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VIENNA

What makes Vienna the ‘most liveable city’ and where can it improve?

Vienna is once again at the top of the global liveability index, but what does it mean and where can Austria's capital still improve?

What makes Vienna the 'most liveable city' and where can it improve?
Volksgarten, Museen, Parlament / Volksgarten, Museums, Parliament in Vienna (© WienTourismus/Christian Stemper)

The Austrian capital city of Vienna made a comeback as the world’s most liveable city after it tumbled down to 34th place due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

Now, Vienna tops a ranking dominated by Western European cities, and it scores highly in nearly all criteria, including stability, healthcare, education, and infrastructure, according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).

READ ALSO: Vienna returns to top ranking as world’s ‘most liveable city

What does each of these points mean and in which areas is the city still not the best?

The liveability score is reached through category weights, each divided into subcategories. The indicators are then scored based on either judgement of “in-house expert geography analysts and a field correspondent based in each city” for qualitative variables.

In the case of quantitative variables, the rating is calculated based on the relative performance of a location using external data, such as information from the World Bank or Transparency International, for example.

Karlskirche, or St. Charles Church, in Vienna (Copyright: © WienTourismus/Christian Stemper)

Stability

Vienna got a 100 percent score in this category, which is measured based on several indicators. The EIU rating evaluated the prevalence of petty crime and of violent crime. It also looked into the threat of terrorism, military conflict, and civil unrest threats.

Healthcare

This was another category Austria’s capital aced – and an improvement from the pandemic years, when it lost points on healthcare.

READ ALSO: Ten essential apps to download for living in Vienna

The rating considers the availability and quality of both private and public healthcare. It also looks into the availability of over-the-counter drugs and general healthcare indicators provided by the World Bank.

Education

Vienna got a total of 100 points for this category, which considered the availability and quality of private education and looked into World Bank data on public education indicators.

Infrastructure

Another 100 percent for Austria’s capital which was found to have a good quality of road network, public transport, international links, energy provision, water provision and telecommunications. The ranking also considered the availability of good-quality housing.

Theater in Vienna (© WienTourismus/Paul Bauer)

Culture & Environment

This was the only category where Vienna did not get 100 points. Instead, it scored 96.3, which was still higher than many of the top ten cities. Vancouver, Canada, was the only city at the top of the ranking that got a 100. Melbourne and Amsterdam also fared slightly better than Vienna.

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

The category looks into humidity and temperature rating, the discomfort of climate for travellers, level of corruption, social or religious restrictions, level of censorship, sporting availability, cultural availability, food and drink, and consumer goods and services.

Among all of these indicators, only the humidity/temperature rating, which is adapted from average weather conditions, didn’t receive the highest grade.

What can Vienna do to get better?

Even in the indicators where the Austrian capital did well, there are always things to improve, especially concerning the risks to the quality of living that rising inflation and the Ukrainian war bring.

When it comes to weather, though the city cannot control when it rains or shines, there are many things it can do to improve living conditions on those scorching summer days or freezing winter evenings.

READ ALSO: ‘Cool streets’: How Vienna is preparing for climate change and heatwaves

As summer and heatwaves arrive, it is already looking to bring more green areas and avoid “heat islands” building up in the city centre. It also has built fog showers, drinking fountains and increased offers of “cool” areas where people can escape the extreme heat.

Also, looking to reduce the use of cars and make life better for residents, Vienna is betting on the “15-minute city” concept. This means that Austria’s capital is trying to make the essential everyday routes and destinations, including metro stations, reachable by a 15-minute walk.

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

Eight habits that show you’ve embraced life in Austria

Living anywhere as an international resident will have an impact on your life, but if you recognise any of these habits then you have truly embraced the Austrian lifestyle.

Eight habits that show you’ve embraced life in Austria

Life in Austria can be similar to many other European countries, but there are some aspects that are distinctly Austrian.

Here are eight habits that show you’ve integrated into the Austrian way of life.

FOR MEMBERS: 23 essential articles to help you navigate life in Austria

Indulging in coffee and cake

Coffee and cake is almost as integral to the food culture in Austria as the Wiener Schnitzel.

So say goodbye to the diet, ignore any thoughts of guilt and get stuck into a slice of Sachertorte, Punschkrapfen or Linzer Torte

Preferably with a delicious coffee on the side.

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

Participating in winter sports

Austria, especially the west of the country, is a winter sports enthusiasts dream.

The Alps offer an almost endless choice in ski resorts, gondolas and mountain huts, with winter sports options ranging from skiing and snowboarding to snowshoeing and Langlaufen (cross-country skiing).

Needless to say, if you live in the Alps, winter sports quickly become a central part of the lifestyle during the cold months. After all, it’s healthy, fun and even a bit dangerous (if that’s your thing).

It’s also a great way to explore the landscape of Austria and get a deeper understanding of the central role of winter sports in Austrian culture.

Downing tools for lunch

Lunch in some other countries (especially places like the UK) is often a sad sandwich while sitting at a desk. 

In Austria however, lunch is an important part of the day and many people sit down at midday with their colleagues or families to enjoy a proper cooked meal.

This is a prime example of the healthy work-life balance that residents in Austria enjoy, and is a much-better habit to embrace than working through a lunch break.

Wearing house shoes

In most Austrian households, people do not wear outdoor shoes inside. Instead, they opt for house shoes, otherwise known as slippers in English or Schlapfen in some Austrian dialects.

Also, many Austrian homes do not have carpet on the floor, which means walking around with bare feet or just socks in the winter can get cold – fast.

So if you’ve invested in a pair of house shoes or, even better, you have a backup supply for guests, then you have fully embraced life in Austria. 

READ ALSO: ‘I’ll probably return to the UK’: Moving to Austria as a Brit post-Brexit

Being punctual

Typically, Austrians are punctual people and don’t appreciate lateness.

For this reason, many international residents make an extra effort to be on time (or early), and it’s not uncommon to become stressed if you know you will be five minutes late.

As frustrating as this can be, it’s actually incredibly polite to be early for a meeting and not a bad habit to pick up.

sparkling water

(Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash)

Drinking sparkling water

People like to drink sparkling mineral water in Austria.

In fact, sparkling water is so popular that if you order a Mineralwasser (mineral water) in a cafe or restaurant, the sparkling variety is often served unless stilles Wasser (still water) is specified.

Want to be more Austrian? Then simply switch from still to sparkling water.

Stripping off

Countries in Central Europe are much more comfortable with nudity than other nations, and it’s no different in Austria.

The main place to expect an encounter with naked people in Austria is at the sauna. There are even some saunas that have a naked-only admission policy and won’t let people in if they are wearing swimming gear.

People also like to get naked at lakes – especially at the more remote or quieter locations – or at least go topless (for the women). 

The reality is, no one bats an eyelid. So put your prudish instincts aside and don’t be afraid to strip off.

READ ALSO: What are the rules on working overtime in Austria?

Taking sick leave

Employees in Austria are entitled to six weeks of paid sick leave (the number of weeks increases the longer the worker has been employed in the same company).

This means workers are more likely to take sick leave if they are unwell, rather than dragging themselves into the workplace and infecting their colleagues.

The downside though is that Austria has strict rules when it comes to taking sick leave with explicit orders to stay at home. Workers can even expect to be monitored by private detectives to make sure they really are resting at home, as reported by The Local.

For international residents in Austria, this can be hard to tolerate. But the upside is that you’re not expected to show your face in the office when sick, simply to comply with a culture of presenteeism.

And that’s a habit worth embracing.

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