season, here are some of the most important changes you need to be aware of in Austria in May.

Everything that changes in Austria in May 2022
Even though the Danube sure is a busy spot in the warm months in Vienna, the lovely little houses along its waterfront seem to freeze in time. (Photo by Matias Tapia on Unsplash)

May Day

Austria will celebrate International Workers’ Day on May 1st.

But Tag der Arbeit or Der Erste Mai, as the day is known in German, won’t result in a day off work for most people because it falls on a Sunday this year. Schade. 

Oral exams return for the Matura

The spoken part of Austria’s Matura exam will return for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Matura, officially called Reifeprufung, is a compulsory exam for secondary school leavers in Austria. It is a prerequisite for higher education such as universities, academies, technical universities and colleges.

The exam consists of written and oral exams (Mündliche Prüfungen), but in 2020 and 2021, the oral part was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions.

However, the return of the spoken exams is causing protests among Austrian students who say their high school years were hurt by the pandemic and they shouldn’t have to take oral examinations.

READ ALSO: What is Austria’s Matura exam, and why do some want it abolished?

The outdoor pool season is back

Austria’s public outdoor pools are back in business, and residents will be able to enjoy the sun and swim around as of May 2nd. In addition, for the first time in two years, the Bäder visitors won’t have to follow any coronavirus restrictions.

In other years, access to the pools has been restricted, with the vaccination requirements, people had to wear masks, and some Austrian public pools were even closed during the worst pandemic months.

In the capital Vienna, people will have the opportunity to visit some new and improved areas in some of the city’s public pools. So, time to bring the swimming gear up from the Keller.

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

Austria to reevaluate the Covid-19 vaccination mandate

The country’s vaccination committee is meeting again this May to report back to the government on the mandatory vaccination law.

The controversial regulation mandating a Covid-19 vaccine to all adult residents was suspended in March, just days before a new state was set to start, one that would have unvaccinated people receive fines at random checks.

The suspension came just as support for the law dwindled; other countries failed to institute similar measures. The official reason for halting the action was that the “burden on fundamental rights” was no longer necessary as the omicron wave of the coronavirus resulted in fewer severe cases.

That will be discussed again as the country faces the possibility of a new Covid wave in autumn, just as the immunisation brought by vaccines or infection goes down.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What are Austria’s plans to bring back the vaccine mandate?

Two holidays await Austrians… sort of

While there may be no May Day holiday, there are a couple of breaks coming up. 

On Thursday, May 26th, the country will have an official holiday that celebrates Jesus’ ascent into heaven, the aptly named Christi Himmelfahrt.

Of course, not every Christian holiday is an official day off in Austria (i.e. Good Friday), but prepare to do your grocery shopping ahead because most stores and supermarkets will be closed on May 26th.

READ ALSO: Why everything in Austria is closed on Sundays and holidays – and what to do instead

Final days to apply for some hardship funds, and more money for pensioners

Although most pandemic support for art and culture finished at the end of March 2022, it is still possible for people to make applications for hardship funds for artists until May 2nd.

The State Secretary announced that 155.9 million euros had been paid out through the bridging fund for artists alone, enabling 10,005 people to be supported. Only 3.6 per cent of the applications made were rejected, broadcaster ORF reports.

After payroll and income tax changes, pensioners should receive more money from May, Heute reported.

In May, it is also expected that the federal government will introduce several measures to ease the increasing cost of living, including one-off bonuses and tax breaks.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why are fuel prices increasing faster in Austria than elsewhere in the EU?

Grande news for Tyroleans as first Starbucks opens in the state

After 20 years in Austria, the major US coffee chain Starbucks is opening up a store in the country’s West, more precisely in Tirol, by the end of May.

As a country with a strong coffee-drinking tradition and great pride in its old and classic coffee houses, Austria does not have many large chain stores.

The history of Starbucks in Austria is particularly controversial: the first shop that the mammoth brand opened, in the prestigious Kärtnerstrasse in Vienna, closed on short notice in 2015.

The Seattle-based company is only present in Vienna and Salzburg. It will now brew up in Innsbruck, where its 19th Austrian store will be inaugurated. When it first came to Austria in 2001, it had promised 60 coffee houses would be set up in the country within five years.

READ ALSO: Caffeine, war and Freud: A history of Vienna’s iconic coffee houses

ÖVP party congress to take place

The ÖVP-tag, when chancellor Karl Nehammer will be officially appointed as the party leader, will take place on May 14th.

The event this year is particularly relevant as it will be the first public political appearance of former chancellor Sebastian Kurz since his resignation and retirement from politics after allegations of corruption in 2021.

On his social media, Kurz thanked the party for the invitation and confirmed his presence at the event but denied all speculation that he was considering a return to public life. “I can rule this out 100 per cent. My future is in the private sector”, he said.

READ ALSO: What’s going on with Austrian politics?

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WHAT CHANGES IN AUSTRIA

Everything that changes in Austria in December 2022

From public holidays, ski season and Christmas festivities to changes in transport timetable and bonus payments, here are some of the most important changes you need to be aware of in Austria in December.

Everything that changes in Austria in December 2022

Public holidays and celebrations

Besides Christmas (December 25th) and Stephan’s Day (December 26th), December 8th, when Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Mariä Empfängnis), is also a bank holiday in Austria.

Of course, there are also several celebratory dates in December. For example, every Sunday until Christmas is an Advent Sunday, and Austrian families commemorate it in many ways, including lighting up candles.

On December 4th, there is Barbaratag, while on December 5th Krampus pays his visit to Austrian villages and cities. On the next day, December 6th, it’s time for St Nikolaus to bring chocolate and tangerines to children who were nice during the year.

Christmas Eve, Day, and St Stephen’s Day (December 24th, 25th and 26th) are important dates for Austrian traditions.

READ ALSO: Austrian Christmas traditions: The festive dates you need to know

Influenza vaccination appointments

The City of Vienna has made available 64,000 influenza vaccination appointments for December in the city’s vaccination centres and those of the ÖGK. 

The City of Vienna is investing a total of €9.9 million to be able to offer the flu vaccination campaign in Vienna free of charge again this year.  The campaign will run until the end of the year unless an extension becomes necessary due to high demand. 

The influenza vaccination campaign focuses on people aged over 65. This is to avoid multiple exposures to Covid-19 and the “real flu”. Chronically ill people, children and health or care workers are also among the priority target groups. However, influenza vaccination is also recommended to all other people.

READ ALSO: Masks against Covid and flu: What’s ahead for Austria this winter

Some Covid-19 rules still apply

The stressful days of pandemic lockdowns might be behind us (fingers crossed), but there are still a few rules in Austria to be aware of.

In Vienna, it is still mandatory to wear an FFP2 mask in pharmacies, on public transport and at stations. So if you arrive at Vienna International Airport and take public transport into the city centre, expect to be asked to put on a mask.

Nationwide, masks are also required at all health and care facilities, including hospitals and clinics.

Will it or won’t it?

On December 8th, the EU Council is set to vote on whether or not Croatia, which since 2013 has been a member of the bloc, should also join the Schengen zone, effectively eliminating border controls between it and other member states Slovenia and Hungary.

Austria has had reservations about expanding the Schengen area and the country’s official vote is still not known, also concerning the entrance of Bulgaria and Romania to the borderless zone.

Train services are changing

Austria’s train transport company ÖBB has a new timetable from December 11th 2022, focusing on tourist destinations and more connections. However, prices will generally increase – though international trips could become cheaper.

On average, tickets in the second class will become 3.9 percent more expensive, though the earlier you book, the cheaper the journey.

New connections in the Nightjet night trains include Stuttgart and Baden-Württemberg.

Popular destinations will be expanded, and the EuroNight Vienna – Graz – Split will bring holiday travellers to the Croatian Adriatic coast from May to October three times a week.

ÖBB said it also focuses on tourist connection in its daytime traffic. For example, the direct IC connection from Vienna to Salzkammergut to Bad Ischl, Hallstatt and Stainach-Irdning will be offered daily.

You can read more about changes HERE.

Everything is more expensive

Inflation in Austria is currently over 10 percent, which has led to price increases for everything from daily groceries to energy bills and dining out.

Even the Christmas markets are more expensive this year due to higher prices for the Glühwein mugs. This means some markets in Vienna are charging almost €5 for the Pfand (deposit) for that first glass of mulled wine.

The same applies to ski resorts with hotels, lift tickets and restaurants all costing more this year.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Is travelling to Austria this winter worth it?

Nursing staff to get an extra payment

Some 150,000 employees in the care sector will receive a bonus of €2,000 gross (for those working full-time). In addition, Austrian provinces are free to add cash to that amount, and Lower Austria will pay an additional tax-free bonus of €500 to more than 23,000 nursing and care workers. 

The payment should come as a salary in December. Also, in December, Austrian workers usually get their 14th payment, the Christmas salary.

READ ALSO: Health care reform: Austria to give €2,000 bonus to nursing staff

Ski season begins

December is also when the skiing season officially begins in Austria, even though some ski resorts have already been open by the end of November, including the famous Kitzbühel resort.  

On most, though, the season only starts (or the high season) by December, sometimes as late as December 24th. 

READ ALSO: How to save money and still go skiing in Austria

Christmas markets

Christmas markets are open during most of December and are a great way to enjoy the season. Most have already opened during November, but it’s during Christmas that they shine and attract thousands of visitors.

READ ALSO: IN PICTURES: A guide to the main Christmas Markets in Austria

New Year celebrations

Expect lots of fireworks on New Year’s Eve (Silvester) in Austria – no matter where you are.

Most major cities have a large fireworks display planned for midnight on December 31 and hotels tend to book up quickly – especially in cities like Salzburg.

In Vienna, the bells ring out at St. Stephan’s Cathedral to welcome in the New Year, which is also broadcast on national television. This is followed by fireworks and some even take part in a communal waltz on Rathausplatz in front of the Town Hall.

But if you really want to celebrate New Year like an Austrian, then give a marzipan pig to your nearest and dearest. The little pigs represent a good luck charm and are handed out every year on New Year’s Eve.

READ ALSO: 8 things to know if you’re visiting Austria in December

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