Tina: Everyday life in Vienna
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Vienna, etc.
I was born and raised in Norway, where my parents moved around quite a bit when I was a kid, and finally settled down in a small village south of Bergen. They still live there till this day, but my feet were restless and I needed to see more. I moved to New Zealand when I was 24, where I stayed 5 years while doing a Bachelor and later a Master degree in tourism. Upon finishing, I found myself in the midst of the recession, competing with all the locals for a job… out of nowhere came a position in Vienna, which I applied for and ended up taking. So, since April 2010, I’ve been a resident here.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
There came a time when I realized that I was always comparing Vienna to my beloved Wellington, and due to my attachment to Wellington, Vienna always came up short. This made me feel quite miserable about my choice to come here. But, when looking around, there are many wonderful things in this city! So, why the gloom?! I decided to start the blog in order to appreciate Vienna more. Little by little, and picture after picture I managed to turn what was initially a sad relationship with my adopted city into a good one. I am now very happy to be here, and would not be sad if someone told me that I would be spending a good chunk of my life here. It worked! By keeping the posts short, and focusing on the ordinary things that I see every day, I have managed to keep the momentum going for over one and a half year now. And I’ll keep going as long as I stay here! My initial goal was to create a sort of directory for people to find out about things in Vienna. I think now my blog can already be used for that, for people to learn more about the city and what there is to do and see here, that’s not too touristy.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I suppose I do. Although the blog is not meant to be about ME or MY life, but about life in Vienna in general, I do like to sneak friends of mine into the photos on the web site. One that was not planned at all but turned out to be really great was when my friend Laura was here with her mum, and we went to visit the St. Stephen’s Cathedral. She was the only one wearing bright red, and it turned into a really nice photo. I love going to the Zoo, and I love going to see these cute little guys. Red pandas are the reason why I get annual tickets to the Zoo! Funnily enough, the blog post that gets the most traffic on my site is the one which is basically just an advice on where to get some groceries on Sundays in Vienna. Seems that is of high interest to many!
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 definitely got a culture shock when coming here. I thought that the transition from New Zealand would be very smooth, as I spoke German already as I came here, having done German at university. But I was not prepared for the formality, and the difficulty in getting to know the locals here. In the beginning, I thought that this was the most unfriendly city in the world. I know that it has this reputation, but I now think that Vienna is what you make it… in most instances, you get back what you put in. So smile!! Flatting during the first six months I lived here helped me get local friends. And, working at an international university has got me many international friends. I think I’ve got about 80% international friends when I look at it, and that is fine. Most of my friends speak German, and are what Austrians would call ‘well-integrated.’ Yes, Vienna is very different from New Zealand, and also from Norway, but if you focus on the good things, then you’ll see that life here is very good.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Vienna? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Eh. No. I wasn’t prepared. I applied and got the job within one very hectic week of finishing my master degree, and had one month to pack up my life and get over here. I spent that month with Wellington, as if it were a dying relative I’d never see again. And I figured that when I arrived in Vienna I’d just deal with it somehow. Which I did. But, if I could do this again, I think I would negotiate more time to close the previous chapter of my life before moving on. Negotiating your start date is usually more possible than what you’d think, I’ve learned from watching friends come and go out of various jobs. Being a citizen of the European Economic Area, I did not have to apply for a visa. If you do, start EARLY. I’ve got many friends who have had to go through a test of fire to get the visa.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I’m actually undead. No kidding. As we all know, Austrian bureaucracy is a bit crazy. Within three months of arriving here, you have to go to the massive concrete block that is Dresdner Strasse 93, to officially immigrate into Austria. I did that, however I moved addresses after my first month here, as my first flat was a temporary fix. I forwarded all my mail with the postal service, and felt confident that I’d be officially immigrated within two months. But think again… six months passed, and I decided to call the MA35 to see what was going on. And the person who took my call was very surprised. “What? Ms. Tiller, we have you down as deceased!” Apparently the letters from the MA35 are never forwarded, even if you have arranged that service with the post. When I moved out, the owners of the flat started renovations and preparing the flat for sale, so when the letter came it was sent back with the note that no one was living there. I suppose they just thought it most logical then that I had passed away. So there you go! I went down to the MA35 and got it sorted, so now I am officially undead and have successfully immigrated to Austria.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Vienna?
- Learn at least a few phrases of German. And be open-minded about the language. Coming here with the attitude that German sucks won’t make it a nice experience for you.
- Try to be patient when it comes to bureaucracy. Things take time in Austria, and they are extremely meticulous about their paperwork. Also know that face-factor does apply… sadly.
- Don’t be afraid to try local food. There will be things that you will not be able to get here, but there is a local product for every international one that you may miss. So be curious and try out the local specialties! And not just the Schnitzel…
How is the expat community in Vienna? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I am very lucky that I work with many expats and locals that are approximately my age, and my work also draws people of the same mindset as me. So yes, I am very lucky. I think it can be hard to get a network if you arrive without a job. For those a little less lucky, the InterNations group in Vienna is very active, and meets two times a month. This is a great place to meet new people. Many of my friends are part of InterNations, even though I’ve met most of them through work.
How would you summarize your expat life in Vienna in a single, catchy sentence?
Around every corner lies a new adventure, waiting to be discovered!