Moving to Austria For Members

'You need German': What you wish you'd known before moving to Austria

Aaron Burnett
Aaron Burnett - [email protected]
'You need German': What you wish you'd known before moving to Austria
An unobstructed view of the beautiful village of Hallstatt in Austria. (Photo by Willian Justen de Vasconcellos on Unsplash)

Whether it’s brushing up on your German or certain legal and bureaucratic tricks, The Local readers share a little of what makes life in Austria a bit easier to navigate for newcomers.


Many long-time residents of Austria will tell you how this country offers beautiful scenery and high quality of life – with the trade-off of being hard to settle into.

What’s more, survey data bears this out. Last year’s Expat Insider survey by InterNations placed Austria second out of 52 destinations for Travel and Transport, and third overall for Health and Well-Being. Ease of Settling In though? 49th out of 52.

Yes, you read that right. Austria came third last, with particularly bad results in Local Friendliness and the Culture and Welcome categories.

That’s why we asked The Local Austria readers to give us their tips on getting started here – things they wish they knew beforehand – to help out newer arrivals.

READ ALSO: Austria ranked world’s ‘second least friendly country’

Brush up on German

By far the most common response we got in our survey concerned the importance of learning – or brushing up – on German language skills, at least a little bit, before coming.

“German dominates here more than I expected,” says Yuta from Japan, who has been in Austria for two years. “It would have motivated me to study it more beforehand had I known.”

“It would’ve made my life 100 percent easier here,” says Larissa, a Brazilian who has lived in Vienna for seven years.

That said, one of the best ways to brush up on German language skills is to study in a German-speaking country. An Austrian language study visa can sometimes help with this, as well as give some people time to visit the country and try it out before deciding on a more permanent move.

READ ALSO: How do I get a language study visa for Austria?


Navigating Austrian bureaucracy

Other than the language, another big theme emerging in survey responses was the bureaucracy. It can be a daunting challenge, even for people who have lived in Austria for a while.

Barbara, a Brazilian living in Vienna for five years, recommends familiarising yourself with institutions and guides that can help you navigate the bureaucracy before setting foot in Austria, in order to make your work when you do arrive just a little bit easier.

Is it possible to get a working holiday visa in Switzerland? Photo by ConvertKit on Unsplash

One reader recommends mapping out which visa to apply for and when, before you ever arrive. Photo by ConvertKit on Unsplash

She recommends writing down a timeline of deadlines and needed documents as you spend more time here, so you can visualise and remember exactly when to apply for what. She says if she would’ve done that, she may have applied for different visas that would’ve eased her situation when finding work.

Mike, whose lived near Linz for six years, says there’s a very particular – and specific – way you should ask questions when dealing with bureaucracy, as many people will simply not volunteer all information right away.

“Always ask full questions and end questions with ‘is there anything else I need to do/know?’” he says. “People tend to give you a literal answer to your questions and tend not to offer additional information unless you specifically ask for it.”

READ ALSO: COMPARED: Germany’s Chancenkarte vs. Austria’s Red-White-Red card for skilled non-EU workers


Renovations, dealing with winter, opening hours, and unfriendliness

Other responses to our survey covered a wide range of possible Austrian pitfalls. Austrian unfriendliness was an oft-cited complaint, with respondents saying many locals are conservative and even racist. At the same time, one remarked how many Austrians communicate in gruff ways amongst themselves as well – to just understand that it isn’t always about the fact that you are a foreigner.

Paula from Brazil says she wishes she would’ve caught on earlier to having a UV light to help deal with the dour, overcast winters in Austria.

The Pasterze glacier (C) near Heiligenblut.

The Pasterze glacier (C) near Heiligenblut. Austrian summers are beautiful, but the winters can be overcast and challenging. Photo: ALEXANDER KLEIN / AFP

Oskar from Poland, who has been living in Innsbruck for two years, says to familiarise yourself with the opening times for necessary shops, which can be short or even have a midday break.

“It’s just easier to organise yourself at the beginning,” he says.


“Do not underestimate the cost of house renovations or repair tasks,” says Mike near Linz. “Building materials and labour costs are very high and can make projects very expensive. So try and learn some DIY or building skills yourself.”

READ ALSO: Nine things you need to know when relocating to Austria

Others recommend everything from making sure you look up Austrian property law to purchasing legal insurance in case you ever get sued.

One thing is clear though, whether it's on real estate law or visas, our readers recommend doing a little bit of homework before coming.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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