A pro-Brexit Briton in Western Austria speaks out

In the short or long term a Brexit will have no effect on where I live. I think a lot of the UK will see a “Yes” vote as a missed opportunity.

One of the comments made by the first pro-Brexit Briton in Austria to answer a set of questions was that there is a big difference between the situation in Vienna compared with Austria as a whole – particularly with regard to the level of integration that a foreigner needs. I was very pleased that my blog had reached a Briton in Western Austria, who was very keen to talk about her experiences – in particular to highlight how different life can be outside the largest city or capital.

On the subject of whether they are eligible to vote in the referendum as well as to what extent they also vote in local and European elections in Austria/or in the UK – as well as possibly with which Austrian political party they would most readily identify with.

I am eligible to vote and will be doing so. I was never particularly political when I still lived in the UK, although part of that was also due to the fact that the local MP had been around for a long time, but did a good job, and other parties used to parachute in candidates to fight the seat who had little local knowledge and experience. On a council level I voted on occasions as I knew the candidates in my ward through my family, but wasn’t very interested.

Since I left, I have usually voted in the general election, generally with a proxy vote, although last time I tried to vote by postal vote my voting paper did not arrive on time. In the European elections over here I have voted once, but missed out another time by moving and not getting my vote re-registered successfully. I prefer not to say which party I would vote for in Austria or the UK, although had I been able to vote in Austria’s Presidential Election, I would have voted Van der Bellen.

About their thoughts on the issues surrounding their background in relation to their life in Austria (e.g. at what point of their life they moved here and for what reason, as well as when (i.e. in which year) and continuing relationship to the United Kingdom (how long they have been in Austria, where they consider as home “home”, how frequently they visit the UK – either for work or privately), as well as how they see their future, and where they consider to be the centre of their vital interests.

I moved to Austria for a change of scene and because I had met an Austrian, who I later married, just before the Global Financial Crisis in 2007. I was very unprepared in terms of language skills and had “survival German” at best. To get a better job and to make it easier to handle a lot of day-to-day problems (banks, bills, form-filling etc.) once I divorced I made a big effort to learn German. Without German I was stuck doing seasonal tourism jobs with little security and pretty poor pay a lot cash in hand, and I used the time off following my child’s birth to also learn German more intensively.

I work in logistics with a lot of work with our offices in Switzerland. Swiss German can be a struggle although it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but having lived in Vorarlberg where I learned a lot of German has helped. Austria is home now – particularly as my partner is Austrian and my child is British and Austrian. I don’t go to the UK very often – it is not home any more and I don’t have much contact to the old friends I had there, the airfares are quite expensive unless we fly from Munich, in which case we have a long journey getting to the airport, and driving takes too long, even with two drivers sharing the driving.

I also think I moved on and when I see the website of the local paper from the town I grew up in, I am very glad to be here. I am settled here in Western Austria, but could could consider moving on, either to a bigger city or another country if there was a good career chance, although I am also concerned that my child has a stable upbringing – moving provinces was quite an upheaval when my child was young.

How integrated do they consider themselves to be in terms of living and working in Austria, in terms of their language skills, cultural immersion or other factors that could be considered as a measure of integration.

Having lived in Western Austria (Tirol and Vorarlberg) most of my friends have been local – when I worked in Innsbruck I did meet a few other foreigners, but that was quite short-term and with having an Austrian ex-husband, and with the friends that my partner and I have and the parents of friends of my child all being Austrians, I only really have Austrian friends. I can chat very happily with them apart from on heavy topics and at home the TV or radio is usually on in German – and for work I have to handle a lot in German. My partner speaks a little bit of English,  but that is more through him working in IT rather than through friends or having learned it. When I/we go out, it is with Austrian friends. I have very few British contacts nearby, and those I do know are quite a bit older.

How do they think a Brexit might affect their continued living in an EU Member State – both in the short-term and the long-term.

I’m not too concerned about the short-term and also given that I have passed B2 German (level is probably C by now), am employable, and have been here for almost nine years I should have no problems taking citizenship to stay in Austria in the next couple of years. I am not financially dependent on the UK, which is one of the scare tactics the Yes campaign are using. When I left the UK, and had a debts to repay, I did keep an eye on the exchange rate, but that is not the case any more. A lot of the scare tactics from the Bremain campaign focuses on pensions and the exchange rate affecting lifestyle. In the short or long term a Brexit will have no effect on where I live.

What would the consequences of a No (i.e. “Brexit”) vote be and what would a “No” vote’s impact be a) for the UK and b) for the EU as a whole.

From working in logistics, I see it to be very important that Britain secures a trade deal with the EU like the Swiss have, but once that is done Britain will be in a good position. Britain leaving the EU will be more of a problem for the EU than for Britain, and might also cause other countries to reconsider whether they are better in the EU or out.

Cameron will have to resign and Scotland will campaign for another referendum on independence. For Britons living in Europe, there will be some changes like needing a work permit, but that will probably be quite simple as Austria will still want to be able to trade with Britain.

What would the consequences of a Yes (i.e. “Bremain”) vote be and what would a “Yes” vote’s impact be a) for the UK and b) for the EU as a whole.

I don’t think “Bremain” will solve anything for Britain or the EU. In Britain it will just cause the debate to continue without any real change unless there is a really substantial majority towards “Bremain” which looks unlikely. And I think a lot of the UK will see a “Yes” vote as a missed opportunity.

Author: mdgb

45 years old, came to Austria in 97/98 for nine months and then moved permanently in July 2000. At the time of starting this blog, I have been in Austria for more than half my lifetime.