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Kerry Smith, Vienna

My name is Kerry Smith and I was born in Brighton on the south coast of England (UK) where I have lived for most of my life.

I write the blog a new girl in vienna. I like to take photographs, cook, eat out and write about my daily experiences as I try to settle into a new life abroad.

I moved to live in Vienna, the capital of Austria, with my boyfriend in March 2010. Unexpectedly he was approached and offered a job working in Vienna and so we made a quick decision to leave our life back in England and embark on a new adventure together abroad. From him accepting the position and us arriving to live in Vienna it was only 6 weeks.What challenges did you face during the move?

The biggest challenge was trying to arrange the move in only 6 weeks. In that time we had to leave our jobs and pack up our entire life in England. We sold and donated lots of our furniture and were very ruthless with downsizing our personal possessions. It wasn’t easy but it felt quite liberating once completed.

Both my boyfriend and I can’t speak German and so this has been a huge challenge for us (although working in an International environment the language spoken in my boyfriend’s work place is primarily English). Since arriving in Austria I have taken a few German courses but I am still very much a beginner.

A continuing challenge has been for me to find employment here.

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How did you find somewhere to live?

Luckily for us Kev’s new employer assisted with the relocation. They provided a lovely Austrian agent who conducted all the searches on our behalf with our requirements and budget in mind. We then visited Vienna for a weekend in February before the big move and viewed 11 rental apartments with her in one day. Luckily we found one we liked and she put the wheels in motion. She also translated documents for us, liaised with the landlord, contacted utilities companies etc. Her assistance was invaluable and I really don’t know what we would have done without her!

Are there many other expats in your area?

Vienna appears to be full of expats. There are many online expat communities should you wish to meet other expats and join in the activities. The online expat forums have been at times very useful to me. It is also interesting to read other peoples experiences of living in Vienna and know that you are not alone! I have been lucky to meet a few other expats through my blog who have now become friends.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

I think you will find most expats living here will agree that the Viennese are very closed, reserved people and therefore it is extremely hard to form relationships with locals. As I am currently unemployed this is made even harder for me. We do not know anyone living in our apartment block or in the immediate local area. It would be nice to integrate into the Viennese community but I think this will take a very long time.

What do you like about life where you are?

Vienna is a beautiful and cultural city. There is much to see and do… amazing architecture, numerous art galleries and museums, cafes on every corner. For a capital city it is not overcrowded and there are lots of green spaces within and surrounding the city to enjoy. There are even vineyards in the hills surrounding the city! The city is clean and safe and most people appear to experience a high quality of life here.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

It has been harder for me to settle into our new life here than I anticipated. I have at times felt quite lonely and cut off from what is happening around me. I think this is largely due to my struggles with the German language and getting used to the often unfriendly and unhelpful service. The simplest things continue to be a challenge! Some people I have encountered can come across as unwelcoming to ‘foreign’ people.

I miss friends and family a great deal but I am grateful that most are only a 2 hour flight away and many have already been to visit.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

– Learn German. Learn German. Learn German. I have read some opinions that knowledge of the German language is not required to live here but I would tend to disagree. Obviously we have got by with little German over the past 10 months but I believe we will continue to be treated and feel like tourists whilst we speak English. Understandably it appears many Austrians are of the opinion that if you are to live in their country then you should speak their language.

– It is important to have a clear idea about your future employment plans. From experience it is not easy to gain employment here unless you have a niche skill or can speak German.
– Make use of the expat communities and websites out there and gather as much information as possible.
– Be prepared for the ups and downs of acclimatising to a unfamiliar country but most of all, enjoy it!

What are your plans for the future?

At the moment we don’t know what the future holds. I will continue to try and learn German and hope that I have better luck in finding a job in the new year. We love travelling and are looking forward to exploring Austria and the many surrounding European countries. Living in mainland Europe does have its advantages and we intend to make the most of them!

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