FAQ : Frequently Asked Questions

I tend to get e-mails of questions often from those that are either considering moving to Graz or are already planning on it. I thought I'd answer the most common questions here.

How did you pick Graz?
My husband (fiancé at the time) accepted a research position here.  There were two spots in America and one in Graz.  I was actually the one that said we should at least consider Austria after he mentioned it once and sort of laughed off moving to another country.  I said, "if we have the opportunity, we should do it."  I'm not usually so bold...must have been feeling extra sassy and adventurous (and naïve) that day.

Did you both go over at the same time?
Yes, we packed two suitcases each (paid for extra weight for all) and off we went.  We had never been to Graz, even for a visit.

Do you rent a furnished apartment?
No.  We had Ikea furniture delivered when we first moved in to this apartment.  We stayed at a temporary and furnished apartment for our first month here.  The bed was just a little wider than an American single size bed and it was too small.  Our backs hurt after one month.  

How do we find a place to live?
We found our apartment off of www.willhaben.at.  Try to find a place that is being rented "Privat".  This means they are doing it themselves, not with a realtor.  Realtor's fees are three months rent and that is HIGH!  Deposits are usually three months rent as well.
How much is the cost of living/an apartment?
Again, varies depending on size and location, of course.  Graz is fairly reasonable...better than Vienna.

Did you know German or learn any before moving over there?
Unfortunately, no and no.  I was so busy planning our wedding, wrapping up my old job and planning the move that it left little time for learning German.  We came over cold turkey.

Did you get Elsie there?

We found Elsie from a breeder website listing.  She was from Slovakia, but I picked her up in Vienna. 

How long have you been in Graz?
Since the very end of February 2009.

How easy is it to work in Austria?
Speaky no Deutsch: NOT easy. 

What are the people like?
In general, I find Austrian people pretty reserved.  At first I thought they were rude, but it is not normal for them to chat with strangers and act friendly until they know you...especially if you just bust out English to them.  The more you speak German (or at least try), the friendlier people seem to be (esp. at the markets, restaurants and stores).  Coming from Texas where everyone is
so friendly to everyone and very hospitable, this was a change for me.  

Do most people speak English?
A lot of people do.  If you ask "Sprechen Sie Englisch?", they will almost ALWAYS say "a little", but I find they almost always speak it pretty well.  They are nervous about speaking English to native speakers, just like we are nervous about speaking German here.  Younger generations know English more so than older because they have been learning it in school since they were very young. 

How much does it cost to do things like get your hair done?
Of course it depends on where you go.  Similar to American price ranges.  They do let you dry or straighten your own hair to avoid that extra 10 - 16 euro charge, which is nice.

How is the quality of life?

Austria has a very high quality of life and is known for it. It's a pretty wealthy country. Salaries are not nearly as high as American ones (for the same job), but it's that way for everyone, so there seems to be less of a rat race.  Health insurance is great.   Obviously you pay a bit more in taxes, but I find that we actually aren't paying too much more all things considered.  I appreciate the transportation systems, local-grown food, and well-maintained buildings, gardens, etc.

How is the health insurance?
Very good.  We have to pay extra every month, so I am covered on my husband's system, but somehow we get refunded some of this through a tax refund at the end of the year.  Since insurance covers a lot, there are usually crowded doctor's offices and getting an appointment within 2 or 3 months can be difficult with some busy doctors.  In general, I've had a good experience with it.  Except..when some doctors don't speak English very well!

What is the weather like?
Ah, good question.  Fickle!  In general, Graz is supposed to have a milder climate than the rest of Austria because of it's position southeast of the Alps.  Apparently we have more sunshine and less wind and rain than Vienna and Salzburg.  Since we've lived here, all we have heard every season is "this is not normal for us!".  Tons of snow in the winter, lots and lots of rain in the spring and summer with pretty many gorgeous weather days too.  Summers can get pretty hot.  For me...it's not too bad coming from hothole Houston, Texas.  

What are the good places to learn German?  What did you do?
A lot of people like dig (Deutsch in Graz).  It has intensive courses, but it is also the most expensive.  There is Urania, Berlitz and the Karl-Franzens University also.  I'm sure there are more, but these are the ones I know of.  I registered at the AMS (ArbeitsMarktService: government job service) and they put me in a course for unemployed immigrants at bit (Best in Training).  It paid a small unemployment stipend (and obviously the course was free!).  It was intensive (4 hrs/day, 5 days/wk for 12 weeks) and I learned a lot.  At times it was slow because there are so many different education levels and levels of motivation.  Some people were just there for the stipend.  You don't usually find this at schools where people are paying.  It was frustrating at times.

Is your husband from Austria?  Does he speak German?
No, my husband is from America also.  He does not speak German and hasn't had the time, with work, to learn as much as I have.  

Hope that helps!