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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Safe & Secure in Austria but Struggling to Settle

Expats in Austria are happy with both their personal and family safety, health, and well-being but struggle to settle and make friends with the locals.
  • Over a quarter are disappointed by the friendliness of locals
  • Both personal and child safety rank very highly
  • A strong economy, but high costs
  • Family life is good, despite poor attitudes towards kids

Happy with Health

Austria continues to perform well in the Health & Well-Being subcategory of the Quality of Life Index, ranking 2nd out of 65 countries. Well over four in five respondents (84%) rate the quality of medical care favorably, in comparison to the global average of 63%. In addition to the quality, Austrian healthcare is also extremely affordable, with 35% of respondents describing this factor as very good.

It’s not only the healthcare system that leaves expats in Austria feeling content with their well-being, but also the quality of the environment. Not a single expat in Austria believes that the quality of the environment is very bad and nearly all respondents (96%) rate it favorably. This may well be connected to the abundance and beauty of outdoor spaces in Austria; the country ranked 12th out of 149 countries in the Natural Environment Sub-Index of the Legatum Prosperity Index in 2016. One Romanian respondent claims that their favorite thing about expat life in Austria is that the “mountains are always close”.

Satisfied with Safety and Stability

Another reason why Austria ranks so highly (7th out of 65 countries) in the Quality of Life Index is its performance in the Safety & Security subcategory. Nearly three-fifths of expats in Austria (57%) describe their personal safety as very good, in comparison to a global average of 43%. The country’s safety levels have also led to the country ranking 3rd out of 163 countries in the 2016 Global Peace Index and in the top ten of the Safety and Security Sub-Index of the 2016 Legatum Prosperity Index.

Despite some turbulence in the lead up to 2016’s presidential elections, expats in Austria are also very content with the country’s political stability. Close to eight in ten respondents (78%) rate it favorably (global average: 56%), and nearly two-fifths (36%) considered the political situation to be a benefit prior to their move. 

Struggling to Settle In

Year after year, Austria continues to perform badly in the Ease of Settling In Index and it hit an all-time-low in 2017, ranking 64th out of 65 countries. One of the main reasons for the country’s poor performance is the friendliness of the locals. Austria ranks second to last in the Friendliness subcategory, with less than one-tenth of those surveyed (9%) rating the general friendliness of the population as very good, compared to a global average of 29%. Indeed, one US American in the country explains that “the locals are not very open and friendly”, while an Italian expat states “people here are unfriendly, unhappy [and] uninterested in making new friends”. They’re not the only expats to feel dissatisfied with the attitude of the local population towards expats — only 5% describe it as very welcoming.

People here are unfriendly, unhappy [and] uninterested in making new friends.

In addition to the less than warm welcome, the language barrier continues to prevent expats from feeling at home in Austria. German, Austria’s official language, is typically considered more difficult to learn than other Western European languages (most people require 750 class hours to become proficient), because of its complex grammar rules. It seems expats in Austria can sympathize, with less than one-fifth (18%) agreeing that learning the local language is generally easy, compared to a global average of 33%. This is particularly problematic, since less than three in ten (29%) overall agree that it is easy to live in Austria without speaking the local language (global average: 46%).

Soaring Costs and Troubling Taxation

Despite general satisfaction with the state of the economy (83% rate it favorably), expats are not content with all aspects of financial life in Austria. This is largely due to the cost of living, which only 6% of expats would describe as very good and which only around one-third (34%) saw as a potential benefit before moving to Austria.

The two major problems when it comes to the cost of living are property prices and taxation. One-third of expats in Austria are unhappy with the affordability of housing, with one British expat in the country stating, “the pay isn’t really enough to cover my rent”. This expat is not alone: one-quarter of respondents feel that their disposable household income is not enough to cover everything they need for their daily life. Furthermore, tax rates continue to be an issue, with one-quarter reporting that they considered this factor to be a potential disadvantage before even arriving in the country.

Raising Kids Won’t Be a Problem in Austria

Despite disappointment with locals’ attitudes towards families with children (19% of expat parents in Austria rate them unfavorably) and a drop of seven places in the Family Life Index — Austria ranks 11th out of 45 countries in 2017 —  respondents are generally very content with family life. Education, for example, is generally regarded as accessible, affordable, and of a very high standard, with 89% of expat parents rating the quality of education favorably and 73% considering it to be affordable in general.

Austria is the right place if you want the best for your children.

Children’s safety (93%) and well-being (91%) are also viewed favorably by the vast majority of expat parents in Austria, and 88% are happy with their children’s health. Indeed, one Italian expat parent believes, “Austria is the right place if you want the best for your children”.

Further Reading