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What makes Austria a difficult country for foreign residents to get started?

Austria generally ranks high in quality of living surveys, but it can be complicated for immigrants who move there. What makes Austria complex for new arrivals and how does it compare to its neighbours?

What makes Austria a difficult country for foreign residents to get started?
Vienna's Stephansdom, a symbol of the Austrian capital. (Photo by Matthew Yong on Unsplash)

Austria is considered one of the best countries in the world to live and work in. It is always placed high on quality of living rankings, has excellent public services and is generally a safe country. 

However, Austria is a challenging place to move to, as a new InterNations survey showed.

Austria ranked 32nd in the Expats Essentials List title “Where do Expats Struggle Most to Get Started”, just behind Brazil, Hungary and Denmark, and ahead of the Philippines, Cyprus and Hong Kong.

The top destinations for dealing with administrations, digital life, housing and language were Bahrain, UAE, Singapore, Estonia, Oman, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kenya and Canada.

The bottom ten were Malta, France, Czechia, Vietnam, Greece, Italy, Kuwait, China, Japan and Austria’s neighbour Germany.

READ ALSO: Reader question: Will Austria follow Spain in introducing a digital nomad visa?

The ranking took into consideration four main criteria. The first was digital life, which includes the availability of administrative services online, ease of obtaining high-speed internet access at home, ease of paying without cash, and unrestricted access to online services such as social media.

It also looked into housing, both affordability of housing and ease of finding a home for expats; administration topics, including ease of dealing with local bureaucracy, ease of opening a local bank account and ease of obtaining a visa. 

READ ALSO: Renting in Austria: How to find a furnished apartment

The fourth factor was language, considering ease of living without speaking the local language and the ease of learning the local language.

Language remains an obstacle

The immigrants interviewed for the InterNations survey found that getting started in the Alpine republic wasn’t easy. Besides its overall ranking of 32nd, it was in the bottom ten in two criteria: cashless payments (45th) and applying for a visa to move (43rd). 

READ ALSO: Why is cash so important to Austrians?

The lack of cashless payment options is particularly disturbing to foreigners, with 14 percent saying they are dissatisfied with it, almost twice as many as worldwide (8 percent). “You can rarely pay by card, and ATMs are hard to find,” said an Irish resident. 

They also struggle with the national language. Austria is a German-speaking country, but the many dialects can make it even more challenging to get around – even if you took German classes.

“The locals speak a dialect that I, as a foreigner, don’t quite understand. This makes me feel excluded sometimes”, said a survey participant from the UK. “I have taken German courses, but people here don’t speak as they do in the courses’, they added.

READ ALSO: ‘Brutal’: What it’s really like to learn German in Austria

Survey participants found it difficult to find their way around Austria without knowing the national language (39 percent), and 52 percent found it difficult to learn (compared to 38 percent worldwide).

On the other hand, the housing search wasn’t an obstacle for immigrants, according to the survey. The majority of respondents (56 percent) found it easy to find a place to live, which is slightly above the global average of 54 percent. They also consider housing affordable (47 percent are satisfied with prices, compared to 39 percent worldwide).

Austria’s administration receives mixed ratings: While opening a bank account is easy (14th), Austria ranks in the bottom ten for visa issuance (43rd): 31 percent of immigrants had difficulties obtaining a visa (vs 24 percent worldwide).

How does Austria compare?

When looking at the DACH (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) region, Austria was right at the middle of the ranking, 32nd, while Switzerland ranked higher (20th), and Germany was the worst country to settle as an immigrant (52nd).

READ ALSO: 11 Austrian life hacks that will make you feel like a local

Switzerland was among the top ten (7th) regarding digital infrastructure and administrative issues, but Austria ranked 29th in the first and 27th in the latter (Germany was 48th and 36th).

Austria took the lead compared to its neighbours when it comes to housing, ranking 25th, ahead of Switzerland (44th) and Germany (47th).

Regarding languages, how well you can live without speaking the national language, or how easy it is to learn it, Switzerland ranked 30th, followed by Austria at 38th, and then Germany in the 49th spot.


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Pfingstmontag: Why is Pentecost a holiday in Austria?

Austria has many national holidays, and on this Monday, May 29th, shops, banks and supermarkets will also be closed. Why and how do people celebrate it?

Pfingstmontag: Why is Pentecost a holiday in Austria?

Austria is one of the EU countries with the highest number of official holidays – 13 national ones in total – and most of them are related to Christian celebrations in this deeply Catholic central European country.

This year, Monday, the 29th of May, is another holiday –  to the joy of workers eager to enjoy a long weekend as Austria finally gets summery weather. So, what is this holiday, how do Austrians celebrate it, and what should you know about it?

What is Whit Monday?

Whit Monday, also known as Pentecost Monday, falls on the day after Pentecost Sunday, marking the seventh Sunday after Easter. It is a time when Christians commemorate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Jesus, an event described in the Bible.

The origins of Whit Monday as a holiday in Austria trace back to centuries-old customs and religious practices. It serves as a day of reflection, spiritual renewal, and community gathering.

READ ALSO: When are Austria’s school summer holidays in 2023?

The holiday’s historical significance can be attributed to the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, which has played a vital role in Austria’s religious and cultural landscape. Currently, just over 55 percent of the Austrian population identifies as Roman Catholic. This number was near 90 percent in the 1950s. 

Whit Monday became a significant part of the liturgical calendar, symbolising the Holy Spirit’s arrival and its transformative power.

How is it celebrated?

Austrians may celebrate the date with colourful processions, festivals and by gathering family members. However, adhering to the holiday’s religious significance is becoming rarer. 

Nowadays, and especially in bigger cities, people in Austria tend to enjoy the holiday as a day off. However, with this particular one always falling on a Monday, travelling is also very common – and roads tend to become very busy with loads of traffic. 

READ ALSO: Why everything in Austria is closed on Sundays – and what to do instead

As it is with every holiday, on Whit Monday, most stores and supermarkets will be closed (so plan your shopping accordingly, as those are also closed on Sundays). However, restaurants, bars and ice cream parlous are usually quite packed but open. So are most tourist attractions.