Wherever you’ve come from in the world, welcome to your new home, Vienna. As a bunch of internationals ourselves, we know what it’s like to settle into your Vienna life. We’ve come up with the 13 most useful tips you’ll ever need to not only survive, but flourish as an expat in Vienna.
1. Deciding on where to live: The districts of Vienna
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Vienna is a city of neighbourhoods. The Bezirke (districts) of the city are numbered and named, and are often defined by their small pockets that the Viennese call Grätzl. The city gets its multi-faceted personality from its districts that wrap around the 1st district like a snail’s shell, and choosing your district can often define your lifestyle in the city. Check out the fancy map above (click to enlarge) describing the districts in adjectives, and the descriptions below, to help you decide on where you fit in, in Vienna.
Notable districts described in a few words:
The hip, the happening, the bobo Bezirke belt
Where: 6th (Mariahilf, 1060), 7th (Neubau, 1070), 8th (Josefstadt, 1080)
Live here if you want… to walk home after a night out, to have a vast selection of Sunday brunch options at your doorstep, to spend most of your income on dining out, to spend more money on haircuts than most people do on their yearly holiday, to be single and looking, to enjoy afterwork drinks, absolutely loving your district, your neighbour to be a funky elegantly-dressed old lady or gentleman (1080), live on a cobblestone street
Rent price range: medium to high
The laid-back neighbourhoods with soul
Where: 3rd (Landstraße, 1030), 4th (Wieden, 1040)
Live here if you want… to know your neighbour, be greeted warmly when you get your regular coffee or breakfast from your local bakery or café, live close to the city’s largest green space and great running paths (1030), live in the less hyped hip district where the young artists live (1040), have a comfortable space for your young family (1030), good vibes in the neighbourhood
Rent price range: both of these districts are still relatively well-priced, but both are becoming increasingly popular, meaning rent prices are being pushed up
The underestimated neighbourhoods with character
Where: 20th (Brigittenau, 1200), 15th (Fünfhaus, 1150), 16th (Ottakring, 1160), 5th (Margareten, 1050), 10th (Favoriten, 1100)
Live here if you want… to pay some of the lowest rent in the city, live in a multicultural neighbourhood, live in a area less manicured and more lived in, shop for cheap, escape to green areas on a regular basis, discover hidden treasures in your neighbourhood, be a student on a budget, be close to the city’s canal (1200).
Rent price range: low
The suburbs of the wealthy
Where: 13th (Hietzing, 1130), 19th (Döbling, 1190), 18th (Währing, 1180)
Live here if you want… escape the hustle and bustle after work, live in the suburbs, live in a villa, be surrounded by green areas and vineyards, park your Mercedes out front, have a garden, live the good life
Rent price: high
The one-of-a-kind districts
Where: 2nd (Leopoldstadt, 1020), 1st (Innere Stadt, 1010)
Live here if you want… to have the best of both worlds (the green parks and the bars, cafes and markets in 1020), live in a historic building (1010), live in a penthouse (1010), live in the center of it all (1010), have tourists taking photos of your building (1010), weave in and out of charming narrow streets on your way home (1010), live near the city’s largest park (1020), live in a cool district that still escapes high rent prices (1020)
Rent price range: low to medium (depending on the area of 1020), high (1010)
2. How to find a Wohnung
Be prepared to dedicate some serious time to this task. With over 50% of the city dedicated to state-housing, the private rent market is small and competitive. Finding a Wohnung (apartment) in Vienna in the area you want requires patience and charm (directed at the real estate agent). Oh, and you’ll also need a bit of cash behind you, because in Vienna, the renter pays the real estate agent’s commission (typically 2 months rent). Unless you’re lucky enough to score one of the prized provisionsfrei apartments still being rented out by private owners. Shared apartment (WG / Wohngemeinschaft) living is common and a great alternative for students and young professionals wanting to get to know people in the city.
Useful vocabulary for apartment hunting in Vienna
Provision = real estate agent’s commission
Kaution = Security deposit
Altbau = a classy old building built before the war
Neubau = modern apartment complexes
Kalt = without gas and water costs in the rent price
Warm = with everything except electricity included in the rent price
Miete = rent
‘Befristeter’ or ‘unbefristeter’ Mietvertrag = a Befristeter Mietvertrag is a limited or short term rental contract. A standard one of these is limited typically to 3 years. Unbefristeter Mietvertrag means you can stay in the apartment for as long as you like. Rent will often be cheaper when the contract is befristet.
3. First things first, get the holy Meldezettel
The holy document known as the Meldezettel is your proof of existence in this city. Without it, you don’t exist in the eyes of the state. You need it to apply for everything, from a library card to getting your social security number, and ordering takeaway from your local Indian eatery (ok, maybe we made that last one up). It’s simple to get, and you’ll find more info. about how, here.
4. Vienna’s marketplace and classifieds for everything
London has Loot, America has Craigslist and Vienna’s go-to classifieds website for everything is Willhaben.at. Here, second-hand furniture and other stuff is bought and sold, and apartments, housemates and jobs are found. Another useful online fleamarket is Shpock.
5. Getting connected: meeting people in Vienna
Moving to a new city can be like the first day of school all over again (perhaps, minus the peeing of pants and that embarrassing breakdancing incident that led to the school being evacuated – you know what we mean, right?). The best way to deal with the ‘settling in’ stage in Vienna is to throw yourself – kicking, screaming, biting lip, peeing pants – into the mass of other people also experiencing the initial adjustment stage. Vienna is full of internationals, and locals alike, wanting to connect. You’ll find many of them at the bar of the many Irish pubs around the city (we’ve made a useful list for you here of the city’s best Irish bars)
Otherwise, here’s a list of communities where you can find them
+ Internations Vienna (a professional expat networking group hosting regular events)
+ Vienna Expats (a mixed group of expats meeting on a regular basis in a casual setting)
+ Vienna Würstelstand(that’s right – that’s us! Sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date on the events we host)
+ Women of Vienna
+ Vienna Business Agency Expat club (A good club for expats in business)
+ AWA (A international group of Expat women helping and connecting women in Vienna.
+ Vienna Family Network (an expat network of international families)
Expat Facebook groups
+ British in Vienna
+ The Vienna Würstelstand Group – Questions & Quirks about living in Vienna
6. Take a verdammten German course: learning the language
While most speak fluent English in this city, they say (who ever ‘they’ are) that you live a new life for every new language you speak. Well, we suggest you get started with your new Vienna life with ze’ language of its soul – German. Ok, well, the Viennese’s wild and wonderful version of German – Wienerisch. However, Viennese you’ll learn on the street, but first you need to sign yourself up for a German course. Don’t lock yourself away in an expat bubble. Doors open in this city when you learn to sweet talk in ze’ German. Denglish (German with English words scattered throughout) is also accepted as a charming alternative, as well. Here’s a few places to learn your German that we recommend:
+ Deutschakademie (cheap intensive courses)
+ Universität Wien Deutschkurs (this one comes highly recommended, intensive semester courses at the University for very low prices)
+ i-diom: Professionelles Sprachtraining (for a professional German course)
7. Live like a local: dive into Austrian culture
Don’t be one of those expats that bring their habits and cultural etiquette from home, cling to it for dear life and spend their whole time comparing home with here – news flash: you’re living in a different country! While after the honeymoon period of first moving to Vienna wears off, many expats are tempted to indulge in a bit of ‘verbal-Austrian-bashing’ for the rude service, their inflexible ways, their rigid mentality, their sleepy lock-down Sundays, amongst other things. We recommend refraining from such verbal farts. This will only take your eye off the place you’re living in – an eccentric, individual kind of city that has a bundle of charming characteristics. Spend your time getting to know Vienna’s wine and wandering culture on the fringe of the city, the ‘Schaumamalmal’ work-life balance, the pleasure of coffeehouse procrastination, the culture and classical music on tap, and the many grassroot creative stuff happening in the city. Vienna will not serve itself to you on a platter. It plays hard-to-get, hide and seek with you, and dares you to explore and live it independently.
8. Where to shop for stuff from home
Check out our list of ‘Where to find your exotic, ethno, expat food in Vienna’ when you’re craving that taste of home.
9. Understand: you’re not alone with your love-hate relationship with Vienna
Like any city, Vienna has its good and bad sides. In our – not so humble – opinion, the good far outweighs the bad. Nevertheless, there are times that you’ll curse the city’s name – for example, when you have to deal with its slow funhouse of bureaucracy, or when you’re feeling alone and isolated on a sleepy Sunday, or when you’re full of life and craving fun, but the city at 8pm on a Wednesday night is deserted.
Know that you are not alone with your frustration with the city. However, like we said, on the flip side – aka. the reasons that make this city a great setting for your life to play out – are going to make you want to wrap your arms around the city tight. Think of us telling you this when you’re in one of the many Heuriger in the wine hills around the city on a sunny day, sipping at amazing wine and enjoying the greenery surrounding you; or when your U-Bahn, or tram is running on time, and gets you from one side of town to the other within 30 minutes; or when a driver politely stops to let you cross the road; or when you’re sitting in a coffeehouse and involuntarily have a sigh come on, as you feel the warmth within the old dark-wooded walls protecting you from whatever worries the rest of the world has outside.
So in this moments of frustration, or gratitude for the city you now live in, remember – the best relationships are those that swing between passionate moments of love, and hate.
10. Buy a bike, or embrace one of the best public transport systems in the world
Vienna is a relatively flat city that displays a love for the bicycle with its spider web of bike lanes weaving throughout the city. Buying a bike to get around is highly recommended. Meanwhile, for 1€ a day (with a Jahreskarte aka. year ticket), you can zoom around the city on the well-connected circuit of buses, trams, and subways as much as you want (sometimes we just ride them around and around to see how we can get on 1€).
By the way, Vienna’s subway system owns its very own quirky and unspoken codes of conduct. We’ve made a list for you here: ‘A Guide to etiquette on the Vienna U-Bahn.’
11. Make your smartphone Vienna-ready
The following are some helpful apps for when you’re living in Vienna.
12. Learn how to cope with quiet Sundays and prep’ for them accordingly
Vienna shuts down on Sundays and if you’re outside of the touristy city center, don’t be surprised if you spot some tumbleweed making its way across the street (warning: levels of exaggeration may be present). That’s right, even the stores are closed. While this may annoy many, we see this 7th day of solace is an opportunity. We hereby declare Sunday to be the day of exploration in Vienna, when man, woman, child and the strange guy who stares at us on the bus every morning, unite in a common pursuit to venture out into parts of the city they never normally would if the shops were open. The city is surrounded by forests and vineyards, while the inner city hosts a bundle of galleries to wander around in for hours, and hectares of green space to get active in, or to just take a walk. One of our favourite Sunday activities is simply strolling through a district we’ve never seen before.
Check out our guide for you on how to best survive (and enjoy) Sundays in Vienna, here.
13. Become a Würstel and make the most out of the city with Vienna Würstelstand (that’s us)
It is our mission (which drives us to little sleep) to help you make the most out of Vienna… and life. You’ll never feel alone, or bored, in Vienna when reading Vienna Würstelstand. Quite the opposite, we promise to keep you inspired, and to also make you feel like your part of the movement of people making the most out of Vienna… and life.