Katie: Never Lost
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Vienna, etc.
My name is Katie Spence and I am from Houston, Texas. I moved to Vienna in May of 2014 after accepting a position with the International Atomic Energy Agency, an organization within the United Nations. I have been married for just over a year and my husband and I have two cats. I love to eat, cook, shop, work out, read, and explore Europe.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
The main reason I decided to start blogging was to stay in touch with my family and friends back home and show them how much fun it is here, hoping to convince them to visit. When I first told people I was moving to Vienna, Austria, their reaction was either, “Venice in Italy?! Cool!” or “Australia is going to be amazing!” I quickly realized that people need to be educated on how unique and incredible Vienna and Austria are.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I have two favorite blog entries, my first ever hike and my trip to a Hungarian spa. (I am known for putting myself and others in awkward situations. To be honest, it’s an inherited trait. I find it hilarious.)
Tell us about the ways your new life in Vienna differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Life in the US, especially Texas, is pretty easy. Everything is open 24 hours a day and you can get anything you would ever want or need. However, the US lacks the lifestyle Europe so seriously values and is a country that really focuses on work. In Vienna, I have an excellent work-life balance, the ability to travel to other countries and cultures, and a chance to slow down and enjoy the day. I did not have trouble getting used to Vienna or much culture shock, however, there are small things about Austria that I was unprepared for such as no clothes dryers and odd toilets.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Vienna? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I studied abroad while in undergraduate school and traveled a lot as a kid so I was pretty familiar with Europe. I do think I was fully prepared but I would change a few things. For example, I wouldn’t have focused so much on bringing every piece of clothing, shoes, and accessories. It was quite expensive and unnecessary. I also would have invested in some real winter clothes. Texans aren’t too familiar with months of subzero temperatures (in both Fahrenheit and Celsius).
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Like I said, I am always putting myself into awkward situations so it’s kind of hard for me to separate normal from hilarious. The funniest things were documented in the previously mentioned blog posts. I would say the most unexpected experience has been people trying to pronounce my name. Katie is a very American name and is very challenging for German speakers. My surname, Spence, is British and seems to be a bit easier but still tough. In the end, my name in Austria is Kathi Spence (pronounced Cot-y Shpensuh) and I have to pronounce it that way when making appointments or reservations.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Vienna?
- Learn some German. You don’t need to be fluent but knowing Danke, Bitte, Entschuldigung, and Zahlen bitte goes a long way.
- Be prepared for things to be closed on Sundays, after 8 pm and on every holiday. By the way, there are a lot of Austrian holidays.
- Buy a lederhosen or dirndl because Austrians love to party. They will celebrate the opening of an envelope.
How is the expat community in Vienna? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Because I work at the UN, I work with mainly expats so it wasn’t hard for me to make friends. For those who are not in the same or a similar situation, I would recommend joining a gym or other social activity. There are so many expats in the city that it’s easy to find fellow expats.
How would you summarize your expat life in Vienna in a single, catchy sentence?
Living abroad: filling my mind, my heart and my stomach.