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Working in Vienna vs Salzburg: 5 Pros and Cons

Vienna city centre

Both Austrian cities, Vienna and Salzburg, are beautiful in terms of architecture. Stunning churches, impressive castle-like offices and buildings in baroque architecture: what's not to like?

That being said, what is it like to work in Vienna or Salzburg? We've drafted a list of pros and cons of working in Salzburg and pros and cons of living in Vienna. Let's dive right in!

Pros of working in Vienna

Danube tower

1. Efficient public transportation

Vienna has an excellent public transportation system consisting of several underground lines, trams and busses. This makes it very easy to live and work in the capital city without a car. No matter if you need to commute to work in the morning or need to get home in the middle of the night, you will find your way using public transportation in Vienna. It's also quite affordable compared to other European capitals, for both visitors and locals.

For 365€ you can use any kind of public transportation in Vienna for a whole year (basically 1 euro per day!). An important factor to take into account if you prefer using public transportation to come and go to work. For workers with families, it's also great to know that partners and children can be independent transportation-wise, and without spending a fortune.

2. Highest salaries in Austria

The average salary in Vienna is about 53.900€ gross per year, the highest average out of all nine Austrian provinces. Keep in mind that this is an average: around 40% of Viennese inhabitants would still like to receive a higher salary.

The best part of these higher salaries is, they're not necessarily linked to higher living costs as it is for other European cities such as Paris or Amsterdam.

3. Accessibility to German courses

Vienna offers many German courses for non-native speakers. This might constitute an important plus for workers who need to learn German for their jobs in Vienna. It's also an interesting perk for workers' families, who, with easy access to learning the local language, may find it easier to integrate themselves in Vienna.

In no other Austrian city will you find a larger choice of German courses. For example, the Volkshochschule offers free introductory lessons in the parks of Vienna during summer for all interested international newbies (including children!). Then there are several beginner courses with online and on-site options.

In addition, special courses are available for those who wish to learn the Viennese dialect and business German for example. The costs for German classes in Vienna start at around 40€ for 7 introductory lessons for children and go up to 412€ for a full german beginners course (27 lessons).

4. Affordable rent

The average cost to rent a studio apartment in Vienna is 570 euros. If you're looking for a 1 bedroom apartment in the city centre, you can expect to pay between 700 and 1200 euros. On average, a 3-bedroom apartment in the centre of Vienna will cost about 1,600 euros per month to rent.

You probably expected rents in Vienna to be skyrocketing as they do in other European capitals as well. You're in for a surprise! Vienna is actually quite affordable, mainly for 2 reasons.

First, let's walk down history lane and look at Vienna in the 20th century. Many social housing complexes built at that time were owned by the municipality, and most of them still are. This means that these housing options are less affected by market and economic pressure and fluctuations compared to private rentals.

Second, there is a rent cap for special types of apartments. For instance, if an apartment was built before 1945, a law in place keeps your rent in a lower price range. While people in Vienna are well aware of that, make sure you use online calculation tools that help you make a case for yourself if your rent is too high.

5. Vienna is the most livable city in the world

Austria is home to the most livable city in the world, and that city is...Vienna! In 2022, The Economist ranked Vienna as the most livable city worldwide for the second time (the first time was in 2019). The Austrian capital successfully outcompeted 172 other international cities.

The excellent healthcare system, educational institutions, infrastructure, safety, and low criminality rate put Vienna in front of Copenhagen and Zurich. Wherever you want to work, you can expect a good quality of life in cities with high scores in the previously mentioned factors. Vienna is one of those cities.

Cons of working in Vienna

Bird view of Vienna

1. Not a start-up hub

You might think that the Austrian capital city is a startup and innovation hub. Despite being home to many large firms such as OMV, Google Austria, and Dyson Austria, Vienna is far from being an innovation hub: the city didn't even make it to the top 15 startup hubs in Europe.

For full disclosure, the startup scene in Vienna is present and not small either but it does not manage to compete on an international level yet. That is due to the so-called Series A Gap.

This means that while early on, startups get enough money from the state or private investors to establish a local market presence, there is a lack of investment to help these startups scale. As a result, these startups either don't make it or move their business elsewhere.

That being said, Vienna is more than aware of this issue and is about to implement changes. Including entrepreneurship in higher education or analysing the current situation to formulate an action plan are the first avenues, concerned actors are looking at.

2. Unfriendly people

Yet another high ranking for Vienna. But this time an unfavourable one. In 2021, the Expat City Ranking ranked Vienna as the first unfriendliest city for expats (in the World!). The general bad mood (called "grantig" in the Austrian dialect) and the unapproachability of the Viennese population were some of the named reasons.

What does it mean to live in an unfriendly city? Well, imagine you want to visit a nice place in the city centre and take public transportation there. Some unwritten rules are to stand on the right side of an escalator and to let people get out of the underground first before you get in. If you don't stick to that, you'll probably get told off in a grumpy and undiplomatic way.

3. Hard to meet new people

Hand in hand with the previous point goes this one. It is hard to meet new people in Vienna (and in Salzburg too, but for different reasons).

Vienna is a big and quite anonymous city. It is totally fine not to know your neighbours and to avoid small talk with them. While that habit has its good sides for introverts, it does not help you to make new friends. In addition, the apartment buildings are big so you might not even know who is a neighbour and who is just a visitor.

Taking the unfriendliness factor into account, you might not be as successful approaching strangers in a bar and making small talk as you would be in more Southern capitals for example. The way to meet new people in Vienna is to find other people who are also new, by engaging in Expat groups for example.

4. Cycling is inconvenient

While public transportation is extremely well organised in Vienna, cycling is not as much fun, due to several reasons.

  1. Cyclists cannot access the old town easily as it mostly consists of pedestrian areas.

  2. There are not many bicycle paths in Vienna, which means you'll have to share the road with cars, trams, and buses when cycling to work

  3. Vienna is not the flattest city, cycling to work may be a bit tiring

  4. Bike thefts have risen by 10% in the last year

5. Unpleasant weather

Compared to other Austrian cities, Vienna can be quite extreme in terms of weather, very windy and cold during the winter, and extremely warm in the summer. Something to take into account depending on the job you're planning on taking in Vienna, and how you plan on commuting.

Pros of working in Salzburg

Salzburg river

1. Dynamic tourism sector

The tourism sector is a big employment possibility in Salzburg. Winter and summer tourism are both strong economic pillars and most expats set foot in that industry. Working in hospitality (hotel management, restaurants, coffee houses, tourism-related services) is very common.

In addition to the availability and attractiveness of hospitality jobs in Salzburg, tourism and hospitality education is top-notch in Salzburg, which can be interesting for your children if they plan on working in hospitality as you might be. Indeed, Salzburg is home to several internationally-renowned high schools specialising in hospitality and tourism. The downside of these schools is that programmes are in German.

Your children don't speak German? Salzburg also has two international schools in the city centre and another "expat school" in the alpine lake area.

2. Well connected with neighbouring countries

Salzburg is located in the heart of Europe. While some other cities in Austria are also well connected, journeys from Salzburg will simply be shorter.

Germany is only 30 minutes away by bus or by train for instance. Salzburg is only 2 hours away from Innsbruck, Munich and Vienna, which all have international airports! Italy is only a 4-hour drive away. In sum, Salzburg is very well connected to neighbouring countries, which can be an advantage if your job requires a lot of travelling.

Mountains near Salzburg

3. Great accessibility to various landscapes

One major reason why people move to work in Salzburg is the nature, the lakes, and the forests around the city. The mountains are also very close, which is something people from Vienna miss.

This means you have a very broad range of activities you can do in your free time. Think about mountain biking, sailing, swimming, climbing, hiking, rafting, visiting caves and taking the cable car up the mountains to enjoy the view. The infrastructure around those activities is excellent and you will find many like-minded people who you can share your hobby with.

4. Skiing paradise

In close relation to the previous section: skiing, which really deserves its own pro point. All you'll need is a 30-minute drive from Salzburg city centre, to reach ski slopes and areas. For an extra hour of driving, you'll reach 25 ski areas (approx. 760 kilometres of ski slopes), most of which are interconnected with brand-new cable cars. No matter your level of skiing or snowboarding, it's all there: beginners' areas, safe off-piste routes for free riders, glaciers, parks for freestyle skiers and good old après-ski bars.

If skiing is your hobby and passion, working in Salzburg will definitely be a treat, and is definitely the place to be for you. After all, what's better than blowing off some steam on ski slopes after a long week of work?

Cloudy mountains

5. Innovative wood industry

Did you know that Salzburg was home to a large wood industry? Not only for lumberjacks but as an important network of institutions focused on sustainable wood sourcing and innovation within the industry.

The sustainability and local sourcing perspective are actually what drive this industry. In addition, a local high school specializes in helping young talent set foot in high-level management and executive positions in the Salzburg wood industry.

Cons of working in Salzburg

Bird view of Salzburg

1. No green areas in the centre

While the city of Mozart has a stunning old town with many nice coffee houses and world-class food locations, taking a relaxing work lunch break in a park and experiencing a bit of nature is not part of that package.

That is because Salzburg does not really have inviting green areas in the centre. If you count the garden next to the Mirabell palace then you would have one park. But it is a tourist magnet and mostly pebbles with flower installations you should not trespass. That being said, it's still a beautiful location to visit. The Sound of Music was partly filmed there after all!

2. Poor public transportation

While the city is well connected to places that are further away, Salzburg lacks good public transportation around the old town. Indeed, the city does not have an underground system and mainly relies on bus networks. While these bus networks are quite broad, they are notoriously late and fully packed during peak hours. To make things more difficult, 3 different bus companies operate in the city, using different types of tickets.

In sum, if you plan on working in Salzburg, make sure you have a car or enough patience for a bus system with much room for improvement.

Yellow bus

3. Not a student city

While Salzburg has great options in terms of higher education (especially in the tourism sector), it is not a student city like Graz or Vienna. This means that if you're a young worker, you might not meet and be able to mingle with as many young people as in Vienna for instance.

4. Hard to meet new people

The population of Salzburg largely consists of people who grew up there. This means the city is not very international. Also, it is hard to meet new people since the people who live there already have their circle of friends and are not very open to meeting new people.

The work culture does not facilitate that either. If you are looking for company events that connect expats with locals you might be disappointed. While the Austrian work culture does not inhibit making new friends, it also does not help you and the "inner circle" of locals is hard to join.

5. Hard for English speakers

Salzburg is a bit too small and narrow-minded to have good job opportunities for English speakers. Too small means that international companies tend to be in other cities such as Munich or Vienna. And too narrow-minded means that Salzburg's mindset is to speak as much German as possible - after all, we are in a German-speaking country here!

That doesn't mean it is impossible to find an English-speaking job. More and more English-speaking jobs are becoming available in Salzburg, in the software industry notably.

Salzburg city centre


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