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Interview: International professionals and managers – known as expats – are discovering the Vienna Region as an attractive location. Institutions such as the Expat Center of the Vienna Business Agency help visitors to get their bearings and feel welcome.
The advantages of living in the Vienna Region as an expat are discussed by Katherine Price Beuchert, Head of School at Guidepost Montessori at Vienna, an international network of Montessori schools and preschools opening in Austria for children aged 0 – 12, and Jörg Nowack, CEO of the deep-tech start-up "Crystalline Mirror Solutions GmbH" (CMS), which was founded in 2013 and is a global leader in the production and processing of high-quality semiconductor supermirrors.
- Please tell us how your career brought you to the Vienna Region.
Price Beuchert: I grew up in Atlanta. My German teacher was from Graz originally, so I chose to go to Graz to study abroad. The year after I finished my B.A. I returned to Graz as a Fulbright English Language Teaching Assistant. My second year of my Fulbright tenure brought me to Vienna. After that, I worked in project management at Mondi Packaging and Hewlett-Packard before returning to education as the Assistant Director of Admissions and Enrollment at Webster Vienna Private University, where I also earned my M.A. in Leadership and Management in 2013. After a decade at Webster, I became Head of School at Guidepost Montessori at Vienna. This fall we will launch a bilingual elementary school in the 7th district for children aged 6 to 12 years. The mission of Guidepost’s parent company, Higher Ground Education, is to mainstream and modernize Montessori. This fresh, international take on Montessori has been very appealing to both Austrians and expats!
Nowack: I grew up in Baden-Württemberg and got a double degree in Physics in Germany and France. After relocating to France 25 years ago, I've never lived in Germany again. I worked in France, the Netherlands, the US, the French-speaking part of Switzerland and, for the past eleven years, in London. My work experience includes positions at Philips, McKinsey, Hitachi and TT Electronics. TT Electronics did extensive restructuring, so my scope of duties became severely limited. Also, I wanted to take on more responsibilities. CMS now offers me this opportunity.
- Vienna has been awarded the most livable city in the world for the 10th time in a row. What makes the Vienna Region unique for expats?
Nowack: The high quality of life makes the Vienna Region an attractive location for the entire family. Also important is its central location which allows you to move in all possible directions of the European continent, especially to the CEE-countries. Additionally, the Austrian education system is more compact and straightforward than the one in England, and since we have two small children, this was a major factor for us. In England, solid education is only guaranteed if your children visit expensive private schools. Austria has excellent private schools as well, but there is also the possibility of enjoying fine schooling in public schools.
Price Beuchert: I absolutely agree. The unique cultural heritage and the excellent position make the region interesting to expats. But mainly, Vienna has an increasing global orientation with over 300 multilateral diplomatic agencies. Institutions such as the UN or the IST (Institute of Science and Technology Austria) attract expats. There are also many renowned public and private universities.
- Ms. Price Beuchert, you work in Vienna but live in Burgenland. What is your experience with the variety of the Vienna Region?
Price Beuchert: I live in Vienna during the week, and in Burgenland on the weekends. I grew up in the city, and this is the first time for me to have a residence in the countryside. We bought an old farmhouse in Frauenkirchen which offers a lot of space for our three children. I had seldom been to Burgenland before viewing the house, and I have to admit that I had truly been missing out. I am fascinated by the scenery around Seewinkel. It is very close to Vienna but has a completely different atmosphere. This combination is unique. It will be important to make the infrastructure attractive, as is the case with Frauenkirchen, where you have shops, but where you can also quickly reach the city by car or by public transportation. I'm convinced that this will bring more and more expats to the Vienna Region's countryside.
- Mr. Nowack, CMS has Austrian offices in Vienna and Klosterneuburg. How do you deal with the distance between your home and your offices, and what is the advantage to other regions you lived in?
Nowack: The company is registered in Vienna, but the office in the inner city only serves as a virtual office. We have a meeting room there, but our headquarters are located on the campus of the ISTA Institute of Science and Technology in Klosterneuburg in Lower Austria. I'm living in the 19th district in the suburbs of Vienna. Crossing the hill, I can quickly reach my office. My home as well as my company offer immediate access to nature. I appreciate this and enjoy being able to go for a run any time without being dependent on a car. This wasn't possible in London. We lived in a quarter with green spaces there as well, but while the suburbs of Vienna allow you to quickly reach the city center as well as the countryside, the distances in London are much longer.
- Are you part of a community network and do you meet other expats?
Price Beuchert: I've always been a very social person and an active networker. Even back when I was in Graz, I became part of the Austro-American Society of Styria and felt welcome there. Also, I'm very much integrated in Austrian society through my children. My kids are growing up as typical Austrians, so they are members of the “Pfadfinder”, or Scouts. My most important personal and professional relationships have developed thanks to my involvement and my voluntary work in the Vienna Family Network, which is an English-speaking support network for expat parents and parents to-be living in Vienna. The VFN allowed me to meet people from all sorts of spheres and professions. I also appreciate that the expat community is now online. Women of Vienna – the expat version of Wiener Wunderweiber, so to speak – now has approximately 17.000 members, arranged into helpful groups.
Nowack: Personally, I have not yet immersed myself in the expat scene of the Vienna Region. My wife took part in a networking event for young working expats. We never actively sought contact with other expats. Our connections develop out of professional and private situations. In London, we had more contact with expats because the people in our housing area were almost exclusively expats. In Vienna, we have little time for a social life apart from the acquaintanceships that develop through our children.
- How could the basic conditions and support be improved in order to facilitate the move to the Vienna Region as well as the first professional and private steps there?
Price Beuchert: The integration is getting better in every regard, such as the development of public transportation between the city and the countryside. Especially the city's ever-rising rent makes the countryside more popular. However, it will also be important to adapt, for example, the opening hours and the range of services of the countryside's kindergartens and schools to the needs of working people. Overall, the Vienna Region has a lot to offer – I'm thinking, for example, of public bilingual English programs such as GEPS (Global Education Primary School) and NESSIE (Native English Speaker Support in Education) – but I feel there is still demand in terms of programs for families with newborns and small children. This makes me even prouder that we will bring Montessori Education to Austria for the stage of 0 to 6 years –plus bilingual education for families in order to bring together the expat communities and the Austrian communities. I believe that people have a desire to connect. We need cooperation instead of coexistence.
Nowack: For international families such as ours, there is the Vienna Bilingual School. We found their public education program very attractive, but unfortunately, bureaucratic obstacles kept us from sending our daughter to this school. During the time for applications, her place of residence was not yet in Vienna, but that is a condition for enrolling there. Therefore, we had to send her to a private school. Another problem: My wife used our move to Vienna as an opportunity to switch jobs. Even though there are job offerings for expats, the language barrier is a stumbling block. There is only a limited employment market for English-language jobs which would fit my wife's skills.
- Do you know the Expat Center and Expat Club of the Vienna Business Agency, and have you made use of their services?
Price Beuchert: When Higher Ground Education came to Vienna, the Expat Center was the ideal partner to find a solid foundation in Austria, meet people and introduce them to our services. I like the Expat Center's mission because you feel that they strive to help expats and make their lives in the Vienna Region easier. There is something very cosmopolitan to this idea. I hope that the Vienna Region remains open to expats because it is a win-win situation for both sides – for the expats and for the region.
Nowack: I would want these services to be more visible. I'd be interested in networks and events, especially if they deal with subjects such as "expats in the start-up environment", "expats and entrepreneurship" or "expats in a multilingual environment".
Interview by medienkomplizen | Christian Scherl
Photos: Katherine Price Beuchert © Edward Lunney, M.A. | Jörg Nowack © J.N.