Micheael Guiterrez is a Mexican expat who after spending 16 years in the USA moved to Vienna, Austria. While Michael does miss the spontaneity and relaxing lifestyle of Southern California, he rates the quality of life in Vienna very highly.
With 15 years experience of expat life in Vienna, Michael has successfully set up his own relocation company to assist other expats to make the move abroad successfully.
Read more about Vienna in the Expat Arrivals Vienna country guide or read more expat experiences in Austria
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I was born in Mexico City and lived there till the age of eight 8, then I lived in Los Angeles, California for 16 years.
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Vienna, Austria.
Q: How long have you lived in Vienna?
A: 15 years
Q: Did you move to Vienna with a spouse/children?
Q: Why did you move to Austria; what do you do in Vienna?
A: I originally came here to study but stayed. I currently run a corporate relocation business.
Q: What do you enjoy most about Vienna, how’s the quality of life?
A: Quality of life is top- I like that it is safe, clean, and not too crowded here. Vienna is the perfect balance between a large sophisticated city and a small town.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: I miss the spontaneity and relaxed atmosphere of Southern California and Mexico- and most of all, the weather and the ocean! We are landlocked here!
Q: Is the Vienna safe? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: Vienna is a very safe city- there are not really any dangerous areas that can compare with truly dodgy parts of other metropolitan cities I know. That having been said, there are parts of the 2nd and 10th districts that I would rather avoid late at night.
Q: How would you rate the public transport in Vienna? What are the different options? Do you need to own a car?
A: The public transport system here is the best I have ever experienced. A car is really only necessary if one lives in the most suburban areas. Families with children might also have more need for a car, but when living in or near the city centre, a car can turn into more of a burden than a luxury. Gas is very expensive, as are parking and insurance.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare?
A: On the one hand, it is great in that all fundamental aspects of healthcare are covered. On the other hand, the reality is that if one wants a truly high standard of medical or dental services, one is better-off getting private health insurance and or going to a private doctor or dentist and paying for it ones self.
About living in Vienna
Q: Which are the best places/suburbs to live in the city as an expat?
A: The 19th district is probably the best and most sought-after suburban area for expats. The 13th district also presents a good option.
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in the city?
A: Standards vary widely of course, but I think the average is quite good- especially in relation to price and in comparison with other capital cities in Europe.
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: Cost of living here is comparable to life in Southern California especially when considering the buying power of an average income- I think rent is cheaper here while food and gas are more expensive. In the end I think it balances out.
Q: What are the locals like; do you mix mainly with other expats?
A: It is difficult to integrate into Viennese society- a broad generalization is that they are not particularly open to forming close connections/friendships with new people after a certain point in life. That having been said, after 15 years in the city, I have a few very close friends who are Austrian.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A: I arrived as a student, which I think is a particularly good way to make friends. I think making friends in Vienna might take a bit more proactive effort than most places I know, but can certainly be done, especially now with all the online resources that are available for expats (and locals) to connect.
About working in Vienna
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?
A: I have had luck, but it can be very difficult to get a residence permit if one does not already have employment.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in the city, is there plenty of work?
A: Europe is in an economic slump and Austria is no exception. With that in mind, I think Vienna is one of the best places to weather this economic storm- there is still work available for qualified persons.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home?
A: Its very different! Employees are afforded many more rights by law as well as much more vacation time and sick days etc. Austrians rely on job security as an important way to create social stability and it reflects in the overall work culture- people here tend to work to live rather than live to work. An example of that is that most businesses close on Saturdays and the city comes to a virtual halt on Sundays.
Q: Did a relocation company help you with your move?
A: Unfortunately not.
Family and children in Austria
Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?
A: We met here, but both had little trouble adjusting upon arrival.
Q: Did your children settle in easily?
A: Our children were born here.
Q: What are the schools like, any particular suggestions?
A: Schools are decent, but having worked in a public school for two years, I would recommend private schools if possible.
Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Use a relocation company to facilitate your move if at all possible! It will pay dividends for years to come.
~ Interviewed June 2013