Julie: Two Fat Girls On a Volcano
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Vienna, etc.
My name is Julie, although I write under my married name, J.M. Welch. I am originally from Tucson, Arizona, though I have lived all over the US. Previously, I have also lived and worked in Canada and Belgium. My husband and I moved from Charleston, South Carolina to Vienna with our dog, Jackson, for my work. We will be here for at least 4 years.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I have traveled quite a bit with my mother, and whenever we go somewhere, we always have funny things happen to us. So I started writing them down, and it has turned into a blog. When we moved to Vienna, my husband and I both joined InterNations, so it seemed like a perfect fit to blog here as well.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
My favorite post is ‘Vienna in the rain’.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Vienna differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I have been here for just under 2 months. A lot of things are different than back home. The size of our refrigerator is much smaller, and we have not yet been able to register our car so we have to grocery shop frequently and buy only what we can carry home. It is strange not to be able to go to the store on Sunday. We are only just beginning to learn the language as well, so sometimes that feels a little isolating…
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Vienna? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I came to Vienna after only 6 weeks to prepare. My husband followed me two weeks later with our pets. Everything worked out for us, even though there were moments we despaired. Really the only thing I would do differently is to have a little more faith in our ability to land on our feet. You know, not sweat the small stuff so much, even though when you are in that situation, it does not feel like the small stuff…:)
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
So far I think my favorite is going to the airport to pick up the dog. My husband arrived later that night, so I was by myself. Our car was not here yet, so a friend from work loaned me her station wagon. Which is diesel, and you have to warm it up before you can start it. That was new. Also, it is a six speed, which is not common in the US. Luckily, I am pretty good on a stick, so I managed. Of course, I had never driven here, but I had downloaded GPS software on my iPhone, thank God. Not to mention my friend couldn’t find her registration…
In any case, once I got to the airport, no one seemed to know where the dog actually was, since he was on an earlier flight than my husband. The airline agent actually sent me to the lost and found to look for the dog, which is just a speaker on the wall in front of a secure door. After about an hour and a half, I finally ended up at the right cargo hold. But then the inevitable paperwork began, which took another hour and a half. Finally they bring the dog in the kennel out to me, and the cart driver says to me, “that’s your car?” as the kennel will clearly not fit into the car. The dog starts barking at this point, so I quickly take him out of the crate and he hops into the car, which I turn on so he can have some a/c. As I begin to dissemble the dog crate, I realize that my husband has bolted it together, and not sent any tools with it to take it apart. The cart driver comes back with a hammer, to my rescue, and we hammer the bolts apart. Unfortunately, it still doesn’t fit into the car, but I find an extra dog leash inside, so I tie the hatchback door down over the crate using the extra dog leash, and pray while I drive that I don’t get pulled over. I didn’t. Whew…
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Vienna?
- When you plan the budget for your move, double it. I have been amazed at how many unforeseen costs have come up, for example: getting our belongings out of the shipping container cost $2000 that we were told would only cost €650. That’s a big difference, and it seems to happen with everything from housing to importing your pets.
- If you don’t use a relocation service, plan at minimum 2 weeks to get yourself settled. There is a lot of paperwork and bureaucracy involved, and many of the offices are only open limited hours. It will take much longer than you anticipate. Try to be patient.
- Do fun things on the weekend! It is easy to get caught up in how hard it is to relocate to another country, so don’t forget to have fun. Take a picnic to the Danube, or walk around Schönbrunn park, it doesn’t have to be expensive to be relaxing.
How is the expat community in Vienna? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
So far we have only connected with other expats online, as we are still trying to get settled here. InterNations has been a good way to meet potential friends online, and we are looking forward to attending some upcoming events. My work has a pretty good mix of people as well, so we have made some friends there. For the most part, everybody has been very helpful and friendly.
How would you summarize your expat life in Vienna in a single, catchy sentence?
A wild, dream-come-true adventure for two wide eyed newlyweds!