Austin, Texas is one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in America’s Deep South. Known for its live music scene, its cafe culture and its growing reputation as a tech hub (the hi-tech district is known locally as the ‘Silicon Hills’) it is no wonder so many expats are keen to move here.
You’ve heard the saying ‘everything is bigger in Texas’; well that is certainly true of Austin. The houses are bigger, the average income is bigger, the skyscrapers are bigger and it is the second biggest state capital in America (after Phoenix, Arizona).
This is a vast city with an international population, a low crime rate and a booming local economy. There are a huge number of expats already living in Austin due to the myriad job opportunities, excellent schools and diverse cultural scene. The cost of living is not expensive compared with most European cities, and many foreigners are amazed at the relatively low property prices and rates of rent. This is Texas, after all – even the apartments are bigger.
Suburban housing tends to be cheaper than city center accommodation, and most houses will come with an outdoor swimming pool to help you cope with the hot Austin summers. Make sure your chosen accommodation comes with an excellent air conditioning unit – with average summer temperatures north of 90°F (32’2°C), you will need it.
The University of Texas at Austin brings thousands of new students into the city each year to study popular courses in business and technology. Around 10% of the university’s grad students come from overseas, and the Greek community is particularly active on campus.
Other universities in the city include Austin Community College, Concordia University, St. Edwards University, The Art institute of Austin, and a number of theological schools and seminaries.
The city is well served by a variety of public and private primary and secondary schools, including the esteemed Austin International School, where students can learn in Spanish, French or English. This school is particularly popular with foreigners and families who have arrived in Austin from overseas, as admissions are accepted on a rolling basis.
Living comfortably in Austin requires having a car because the city is vast, has few pedestrian districts and limited public transport.
During rush hour, traffic can be heavy around popular suburban areas and in the city center, but the roads are generally good and parking is not too expensive. A bypass road was opened in 2006, offering a reprieve from the city center traffic, but drivers have to pay a toll to use it. Toll roads are quite common in Texas, although they are usually pretty cheap - it’s a good idea to keep a roll of quarters in your car so you are not caught short.
The Capital Metro rail system is good for people such as commuters and students who want to get around the city quickly, and a Greyhound bus service connects Austin with other major cities in the country. But this is ultimately a car-centric place. Don’t forget to drive on the right hand side of the road, and make sure you keep your car insurance up to date, as driving an uninsured car is a crime in Texas.
Austin is without a doubt the cultural capital of Texas, and one of the most culturally diverse places in the entire country. Anyone moving to Austin will notice an abundance of bumper stickers and slogans stating “Keep Austin Weird”. This is a reference to the city’s proud diversity and hipster scene, particularly around the trendy ‘SoCo’ area. It is no surprise, then, that the city is home to some of the biggest movie stars in the world, including Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Renee Zellweger and Ethan Hawke. Theaters such as the Austin Playhouse, the Zachary Scott Theater Center, the Vortex Repertory Company and The Hideout Theater are breeding grounds for new talent, while the annual Fuse Box Festival attracts top performers and artists from across the world.
Austin prides itself on its live music scene, and its official city motto is: “The Live Music Capital of the World.” People flock to the Austin City Limits Festival every April, which is based on the legendary PBS show of the same name. Meanwhile, alternative cultural events such as the annual ‘O. Henry Pun Off’ always make the news.
Popular museums include the Texas Memorial Museum, the Austin Museum of Art, and the Bob Bullock State History Museum. History buffs can’t miss the impressive Texas State Capitol, or the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, which holds thousands of historic documents. For children (and animal lovers) there is the famous Austin Zoo, where abandoned and injured animals are given a new start in life.