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Are you thinking about moving to Austria?
There are several pros and cons to living in Austria, though the pros definitely outweigh the cons (Alps, anyone?). I spent a school year teaching English in the Vorarlberg province and fell in love with the country.
The slower pace of life, the breathtaking scenery, and the rich history and culture are just a few of the pros I noticed about living in Austria. On the flip side, the German dialect took some time for me to get used to, as well as the shorter store hours.
In this post, I discuss these “living in Austria pros and cons,” and several others, to help you decide if you want to make Austria your next home!
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21 Pros and Cons of Living in Austria
1. Pro: Quality of life
Life goes at a slower pace in Austria than what I am used to in the U.S. The whole “time is money” daily grind doesn’t seem to be as much of a thing for Austrians, at least not in rural western Austria where I spent most of my time.
People work hard but do not value a workaholic lifestyle.
It’s not as common for people to work past their scheduled hours. Most companies offer substantial time off, which Austrians take full advantage of—unlike many of my U.S. colleagues, who often carry over their PTO from year to year because they don’t use it all up.
Austrians prioritize exercise and spending time in nature.
Most of the Austrians I met valued physical health and were active skiers, swimmers, hikers, or bicyclists. (There are plenty of opportunities to do all of these sports and more in Austria. See #11!)
2. Con: Language
While I wouldn’t consider the local language a complete con about living in Austria, it can be a challenge to understand if you are used to speaking “high German” (Hochdeutsch), especially if you move to Vorarlberg.
There are two main German dialects spoken in Austria, the Alemannic dialect spoken in Vorarlberg, and the Bavarian dialect spoken in other Austrian provinces.
Of course, within these two dialects, there are also many regional differences in pronunciation and vocabulary.
The good news is students learn Hochdeutsch in school and most Austrians can both speak and understand it. Additionally, many Austrians, especially the younger generations, can speak English pretty well.
You can likely get by in Austria with little to no knowledge of German, especially in larger cities like Vienna and Graz.
However, your experience living in Austria will be all the richer if you take the time to learn German.
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3. Pro: Safety
Austria is a very safe country and that is one of the biggest pros about living there. Violent crime per 100,000 people was only 0.72 in Austria in 2020, compared to 6.52 in the United States.*
I rode many buses and trains and walked alone after dark when I lived in Austria—things that I would not feel as comfortable doing in Boston, where the crime rate is even higher than the U.S. average.
*Data taken from Macro Trends
4. Con: Store hours
If you are used to stores being open late in the evening and on the weekend in the U.S.—sometimes even open 24/7—you may be surprised to find that in Austria, businesses generally close much earlier and are usually closed on Sunday.
If you think of something you need in the evening or on the weekend, chances are you won’t be able to buy it until the next business day.
While this was hard for me to get used to at first, I loved how this reflected the Austrian mentality of work-life balance. Nothing is mission-critical if you aren’t in an emergency situation.
Most things I’m used to buying on demand in the U.S. can really wait another day or two.
5. Pro: Scenery
Maria von Trapp was right—the hills are alive in Austria. It is one of the most beautiful and underrated countries in Europe, if not the entire world.
I’m always amazed by how many people don’t know where Austria is on the map and even confuse it with Australia!
Most of Austria is covered by the magnificent Alps. While Austria has a few larger urban areas, such as Vienna and Graz, it’s much more common to find smaller towns and villages in a valley region between mountain peaks.
Austria also has many freshwater lakes, including the largest European lake—Lake Constance—which shares borders with Germany and Switzerland. It’s a prime summer destination for swimming and boating.
If you prefer exploring nature over large cities, you will not be disappointed in Austria. It is an alpine paradise!
6. Con: Smoking
Despite many Austrians living healthy, active lives, I was shocked to see so many people smoking, especially at a young age.
The legal smoking age in Austria is 16 years old, so it’s not uncommon to see teenagers smoking at the bus stop or outside of school.
Smoking is allowed inside restaurants, and even if you eat outside, it’s hard not to inhale the smoke of someone nearby who is puffing on a cigarette.
This was probably one of my biggest disadvantages of living in Austria. (But the mountains made up for it. ;))
7. Pro: Public transportation
The public transportation system is another major pro of living in Austria.
Even in small towns, there is a reliable bus service that transports you from one town to another or connects you to a train station.
Depending on where you live, the buses will come more or less frequently, but they are almost always on time.
The railway system in Austria—ÖBB—is one of the best in Europe.
Trains are punctual and clean and offer a comfortable way to travel longer distances within Austria and to other parts of Europe.
If you plan to use the train often, you can purchase a Vorteilscard that gives you a 50% discount on tickets, among other benefits.
8. Con: Taxes
If you earn income from an Austrian source, you will pay a significantly higher amount of taxes than in the U.S.
Austria uses a progressive tax rate system like in the U.S., but the tax percentages are greater.
You can expect to pay more than double the taxes in Austria.
For example, if you have an average salary of €60,000 in 2022, you will pay 48% of that income in taxes in Austria. In the U.S., if you make $60,000, you will pay $4,807.50 for the first $41,776 (roughly 11.5%) plus 22% on the amount over $41,776.
Austrians do benefit from government-funded higher education and health insurance, cheaper childcare, and other perks not as common in the U.S., which likely contribute to the higher tax rates.
9. Pro: Food
The cuisine is one of the greatest benefits of living in Austria. There is something so warm and comforting about Austrian food, which is made with fresh, high-quality ingredients. Whether you are in a restaurant, coffee shop, or someone’s home, you are in for a treat.
One of the most famous Austrian specialties is Wiener Schnitzel, traditionally made with a thin cut of breaded veal and served with a side of fries or potatoes. The dish is especially tasty with lingonberry jam and freshly squeezed lemon juice on top. Mmm!
Another traditional Austrian dish is Käseknöpfle—a cholesterol bomb usually made with five or more different types of cheeses. The cheese is mixed with small dumplings and sautéed onions and served with freshly ground pepper.
And let’s not even get started with their mouth-watering desserts: Linzer cookies, Apfelstrudel, Sachertorte, and many more.
10. Con: Winter weather (if you don’t like the cold)
Austria becomes a winter wonderland, usually from the months of December to March, which is every ski and snowboard enthusiast’s dream come true.
Not to mention the spectacular Christmas markets that pop up throughout the country, making Austria a must stop on every Europe Christmas Market itinerary!
But if you don’t enjoy cold weather and are the type of person who would rather lay in the sun, Austrian weather may not be for you.
Summers in Austria are very warm, though, so if you can last through the cold winter, you will eventually be rewarded with sunshine and heat.
11. Pro: Outdoor activities
Austria is a mecca for those who love the outdoors. There isn’t a shortage of things to do. The spring, summer, and fall are perfect times to go for a hike in the mountains or a long bike ride.
The summer is also great for swimming in one of the many lakes.
In the winter, there are a plethora of ski resorts to choose from.
Silvretta Montafon and Lech are two popular resorts in the Vorarlberg province, and Innsbruck (a town that NEEDS To be on your bucket list even if you don’t move to Austria) in Tyrol is known as one of the skiing capitals of the world, with many resort options.
12. Con: Lack of diversity
Another con about living in Austria is the lack of ethnic diversity. Out of the nearly 9 million people that make up Austria’s population, only around 40,000 of them are of African descent.
Turks make up the largest non-European population in Austria, but they comprise only about 1% of the population.
All that to say, Austria is not as culturally diverse as other European countries.
However, Austria is a democratic country that prides itself on freedom and equality for all. While the demographics of the country are not as diverse as in other places, in my experience, Austrians are very welcoming to foreigners.
That brings me to the next point…
13. Pro: Culture
Austrians are generally very warm and hospitable people. Once you have made a good connection with someone, they will quickly invite you into their home for a meal or coffee and dessert.
Austrian culture is centered around working hard, caring for your family and others, and enjoying life and the beauty of your surroundings.
Austrians seem to have a joie de vivre that likely stems from the fact that they have a solid work-life balance.
While they value their careers, Austrians also appreciate simple joys like walking in nature or enjoying a delicious, home-cooked meal.
As mentioned earlier in this post, workaholism has not been historically lauded in Austria to the same extent that it has in the U.S.
14. Con: Job market
As was the case in many countries around the world, the Austrian unemployment rate saw extreme highs during 2019-2021.
In 2021, the unemployment rate was around 8%, with the rate higher for foreign nationals (11.9%).
However, it seems the Austrian economy is slated to grow more quickly in the next five years than in the previous five years, as the country continues to recover from the pandemic.
Many companies are looking for people with soft skills such as intercultural communication and good knowledge of English, which could serve as an advantage for foreign nationals living in Austria.
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15. Pro: Cost of living
It is hard to compare the cost of living in Austria with the U.S. apples-to-apples, since prices can vary by city and state/province.
However, Austria as a whole has about a 30% lower cost of living than in the U.S. based on the prices for rent, real estate, food, transportation, and other factors.
Vienna and Innsbruck are two of the most expensive cities to live in Austria; whereas Linz, Graz, and Klagenfurt are ranked as more affordable.
16. Pro/Con: Education
The pro: Austria has a high-quality education system, with nine years of mandatory schooling and various career tracks after that. The first four years are in an elementary school (Volksschule), followed by four years in a middle school (MIttelschule).
After that, students decide to either do one year at a polytechnic school and complete an apprenticeship OR continue with secondary education for another four to five years that prepares them for university studies or other types of higher education.
The con: Because of the different educational tracks after the mandatory schooling, students typically have to determine what they want to do as a career much earlier than in places like the U.S.
There is also a hefty exam for students before they can attend university, called the Matura.
As a result, I noticed schools can be very high-pressure environments for students.
17. Pro: Things to do
Whether you are into sports, art, history, or a number of other things, you won’t run out of things to do in Austria. As mentioned in #11, there are an endless number of hiking trails, ski resorts, and clean lakes in Austria, as well as public pools, recreation centers, and other sports activities.
Austria also has plenty of shopping centers, theaters, museums, restaurants, and coffee shops, especially in the more populated cities and towns.
But even in the smaller towns, the community often organizes festivals and events in honor of holidays and other special occasions.
For example, the Bregenzer Festspiele takes place in Bregenz every summer, where hundreds of thousands of people come to watch performances on the famous floating stage (Seebühne) on Lake Constance.
18. Pro: Family and pet-friendliness
Life in Austria is great if you are raising a family. Kids are welcome in most places and many activities are catered toward children—a major pro of living in Austria for parents.
From petting farms and nature parks to sports and other after-school programs, there is no shortage of things for parents to do with kids.
And people generally have a kind and patient attitude toward children.
Many Austrians also own pets, especially dogs and cats.
You’ll often see owners walking with their dogs on trails and even taking them to restaurants (usually on outdoor terraces) and trains.
(Smaller dogs can ride for free while larger dogs need to be muzzled and have a half-price ticket.)
19. Pro: History
History buffs will love living in Austria as there are many remnants of the past to visit.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral is an iconic landmark in Vienna and dates all the way back to the 12th century. You can learn about the Habsburg dynasty that lasted for nearly six centuries and visit key architectural sights such as Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna or the Salzburg Cathedral.
Austria is also famous for prominent musicians like Johann Strauss, Franz Schubert and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. You can tour Mozart’s birthplace in Salzburg or attend a concert featuring the artists’ famous works at the Vienna Musikverein.
For a more solemn history lesson, consider a tour of the Mauthausen concentration camp to learn about Austria’s involvement in World War II and the Holocaust.
20. Pro: Location
Not only is the Austrian landscape beautiful in itself, but the country is also in a prime location in Europe. It shares its borders with eight other countries: Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Switzerland.
Hop on a train, and you can arrive in any of these countries within a few hours or less. This makes it easy to travel from Austria to other places in Europe, even if just for the weekend.
For example, if you are living in Vienna, you can be in Bratislava, Slovakia in an hour’s time.
From Bregenz, it’s only a 15-minute train ride to Lindau, Germany.
Or if you live in Villach, you can easily spend a weekend in Venice, Italy.
21. Pro: Holidays and vacation time
Europeans are known for having more vacation time than in places like the U.S., and Austria is no exception.
Everyone employed in Austria is entitled to at least five weeks of paid vacation, including part-time workers.
Additionally, Austria has 13 bank holidays observed by the entire country, with some states having their own regional holidays as well.
I loved how generous Austria was with its holiday schedule, which gave me more freedom to travel and explore more of the country.
Is Austria a good place to live?
Yes, it’s a great place to live! Most of the cons I mentioned in this post are not so much “bad things” about living in Austria but rather minor annoyances or cultural differences. Austria has the same modern conveniences you can find in any other developed country, as well as high-quality education and healthcare systems.
Plus, with a more generous amount of paid time off than you can find in most countries, you’ll have time to actually get out and enjoy the stunning Austrian scenery.
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Is Austria friendly to foreigners?
I had a good experience living in Austria as an American. Austrians were patient and gracious when I spoke German with them and were happy to teach me more about their culture and way of life—and this was in the small-town region of Vorarlberg.
I think cities like Vienna or Salzburg are even more accustomed to foreigners. You’ll also find a larger expat community in these places if you’re interested in making friends with other people who have relocated to Austria.
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Is it better to live in Austria or Germany?
This is a tough question to answer as both Germany and Austria have a lot to offer. Having lived in both countries, however, I think I appreciated the more relaxed state of mind in Austria. Austrian culture is generally warmer and more inviting than in Germany—maybe it’s the constant exposure to the glorious Alps.
Germany has slightly lower tax rates and cost of living than in Austria. But in terms of quality of life, food, public transportation, and other pros listed in this post, Germany and Austria score pretty equally.
Is moving to Austria a good idea?
Once you navigate the immigration process and get used to the tax system in Austria, you will likely find it a great place to live. If you are interested in moving to Europe, Austria is an excellent choice (for all the pros listed above!).
Is it better to live in Austria or the US?
Comparing Austria to the U.S. is almost like comparing apples to oranges. The U.S. is much larger and more diverse in terms of landscape, people, and culture, whereas Austria is more monolithic.
Austria has a clear advantage over the U.S. when looking at things like paid time off, university tuition, and public transportation. But if you want more convenience (aka 24/7 store hours) and the ease of speaking English everywhere, the U.S. might be more attractive to you.
Conclusion: Pros and Cons of Living in Austria
There are many pros and cons to living in Austria, though as you can see from the list above, it became difficult to find an equal number of cons for all the pros. If you are looking to live in a safe country with plenty of access to outdoor activities and beautiful scenery, as well as great medical care and educational systems, Austria may be a good choice for you.
Whether you choose to live in Austria or not, it’s absolutely worth a visit. Who knows, maybe after visiting you’ll fall in love with the country like I did and not want to leave!
Amanda of My Vintage Map
Amanda is the owner of My Vintage Map, a travel blog dedicated to destinations in New England and beyond. She currently lives in Boston with her husband and daughter. When she isn’t traveling, you will likely find her relaxing with her family, reading a good book, or baking some yummy treats.
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