Austria unfriendly?

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Leigh Turner

Is Austria unfriendly?  Some surveys suggest that it is.  But keep going with the Austrians – and many “surveys” are nonsense.  

Austria unfriendly?  Really?

I was bemused once to see a news report headed: Austria ranked by expats as one of unfriendliest countries.

I have lived in Austria for years and have numerous friends.  Who are these expats who say Austrians are unfriendly?  And who is doing the measuring?  I decided to investigate.

It turns out that the report is based on the “Expat Insider 2017” survey carried out by the “InterNations” network.

The Dachstein massif, Austria

Austria has a lot to offer – as well as friendly people – Photo RP

The “Internations” survey

“Internations” is a company which works to help expats settle in and get to know other expats (slogan: “Wherever in the world life takes you, our InterNations Communities help you feel at home”).

Its full report, which you can download in full from the link above, is packed with interesting statistics.

Austria unfriendly?  Dodgy statistics

Turning to Austria (where the report lists the #1 reason amongst expats for moving as “moved for love” – how does that square with supposedly unfriendly Austrians?) my fact-checking antennae began to twitch.  I was puzzled that Austria’s ranking in the overall table of expat destinations had plunged from 8th to 28th between 2016 and 2017 – how was that possible?  I was surprised that the survey listed top nationalities for expats in Austria as 10% British, 9% US and 8% German, when official statistics show that over 170,000 Germans live in Austria – more than any other nationality – and neither British nor US citizens are in the top ten.

The report goes on to list Austria as next to last – 64th out of 65 countries – on “ease of settling in”, behind such places as Saudi Arabia or Myanmar.  The survey also scores Austria 64th out of 65 for “friendliness”, beyond such countries as Switzerland (61st), Kazakhstan (32nd) or Oman (an impressive 7th).

Indeed, the more you look, the odder many of the figures seem.  According to the main table, the top two expat destinations for 2017 are Bahrain and Costa Rica – delightful countries of course, but hardly hotbeds of inward immigration.  The USA, on the other hand, one of the world’s biggest migration destinations, comes 43rd out of 65 countries.

“Not necessarily representative”

I don’t want to diss InterNations.  I hear they can offer a good service to expats wanting to meet people.  Their report is a fun read.  But a note on methodology says this was an on-line survey, with no attempt to ensure respondents were representative of expats in general.  Ensuring that respondents are representative is a fundamental rule of creating meaningful results from survey data.  While the authors have made a good effort to create something interesting, the value of the basic data is, at best, doubtful.

So what about that headline?  Austria ranked by expats as one of unfriendliest countries.  It appeared in a reputable media source.  But when you look for evidence, it is non-existent.

Some reviews are dodgy, too

Indeed, the Internations survey results remind me of the recent controversy about Star Wars, the Last Jedi (see my review at the link). Critics gave it rave reviews, but fans hated it.  They also remind me of my own blogs, Why sequels suck and 6 reasons “The Neon Demon” makes “Showgirls” look like Shakespeare.  The Neon Demon is one of the worst films of all time.  Yet one critic on Rotten Tomatoes described it as “A wonderfully stylish and stylised movie”.

So: use common sense; and don’t jump to conclusions every time you read a headline.

Austrians, your reputation is safe with me.

Now that is settled, I will go on enjoying reading the positive reviews on Amazon for my new thriller Blood Summit.

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2 Responses

  1. Dass Österreich nicht grundsätzlich freundlich gegenüber ex-pats oder Fremden generell ist, kann ich auch bestätigen. Dass Robert Pimm soviele österreichische Freunde hat, ist der Tatsache zu verdanken, dass er ein nicht nur an Fakten, sondern an Menschen interessierter Mann ist und überall auf der Welt Freunde hat. es kommt immer darauf an, wie man sich als” Zugereister” verhält und da können die Österreicher sehr sensibel sein.

  2. As an Austrian myself who spends a lot of time abroad, I do think they can be quite unfriendly, but they are by no means the only ones in Europe who are like that. It’s not a constant thing anyway, but I would disagree that it is not a “thing” at all.

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