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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Vienna, Austria

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?


Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

No training was offered

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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

I didn't speak the language but I have travelled quite a bit and didn't fear the difficulty. I had also been to Vienna before so I kind of know what to expect.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

I had my family with me the first time which was about 4 years ago so I knew I would have a safety net so to speak. This time however, I am alone and its more difficult.

How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

This time I was very sad at first but I also had spent about 6 months in Abu Dhabi without family and that was much worse. Vienna has many cultural activities that one can take advantage of which I made a concerted effort to do.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

It is difficult to interact with Austrians on a personal basis. Like many cultures in Europe, they are quite closed to outsiders. They are not unfriendly but its difficult to get past the niceties and actually make friends.

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

Its hard sometimes to get motivated to do things like travel or eat out when you are alone. I think that leads to thoughts of depression and homesickness.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

Vienna is a great town with much to do. It is probably among the best cities in the world in which to live. Austrians are not necessarily difficult and English is spoken by virtually everyone now but closeness is still an issue.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Being alone and finding friends who are of like ideas and interests. I am happily married and am not looking for romance but having close friends with which to do things is a challenge.

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

When first here I rode the Tram and wanted to stop. Not knowing what the red handle was for, I chose to pull it, thereby stopping the tram abruptly. The driver came back and scolded me in German. You get the idea.

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

It would nice to have a forum to meet other married and alone persons for mutual interests. Not sure where to find it but you should keep on trying.

AGS Worldwide Movers

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Comments about this Report

Nov 1, 2010 17:44

Well written and accurate.

Feb 21, 2011 14:02

Oh I feel bad as Austrian now. What a shame I am not in Vienna at the moment to help you. I think if you meet people thru work that should help and be quit clear about your situation, I am sure everybody understands and invites you home and everything will go better from there. Most Austrians don't understand Expat life but if you tell them they will be more open. I went to the American school once, they had a flee market in Spring and we met lots of people there.

Sep 6, 2011 11:20

I'm a native Austrian who has lived in the USA for over 50 years, and I travel back every so often. I, too, find that Austrians are not the friendliest people in the wolrd -- virtually no eye contact, much less acknowledgement from strangers in the street (you get spoiled in friendly Texas!). I do remember that there are Austro-American clubs and societies in Vienna where people are interested in forming friendships. Check them out!

Apr 10, 2015 14:43

Being from Austria (but having lived and worked abroad in different countries) the tram mishap just cracked me up (sorry!) But I know my people and some, not all, of the tram operators can be rather grumpy to put it mildly! I thought this individuals take on culture shock was quite thoughtful, you could almost feel how she/he feels, but that may also be because I can relate to a number of culture shocks on different continents.

Mar 28, 2018 12:35

Wonderful article, we to would like to meet other married couples of mutual interest, otherwise its more yard work. Thank you for the article insight.

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