Austria is a land of immigration with a long tradition. About two million people with a migration background live in Austria. This represents about one-quarter of the population. Vienna, the most liveable city in the world for ten straight years (Mercer study), even features a share of about 40 percent.
International communities in Austria
Although the overwhelming majority of Austria’s population of eight million speak Germany, a large share of the population also boasts excellent foreign language skills. This primarily means a knowledge of Eastern European languages, due to the country’s history and geographical proximity. Six officially recognised ethnic groups live in the south and eastern sections of the country (Burgenland Croats, Roma, Slovaks, Slovenes, Czechs and Hungarians).
Germans comprise the largest foreign population group, but the Romanians, Croats and Poles also have a large community in the Alpine Republic. Numerous advantages (interne Verlinkung: Why Austria Übersichtsseite) have lured emigrants to Austria for generations from a diverse range of countries. The continuing migration from many countries is reflected in the large number of corresponding associations, institutes, online platforms and even newspapers. The Polish Institute, the online newspaper kroativ.at, the Romanian Cultural Institute and the Wittgenstein House Bulgarian Cultural Institute are just a few examples. They demonstrate the traditional openness of Austria and the willingness to integrate different cultures, in contrast to the widespread clichés about Austrian culture.
Expat Center of the Vienna Business Agency
Several of Austria’s federal states have already set up expatriate or welcome services to assist new arrivals.
Assistance in settling down and meeting people in a new city is also provided by international platforms such as meetup.com and internations.org, which organise events such as speed friending, hikes, dancing lessons and business events on different topics as well as language cafés.
Learning German in Austria
Even if larger Austrian cities in particular are characterised by a diversity of languages, the official language in Austria is German. German language skills are also very frequently a prerequisite in professional life or in business. In many cases, a knowledge of German is not only helpful but often required, whether in dealing with public authorities, the Austrian Public Employment Service or when seeing a doctor.
On a regional basis, Burgenland-Croatian, Romani, Slovak, Slovenian, Czech and Hungarian are also considered to be official languages, in light of the fact that these languages are spoken by officially recognised minorities.
German courses are offered by various institutions and organizations:
- Adult education institutions such as the vocational training institute BFI,
- Volkshochschulen (adult education centres) and
- Language schools (selected offerings from the Österreich Institut)
There are special support measures designed to help school-age children and young people whose mother tongue is not German:
- Free German courses are offered in schools place during and after normal school hours.
Instruction is also given in the mother tongue of children, because it is important that children do not forget their native language.
English is the first foreign language in Austria. In the meantime, it is also frequently spoken by people working in government offices and for public authorities. English has already become the everyday language used in many firms, especially international companies.