Moving to Vienna
Vienna is the capital and the largest city of Austria (approx. 1.7 million inhabitants), and is known as the City of Music (because of its amazing musical legacy of Strauss, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mahler, Brahms, and Schoenberg) and the City of Dreams (thanks to Sigmund Freud).
It is charming and full of culture, history, majestic architecture, numerous art galleries, coffee houses and famous cafes (konditorei), great shopping and restaurants, as well as impressive museums. It is also the only world capital that has its own vineyards within the city limits.
For the last five consecutive years, Vienna has topped the lists of best cities to live in in the world, surpassing cities in Sweden, Switzerland, United States and Denmark.
The economy of Vienna is thriving and the political system is stable, which creates a very comfortable situation for its inhabitants. The economy in the city is dominated by banking and insurance, and anyone with a background in these two fields will have an easier time finding employment. Generally, finding a job in Vienna for a foreigner is not an easy task, but it is also not impossible.
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Working knowledge of German language is a huge advantage for anyone looking for a job in Vienna, but there are also many international organizations (a number of important United Nations offices) and businesses located in the Austrian capital, and most of them carry their operations in English.
You will want to start your search on-line (there are many forums and online expat communities available in Vienna), local job search engines, and ask the locals or fellow expats for help in networking.
Taxes and Social Insurance
Austria has a progressive tax system with four levels varying from 0% - 50%. Everyone who is employed in Vienna will have to make compulsory contributions to a social insurance fund, which covers medical treatment, pension contributions, etc.
Austrian Visa and Residency
The Austrian Government offers several different types of visas and residence permits. You can find the best option for you, based on your nationality as well as the purpose and length of your stay, at your nearest Austrian Embassy or on their website. All citizens of EU countries, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein can live and work in Austria without a special visa or work permit, just like native Austrians.
If you plan to stay in the country for a while, you will have to apply for a residency permit or a settlement permit (the last one is suitable for stays longer than one year or if you need a work permit).
Vienna consists of twenty three boroughs (Bezirke) and numerous suburbs within the metropolitan area. These districts have their names, but it is also common to refer to them by their numbers (the city center borough is District Number 1—Innere Stadt). The city is well designed and marked, and you will be able to tell from the signage which borough you are in.
The historical District 1, Innere Stadt, is the most expensive part of town, but District 2, Leopold Stadt, is more multinational and affordable, therefore a much better suiting place for expats. Some of the most desired residential areas are District 13 (Hietzing), District 18 (Währing), and District 19 (Döbling), which are considered upper-middle class parts of the city and have many great recreational facilities as well as beautiful woods and vineyards. Other more international districts are District 21, 22, and 23.
Housing in Vienna is quite expensive and the market can be complicated to navigate for foreigners, so it might be a good idea to hire a real estate agent, especially when you are not at all familiar with Vienna yet. If you chose to rent, you should expect that you will have to start with a one to three months deposit.
If you prefer a short and easy commute to work, you will need to find an apartment in one of the single digit boroughs (most of the businesses are located near the city center). Beautiful houses can be found farther away from the city center and can be quite expensive in comparison with most European capitals, but would definitely be a better option for families with children. Many expats with children choose to live near one of the international schools, therefore forming several expat-saturated neighborhoods.
Schools and Education
The Austrian public school system is unique and can be tricky to navigate for foreigners, so many expats choose to send their children to private or international schools, especially if the child is above 10 years old and does not speak any German.
Vienna has several top private schools (American International School, Danube International School, Vienna International School or Vienna Christian School) that are taught in English or a French Lycée Francais de Vienne, but it is important to note that all of them are quite expensive.
Getting around Vienna is fairly easy with the abundance of options provided by Wiener Linien: metro, buses, trains, taxis, and trams. Various European capitals and large cities are connected to Vienna via high speed railway.
The city, with its hilly and steep streets, is not exactly a bicycle-friendly place. But public transportation always runs on schedule and is very inexpensive, so buying a car will not be a necessity (especially since gas prices in Austria can be higher than the U.S.).
Many Viennese speak English very well, but it would be valuable to start learning German as soon as you decide on the move. It will definitely make your life easier and the locals will warm up to you quicker. Vienna has many language schools that offer German classes for any level and every wallet—if you cannot do it before, make sure to start learning the language as soon as you arrive.
Healthcare in Vienna
The healthcare system in Austria provides free access to basic healthcare for all citizens, residents, and even tourists and temporary residents of Austria. Any additional insurance that you decide to purchase will be pretty expensive. Vienna offers many high quality health care facilities for all patients with the General Hospital as the largest and the best equipped of them all.
Cost of Food and Other Necessities
Generally, the cost of food in Vienna will be higher than in the United States but comparable to that of United Kingdom or Switzerland. During winter months, many fresh fruits and vegetables are often in short supply in Austria, so be prepared to buy seasonally. There are many great restaurants in Vienna and it is possible to find something to suit every budget.
It is good to keep in mind that, though it is a wonderful place to live, Vienna was ranked 32 out of 211 cities evaluated by the Mercer Cost of Living Survey in 2014.
First Days in Vienna
You will have to register with the municipal district office within the first three days after arrival in the country. You will have to fill out a Meldezettel form (residency form) and get it stamped by your real estate agent. This form is very important as it can serve as proof of address for opening your bank account, registering your cellphone or internet connection, setting up utilities, and other important arrangements you will have to make soon upon arrival.