Part I: Location
This ain’t HG TV. Trying to find an apartment overseas can be a daunting task and you would be really lucky if you end up with three awesome places to choose from (don’t get me started on all those whiners on House Hunters). I’m no expert, this is only my fourth time apartment hunting internationally over all and second time in Austria, but I’ve gained some insight into the process and I thought I would share.
Location is a huge consideration and there are so many variables. There’s normal stuff like distance to work and quality of the schools, but there are a few different things to consider when trying finding an apartment in an urban environment in Europe.
1. Parks– Not having a yard, you’ll want to find a place that has at least a small park with a good playground nearby. We are really lucky here because Vienna is packed with little Kinderspielplätze. (Now only if Adam Spencer were around to help us find them-it’s a talent only he has.) There are a couple of bigger parks around town and we are certainly looking around those areas. I think it would be a great way to get to know people by going down to a park and playing a game of soccer or frisbee or something. Who knows, maybe we could invite them over to our place afterwards for fellowship…start a Bible study. The possibilities are endless.
2. Public transport- Whether you own a car or not your access to public transport is a pretty important factor. Right now we don’t have a car so for us it is essential. There are three main kinds of transport here in Vienna. First, is the subway or U-Bahn. Over 70% of the population uses this form of transport on a daily basis. So even if you have a car, it’s still a good idea to think about how far you are from a U-bahn station if you want to have other people over dinner or a small group or something. The U-bahn is your quickest form of public, allowing you to get almost anywhere in the city usually in 30 minutes or less. The next two types of public transport are trams and busses. A tram, also called a Bim in Austria, is a lot like those trolleys running on tracks in San Francisco that you see on the Rice-a-Roni boxes. They are great for short distances but not a U-bahn substitute because of their slow speed due to frequent station stops and street traffic. Busses, or Autobusse, are in the same category as trams, but they seem a bit faster to me. What you really don’t want is to live somewhere with a long Autobus or Bim ride before you get to the U-Bahn station. That can turn a 15 minute commute into a 30 minute commute really quickly…or, um, slowly.
3. Shops- Shopping must be done almost daily. This is a result of limitations due to transport (imagine walking home with all of your groceries), and storage (smaller fridges, freezers and cupboards). It’s a really good idea to find a place that is a short walk from some type of grocery store. It’s even better to be close to several stores because different stores are good for different items. For instance, there are lower-budget stores like Hofer (the Austrian name for Aldi), Lidl, and Zielpunkt that have great prices on your basic staples. There are also higher-end grocery chains (Spar, Billa) that have a few specialty items that are nice to be able to get. It’s also not a bad idea to have a DM or Bipa nearby. These are Liz’s favorite. They are kind of like Walgreens or CVS without the pharmacy. Pharmacies are always stores unto themselves and are generally pretty easy to find just about anywhere you are.