In this article, in addition to the question of whether it is possible to live and work in Austria without knowing German, I would like to answer other questions that I am often asked.
Living in Austria without knowing German
To the question if it is possible to live in Austria without knowing German, the answer is: it depends on what you want to do. If you plan to work for an international company where English is spoken, then there is no problem if you only talk to your colleagues or compatriots. In any case, it is advisable to take a basic course in German so that you can find your way around in everyday life, e.g. on public transport, when shopping, etc.
If, on the other hand, you are aiming for permanent residence, it is better to start learning German as soon as possible. This is because during the residence procedure, which lasts about 6 years, you will have to prove your language skills. Therefore, in order to receive your temporary residence card, you will have to take a German exam. There are free German courses, so you can learn German while you are already in Austria.
Keep in mind that one of the biggest challenges for any foreigner is to learn the regional dialect that people normally speak. In any case, you should first learn standard German in order to obtain your residence permit. Then you will get used to this dialect with time. In summary, living in Austria is very challenging from a language perspective,
In summary, if you want to learn German, it is best to live in Germany and if possible in the north (Hamburg or Hannover). In Austria they speak a very strange and for beginners incomprehensible dialect. Standard German is taught in Austrian schools, but nobody speaks it on the street. Even people who know German need a period of acclimatization to understand this dialect.
In Austria, it is possible to work with only English skills if you are in a profession or trade where it is generally not that important to know German. This applies mainly to international companies where English is the working language. The jobs offered are usually for: IT Specialists, engineers, marketing specialists, etc. Sometimes it is also possible to find a job with English knowledge only, e.g. in cleaning, catering, etc.
The city where it is easiest to find these jobs is, of course, Vienna. But even if you work in these areas, it does not mean that you will easily find work. In Vienna, there are many foreigners looking for work who only know the English language.
Other frequently asked questions
Integration of foreigners
Currently, immigrants are not very popular among all Austrians. It’s not good to generalize, but I think the idea that immigrants come to take advantage of the social system and steal is pretty widespread. In some environments this attitude is less pronounced (e.g. in university environments, in technology companies), the same is true for big cities like Vienna or Graz.
I would like to point out that more than 3,000 racist attacks were registered in Austria last year. Although mainly on the Internet, the signal is clear. The Austrian Human Rights Organization, which has been recording racist attacks in the country for more than 20 years, published the report, according to which the number of this type of attacks increased from 2,000 in 2019 to more than 3,000 this year.
Cost of living in Austria
The cost of living is high, but the wage level is reasonable. But when you come to Austria, this is an aspect you have to take into account, because when you are looking for a job, you have to take into account all the costs. Housing costs are high, plus finding an flat can become an impossible task. This is mainly because the demand is much greater than the supply. And as a foreigner, things become even more difficult. Once you have found an flat, you should know that the contracts usually stipulate a minimum stay and a notice period of 3 months, and that the apartments are usually handed over unfurnished.
Security situation in the country
Social security and the country’s good economy make crime unnecessary. Austria is one of the safest countries in terms of robberies and thefts, so the probability of your belongings being robbed, by force or otherwise, is very low.
The only scenarios you have to worry about are pickpocketing, which is very common in tourist areas, or terrorism, which is very rare but always present, since it is a European country where terrorist attacks can be committed. Apart from that, Austria is a very safe country. There is almost no corruption. In general, you can walk the streets in peace at any time of the day. The murder rate is 0.5 per 100,000 inhabitants (much lower than 2.6 in the OECD area). The car theft rate is the lowest in Europe.
Public transport in Austria
Public transport is well organized and accessible. It’s not exactly cheap, but streetcars, buses and subways get you everywhere for two reasons: First, traffic is fluid almost everywhere, and second, you can choose to pay in two ways, either pay for each ride or take out a subscription for a whole month of unlimited travel. The only really expensive means of transport are cabs. Bicycles are used a lot, even in winter. All cities are equipped with a good network of bike paths. Although, of course, always behind Holland, which is a bicyclist’s paradise.
For those interested in living and working in Austria, I recommend reading the articles: Moving to Austria and Working in Austria