Austria is a country rich in history, culture and tradition. As an expat in Austria, you should try to make the most of this. People from Austria, especially the Viennese, have their very own cultural identity grounded in history, tradition and local customs. Especially during and after World War II, they took great care to differentiate themselves from the Germans, with whom they share not only their language but also, to some extent, their culture. Therefore, expats in Austria should never commit the faux pas of calling their hosts “German”.
On a similar note, try to get your historical facts right while in Austria. The country has produced many famous thinkers, writers, composers, actors, scientists and philosophers over the past few centuries. Unfortunately, bar one unfavorable exception, they are often not thought of as Austrian but as German.
After having spent some time in Austria, you will hopefully soon be able to separate your famous Austrians from your famous Germans. Many of the great Jewish intellectuals of the 19th and 20th century originally came from Austria-Hungary, and so did a great number of famous writers. People like Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Karl Popper, Kurt Gödel, Konrad Lorenz and Ferdinand Porsche all originally came from Austria and set out to leave a lasting impression on the world.
Actors like Romy Schneider and Klaus Maria Brandauer left their former home country behind and conquered cinema screens across the world. One even made the transition from Hollywood star to Governor of California: Arnold Schwarzenegger, probably one of the most famous Austrians in the world!
The world of classical music would seem empty without the numerous composers who made Austria such a cultural hotspot during the 18th and 19th centuries. Vienna was known around the world as a center for classical music and continued to attract musicians and composers alike during the 20th century.
Try to make the most of the country’s musical heritage by visiting concerts of the famous Vienna Philharmonic, the Salzburger Festspiele or one of the many musical theaters. Certain musical forms, such as waltzes, polkas, marches and the operetta, are so intrinsically linked to life in Austria that on New Year’s Eve, for example, the Viennese enjoy dancing to the famous “Donauwalzer” everywhere on the streets and in public places, amidst all the firework displays and popping champagne bottles.
As a historically multicultural country, Austria is used to absorbing different cultural influences and integrating them into its own culture. Although this may be more a thing of the past than of the present, living in Austria is still a multicultural experience. While Germans are the biggest immigrant community in the country today, migrant groups from Turkey or Eastern Europe have also left their impression on life in Austria.
Although, like in many Western European nations, the volatile economic situation has benefitted right-wing populists, Austrians are generally open and welcoming towards foreigners. Expats are extremely unlikely to face any major problems within Austrian society and culture.
The Austrian government has introduced several measures to facilitate integration for foreigners in Austria. One of them is the Integration Agreement. Every non-EU citizen living in Austria on a Red-White-Red Card automatically signs the Integration Agreement, under which he or she is required to attend German classes to attain level A2 of the European language level assessment framework.
For more information on the Red-White-Red Card and other residence and work permits, please see our articles on moving to Austria and working in Austria. More information on the Integration Agreement for foreigners living in Austria can be found at the Austrian Migration Portal.
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