Living in Austria
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A practical guide to the way of life in Austria
The beautiful “Alpine Republic” has a lot to offer in terms of culture, economy, and quality of life. Our Relocation Guide contains a wealth of information on all aspects of living in Austria, such as healthcare, accommodation, and Austrian culture.
Life in Austria
At a Glance:
- Austria is the home of many famous intellectuals, who have left their mark on the country. The capital attracts people from all over the world who want to live in this cultural hub.
- Many expats say they experienced no major problems when they relocated to Austria, as the Austrian attitude towards foreigners is very friendly and welcoming.
- Competition for a good, central flat in the bigger cities can be fierce. If you intend to stay in Austria for a longer period, you could look at buying a place.
- Within three days of moving to Austria, you have to register with the municipal administration. You only need to bring the residence registration form and your passport.
- If you work for an Austrian employer, you already pay into the social security system and are therefore insured. This insurance covers treatment by all doctors, dentists, and specialists who have a contract with your insurance fund.
Austria is a country rich in history, culture, and tradition. People from Austria, especially the Viennese, have their very own cultural identity that is appealing to tourists and expats alike. During and after World War II in particular, Austrians 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 avoid committing the faux pas of calling their hosts “German”.
The Austrian Hall of Fame
On a similar note, try to get your historical facts right while you are in Austria. The country has produced many famous thinkers, writers, composers, actors, scientists, and philosophers over the past few centuries. Unfortunately, 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 tell the difference between famous Austrians and Germans. Many famous writers and great Jewish intellectuals of the 19th and 20th century originally came from Austria-Hungary. People like Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Karl Popper, Kurt Gödel, Konrad Lorenz, and Ferdinand Porsche all originally came from Austria, and have left 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!
A Heritage of Classical Music
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. Around the world, Vienna was known as a center for classical music, and continued to attract musicians and composers alike during the 20th century.
Try to take advantage of the country’s musical heritage by attending concerts by 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 still a big part of life in Austria; on New Year’s Eve, for example, the Viennese enjoy dancing to the famous “an der schönen blauen Donau” on the streets and in public places.
A Multicultural Mix
As a historically multicultural country, Austria is used to absorbing different influences and integrating them into its own culture. 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.
Recently, like many Western European nations, the volatile economic situation has led to a rise in right-wing populism. However, Austrians are generally open and welcoming towards foreigners, and expats are unlikely to face any major problems fitting in.
The Austrian government has introduced several measures to help foreigners integrate. Every non-EU citizen with 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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Housing and Health in Austria
Finding Your Dream Place
Most people in Austria live in rented accommodation —not only expats, but permanent residents and citizens too. Especially in cities, living in a rented apartment in the center is often regarded as more desirable than owning your own house somewhere in the suburbs. This means that there are generally a lot of rental properties available, especially in big cities. However, it also means that competition for good, central flats can be fierce.
Most people looking to rent an apartment start their search online, in the classified section of local and regional newspapers, or by contacting local estate agents. The rent depends on the overall size of the flat, its location, and often transportation connections. On average, you could expect to pay between 5.89 EUR/m² (Burgenland) and more than 13 EUR/m² (Salzburg) in 2016. However, prices of up to 22 EUR/m² are not unheard of for some of the top locations in Vienna.
Rental prices don’t usually include service charges (water, waste disposal, etc.), which can add an additional 25% to your monthly rent. On top of that, you’ll need to pay for electricity and heating.
Registration: Don’t Forget it!
Once you have moved into your flat, you need to register with your municipal administration or the Magistrate within three days. If you fail to comply with this rule, you will incur a fine of up to 726 EUR. You will need to bring the following documents, either in person or by post: a completed application form (residence registration form) with your landlord’s signature if you live in a rented flat and your passport or birth certificate showing your first and last name, nationality, time and place of birth.
It is recommended that you register in person to save yourself the money you’d otherwise spend on obtaining notarized copies of your documents. After you have successfully registered, you will receive a written residence registration certificate. Please note that you need to repeat this process if you change your address during your time in Austria. For more information, consult the HELP website of the Austrian Government.
Public Insurance and the E-Card
Nearly all employees in Austria pay into the social security system and are therefore covered by public health insurance. You are free to choose your public health insurance provider from one of the officially recognized health insurance funds. Once you are paying into the Austrian social security system and have registered with a health insurance provider, you will receive an e-card, which is your social insurance card. You should always take this card with you when visiting a doctor.
Public health insurance covers treatment by all doctors, dentists, and specialists who have a contract with your insurance fund; please contact your insurance provider for a detailed list. If you need hospital treatment, you are expected to pay a certain sum for every day you spend in the hospital. For a long-term illness, your employer will continue to pay your salary for up to 12 weeks upon receipt of a doctor’s certificate confirming that you are unable to work. After that period, your health insurance fund covers your sickness benefits, which are usually lower than your salary.
As a general rule, you cannot opt out of health insurance, but you can always opt in if you are not covered through automatic salary contributions. Alternatively, you may choose private insurance which will give you access to many private clinics and doctor’s practices, depending on your insurance plan.
Apotheke and Notrufe: Getting the Care You Need
Healthcare in Austria is generally of a very high standard. All hospitals have well-trained staff and state-of-the-art equipment, so your choice of hospital will usually depend on location and the nature of your illness. You can use the hospital finder to search for suitable hospitals by location, diagnosis, or specialization.
Prescription drugs are available in pharmacies. Under the public health insurance scheme, you usually pay a prescription fee of 5.85 EUR (in 2017) for each item. The drug itself is free.
In case of an emergency, dial 144. This is a central number for fire, police, and ambulance services. Your call will be re-directed depending on the nature of the emergency. Although operators should speak and understand some English, it might be a good idea to know some medical phrases in German, especially if you suffer from a chronic health condition.