|Spanish expat Tonicito tells us some of his experiences and thoughts about the four years he's been living and working in Austria. He shares a number of the things that he and his girlfriend (also a Spanish expat) love doing in Salzburg, the cost of living there, and his observations about Austrian attitudes.
-Where were you born?
I was born in Tarragona, Spain, but I lived most of my life in Barcelona.
-In which country and city are you living now?
-Are you living alone or with your family?
-How long have you been living in Austria?I moved to Salzburg on September 2004, so it's been 4 years now.
-What is your age?
I am 32 years old.
-When did you come up with the idea of living in Austria?Well, I got an interesting job opportunity in Salzburg, and the first plan was to come here twice or three times a year, for a couple of weeks or a month each time. But Mar and I talked and asked ourselves: "Why not forever? Why not move to Austria?" And here we are.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
-How do you make your living in Austria? Do you have any type of income generated?I work full-time as a mathematician for an engineering company. I got this job as I was still living in Barcelona, through an Austrian colleague of mine who decided to open up his own company. I have had no experience whatsoever with looking for jobs in Austria, but my girlfriend did. She used mainly newspapers and the AMS (Arbeitsmarkt Service, the Austrian national job agency), which provided a remarkably efficient service. Unfortunately, to find a job was for her not easy at all because being able to speak good German is an absolute MUST in Austria, and it took some time for her to achieve a good level.
-Do you speak German and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
As in most places in the world, trying to speak the local language, even at a very low level, is very important and kindly appreciated by natives. The same is true for respecting and observing local customs, especially when not doing so might give roots to a conflict. But not letting one's customs be lost is just as important. I believe it is wise to pick the best from both cultural baggages, yours and the ones from the country you live in.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?I do miss my family sometimes, and I miss my home, too. But surprisingly I ended up missing rather unimportant and secondary things, like the noise in a Spanish workers' restaurant at lunch time, fried corn (which I am able to find in Turkish markets, though), eye contact with perfect strangers when crossing paths or being able to make a phone call without having to prepare myself two or three sentences beforehand.
We ride bicycles and hike in our spare time. Austria's beautiful landscapes provide a lot of chances for outdoor activities. When the weather is bad, we love to just sit around in a coffee house and let life pass by, observing people, reading newspapers or books or writing something myself. I am a hobby photographer as well, and this country offers a lot of opportunities deserving a snapshot.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?We are renting a two-room apartment in Salzburg's Old Town, which costs some 500€ a month. I think we have a quite good arrangement with this price, but I guess a similar apartment in this area should not be over 600€ a month.
-What is the cost of living in Austria?Well, it is acceptable, though Salzburg is especially expensive in comparison to other towns in the surroundings and in comparison to the rest of Austria. An espresso costs around 2,10€, a "Wiener Schnitzel" should not cost more than 12€.
-What do you think about the Austrians?
Of course, generalization is bad, because I do not know ALL of them, but I think Austrians are friendly and sincere people, who really mean what they say. But sometimes I find that their numerous and rather entangled social conventions put an artificial distance between me and them. I don't think they do it on purpose. It's just how they are. Austrians are very proud of their country, which I find OK, but at times they see themselves almost as the center of the Universe, which they are definitely not. They possess a natural tendency to a certain provincialism and narrow-mindedness but, again, I could name a lot of exceptions to this assertion.
Maybe because of the latter, they do not treat foreigners with the open-mindedness that would be desirable. Getting a smile or a bad look is unfortunately still too dependent on where do you come from and especially on how you look like. Being a Spaniard is an advantage, because my home country reminds them of sunny days spent at the beach and there are not that many Spaniards here that could make some of the locals fear for their jobs.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Austria?
The most positive aspect is the chance to know a different culture, with different customs and different views. Living abroad makes you realize that another way of life is possible, and makes you question yourself about a lot of things that you always took for granted, about your home country and about yourself. Another positive aspect is learning German, being able to read Goethe, Schrödinger or Bernhard in their mother language is a real pleasure.
A negative aspect is, I think, that annoying feeling that you don't quite fit in here that, I guess, we will always have, more or less intense, but forever there. But I believe that's not particular of Austria, but rather something that would happen everywhere.
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Austria?Be patient, open your mind, do not despair and, above all, LEARN GERMAN.
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Austria?
I run a blog in English, Die Murmeltierjahre im Land des Frühschoppens, which started as an account of our life in Austria, but where I ended up talking about everything, not necessarily about Austria.
My girlfriend Mar writes an awesome food blog in Spanish, el tiempo de la marmota, where Austria is very present.
Another really interesting Spanish blog about Austria and Vienna is viena directo, run by Paco.
Gerda, from dinner for one, cooks delicious Austrian recipes from a kitchen overlooking the Danube.
Ka writes in Spanish from the other side (das andere ufer) of the Salzach river, which technically is Germany, but Austria is just there.