Living the expat life in Vienna, from an American’s perspective.
Today we have an insight into what it is like living in Austria for an expat. My interviewee is known as American Schnitzel and is from the US. She moved to Austria to study in Vienna a couple of years ago and on her blog she writes about her experiences.
Move Me Abroad: You are an American in Austria. What made you move to Austria and what are you doing there?
American Schnitzel: What made me move to Austria is a question I get a lot since most college students studying abroad go to England where English is being spoken, or more popular cities as in Paris, or Rome. As a child I had never really knew what it was that I wanted to be and going to Europe to live and study just seemed like a much better idea.
It became a dream of mine and when in High School (I actually was home schooled for most of my life) I became into photography and posted my photos up on Flickr, and low and behold that is where I met my boyfriend. Lucky for me he happened to live here in Vienna, and after a two year correspondence I realized that my dream would become reality and now I knew where I would be going to exactly. He was and still is a great help, if it wasn’t for him I would have been lost and not been able to enroll into the University and not been able to get a visa. My parents knew that I was planning on moving to Europe for a long time and when this seemed to happen they were naturally sad to see their only child at 18 leave to another country, but they had trusted me and my choices in life.
MMA: Have you learnt German, was it easy?
AS: I have learned German for 2 semesters and I am in my last semester of German. I did not speak a word of German before I came to Vienna, nor do I have any relatives that spoke German. German and English are both Germanic languages and with words has some similarities, but is nothing alike specially when it comes to grammar. I always felt lucky that English was my mother tongue since it is the language that everyone knows, but when living in a new country that doesn’t speak English can be difficult. Why, is because most younger people want to practice their English so when they hear your accent they automatically will converse with you in English, even if you insist on speaking their language. So after getting used to most half of everybody speaking with you is broken English you get accustomed. I have had people get angry with me for speaking English and not German, of course it was a problem since they go on a rant of “You are____, We speak ____!”and become unhelpful what so ever, even if you try to explain to them you are learning.
MMA: What do you like the most about living in Austria and the least?
AS: What I like the most about living in Vienna and what I like the least is the same answer, WINTER! Being from a tropical area where coconuts, mangoes, and pineapples are grown in your backyard or a neighbor’s, Winter can be a very difficult time. What Austrians consider a balmy temperature in Spring is the equivalent to Florida’s Winters. This is my second Winter here and I have to say getting dark around 3 in the after noon and never really sunny during the day can take a huge toll on anybody. Here it seems to affect not only people from warm sunny places, but even the people that have lived here their whole lives. During the Winter no matter how much Holiday cheer you have most of everybody is having a bad day, to find a person to smile at you during the Winter is impossible.
On the other hand, I have never experienced a true change of the seasons from Fall to Winter since of last year and for me that was truly magical. Around late November the City prepares itself for Christmas, around St. Stephan’s Cathedral there are so many wonderful Lights all light up it really feels like a wonderland. Vienna is also known for their “Christkindlmarkts” (Christmas markets) and they are all scattered through the city. You can buy a nice cup of hot punch or “Glühwein” (mulled wine) and walk around all the vendors. It can be a really nice time but than also can be pretty depressing, you have to decide for yourself.
MMA: Have you travelled outside of Austria? Where have you been and what did you enjoy the most?
AS: I have traveled outside of Austria probably more than I have in Austria. I have visited France, Czech Republic, Hungary, and as a teenager England. I always love going to France, when I was 17 I had gone to France for a month to a small Village called Amboise, the only thing it is really known for is it holds the home and the bones of the great Da Vinci and of course the castle where he now lays. It is one of my favorite spots in Europe, it has that French charm and just holds a special memories for me.
I wish to do some more traveling of course but since I, at the moment, have no job and have not been working for over a year now, I can only depend on what little I can save up over birthdays and holidays. Sometimes I will not do anything for a week or two and put away my weekly spending money into my traveling jar. I do like to wish that this coming Summer I can do some more traveling possibly with the Inter-rail and finally get some more dots on my map.
MMA: Would you recommend living in Austria to other Americans?
AS: I would highly recommend other Americans or anybody else for that matter to live in Austria. Austria has a high quality of life and even for a big city as Vienna, the crime rate is very small and I would almost say most of the time it is petty. Unlike South Florida where there is always something horrible happening. I would say as a girl I never feel unsafe, now granted I don’t lurk in dark alleys either. Austria is also well located, no big natural disasters happen, it is well centered and located there is always another country not that far away no matter which direction you take.
MMA: What is the one piece of advice you would give to an American moving to Austria?
AS: My advice would be learn German and keep learning, it will get you much further with everyday life and not everything will be available in English. You don’t have to speak it like a native but people will become a bit more warmer when they hear that you are trying to speak German.
How about you? Are you from the US but live in Europe? Have you lived in Vienna or Austria or are you thinking of moving there? Please get in touch and let us know.