Think of Austria and it conjures up images of long ski slopes, flower strewn alpine meadows, glassy lakes reflecting mountain peaks and pretty chalet-style homes. Pretty as a picture, this is the Austria we visit on our vacations, but what is it really like to live there?

Austria is renowned for its music, art and architecture. Many famous painters and musicians come from Austria and Salzburg is almost a shrine to Mozart. It has also contributed to the world of science and literature, and this culture still greatly influences general life in Austria.

The weather in the winter is very cold, particularly in the areas lying high in the Alps. When the snow thaws, the temperatures rise to 20-35C (68-95F), depending upon the altitude. Austria enjoys a high standard of living. Its economy is dependant upon industry and tourism. There are many seasonal jobs available in the tourism industry such as ski instructors, chalet maids, ski-lift attendants and restaurant staff.

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Austria is a member of the European Union so immigration for other EU nationals is very easy. A visa may be necessary for some nationalities. It also has adopted the Euro as its currency. Most immigrants and ex-Pats are from Slovenia, Croatia and Hungary.  The Austrian Armed Forces relies mainly on conscription and recruits all male citizens who reach the age of 18. If you are moving as a family, you need to be aware of this rule. Education is to a high standard and is compulsory to the age of 15. Healthcare is an important issue and needs to be researched, particularly for non-EU citizens.

The official language of Austria is German, but English is widely spoken, particularly in the holiday resorts. Being so close to Germany, particularly as a trading partner, there is a huge German influence on the country with the language, culture and food. Traditional Austrian fare includes Wiener schnitzel, sausages, beef and pork dishes, sachertorte and apple strudel. It is all quite delicious and typically European in style.

Austria does have an identity of its own, particularly in its wooden chalet-style housing and its traditional national costume. If you attend one of the many local festivals you will see the ladies dressed in colorful gathered skirts and white frilly bodices laced at the front. Their blond hair is often worn in plaits coiled on their heads. Men of course wear lederhosen shorts, braces or suspenders, and check shirts. Local festivals include Oktoberfest which is a giant carnival and beer festival. There are also many local saints’ days, as the country mostly follows the Catholic faith, and parades led by musicians are commonplace. Each town has a May Tree which is a tall pole depicting all the trades and activities practiced in the village.

Driving in Austria has many specific rules and regulations which must be adhered to. It is compulsory to carry a yellow safety jacket. If you drive on the motorway you need to purchase a ‘vignette’ beforehand so it is worth checking on a motoring website before getting a fine for breaking a rule you could not have imagined even existed!

Real estate is Austria is generally old. Some of the typical Austrian houses are beautifully decorated with frescoes of saints and religious themes. The Austrians also love to decorate their homes with window boxes of annual blooms, so you may have to adapt to these customs in order to keep your neighbors happy. It is possible to buy or rent an apartment in the towns, but chalet-style homes are more widely available. Prices are very reasonable for a charming family home, whether it is as a holiday home or a full-time residence. You will find a choice of beautiful properties for less than 250,000 euros.