Austria ranked world’s ‘second least friendly country’

Foreigners in Austria say the country offers an exceptional quality of life, but with an exceptionally unfriendly population.

people streets vienna
Austria ranks high in quality of living, but foreigners don't feel too welcome, according to a survey. (Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash).

Austria has ranked 24th out of 52 destinations in the Expat Insider 2022 survey published by InterNations. The alpine country lands in the third spot regarding the quality of life but falls behind when foreigners were asked about ease of settling and how friendly the local population is towards immigrants.

Overall, 70 percent of those surveyed are happy with their life in Austria, compared to 71 percent globally.

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

“I love Austria’s history, architecture, and culture, as well as the ease of travel and the excellent public transportation”, one Australian said. In addition, the country ranked well in quality of life mainly due to its excellent results in three subcategories: Travel and Transport (second place), Health and Well-Being (third place), and Environment and Climate (fifth place).

One of the unfriendliest destinations

Despite the positive points, according to the survey, Austria placed 49th (out of 52nd) in the “Ease of Settling In Index”, one of the worst-rated worldwide.

The country is in the bottom 10 in two subcategories, coming in 51st for Local Friendliness and 47th for Culture and Welcome. “It takes such a long time to make local friends here”, one respondent from Chile said.

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

Foreigners in Austria, about 41 percent of the respondents, say the local population is unfriendly towards foreign residents. In comparison, a global average of 18 percent of immigrants say the same about the countries where they live.

Additionally, 34 percent find it hard to get used to the local culture (compared to 19 percent globally) and 28 percent do not feel welcome (versus 16 percent worldwide).

Clean, affordable, and full of opportunities

On the other hand, immigrants have positive ratings for both the natural (96 percent were happy) and urban (85 percent were happy) environments. And 84 percent say there is good availability of green goods and services – compared to 64 percent globally.

Vienna is filled with green areas. (Photo by HyoSun Rosy Ko on Unsplash)

The results for leisure options are also above average, with 88 percent saying they are happy with the opportunities for recreational sports, for example.

READ ALSO: Vienna vs Graz: Which city is better for foreign residents?

Austria also ranked high when it comes to affordability – it came in 16th out of 52 on the “Personal Finance Index”. However, more than half (53 percent) of the respondents rated the cost of living positively (compared to 45 percent globally) and 64 percent were happy with their financial situation (60 percent worldwide).

The high quality of living is also influenced by ample leisure time, with 72 percent happy with their work hours – though immigrants are unhappy with their career prospects (26 percent compared to 22 percent globally).

“The international job market is very small and limited to specific positions”, said an Italian.

READ ALSO: The downsides of moving to the Austrian mountains

Housing is also affordable, according to the survey, and Austria also did exceptionally well in “unrestricted access to online services”. However, 14 percent of the expats find it hard to pay without cash (compared to 8 percent globally).

Another issue was with the local language – German is famously a complicated language to learn and immigrants also found it challenging to live in Austria without speaking it.

“Fluent German would be a huge benefit, but I do not see myself achieving this”, a British immigrant said.

READ ALSO: 13 ways to make your life in Austria easier without really trying

The best and worst destinations in 2022

According to the survey results, the best destinations for expats are Mexico, Indonesia, Taiwan, Portugal, Spain, the UAE, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia and Singapore. In addition, they are among the best regarding ease of settling in and personal finance and perform well in essential indexes.

The worst destinations are Kuwait, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Japan, South Africa, Turkey, Italy, and Malta – most of them suffer from the Working Abroad criteria and Personal Finance.

This means they are considered places where it is hard to find good jobs and the cost of living is too high.

READ ALSO: Tips for how to make friends in Austria from those who have done it

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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.