Dragos is a software engineer who moved from Romania to Austria in 2010. The differences between life in East-Europe are profound and Dragos has developed a love for the particularities of Austrian culture.
With an incredible eye for detail, Dragos' blog, Software Engineer's Life in Austria, explores the nitty-gritty practicalities of living in Austria as an expat.
Q: Where are you originally from?
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Graz, Austria
Q: When did you move to Austria?
Q: Why did you move to Graz, Austria?
A: I got a software engineering job with an international company.
Living in Austria
Q: What do you enjoy most about your Graz? How would you rate the quality of life in Austria compared to Romania?
A: The people are very polite in general, the population density is noticeably smaller and the quality of life is better, on the whole.
Q: Are there any negatives to life in Austria? What do you miss most about Romania?
A: There are too many rules and “ancient” customs in Austria. This is obvious both at work and when interacting with people over 40-50 years old.
Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life in Austria? Did you experience any particular elements of culture shock?
A: Yes, I had to adjust my day-to-day lifestyle expectations. Austrians don't stress too much about being perfectionists in their daily life, as they live in an environment which is 'good enough'. I wrote about this on my blog in a post entitled: “Extremely useful traits of the Austrian mindset”.
Q: What’s the cost of living in Austria compared to home? What in Austria is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: International products are almost the same, but services are three to five times more expensive in Austria.
Q: How would you rate the public transport in Graz? Do you need to own a car in Austria?
A: The public transport in Austria is much better organized than in Romania. The S-Bahn (subway system) and tramways run with very few delays. You don't need a car if you live in Graz – or in the other Austrian big cities anyhow. Otherwise yes, you need a car if you live in a small village or want to access spas and ski resorts.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in Graz? Have you had any particularly good or bad experiences with regards to doctors and hospitals in Austria?
A: Healthcare is different if you go to doctors/hospitals that are provided by the Austrian state health insurance versus private healthcare. With private care, they often allocate more time for you.
Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in your Graz or Austria? Are there any areas that expats should avoid?
A: General crime rates are low compared with other EU countries. There's more crime in Austria's big cities, much like there is everywhere else.
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in Graz? What different options are available for expats?
A: It depends on each person’s rent budget. There are both new and old apartments and houses available to rent. New houses tend to have more modern appliances. Prices vary, so people should be able to find something to suit their budget.
Q: Are there any areas/suburbs that you’d recommend for expats in Graz to live in?
A: For Graz, the city centre is the most recommended, as there are few expats living outside of the city centre.
Meeting people and making friends in Austria
Q: How tolerant are Austrians of foreigners? Is there any obvious discrimination against particular religions, women or identities?
A: Officially, Austria is very tolerant. In practice, this depends on the person. People who have had previous positive experiences with foreigners or who have worked in other countries tend to be more tolerant. Conversely, 'traditional' Austrians who have only travelled as far as Vienna are generally less tolerant. Unfortunately, a recent increase in anti-Islamic attitudes has been noticeable.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends in Graz? How did you go about meeting new people?
A: It's helpful to have a hobby and to join a local club to meet people who enjoy the same activities. Some international clubs (like CINT) are helping to connect people. For a traditional Austrian, though, it may take a while until he/she trusts you and invites you to his/her home.
Q: Have you made friends with Austrians or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends?
A: I do have local friends, which I made through my hobby. There are many expats at my work who I am friends with.
Working in Austria
Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit for Austria? Did you tackle the visa process yourself or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?
A: I had assistance from a relocation company contracted by my employer which helped me with the German paperwork.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in Graz? Do you have any tips for expats looking to find a job in Graz? Which resources did you find most useful?
A: If you work in applied engineering then you have a good chance of finding a job.
Q: How does Austria's work culture differ from home? Do you have any tips for expats doing business in Austria?
A: I have not done businesses here, so I can’t say. The culture is friendly but it takes time for Austrians to start trusting you.
Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arriving in Austria?
A: Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Austrians are Germans – they are not and they will get offended if you are impolite enough to suggest it, although they rarely will show it.
►Interviewed April 2018