Tell me about living in Vienna (or even just overseas)

I’m not sure if I should be amused or resigned that this is rather typical of how my life operates, but: I came to Vienna for five days and on the third day was offered a job.

  1. SCORE!
  2. do they know I don’t know anything?

It’s a gig doing dramaturgy at a little English-language theater, and it would be perfect and delightful except for two things: I haven’t finished my bachelor’s degree yet (being only twenty), and OH MY GOD IT’S A WHOLE OTHER COUNTRY.

I think I’m going to ask them if they’ll still be interested in a year, and try to rush through the last two years of my bachelor’s in one. What I’d love is some advice from people who moved overseas early in their careers, went for a mad opportunity like this, “now I’m King of the Stage Managers!”/“now I’m living in a U-Bahn station digging through the trash for wienerschnitzel wrappers” tales, what-have-you.

And especially Austria and Vienna – what’s it like to live here? Do the tourists drive you as mad over the years as they’ve driven me in the past week (and I’m one of them!)? Is housing affordable? What’s health care like for expats and non-citizens?

I lived in Vienna for a half year during college, but it was exchange so I don’t know much about health care or price of housing. I suspect it costs somewhere between Jackson Mississippi and Santa Cruz-- a look in the papers should clear that all up immediately. Prepare for housing terminology to be confusingly different (in Belgium, for example, a ‘duplex’ is a tiny two-floor studio).
The tourists go away in October.
How’s your German?
I found the Vienese. . . chilly, with moments of abusive, unless they were somehow personal friends or connected otherwise, in which case they opened right up and a whole new side of the city was made available. If I could choose a European city to live in as an expat for an extended time, I suspect it wouldn’t be at the top of the list.

Oh, but, before it all sounds negative-- for God’s sakes, do it and do it now while you’re young and malleable and resilient. I’m glad I did it at 19 and I’m glad I lived in Belgium later. There will be days when life seems exceptionally difficult and you’ll want to cry because you can’t bear facing the ordeal that is, oh, buying stamps at the post office, but overall it’s an experience that you can’t pass up. Prepare for the small minor everyday things to be like 8% off kilter-- things you don’t expect like buying special garbage sacks at the grocery store or paying for local phone by the minute-- things like that. It’s a much different experience from being a tourist. Do it. The rest of the bachelors will wait. Or ask your school is you can take a leave of absence and if German for Auslaender courses at UW will transfer.

You rarely hear old people say “man, I wish I hadn’t taken that job as a dramaturgist at a small English-language theater in Vienna back when I was 20, boy was THAT a big mistake.”

Jesus H. Christ, take that job and don’t look back. I spent a year in Vienna in college, and returned for a visit a couple of years ago. That year I spent in Vienna was one of the best years of my life. Vienna is an awesome city. There is something there for everyone–there were bars and clubs where we could drink and dance all night; but also really nice restaurants, as well as the Volksoper and Staatsoper, if one wanted a bit higher-brow entertainment. The public transportation is outstanding, so you don’t need to own a car. The central district, which is off-limits to vehicle traffic, is an outstanding place to wander around, visit cafes, people-watch, etc. And Vienna is smack-dab in the middle of Europle, so it was always easy to hop on a train and travel to any part of Europe–northern, southern, eastern or western. I would live in Vienna again in a heartbeat. In fact, after I left, for years I had these melancholy dreams where I would be allowed to return to Vienna for a couple of weeks, but couldn’t live there. I really missed it.

Living overseas…sometimes it’s good. Sometimes you want to throttle people and yell (in English, of course) “Why don’t you do things the right way?!? LIKE AMERICANS?!” Then you go home and drink wine.

Now you have to give us the update-- what did you decide to do? You ARE going to do it, aren’t you?

Well I just moved to Germany after 5 years in the US. So far the transition has been smooth, there are a few things that you might miss from the US;

  1. A european credit card is not like an american credit card. For one, you don’t get bombarded on a daily basis to sign up with 9 mopnths of zero-interest. Secondly if you do decide to get one, it doesn’t quite work as an american credit card - you have to pay the balance in full after 4 weeks. Actualy you don’t have to pay, they deduct the balance out of your bank account. The thing closest to an american credit card is a flex-card.
  2. Shops close here on Sundays. You also can’t get medicine (prescibed or otc) in supermarkets.
  3. Electronic equipment is expensive. You pay the same in Euros as dollars (given that the dollar is only 3/4th of the Euro - you end up paying more for stuff than in the US). Same applies to Starbucks…
  4. When renting a place, make sure to look for EBK (built-in kitchen). Most rentals in Europe come without a kitchen - you can buy the kitchen of the previous renter or buy your own. I still don’t see the point of this. The first month of rent is expensive - not only do you have your deposit (2 to 3 times your ‘cold rent’) but most places go via realtors who charge 2 to 3 months of rents as comission. (Cold rent is the base rent, in addition to that you pay a fixed amount of Neben Kosten = utilities, trash, etc…phone, internet and tv come on top of that) For example I’m thinking of renting a place with 350 base. My first payment is going to be over 2000 euro (525 in commission, 1050 in deposit and 490 as regular monthly payment ).
  5. Almost all banking happens online (rent/cellphone/credit card payments, wages). Most Europeans haven’t used checks in a long time (banks charge on average 12,50 Euro to process them).
  6. Expect to keep about 60% of your gross pay, they tax almost everything.

That’s just some of the things I have noticed these first 4 weeks.

Oh before I forget - take the job!!! You’ll never know when you get a chance like that again.

Feel free to email me if you have questions.

This is not universally true - I’ve found Germany to be very credit card averse. It is quite possible to get a proper credit card in most European countries, although it can be a real pain to establish a credit history in order to qualify if you have moved from the States (in fact most EU financial institutions will not take into account any non-EU or even non-country-specific financial history). Much of your day to day stuff will need be done in real paper cash. Unfortunately it can be a pain to even set up a simple bank account - you don’t need to establish creditworthiness per se but you need to establish residency and employment. Your employer in Austria will be able to help you out with this. Check out if your bank back home is affiliated with an Austrian one (this is less far-fetched than you might think). Luckily it is entirely possible to run your affairs without a credit card in Europe, indeed most people don’t have one. The good side is that once you have even the most simple of bank accounts you can pay your bills by direct debit (this is the UK term, but there are equivalents in most countries) and get cash from any available machine on the corner.

First part, true mostly. Second part, I dunno - although you will probably find that a chemist will sell you things otc that you can’t get at home eg codeine

Electronic gear is dear, but anyone in Vienna who is drinking coffee at a Starbucks has really missed the whole point. Get some nice cakes to go with your morning OMFG pick-me-up.

No idea if this is reasonable in EuroMDguy’s location but I’ve rented a few flats and there has never been such a high (or any) commission. Two or three months rent as a deposit is not unusual though, but that fee has always included one or two months actual rent, the rest being deposit.

True everywhere AFAIK

You’ll find that you will pay a bit more tax than you are used to, but not that much really over your whole fiscal thing. Pay yer tax in the EU and you won’t have to worry about affording healthcare, and if you aren’t used to good public transport…

Go for it! I bet you can get course credits for your Vienna job from your university in the States. You may have to sign up for some independent study and write a paper when you get back but that would be easy. Do you speak German? Check into taking a course from the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. There are also international programs like IES that offer classes and work with your university to transfer credits. I highly recommend living overseas as part of your education.

I guess that’s just my luck again :frowning: