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Austria is a modern, cosmopolitan and efficiently run country; and expats might even find that day-to-day life is easier in their new home than in their country of origin. Austria is known for its organised systems of transportation, its contemporary housing, excellent healthcare and moderate cost of living. Expats from developed countries will therefore experience minimal culture shock.
Language barrier in Austria
The language barrier might well prove to be the greatest challenge facing expats moving to Austria. The official language of Austria is German; however, Austrian German differs greatly from that spoken in Germany. In addition, Austrian German is full of regional particularities. Learning basic words and phrases – or even better, enrolling in a language class – will help expats integrate into Austrian culture.
While many Austrians know some English, they often hesitate to speak English unless it is necessary for foreigners to communicate with them. However, expats will be relieved to know that English is widely spoken in the business world in Austria, especially in the larger urban centres.
That said, it is important to realise that not all Austrians speak English. For example, the person who sells internet packages to a new arrival might speak fluent English, but then the installer who comes to set it up in the home may not. In addition, most cashiers speak some English, but it’s nonetheless a good idea to learn the German numbers in advance.
Attitude toward foreigners in Austria
Austrians are quite friendly and foreigners are typically received with a warm welcome. Despite this, Austrians tend to lead more private personal lives. It can be difficult to make friends with locals unless one interacts with them on a daily basis at work or as part of a recreational activity.
Austrians are proud of their heritage, and they tend to prefer locally grown produce and locally made products over imports. This national pride can make foreigners feel alienated but they should try not to take it personally and remember that Austria is a small country that places great importance on its heritage and traditions.
Meeting and greeting in Austria
Austrian people appreciate personal titles and it is polite to use someone's title when emailing them, addressing them in person, or introducing them to someone else.
Close friends often kiss when greeting one another and departing. Typically, women will kiss other women, men and women will kiss, but men just shake hands with other men.
►To learn about the country's work culture, read Doing Business in Austria
"The language I found particularly difficult at first. I’d studied German at university, but the Austrian variant is really different and I struggled to understand what anyone was saying initially."
Read more about UK expat Tessa's experiences in Austria.
Are you an expat living in Austria?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Austria. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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