-Where were you born?
San Diego, California, USA.
-In which country and city are you living now?
I work in Innsbruck, Austria now.
-Are you living alone or with your family?
I'm living alone. My family is in Sweden. I am a dual US-Swedish citizen and my wife is Swedish. If it was possible to find work in Sweden, I would probably be there.
-How long have you been living in Austria?
I've been in Austia (Tirol) for almost two years now.
-What is your age?
-When did you come up with the idea of living in Austria?
I have been an ex-pat for most of my adult life--living, working and marrying in Europe from 1980 to 1993. We returned to Sweden in 2006 after 12 years in the US. After a year of looking for work in Sweden with NO luck, I got Swedish citizenship and started interviewing in Europe. Things happened fast after that.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a work permit?
No. if you have an EU passport, you are entitled to work anywhere in the EU. Can stress ENTITLED. No guarantees, of course. Another American friend of mine here is living with a girlfriend and he says it is very difficult to get a work permit for a non-resident. A company would have to (in theory) prove to a union (or arbeitsamt) that you have skills that could not be met by an Austrian (or EU citizen). That is supposed to be how it works, I don't know what connections have to do with it. Probably a lot.
-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
No. You have this when you start to work. I would think this would also apply if you register as a legal resident. Austria has first-rate health care.
-How do you make your living in Austria? Do you have any type of income generated?
I am employed by a bio-informatics company as a technical writer. I got this by applying to a web site. Once I applied, interviewed and showed my portfolio (I did this work in the US for 12 years), it was easy. From my experience, the Austrian workplace is VERY open to qualified immigrants--unlike Sweden. I suppose being a native English speaker/writer with a lot of experience was important (I managed a technical writing group in the US). But, in general, I find that people here tend to accept your experience and skills as valid and important. This does not apply in Sweden, unfortunately.
-Do you speak German and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
I lived in Germany before (4 years) so could speak passable German, though had forgotten a lot after 12 years in the US. Yes, personnally, I think it is absolutely essential to learn the local language or at least make an effort to speak it. Anything else and you are just a tourist. Why bother coming at all if you are not willing to make the effort? That being said, the number of people who speak English well here is very, very high. This might be because it is a tourist area, but nonetheless it is a credit to their education system and Austrians' natural ability to make people feel welcome.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes? Describe your favorite recreational activities there or those that are available.
I do miss my family (I have two daughters) a lot. However, they are able to come down here from Sweden on their school breaks thanks to Ryanair, and we are only about 3 hours drive from Northern Italy (I lived there for 4 years in the 80s) so we have been able to see a lot--much more than if we had lived in the US these past three years. This was one of the main reasons we came back to Europe, really, to have the time to see Europe at leisure. That being said, I don't miss the US at all, save for family and friends there. Professional opportunities are indeed fewer here in Europe, in general.
Favorite recreational activity for me is cross-country skiing--which is fabulous here and in Bavaria--40 minutes away. And mountaineering and hiking. Also fabulous here.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
As we own a house in Sweden, I will be pulled back there sometime. For me personally, I love working and living in central Europe and really do not want to return to the US, but might be forced to as living apart from my family is really difficult for us all. As my children finish school in Sweden and go to University (either in Europe or the US) things will change fast. I would want to stay in Europe, if possible. My wife is ambivalent. I can only try to keep up.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
I rent a small apartment (called a Garconniere--yeah, a French word) in a ski resort town (Igls) near Innsbruck. Very basic apartment, but in a picture-perfect small Tirolean village. Am still an awestruck tourist sometimes when seeing the mountains capped with new snow and sparkling in the sunlight while on my way to work in the morning.
Innsbruck is very expensive (in general) for living quarters due to it being a resort area with a large hospital, university, etc. I pay 300 Euros a month, which is cheap, but this is not exactly a luxury apartment--meets standards, but only just. I don't think too many Austrians would live there. I can compare the prices here with Germany (near Stuttgart), where my sister lives. €500 a month would get you a pretty big apartment there, probably two bedrooms or so. Here, this amount is probably the entry price for a decent one-bedroom place. The natural beauty and mountains make it worthwhile for me, for a short time. Would advise NOT renting from a makler (real estate broker/realtor) if you can rent from a private person. My makler couldn't lie straight in bed. Always some scam or hidden fee, even though the laws are pretty strict.
-What is the cost of living in Austria?
It is more expensive than Germany (food, etc.) but public transport and electricity is relatively cheap. First-class, affordable public transport. Public transport is a big thing with me, having lived in the southern US for awhile, where there is none. Taxes are what they are elsewhere in Europe (40%) and my work colleagues say the taxes on cars are ridiculous, but, after living in Sweden, I don't find anything too outrageous. They even pay back tax rebates (overpayments you have made) on time and in cash. The postal guy brings it to your door. First time I have ever seen this in Europe--both a tax rebate and cash delivery to your door. Life is good.
-What do you think about the Austrians?
Very, very nice people. Warm, human, like a good laugh, not very hung-up on status. The young kids (teens) are well-behaved, not arrogant. A big change from Sweden (sorry to go on about this). They get up to offer their bus seats to older people (even to me one time!). This might be something special for Tirol not found in other big cities in Austria. I don't know. I don't have a lot of local friends, but the people in my church and the village I live in have been fantastic. Always time for a chat (or a bit of gossip) if you make the effort. Great, great people. I don't move in high-wealth or high-status circles and am not involved in a family, so take this for what it is.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Austria?
Positive--abundant natural beauty and the willingness to preserve and protect it. Hardy, self-reliant people (again, this may be specific to Tirol). I have been most impressed with the spontaneity with which people embrace the nature around them. Skiing, hiking, rock-climbing--not just a myth, they LIVE it, young and old.
I can't really think of any negative aspects. This might be different if I was here for a long time raising children, etc. Getting a driver's license was a two-month bother. Austria has a pedantic, typically-European bureaucracy but it worked and the woman who helped me through the process took the time to call me when it was finally finished. Can't ask for more.
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Austria?
Get used to enjoying nature year-round. I have not looked for other work while here, but I would assume that contacts are key. People take their vacations very seriously here and (this seems to be an Austrian trait) want to go somewhere NOT on the beaten path, at least when young. For example, they don't all flock to the same place in Spain. They would make the extra effort and go to a Brazilian outback place. So, people are very well-traveled. They are very adventuresome people. If you have the chance to stay and work or study here--TAKE IT. Again, I might not be the average ex-pat--I have been in Europe half of my adult life and now have an EU passport--but none the less, I can't say enough good things about Austria (or Tirol). I have not lived in other parts of Austria, but would move to a new job here if given the opportunity. It has been, and is, a great experience. Don't want to offend anyone, but Austria combines German efficiency with Italian laissez-faire. Here in Tirol, they are very content with their culture, and proud of it. Very nice.