Who are you?
I’m an aussie expat blogger at AustrianAdaptation.com who loves travelling and brunch in equal measure! I work for the travel startup TourRadar (an online tour booking site) and am originally from Melbourne, Australia, now living in Vienna, Austria.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
I first left Melbourne in 2011 to become a European tour guide for the Australian tour company Topdeck. After two incredible years guiding and living without a fixed address, I met a Tyrolian boy and we are now living happily in Vienna.So, I initially moved overseas temporarily for work, but stayed abroad for love and the chance to live in the centre of Europe.
What challenges did you face during the move?
After guiding for two years, my biggest challenge in setting up a home in a foreign country was language, cash flow and visa stress. I think these are pretty common to most expats – I didn’t speak German, so was stressed about finding any kind of work, and even before I could start searching for work I had to wait for my Visa to be approved, so for 4 months we were living off my partners single wage. All of this is a country where I struggled to order a coffee and had no nearby friends or family support. It was a trial by fire! But now I feel like I can conquer anything having faced down Austrian bureaucracy and European winters.
How did you find somewhere to live? (e.g. how did you locate a suitable property?
I was lucky in that my boyfriend was already setup in Vienna and had an apartment big enough for the two of us – I know that finding an apartment in Vienna can be incredibly difficult so I was very grateful!
Are there many other expats in your area?
Yes, because the UN has a huge setup in Vienna the expat community is quite extensive and very active. There’s also plenty of great groups to meet fellow expats – for me the best was Girl Gone International as I could meet other women going through all that I was struggling with! I get by very happily now speaking English and socialising with fellow expats.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
I have a couple of friends who are born and bred Viennese, but my social group is made up mainly of internationals – German, Spanish, Czech, Canadian, fellow Aussies…
Some people find the locals difficult to take as their sense of humour can be quite dry, or they come across as rude sometimes, but you need to understand and appreciate the Viennese mindset and accept it – then the locals are great fun!
What do you like about life where you are?
The quality of life here and the variety of things you can see, do and travel to is exceptional. Vienna has a very high living standard – public transport is efficient and cheap, bike lanes and cyclists are catered to, the cost of living is low, food is delicious and my god the buildings and architecture are gorgeous! There’s always something happening in the city whether its an art exhibition, a local winery tour, a film festival – Vienna has a very vibrant cultural life. Plus, if you do get bored you can hop on a train to Italy, Prague, Munich or Croatia in no time – its as central as it gets!
What do you dislike about your expat life?
The distance and time of a flight back home. My biggest struggle is having my family on the other side of the world and knowing that if I needed to, it would take me at least 24 hours (and a lot of cash) to get home in an emergency.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
Attitude to work/life balance. In Australia we work really long hours, shops are open all weekend and it feels like people build their lives around their jobs. In Austria, work/life balance isn’t even a struggle, its built into their culture to spend time with their families on a Sunday, everyone leaves their office bang on 5pm during the week and on Fridays a lot of offices finish up around lunchtime so people have time to do food shopping for the weekend. They spend a lot more time ‘living’ from day-to-day rather than working long hours to save money and eventually retire. There’s also a lot more emphasis on healthy living through hiking, biking and outdoor activities than I experienced back in Australia.
How does shopping (for food/clothes/household items etc.) differ compared to back home?
The style for clothes shopping here is very different. I really like independent brands and a modern indie/casual style, whereas Viennese fashion is much more classical and traditional. People don’t seem to take as many risky fashion choices I find – so discovering stores that sell something different from Zara or H&M is a challenge! Food shopping is cheaper here, but back home I could get avocadoes and other fruits year round, now I have to be more seasonal – Austrians only eat pumpkin in October!
What do you think of the food in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
I love the freshly made bread – bread here is on a whole other level than the store bought stuff from back home. Austrians also really know how to make cakes and treats – Apple Strudel and Kaiserschmarrn are my favourites. The flipside is, food here can be really really heavy – they love their pork, potatoes and schnitzel so you have to be vigilant to keep eating healthy!
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Sometimes, you need to let go a little and trust that things are going to work out. I expended a lot of energy, stress and tears in the beginning playing the ‘what if’ game. ‘What if my visa doesn’t get approved? What if I never speak German well? What if I hate everything here? What if this relationship doesn’t work out and I’m stranded on the other side of the world alone and broke?’. You can drive yourself mad with that kind of thinking and in the end its pointless. Trust your decisions, trust in yourself and only worry about the things that you have direct control over – everything will become a lot more achievable. Oh, and learning German will definitely help!!