My wife and I spent the last two days in beautiful Vienna. This trip changed quite a few of the prejudices and assumptions I had previously had about the Austrian capital.
There is no doubt that Vienna is a world city, both historically, geographically, and culturally. For years in a row, the city has been named the world’s best place to live in, and as much as Munich is trying to steal the title, it’s not come close yet.
Yet, I’ve always put such statistics aside, after having read the stories of tens of expats who had chosen Austria as a place to start a new life. Especially in the 90s and 00s, people claimed, living as an expat in Austria was hard. Being judged by everyone, and having to fight prejudice everywhere, made the lives of many first and second generation expats quite a traumatic experience.
I know, being a tourist is something completely different. People would gladly take your money, no matter what country you come from. Yet, I’m just such a type of person. I like to imagine living in the places I visit.
Breaking the prejudice
For the two days in Vienna, I changed a few of my assumptions about the Austrian capital and the Austrian culture.
First, the obvious things. The city is extremely clean, and the central parts feel really, really safe. Coming from Munich, one develops a certain sense of noticing these things. At the same time, however, Vienna seems to open up to many more and diverse activities at all times. Munich is pretty boring and conservative in that regard. Despite its (on paper) population of 1.5 million people, Munich often feels dead on evenings, Sundays and holidays. Vienna looked like a normal big city, hustling and bustling at all times. If are coming from other parts of the world where big city culture is prevalent, don’t expect miracles. This is Europe after all.
What was even more surprising was people’s reception, which appeared to be totally friendly and positive. Everywhere we went, my wife and I were met warmly and openly. Now, I have to say again that being a tourist is quite different from actually living in a place. Plus, we have lived long enough in a German-speaking world to pass for locals. On that note, the other interesting fact was that everybody spoke Hochdeutsch (standard German taught in school) with a tiny hint of southern Bavarian-like accent. This was perfect, because I felt like home, as if I were in Munich. Sadly, this is not often the case if you go up the mountains. There you can frequently lost the track when you start speaking to locals. However, the same can be said about villages in Bavaria, so…
For the two days we spent in Vienna, I liked it well enough to imagine living there at some point. The city is big enough, and opportunities for work, development, and recreation appear everywhere. Not to mention the housing situation, which from what I have hear is way more affordable than that in Munich. I am not yet sure, if I would like my future kids to grow up in Austria. I haven’t had enough exposure yet to decide on that, but I hope that a lot of the old walls have fallen and stereotypes have been erased.
P.S. Write me a comment describing your tourist or expat experience in Vienna, and Austria in general. Especially, if you are fellow software engineers working there. I would love to hear what you have struggled with.