I have been living in Vienna for the past year and a half and let me tell you there were quite some things I had to figure out on my own once I came here. Life does not come with a handbook, you find everything on your own. Even though I live in Vienna, I think some of these tips will be applicable to other destinations as well.
- Do not be afraid to speak
The first few weeks were a nightmare. I still remember how I dreaded to speak in German and felt like I didn’t understand a thing. I studied in a high school for Mathematics and I really learnt German through private lessons and courses. I had my certificate and I thought that this will be enough to get me going. Shocker – it wasn’t. Even though they speak German in Austria sometimes it feels like they are speaking Austrian. There are so many dialects and differences between hoch Deutsch and the Austrian variety that it is possible to think at a time that you don’t understand a thing. Calm down, it is normal. It doesn’t mean you are a moron, it means you just haven’t got the hang of it still but that comes with time. What helps the most is trying to engage as much as you can in dialogues with natives and pay attention to all of these specific details that are part of the language. Depending on how far you are with German it can take up between three to six months to start feeling “normal” in the Austrian environment. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for the meaning of words or for the person to repeat what they said. It is more than normal, it is not embarrassing and it can only help you fit in quicklier.
- It is not all sunshine and roses
I have been in Vienna a total of five times before I came to live here. I have always admired the beauty, the culture and everything this amazing city has to offer. I never saw a flaw till the moment I spent more than two weeks here. Somehow while you are on a vacation you don’t see the beggars on the streets, or the drunks who are laying around, not to mention that you would never sit and read a newspaper to get the scoop about a crime or an incident that happened the other day. So prepare! Sometimes we build illusions in our heads that are not realistic, there is no such thing as heaven on earth. As soon as you come to terms with it, the easier it will be.
- Be ready to battle with bureaucracy
As in every normal country you will have to deal at some point with bureaucracy. Here it is rather interesting since most of the working hours are only until noon and there are hundreds of people waiting for the same thing as you so be prepared to go really early and wait for quite some time. This is plosive for things like Meldezettel and Anmeldebescheinigung. Such things are crucial if you want to live legally in Austria and they mean that you have an address registration and a permission for permanent residence if you will be staying in the country for more than four months.
- It is hard in the beginning
Every beginning is difficult, no point in denying it. But new beginnings lead to new adventures so it is always worth to swallow the difficulties and dive into something new without thinking a lot about the future. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge planner. I love to organize things, to have clear direction in life for everything and to know what follows but let me just tell you – that is not how life works. On the contrary, normally you will never have any idea what life will give you and what lies ahead so save up all your plans and go with the flow, the best you can do is to follow your dreams.
In the beginning, I am more than sure that you will stumble upon lots of difficulties – from the fact that you probably don’t know anybody to the fact that once you will forget to go grocery shopping during the week and it is already Sunday. Such things are more than normal and you will soon be over them because
- But it gets better
Not long after I came here I met many new people, some were natives, some were foreigners like me, but with time I found many friendships and I can say that I finally feel like I belong here. Also, you get used to having a routine and you know when is the best time to go to the Billa and do your weekend shopping and avoid the crowds when possible. Not only that, but within months I found my favorite café, pizza place and bench in the park which make me feel even more at home here.
- Make as many contacts as you can
Meeting new people, chatting about the city and everything happening around for sure makes you feel more comfortable in the new place where you are currently. Locals are always friendly and Vienna is so diverse that there are representatives from almost every country in the world. If sometimes you feel lonely and you want to feel like you are home again make sure to look up on Facebook if there is not a group of people from your country gathering it is very common to find communities like these.
Do not be afraid to talk to natives as well. If your German is not perfect that is fine as well, no one will frown at you just because you used a wrong article. Most of the time people are happy that you try to speak their language and if that is just too difficult to you, almost everyone in Vienna speaks English (the world’s lingua franca) so you will be fine getting around with it as well. However, the more contacts you have, the better. This would mean that you will find friends for a beer, to go to the movies with and go on a weekend hike with.
My last advice would be to explore as much as you can this amazing city. It has so much to offer that it would be a shame to stay home and miss out on so many things. Whether it is culture, food, entertainment or music, Vienna has a lot to offer. Stay tuned with the latest events and make sure to walk around as much as you can, especially in the beginning. Skip the U-Bahn (the subway 😉 ) it will just hold you back from all that there is to find. Try to search for the hidden treasures, the small streets and the private-owned grocery shops. That will distinguish you from being a tourist and being a person who really knows their city.
I hope you found these small tips helpful.