American Expat Living in Austria - Interview with Holly

Published: 23 Jun at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Austria
Holly is a 25 year old American expat who lives in Vienna, Austria with her husband and cat (and baby #1 on the way). She works for a non-profit organization teaching English to both children and adults through various programs. She also works closely with American study abroad students throughout the year and provides them with chocolate chip cookies when their homesickness sets in. She and her husband attend the Donau Church of Christ and work specifically with the church’s youth. When she’s not working, Holly is either drinking coffee in a café or eating her favorite gelato downtown. Holly's expat blog is called Comedic Grievances (see listing here)

My husband and me at the airport leaving for our new life in Vienna, Austria.
My husband and me at the airport leaving for our new life in Vienna, Austria.

Here's the interview with Holly...

Where are you originally from?
I'm originally from Atlanta, Georgia but spent the last several years in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma prior to my move to Austria. So when I think of 'home', I think of Oklahoma.

In which country and city are you living now?
I live in the gorgeous and amazing city of Vienna, Austria! Vienna has been voted World's Most Livable City several times and stays green year round. Austria as a country is less elegantly known for Red Bull.

How long have you lived in Austria and how long are you planning to stay?
I've lived here for two years and am in the process of applying for a more permanent stay.

Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel)
Apfelstrudel (Apple Strudel)
Why did you move to Austria and what do you do?
It was my dream! I studied abroad in Vienna for 3 months during my sophomore year of college and returned forever changed. I was determined to get back to Vienna and dreamed (or cried) about it all the time but lacked a practical reason to move there until the chance arrived in my inbox one day in 2011. A non-profit team based in Vienna needed additional help, so my husband and I sold everything and moved to Vienna 7 months later. We continue to help run the non-profit organization which focuses mainly on community outreach. I help teach English and coordinate other programs such as craft nights for women and various types of seminars. It's one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Did you bring family with you?
Yes, my husband of 3 years, Will, and our cat Tobias.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
We hit a few bumps along the way at the very start of our transition. Since people are constantly pouring into Vienna, housing is difficult to come by and it took us 2 months to find the apartment (which is too cute) we live in now. But after we got settled and made a home for ourselves, everything fell into place. Austrians are amazing, helpful people which only added to the ease of our transition. We took several intensive German courses once we got settled and just knowing a few phrases opened so many more doors for us. All in all we had and still have a really great support system of people, and the city is an incredible support system in and of itself.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
We immediately got involved with a local church group when we arrived so it was like we had a family already waiting for us. This was wonderful in so many ways and considerably lowered any feelings of loneliness. Plus, we weren't afraid to practice our German with them which was another great way to learn the language. However, I will say it took us about a full year to create our own circle of Austrian friends made up of people within our age group. I don't think it's difficult to make friends in Austria, but I do think it takes time and patience. I don't know too many expats because from the get-go I was determined to develop friendships with locals specifically.

Bread, spicy mustard and Käsekrainers - one of our top favorite typical Austrian meals.
Bread, spicy mustard and Käsekrainers - one of our top favorite typical Austrian meals.
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
My top favorite tours are of Palace Schönbrunn and the Imperial Apartments at the Hofburg Palace. These tours help to fill you in on important figures such as Maria Theresa, Emperor Franz Joseph I and Empress Sisi which is good information to hold onto as you walk around Vienna. If you're a big art fan, don't miss the grand Kunsthistorisches Museum. If you're like me and feel kind of "eh" about art but love natural history, then walk over to its equally grand neighbor, the Naturhistorisches Museum. Go to every park possible, eat gelato downtown at Zanoni & Zanoni (specifically the Coffee and Biscotto flavors), and drink coffee in one of Vienna's famed traditional coffeehouses, like Café Central or Landtmann. And eat a Wiener Schnitzel.

What do you enjoy most about living in Austria?
The people. I can't get enough of them and their culture. Their generosity and caring hearts are refreshing and something for which to be immensely thankful. The people are the reason I want to stay. I simply can't imagine parting with them yet. I also love the efficient public transportation, the gorgeous and well-kept gardens, the coffee culture, and walking by huge old palaces like it's not a big deal.

How does the cost of living in Austria compare to home?
My husband runs the checkbook and tells me it's more expensive. Housing and food are certainly higher, and clothes are as well in our opinion. The high costs aren't miserable though. We don't stay inside and eat Ramen to get by. It's definitely doable.

Will reading and relaxing in front of Vienna's city hall - Rathaus.
Will reading and relaxing in front of Vienna's city hall - Rathaus.
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Austria?
The only downright negative I've found, and this mainly concerns the ladies, is the extreme difficulty in finding a hairdresser who is trustworthy AND affordable. I had never had a bad haircut until I moved here, and since then I've had two! If you go to someone cheap, it'll show in your cut. If you go to someone who's "of average pricing", then it'll feel like you're dumping your savings for a single haircut, and even then you're not sure what it's going to look like. It just stresses me out.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Austria, what would it be?
Learn the language! It'll benefit your life immensely. Things get done a lot faster if you have at least a beginner's knowledge of the language, and the people will appreciate all the more for your attempts. Plus, it helps with making great friends!

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
I think the surprise of how fast I got tired day to day was the most difficult. You don't realize it when it's happening, but your brain goes into overdrive even just doing simple tasks like going to the store. What was simple to me suddenly became tiresome with all the translating and the learning of various tasks.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
Ha, not well. I anticipate a lot of tears ALL the time and a lot of homesickness for Vienna. I think the longer I stay here, the longer it'll take me to readapt to the US.

My favorite garden in all of Vienna - Volksgarten.
My favorite garden in all of Vienna - Volksgarten.
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Be purposeful about learning the local language. You'll be glad you did (and the locals will be, too).
  2. Don't attempt to live in the country you just left AND the country you just entered at the same time. Live where you are!
  3. Reach out to the locals. Making local friends will help you to feel more at home and give you a sense of belonging.
  4. Give yourself permission to rest when your body and brain need it.
  5. Be sensitive to and aware of the culture around you. Respectful observation is key!
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
Comedic Grievances is a giant mixture of everything - from crazy culture shock meltdowns to translation misunderstandings to must-go places in Vienna. My blog is never sad or tear-jerking because I'd rather laugh a whole lot than have a good cry. You can always expect to read about embarrassing moments, weird observations, or a latest grievance.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Contact me anytime through Twitter or my blog's Facebook page. You can of course also contact me by email or through my personal blog.

About the author

Expat Blog ListingHolly is an American expat living in Austria. Blog description: A collection of grievances, memories, occasional musings, and everyday happenings from my relocated life in Vienna, Austria.
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