FEELSAFE BLOG

HUGE! Watch the president on FeelSafe

Hey Folks! It’s the President.
Click below to find out what I have to say about FeelSafe Insurance in Austria.
We hope you like the video and invite you to share it with your friends and family!

Switch until 31.08.2018.  will receive a 20€ voucher for a tasty meal in a Centimeter Restaurant of your choice.

The origins of FeelSafe Pt. 1 This is the first part of the story on how we made it.

At FeelSafe, we offer private health insurance to students, professors and researchers coming to Austria.

Today, FeelSafe provides peace of mind to hundreds of international students each year.

We are:

  • Completely Online
  • Easy to use
  • Completely accessible
  • All our policies are explained in simple English.

In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that our policies are THE option for international students in Austria. At a price that’s directly comparable with that of the basic public option, we offer MUCH more: cover that includes everything from repatriation and rescue to private treatment, homeopathy and optometry.

In a little longer than a year, FeelSafe has grown from a new start-up to the preferred choice of health insurance for international students all over Austria, serving hundreds of students from 79 different countries across 67 universities and institutions of higher learning throughout the country.

But how did this transformation happen?

In our next series of newsletters, we will take you through the emerging story of FeelSafe, from its earliest beginnings to today, and onwards into the future. It has been an exciting journey, a rollercoaster ride of ups, downs, and dedicated attention to the customers who have relied on us.

The story begins at Webster University in Vienna, where our young founders embarked on a mission to help and support young international students explore their new home… but we are getting ahead of ourselves!

Next week we will look into the humble origins of FeelSafe and explore how it became THE solution for international students in Austria.

The origins of FeelSafe Pt. 2 This is the second part of the story on how we made it.

Last week, we described the position FeelSafe currently occupies in the market, in which it provides the best health insurance solutions for hundreds of international students and researchers across Austria. This week, we take a deep dive into the founding of the company: how and when and why the young start-up came into being.

In 2012, the founders of FeelSafe, who were studying at Webster University in Vienna, noticing the difficulties many new international students had finding their way in a new city, decided to set up a system to help them with all the needs new students have that aren’t answered by the university itself.

This approach, in which students could directly help other students, was influenced by the FeelSafe team’s own experiences studying overseas – because new students don’t just need help with their academics, but also need help setting up bank accounts, dealing with the visa process, and just finding the day-to-day needs of life: a good hairdresser, the markets, the sights of the city.

Originally run out of an office at the university, the company soon branched out online, under the name Feels Like Home. Despite initial difficulties with website design and service, the positive feedback that the team received in those early days encouraged them, and demonstrated to them that the concept of helping new international students with adapting to Austria was a sound one.

The highlight of these early days was winning a state-run competition, Impuls XL, for creative concepts that help society. With the funds from this victory, the early FeelSafe team was able to expand their concept, and begin to concentrate on an area that they had found was highly important for new international students: their health insurance.

But more on that next week – stay tuned!

The origins of FeelSafe Pt. 3 This is the third part of the story on how we made it.

Last week we described the origins of FeelSafe, as a company concerned with student welfare and making sure that international students are welcomed into their new home in Austria. This week we look at the way FeelSafe came to specialise in student health insurance and provide the best health insurance option for international students and researchers.

One of the great advantages of the early days of working out of Webster University was the ability to receive immediate feedback on the needs of international students in Austria, and thus to gauge how the new start-up could be of most help to them. Consistently, students raised problems they had with accessing health insurance through GKK, the Austrian public health insurer.

Accessing health insurance through GKK was often a mini-nightmarefor international students: newly arrived in the country, and often without well-developed skills in German, international students had to wade through the morass of Austrian bureaucracy, navigating the complex terrain of German-language questions and contracts in person at the local office, and then waiting up to three weeks to receive a confirmation that they had in fact been successful in receiving the coverage necessary to get their visa.

These delays and difficulties meant that in some cases students were even forced to leave the country and re-enter before getting their visa – an expensive and frustrating process!

With FeelSafe, everything is simple and in English, and confirmation is almost always sent within 24 hours, meaning students no longer have to worry about receiving their visas! Some of the feedback that the FeelSafe team is proudest of is that from students who, up until they found our website, were tempted to give up on the student experience in Austria. With our support, however, they were able to plunge back into what, for many, is one of the best experiences of their lives.

The origins of FeelSafe Pt. 4 This is the last part of the story on how we made it.

Last week we looked at how FeelSafe offers international researchers and students so much more than the public option in Austria. This week we take a look at how that came to be.

In order to offer students easily accessible health insurance, FeelSafe partnered with a family-run Insurance Agentur Herf to offer students the cheapest and best private package available, making FeelSafe THE common-sense option for international students!

FeelSafe also at this time adapted to become a purely online service, as this allowed them to provide this fantastic coverage to international students not just in Vienna, but throughout Austria.

Getting this deal approved took a lot of time and effort from the FeelSafe team, as online insurance hasn’t been offered to students before, and the MA35 (the agency in charge of granting residence permits and visas to students) was very unused to dealing with these kinds of products, despite their clear advantages.
After extended negotiations, FeelSafe has emerged as the standard model of private health insurance for international students, and even plays a role as the textbook example at MA35 of private health insurance.
Today, hundreds of happy customers later, FeelSafe is proud to have served international students and researches across Austria with reliable and comprehensive health insurance coverage, and to have paved the way to easier, better coverage for many years to come.

To join the FeelSafe story, look at our website, to look over the many different packages we offer students. Follow us too on our blog on our website, to read new and interesting stories about the student experience in Austria, and of course on Facebook.

To you, our valued customers, and to a successful future together!

We hope you enjoyed your Rollercoaster ride

Vienna named the best city to live in for the 9th year in a row

Vienna has been named the best city in the world for quality
of living, according to a new survey.
Now in its 20th year, the annual Mercer Quality of Living survey has crowned it the best place in the world for the ninth year in a row.

Slagin Parakatil, who carried out the survey, told:
“Vienna is the cultural, political and economic centre of Austria, and scores highly in a number of categories.
Among others, the city provides a safe and stable environment for expatriates to live in; it has an extensive offering of international consumer goods, a high level of public utilities and transportation facilities, and good recreational facilities.
All of the above combined resulted in Vienna being placed top.”

Eight of the top 10 (10th place had two joint winners) cities in 2018 are European, with Auckland, Vancouver and Sydney representing other continents.

This year, Mercer also analysed cities which had seen the biggest jump in quality of living over the last 20 years.
In Europe, Sarajevo came out on top with an increase of 21.5 %, followed by Bratislava (19.1) and Belgrade (18.3), while Vienna also featured in the top 10 with a jump of 5.2 %.
Other cities around the world which enjoyed a notable climb in quality of living included Havana (6.5), Dubai (12.2), Maputo (15), Shanghai (15.7) and New Delhi (13.8).
For the first time, Mercer also released a ranking on City Sanitation analysing cities’ waste removal and sewage infrastructure, levels of infectious disease, air pollution, water availability and quality. Honolulu came out on top of this one, followed by Helsinki, Ottawa and Minneapolis.
Despite Brexit, London remains an attractive location for companies to locate their employees, according to the company.

 

 

“Cities in the UK continue to rank highly for quality of living, and remain attractive destinations for multinationals and their employees,” said Mercer’s Kate Fitzpatrick in a statement.

🇬🇧 London – the highest ranked UK city – scores top marks in areas like access to public transport, and the variety and quality of theatres and restaurants, but has lower scores for air pollution and traffic congestion.

Also, we included this list of the top 10 cities.

 The Quality of Living top 10 2018

  1. Vienna, Austria 🇦🇹
  2. Zurich, Switzerland 🇨🇭
  3. Auckland, New Zealand 🇳🇿  
  4. Munich, Germany 🇩🇪
  5. Vancouver, Canada 🇨🇦
  6. Dusseldorf, Germany 🇩🇪
  7. Frankfurt, Germany 🇩🇪
  8. Geneva, Switzerland 🇨🇭
  9. Copenhagen, Denmark 🇩🇰
  10. Basel, Switzerland 🇨🇭; Sydney, Australia 🇦🇺

Four habits to establish in the morning

Morning routines are a vital component of our daily lives. Without them, we’re only setting ourselves up for continuous failure. Now is the time to implement a morning routine as part of your organizational domain.

Depending upon your livelihood, the length and depth of your morning routine will differentiate incredibly. Here are four elements anyone can easily incorporate into their mornings to enhance the quality of your day.

 

Drink More Water

Many people neglect hydration like it’s a new trendy fashion timepiece. It’s absolutely imperative to ensure you’re consuming enough water for increased focus and productivity. Starting your day dehydrated, will only cause complications as the day progresses; make sure every morning consists of drinking a minimum of two cups (500ml) of water. Personally, I start my day by drinking an entire litre.

Forgetting to drink water throughout the day will happen during busy days, if you start the day strong, with a quantity that will secure you throughout your hectic schedule, then success will be yours.

Our bodies are primarily composed of water. We cannot function properly without adequate water intake, so make it certain that you start your day with an influx of water to get your blood flow pumping for optimal performance.

Water is life. Restore and revitalize your senses by providing its lifeline.

Earn Your Breakfast

Vienna is a city that’s known for its beautiful scenery and breathtaking opulence. Having twenty-three different districts gives you a lot of options for a quick, brisk walk. If you need to drive to a different sector of the city to shakeup the areas you walk through—do it!

One of the most culturally rich cities in the world must be appreciated by foot. Understand the terrain, absorb the energy, and admire the contemporary architecture that makes Vienna unique and historic. Develop numerous routes, keep a swift pace, and begin walking for roughly twenty-twenty five minutes. Increasing your heart rate boosts stamina and hunger—which means a more satiating breakfast.

Nobody eats without putting in the work. Walking will direct you towards a pathway that will show you new avenues of growth, progression, and hope.

Take in the city, cherish what you see, be thankful and enjoy your mornings by creating an entirely new perspective.

Prioritize Each Task

Daily goals and plans should have been written down and thought about the day before. Preparing for tomorrow today is a certain method to get ahead. Now, you are left with delegating the significance of each task.

Think about what goal will be the hardest to complete and start with that one. The sooner you complete what’s hard, the easier it will be to tackle all of your other goals.

Don’t get discouraged if you wake up the following morning and have daily goals left on your list from the prior day, as long as you diligently pursued a goal you considered urgent and got it done, that’s all that truly matters.

Love Yourself More

We have one life to create our own world full of greatness and happiness, and loving ourselves is the only way to get there. Be gracious and humble for everything you have. The simple things in life are what show us the blessings of our own majesty.

Practice positive self-talk by telling yourself you will make miracles happen, and that today will be a successful one. Our worst days illuminate our greatest opportunities. Stay on track; create a mindset that’s not only impenetrable, but receptive.

Listening and trusting yourself is how advancement is curated at an unbelievable rate. And by creating positive vibes within your own mind, you reinforce self-love, self-respect, and self-preservation. And these are the key elements to earning more, being more, and ultimately, seeing more.

Viennese universities

Vienna is a city of universities. As befits a city that has long been associated with intellectuals and the life of the mind, and one that has been a home to Freud, Wittgenstein, Mahler, and many other luminaries, Vienna has a strong culture of tertiary education. Not including Colleges of Applied Science (Fachhochschulen) Vienna is host to sixteen separate universities, both public and private.

The largest universities in Vienna are the eponymous Vienna University, the Technical University, and the University of Economic and Business. Between them, these universities teach almost 150,000 students. The student population in Vienna is heavily international, lending studying in Vienna a cosmopolitan, diverse feel. 25,000 international students study at the University of Vienna alone. (and, of course, being international students, need health insurance in order to receive their student visa o Asutria – a service which FeelSafe provides with pride and efficiency).

Apart from the large public universities, Vienna also hosts many smaller specialised private universities. The Music and Arts University, as the name suggests, is specialised for teaching music – a perfect fit for Vienna, which has long been renowned for its culture of classical music, and as the home of Mahler, Strauss, and Schönberg. Speaking of famous Viennese names, the private Sigmund Freud University is also located here in the Austrian capital. It specialises in teaching psychotherapy, and is the only university in the word to offer a degree in the subject at an undergraduate level.

Vienna is, therefore, an excellent city to study in as an international student, as it offers both a high quality of education and a diversity of specialities. Regardless of whether an international student chooses to study at a private or a public university, however, they must secure a student visa within a short period of time after arriving here in Austria. Before the visa can be issued, an international student needs to be able to demonstrate two things: their enrolment in an Austrian educational institution, and evidence that they are covered by appropriate student health insurance.

Amidst all the hubbub of the first few weeks of arriving in Austria and diving into your studies, it can be difficult to remember to arrange for student health insurance before the crucial date by which you must apply for your visa. This difficulty often results in students needing to leave the country altogether and then re-enter it, often during the middle of studies, in order to conform to the regulations are health insurance and student visas. Luckily, FeelSafe is aware of these difficulties, and our simple online registration allows you to bypass any such difficulties and immerse yourself in Vienna, the city of universities. It’s just one way FeelSafe is making Austrian student health insurance faster, better and easier!

Living costs in Austria

One of the most important factors to consider when moving internationally to study is cost. Moving overseas comes with many predictable costs – the costs of airfares, tuition, and possibly the costs of storing your goods at home. Less obvious to an outsider, however, are the day-to-day costs of living in a place like Vienna. In this blog entry, we hope to outline some of the costs that face prospective international students here in Vienna.

Thankfully, FeelSafe is one of the most affordable options available for a student’s mandatory health insurance – so you’re free to spend the money you save on the little luxuries that Vienna has to offer!

Eating out in Vienna can be somewhat expensive. Vienna is one of the more expensive cities in Europe, apart from London or Paris, and a normal meal out can cost from €10-15. A pint of good beer in a cosy Viennese pub, a not-to-be-neglected speciality, will cost you from €4-5, and a Viennese coffee somewhere in the range of €4.

A good way to save some money as a student however is to use the range of relatively inexpensive supermarkets that dot the capital, including Hofer (ALDI) and BILLA. There are also many good, inexpensive vegetable markets, which, as well as supplying a wide range of groceries, provide a great experience for a foreigner, and a good opportunity to practice your workaday German!

But if you are going to eat in, you’ll need a place to do it! Renting a room in Vienna for a student would normally cost between €300-700. There is also a broad range of dormitories available to students, which can simplify your choice of accommodation. Contacting your uni is the best way to discover which dormitories they recommend as being affordable and close to campus.

The public transportation in Vienna is superb, with an extensive network of buses, trams, and underground light rail (U-Bahn) connecting almost every corner of the city. During the day, these services come almost every 5 minutes, making getting around Vienna a breeze. A semester pass for a student under 26 costs only €75 when bought online, lasts 5 months and provides unlimited access to the entire Vienna public transport network. A single ticket costs €1.20.

Vienna doesn’t have to be too expensive if you budget cleverly. One of the best ways to save yourself money is to get your student health insurance with FeelSafe. We provide your student health insurance (which is mandatory if you want to study in Austria) at only a fraction more than the public option, and provide a broad range of coverage, giving you complete peace of mind. Grab a policy with FeelSafe today, and start your stay off right!

 

Bureaucracy

There are many reasons to choose to study in Austria – the universities are fantastic, the museums and other cultural attractions are storied and varied, and the natural environment is specular and well-preserved. The bureaucracy, however, is not one of those reasons.

Austrians have long had a strange attachment to complex bureaucracy. Back when Austria was still part of Austria-Hungary, serving in the civil service was a huge part of middle-class and aristocratic life. Working in the imperial bureaucracy was like being a member of a powerful club, and so civil servants were incentivised to keep their procedures complex and difficult to understand for the layman. Forms, stamps, signatures in triplicate, and a mind-bogglingly complex way of speaking – regular Austrians needed to overcome all of these things just in order to get by in daily life.

Thankfully, the Austrian bureaucracy has diminished somewhat since its heyday in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Nonetheless, it is still very difficult for new arrivals to navigate, especially for those who do not speak perfect German.

In order to receive a student visa here in Austria, you must first arrange health insurance. This can be done with the public health insurance provider, the Gebietskrankenkasse (GKK), but only if you are very keen to experience old-school Austrian bureaucracy first hand. When you try to organise your student health insurance through GKK, you are faced with a series of difficult challenges and frustrating inconsistencies. To begin with, everything has to be arranged in German, from the first meeting to the final contract. And as everybody knows, it’s not wise to sign any contract you can’t read beforehand! In addition to the language barrier, there are also often delays and a mass of supporting paperwork that must be brought in, often after first having it translated out of your native language.

In contrast, we here at FeelSafe pride ourselves on the speed and fuss-free nature of our service. With us, your student health insurance can be arranged completely online, without the hassle of needing to upload any supporting documentation. What’s more, it only takes a few minutes, and the health insurance is normally confirmed within a few hours – a bit change from the weeks it can take going through GKK. And all this at almost exactly the same price as it would cost you to use the public option!

So as traditional as the state bureaucracy is to Austria, avoid experiencing it first-hand when you buy your student medical insurance by using FeelSafe, and spend that time experiencing all the other cultural adventures Austria has to offer!


Health Insurance MYTH BUSTING

We are the first insurance company to ever do this.

You are going to either love us or hate us after reading this.

Health Insurance MYTH BUSTING

Health Insurance: THE One Thing You Need as a Foreign Student in Austria 🇦🇹 

If you’re coming to Austria as a student or researcher, you’ll likely have done your homework. You know that the quality of education is excellent, and that life as a student can be sweet, too. The excitement of living independently in a foreign city, meeting interesting new people at parties – newcomers take full advantage of an exciting European lifestyle.
But there are certain things you can’t know before arriving, like the Austrian bureaucracy! While life here is so enjoyable, it also comes with a major drawback:
The bureau of immigration, otherwise known as the dreaded MA35.
Forget exams, this is the one thing you need to really prepare for as a foreign student in Austria!

 

 

Bureaucracy: Blessing or Curse?

The government organizes all aspects of daily life. Savvy locals have a lifetime to figure out the labyrinth bureaucracy – foreign students don’t have that luxury. You probably expect someone regularly dealing with internationals to be experienced and capable of servicing them, but you oftentimes encounter a stony-faced civil servant unable or unwilling to speak English – which usually happens when applying for your prized residency permit or visa which has to include a health insurance policy.
Austria has a very specific requirement when it comes to international student insurance, and even a very comprehensive coverage package purchased may not necessarily be accepted. How do you solve the somewhat overwhelming topic of insurance which is full of horror stories?

Focusing specifically on the issues international students face on this topic, the experts at FeelSafe.at present:

 

Health Insurance MYTH BUSTING

 

 

Myth 1: Only the public health insurance is accepted for your residence permit or visa.

Universities, friends and even public institutions might tell you that the public insurance is the only accepted choice. This is a myth and not true. For a long time there was no clear guideline of what a health insurance has to offer in order to be accepted and therefore, to avoid unclarity, all the students were sent to the public insurance.  But since 31.01.2017 there is finally a clear regulation of what a health insurance has to cover for the visa and residence permit (first time and renewal).

Even a very comprehensive coverage package purchased may not necessarily be accepted if it doesn’t follow all the guidelines, and not all providers offering coverage for foreign students are actually accepted. So how do you know which ones are accepted?

 

To save yourself a lot of time and stress, there is one private insurance that offers better levels of care and is guaranteed by the interior ministry to be accepted for your residence permit and visa application (first time and renewal) – FeelSafe.at.It takes out the mystery of whether or not the MA35 will accept the policy.

 

Myth 2: Private insurance is super expensive

Public health insurance offers decent coverage but has limitations such as only access to public doctors
and missing benefits that are important for international students (e.g. transportation back to home-country if needed, etc.), which is why many students choose to go private. With other private insurers this comes at a steep price.

FeelSafe.at, however, provides comprehensive coverage that’s affordable. In fact, FeelSafe.at costs virtually the same as public health insurance, with better coverage!

 

Myth 3: The insurance industry is not service friendly

Contracts can be confusing, complicated and contain hidden clauses. Since insurers try to sell you additional products, making them easy to understand simply isn’t in their interest.
FeelSafe.at understands that service should be swift and friendly. Whether it’s their live chat, hotline or in-person customer service, everything is in English. There are no up-sales, you get your ready-made insurance as approved by the government – easy, simple and fast.

 

Myth 4: The insurance industry is not digitalized

Another scary thing about buying insurance is that it’s incredibly complicated – partly because the industry is not digitalized. Processing takes weeks and you need to be physically present to get the process started, which includes many translated documents and painstakingly completed forms.

FeelSafe.at lets you purchase insurance in five minutes online and only takes one business day to process.

 

Myth 5: You will sign a contract in German

In addition to being extremely difficult to understand,
contracts are always in German, which means that foreign students are forced to sign contracts they can’t read. FeelSafe.at is the only health insurance that doesn’t require you to take a leap of faith.
Contracts are clearly explained and also available to download in English. Legally, still the one in German is signed, but there is no need to sign something you don’t understand!

 

FeelSafe.at busts the myths, so only the facts remain. It’s 100% guaranteed to be accepted and offers all the benefits foreign students need: access to medical treatments, home visits by private doctors who speak your language, guaranteed coverage for stays in public hospitals, repatriation and more!

 

Shortly put, it’s the best product for the best price, reliable, easy, fast, all online and fully in English.

Interview: Ilse Bittermann

You will not believe the real story of what happened to this woman!

In autumn 2016, a severe heart attack almost ended the life of Ilse Bittermann. Her life was saved by the C10 crew – but that’s not the only life they saved…

They get climbers out of walls, land in the middle of the city and fly people with serious health problems to the hospital.
The crew of the emergency physicians Christophorus 10 works every day to save people.

Revived eight times in 75 minutes

„Some missions will probably stay in your memory forever,“ says pilot Wolfgang Hießböck, who is also the base manager in Linz. On October the 25th 2016 was such a rescue that 47-year-old pilot will not forget so quickly. Christophorus 10 was called for a mission to Steyr. „It was difficult because we had to land in a densely built-up area on a meadow area.“ The flight from Linz to Steyr lasted ten minutes. There, the doctor and the air rescue team were already expected by the police and brought to Ilse Bittermann, who had suffered a serious heart attack and had to be reanimated.

 

Heart Attack.

The 47-year-old woman was slim, athletic and didn’t belong to any risk group. The heart attack announced itself with symptoms such as pain in the left hand, which stretched to the shoulder a few days previous to the incident. The symptoms were not correctly interpreted. Luckily though, there was a medical doctor present when she collapsed in pain; he was the one who set the rescue chain in motion. In 75 minutes Ilse Bittermann was revived a total of eight times.
Race.

„I remember that the situation was particularly critical. I was waiting in the helicopter and because of the incoming fog, I feared I would not be able to start it anymore“ says Wolfgang Hießböck. Again and again it was said that the woman had another cardiac arrest. When the rescue finally brought the seriously ill patient, the crew took off to the Elisabethian Order Clinic in Linz. „Even in the helicopter, she had to be reanimated again.“

Coma.

Even in the hospital her life hung on a thin string for a long time. „My condition was so critical that they brought my priest who performed an anointing of the sick“ she says in an interview. The physicians tried several times to bring her back from the artificial coma. „Due to severe cramps but this has not succeeded“ On the tenth day, however, the tables turned. „Everything went uphill so fast that I could be transferred to the normal station.“ She says.

New beginning.

The way back to the „normal“ life, however, was much harder than expected. Everything went very slowly. „The long coma had weakened me a lot. Every single phone call, every SMS was hard work for me“ recalls the woman who has run a carpentry for 20 years and has run her own awareness-raising practice for several years.

Goodbye.

After a heart attack, Ilse Bittermann had to be revived eight times within 75 minutes. She also owes her rescue to Wolfgang Hießböck and his crew …
Therefore, Wolfgang Hießböck was very happy when Ilse Bittermann contacted him after a few months in order to thank him. Since the 47-year-old didn’t know what happened days and weeks before due to amnesia, she visited all the people who were involved in her rescue. „That was at least 13 people: the neighboring orthopedist, his receptionist, the ambulance, the helicopter pilot, the air rescue, the doctors in the religious center, the police. Without their help, I would not be alive now. The rescue chain just worked perfectly. I am eternally grateful to my rescuers “ says Ilse Bittermann.

Well-being.

Today she is well again. Recently she started working again, but not as much as before.

„I have now postponed the obligations of life in favor of my health, my heart and my love for myself.”

 

Only in 2017. there were more than 18.000 helicopter rescues in Austria. Just imagine how many lives are being saved like this. This useful feature can easily be underestimated, but can save your life in the quickest possible way. Around 36% of missions (total: 6,563) are internal emergencies such as strokes or heart attacks. Sports and leisure accidents in alpine terrain make up 12% of all missions (total: 2,194).

On the flipside, the average rescue can cost you around 5000€.

That is a lot of money, but with Feelsafe you shall not fear, we got you covered.

Interview with Gretl

Success in Vienna as an expat can be a long and daunting road, but few have achieved it more profoundly than our most recent interviewee, Gretl Satorius. An American expat living in Vienna, Satorius has thrown herself into the theatrical and academic scenes of the Austrian capital. Since arriving in Vienna in 2006, she’s written an award-winning documentary screenplay, is pursuing a doctorate degree in opera dramaturgy and is even the creator of the city’s top-rated audio tour! Read our interview with the impressive woman below, and find out about her incredible life, as well as her top tips for settling into a successful life in Austria.

 

  • Tell us a bit about yourself! Where are you from, and what brought you to Vienna?

I’m originally from the Midwest (Illinois and Wisconsin), but mostly grew up in the California High Desert, just south of Death Valley. It wasn’t a terribly interesting place to live–especially for someone with a budding passion for theatre–so I escaped to Chicago for college. I went to The Theatre School at DePaul University and majored in Dramaturgy (basically the study of how to research, analyze, contextualize, and create theatre). In the fall of my senior year I spent a semester abroad with IES Vienna. It was amazing; my eyes were opened to the world of opera, and I ended up coming back a year later to work for IES as a student assistant. I’ve been here ever since, and am currently working on my doctoral dissertation at the Uni Wien in Opera Dramaturgy.

  • How long have you been here, and what do you do here?

I’ve been living in Vienna since January of 2006, and I’ve largely spent the last 11 years studying and working in opera. That said, I’m also a writer, and my work while living in Vienna is a bit of a mixed bag: children’s books, a documentary film, a comic book, multimedia performances, opera libretti, song cycles, scholarly articles, stage adaptations, a commercial magic show in London’s West End, a new show at Glyndebourne this autumn…even a Vienna city tour app. In fact, ‚Gretl Goes: Vienna‘ (www.gretlgoes.com) has become the city’s top-rated audio tour, which I’m quite proud of. It’s a product of my deep interest in Vienna’s history and several years of experience showing people around the capital and surrounding wine regions.

  • What has surprised you most about Vienna?

Something that has repeatedly occurred to me in my research–both for the tour app and for my studies–is the degree to which Austrian history has determined world history. It’s astounding; events that are seemingly completely unrelated can often be traced back in some way to something that happened in Vienna. But even more surprising, perhaps, is that so few people outside of Austria recognize how historically important this city truly is. I interact with tourists quite a bit, and the one thing that almost everyone says is that they had no idea how much Vienna has to offer and wish they’d scheduled more time here.

  • What’s your favourite thing about this city?

I could go on for ages about how living in Vienna is like walking through an open-air museum, that there’s always some kind of interesting exhibition or performance going on, that nature is ever-present, that the arts scene is vibrant…but I think those qualities are largely due to the city’s accessibility and mixed zoning. Vienna is supremely walkable, its public transit system is top-notch, and space is shared between residential, commercial, and cultural. Being able to spontaneously call up a friend for coffee at a museum and meet there 10 minutes later is not something that most people in the world can do. I recently visited my family in Los Angeles, and could not believe how intolerant I’ve become of long commutes and massive blocks of residential zoning! If you need to factor in a 45-minute drive to get anywhere, it really has an impact on your life–everything from how you socialize, to how much exercise you get, to the food you buy. This is why American food is so packed full of preservatives: because people live so far from grocery stores, drive to and from work, and only do the shopping once a week. Here, taking public transit is usually the fastest way to get around town, and you pass countless grocery stores and bakeries along the way.

  • What do you miss most from home?

Other than seeing American family and friends on a more regular basis, there’s not a lot, to be honest–most of the food items are available at the specialty stores, and it seems like every few months some ex-pat is opening an American-style BBQ place or brewery to satisfy those cravings.

Having said that, as someone who grew up in Southern California, I do miss authentic Mexican food. I’m not talking the kind of fajitas and breakfast burritos you get at TexMex chain restaurants–I mean chilaquiles, empanadas, mole coloradito… My neighbors back home used to make insane amounts of tamales around Christmas time; I really missed that, so a few years ago I convinced some of my friends to make a huge batch with me, and it’s become a yearly tradition.

  • What would be your advice to anyone considering moving here?

I think the one thing that newcomers probably need to hear is to plan on some administrative woes. Whether it’s dealing with the MA35 (Immigration Office), university enrollment, lease paperwork, or even club membership, bureaucracy in Austria is a baroque, labyrinthine institution that can be immensely frustrating. Practically anything having to do with any kind of official paperwork needs multiple signatures and stamps and requires an inordinate amount of time to accomplish. You just have to resign yourself to the fact that this is how things work here.

So if your residency permit application hits a snag, don’t stress–problems are pro forma and always a part of the process. Plus, once you get used to how the system works, there are a few ways to grease the wheels: include your academic titles on everything (especially doctoral titles–you’ll never sit in a waiting room again). Read up on the requirements of your paperwork and don’t be afraid to push back if a Beamter/Beamtin tells you something is required that’s not on the list. Speak in German whenever possible (this goes a long way, especially if you’re on top of your „Höflichkeitsformen“). And commiserate with the person behind the desk („I know this is really frustrating–thank you for helping me with it“). Getting paperwork in order tends to require a lot of legwork and a lot of motivation on your part–but the system is not impenetrable if you strike the right balance of polite and stubborn.

English Comedy Night

Patrick Lamb was born in Sheffield, but has lived in Vienna since 1999 as an illustrator, teacher and translator. Since this, his interest in comedy has steadily grown, performing sets all over Europe. Now, Patrick organises the English Comedy Night in Vienna and Graz, and has written this piece to tell us all about it!

 

How English Comedy Night started:

Dave Thompson, an experienced comedian from the UK, offered me the chance to perform in a regular comedy night he organises in Budapest. We discussed the potential for a similar English comedy night in Vienna, with UK comedians flying over to do both shows. I agreed to organise and compère a monthly show, starting in April of 2016.
The May show saw Aera, our venue in the 1st district, already filled to capacity and it has been that way ever since.

 

How the shows work:

I begin the show, warm up the audience and then introduce the opening act. The opener then does the remainder of the first half. After a short break I welcome everyone back and then bring on our headliner. The headliners are very established, successful comedians who also perform regularly on television and radio.

 

Promotion:

We advertise the shows on Facebook and through the Vienna Internations comedy group. Various online expat communities have been kind enough to help us get the word out. We also use traditional print flyers and posters and have had mentions in Metropole, the English-language magazine, the Kurier and soon, the Falter. By now, I think a decent number of people are aware of English Comedy Night.

 

What’s next:

We’ve reached the point at which we need to move to a larger venue, so in January we will perform our first show in the Kulisse – with double the number of seats, so I will be busy in between now and then publicising that.

We expanded to Graz in October. Okello Dunkley, a comedian from New York opened for us. He’s now producing and performing comedy in Vienna, too. Check him out at the Tunnel in the 8th district.

 

The audience:

The guests who come to English Comedy Night are from all over the world, and that is really exciting! We have audience members from 30-40 different countries. The demographic tends to comprise of well-educated professionals around 35-45 years old – a nice bunch of people to entertain! They are also mostly very cultured and well-behaved. Little or no heckling, which is something I can’t stand.

 

The comedians:

We have had terrific comics coming over to perform. The headliners in particular are much lauded talents: Dave Thompson, Geoff Boyz, Mark Maier and Geoff Whiting. John Moloney asked me on Twitter if he could come over and do the show. He was over in September with Sally-Anne Hayward – that was a great night!

 

What I have learnt:

One of the benefits for me about organising English Comedy Night is watching the other comedians perform. Many of them have been very kind with their advice on how I can improve. So far I have mostly developed my act here in Vienna, isolated from the UK comedy circuit, which is where fresh talent tend to learn and grow as performers. So that has been very important for my work.

 

The challenge:

It has been challenging to write new material every month, but it has given me the chance to do more current affairs material. Performing regularly has helped me to become more comfortable on stage, more relaxed. I really enjoy doing the show.

 

Upcoming shows:

English Comedy Night will be in Bar28 in Graz on the 7th of November and then in Vienna, in Aera, Gonzagagasse 11, 1010 Wien, on the 8th of November.

More details can be found on the Vienna English Comedy Night Facebook page.
https://www.facebook.com/ViennaEnglishComedyNight/

 

I am also looking forward to ‚Gossip‘ – my new, third solo programme which premieres in Aera on the 17th of November at 20:00.

www.patricklamb-comedy.com

Balthazar's interview

Have you always lived in Vienna?

No, I’m originally from Tirol. My girlfriend is originally from Vienna and brought an architect here to design Balthasar’s.

What made you want to open a coffee shop?

My family works in the restaurant industry and have done for 200 years. I had a restaurant in Tirol for 25 years, then sold it in 2007. I was free. This life is much more relaxed. I can work during the day – we close at 7, so I can have a social life beside my work. Restaurant life is 24/7.

Have you always been interested in coffee?

Yes, for more than 20 years. I took barista classes, then opened the shop!

Where does your coffee come from?

I have a great friend from Bavaria who is the roaster. He roasts all our coffees and is very connected with the farmers. For us that’s so important – to make that chain sustainable. We are involved in every step. We know what the farmers are being paid, we know what soil their plants are growing in. The most important thing for us is the people behind the process – from transport, roasting and last but not least what we do here with our machine.

Some people say yours is the best coffee in Vienna!

We try hard! It’s so hard to say what’s the best coffee, but we try really hard to make the best for us.

Did you find it hard coming to Vienna, where there is already such a strong coffee shop tradition?

I think it’s not too hard to open a coffee shop in Vienna. The traditional coffee houses are one side of it. The core for them is not the coffee, it’s the ambience. It’s the ‘special spirit’, but it’s not the coffee! What we have built, the coffee is so important. So if you come to somewhere like Vienna, where it’s well known that people like to drink coffee all day, it’s a playground!

So you decided to take a more modern take on the traditional coffee shop model?

Absolutely. We always wanted to work with fresh pride. Even all out chairs and tables have a history. That’s so important to us – rather than to buy something from the industry, we prefer to get hand-crafted things.

Would you ever consider opening another one?

No, never! (laughs) It’s great like this. It wouldn’t be a problem to open a second one, but I think it’s so important to be focused on just one thing, to ensure a stable quality. Two or three shops – yeah it could work – but I think the quality would drop.

Do you think your expertise in the restaurant industry help drive your coffee shop to success?

Actually, this is a light version of running a restaurant! It’s very easy!

Do you have a family?

I have three children, all of whom are studying in Vienna. Two are actually abroad for half a year, but my youngest daughter lives here and works here as a barista.

Did they grow up here?

No, in Tirol. They just came here to study. But it’s great we’ve all ended up in the same city.

Did you choose Prater specifically as the location for Balthasar’s?

I didn’t know anything about Vienna. But now I think I’m very lucky to have ended up here. I love the second district. It’s so colourful; Such a wonderful combination of colours and cultures. I prefer this.  I would never want to have a coffee shop in the first district.

How do you like Vienna compared to Tirol?

I love it. I love it. When I go home [to Tirol] for three days, I’m so glad to come back to Vienna.

What do you like about it?

It feels very alive here – such great culture. It’s so easy to get everywhere. I really love the city. It’s not too big, it’s not too small. Actually everything is really close – you are well connected to the airport. For me in 20 minutes! It’s really easy to get everywhere. I know this from other cities, it really can be a problem if everything is so far away. But here it’s a village!

The International Experience of Austria: One Story

I am always up for an adventure; a challenge that will be big enough to reap great rewards. In this case it was making the grand decision to attend university in Austria, as opposed to staying in my comfort zone in America. It’s the path I took to get here that I have to thank for my new life in Vienna.

I grew up in a close-knit family in the suburbs of Chicago, but at the young age of three months, I began regularly travelling to Europe to see my family. I was never a girl to be tamed, I always thought outside the box. I always wanted to do things that would make for a good story. This was particularly evident when I decided to draft in a foreign military hundreds of miles from home. Call me crazy, I know, but the idea came up after four months of volunteering on a wildlife reserve in Israel. I was immersed in a completely different culture; living in the desert, eating hummus and riding camels. People constantly asked me why I would choose to volunteer in a “war-torn” country and would be scared that I may not make it home, but once I lived in Israel it didn’t take me much time to realize what made it such an amazing country.

Israel is many things, but “war-torn” is not one of them. Although there are some issues with Israel’s neighbouring countries, it’s not on your mind when stepping foot on the beaches of Tel-Aviv.

It was like a dream being surrounded by tanned bodies, warm water, and delicious food, but these weren’t the reasons for my decision to draft into the army. I just decided to do it. There was no grand hope of becoming some heroic soldier, saving the world or solving the problems within this divided state. I did it to force myself to experience change and adventure through the ultimate act of stepping out of my little bubble. The challenges were fierce, the questioning of my decision was constant, but the friendships I made were unbreakable. When you force yourself to do something completely ridiculous and outside of your comfort-zone, words can’t describe how much it influences your life.

I never thought that leaving America would change my life in the ways that it did. Because of my constant desire to travel and explore, I landed myself in a foreign military job.

After returning home from my service I felt out of place in America. I had problems connecting with other Americans, sharing stories they would never understand and experiences they didn’t really crave. I sought to travel more because I always knew that by travelling you would meet people who shared at least one common interest with me. Then life fell into place and I met my Austrian boyfriend on a Euro-trip in Spain. I guess you could say it was love at first sight that night in Barcelona, but I didn’t know I loved him then, I just knew that he had something that kept dragging me back…an intriguing, irresistible, and mysterious aura around him.

After quite some time holding a relationship through Facebook, Facetime, and letters, I finally decided this would be the drive to begin my next journey. Another continent to live on, with a different culture, new language, and plenty of opportunities. College was a constant battle for me because I knew that I wanted to study but I didn’t want to stop living spontaneously. This was the answer, I was able

to leave my bubble in America once again and challenge myself in a completely fresh and organic way by getting a degree, while still feeding the fire in my soul that craves adventure. If you are ever doubting your decisions to do something drastic and completely outside of your comfort zone, don’t blink one second because I promise you even with all the hardships it may bring, you will learn more than anything you could be taught in school. You will grow in ways you didn’t know were possible, and you will finally feel like you’re living your life the way you want it.

Austria's Love of Bureaucracy

There are many reasons to choose to study in Austria – the universities are fantastic, the museums and other cultural attractions are spectacular, and the natural environment is breath-taking and pristine. The bureaucracy, however, is not one of those reasons.

Austrians have long had a strange attachment to complex bureaucracy. Back when Austria was still part of Austria-Hungary, serving in the civil service was a huge part of middle-class and aristocratic life. Working in the imperial bureaucracy was like being a member of a powerful club, and so civil servants were incentivised to keep their procedures complex and difficult to understand for the layman. Forms, stamps, signatures in triplicate, and a mind-bogglingly complex way of speaking – regular Austrians needed to overcome all of these things just in order to get by in daily life.

Thankfully, the Austrian bureaucracy has diminished somewhat since its heyday in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Nonetheless, it is still very difficult for new arrivals to navigate, especially for those who do not speak perfect German.

 

In order to receive a student visa here in Austria, you must first arrange health insurance.

This can be done with the public health insurance provider, the Gebietskrankenkasse (GKK), but only if you are very keen to experience old-school Austrian bureaucracy first hand.

When you try to organise your student health insurance through GKK, you are faced with a series of difficult challenges and frustrating inconsistencies.

To begin with, everything has to be arranged in German, from the first meeting to the final contract. And as everybody knows, it’s not wise to sign any contract you can’t read beforehand! In addition to the language barrier, there are also often delays and a mass of supporting paperwork that must be brought in, often after first having it translated out of your native language.

In contrast, we here at FeelSafe pride ourselves on the speed and fuss-free nature of our service. With us, your student health insurance can be arranged completely online, without the hassle of needing to upload any supporting documentation. What’s more, it only takes a few minutes, and the health insurance is normally confirmed within a few hours – a bit change from the weeks it can take going through GKK. And all this at almost exactly the same price as it would cost you to use the public option!

So as traditional as the state bureaucracy is to Austria, avoid experiencing it first-hand when you buy your student medical insurance by using FeelSafe, and spend that time experiencing all the other cultural adventures Austria has to offer!

Austrian Universities outside of Vienna

Last week’s blog focused on universities in Vienna, and the huge range on offer here. However, there is so much more to Austria than Vienna. Living in Vienna, it can be easy to forget how big Austria is, and how much it’s other cities have to offer in terms of education. This week, therefore, we’re going to take a little bit of a tour around Austria, and explore all the possibilities it offers international students – all of whom, of course, FeelSafe is ready and able to provide student health insurance plans to, to help them settle in to their Austrian studies.

Lower Austria (Niederösterrreich) is the beautiful state that surrounds the metropolis of Vienna. It is rich in natural beauty, full of caves and thermal springs, and of course, institutions of higher education. Krems and Sankt Pölten, the capital, host the Danube University, the New Design University, and two separate Universities of Applied Sciences! Although obviously not as populous as Vienna, these universities offer unique experiences for international students who would prefer to be away from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis, and is particularly well suited to students of health and life science, and design.

Further to the west, the beautiful city of Salzburg, with its UNESCO-recognised baroque city centre, plays host to its own public University and the Mozarteum, along with several private universities. The Mozarteum has a particularly interesting history – its origin lies with Mozart’s widow, who organised an association of music lovers in his home town, and stands now as one of the foremost conservatories in Europe. One pronounced advantage of studying in Salzburg as an international student is its proximity to the snow. It’s not unknown for students to attend a lecture in the morning, and by afternoon to be hitting the slopes – which is not a bad way to be at all.

Graz, Linz, and Innsbruck, the other large cities of Austria, all also have fantastic universities for international students to attend. The University of Graz is the second-largest university in Austria after Vienna University, teaching over 31,000 students; Johannes Kepler University in Linz features a Virtual Reality Center, which helps emergency workers train for catastrophes and allows physicists to conduct experiments too difficult to be carried out in real life; and the University of Innsbruck was the first institute to examine the body of the famous Neolithic ‘ice-man,’ ‘Ötzi’.

Austria offers a hugely diverse range of educational experiences for international students to choose between. There is only one constant: whichever one you choose, FeelSafe is there to provide you access to easy, inexpensive, and high quality health insurance, and to make your stay just that bit easier and more enjoyable.

Viennese Universities

Vienna is a city of universities. As befits a city that has long been associated with intellectuals and the life of the mind, and one that has been a home to Freud, Wittgenstein, Mahler, and many other luminaries, Vienna has a strong culture of tertiary education. Not including Colleges of Applied Science (Fachhochschulen) Vienna is host to sixteen separate universities, both public and private.

The largest universities in Vienna are the eponymous Vienna University, the Technical University, and the University of Economic and Business. Between them, these universities teach almost 150,000 students. The student population in Vienna is heavily international, lending studying in Vienna a cosmopolitan, diverse feel. 25,000 international students study at the University of Vienna alone. (and, of course, being international students, need health insurance in order to receive their student visa to Austria – a service which FeelSafe provides with pride and efficiency).

Apart from the large public universities, Vienna also hosts many smaller specialised private universities. The Music and Arts University, as the name suggests, is specialised for teaching music – a perfect fit for Vienna, which has long been renowned for its culture of classical music, and as the home of Mahler, Strauss, and Schönberg. Speaking of famous Viennese names, the private Sigmund Freud University is also located here in the Austrian capital. It specialises in teaching psychotherapy, and is the only university in the word to offer a degree in the subject at an undergraduate level.

Vienna is, therefore, an excellent city to study in as an international student, as it offers both a high quality of education and a diversity of specialities. Regardless of whether an international student chooses to study at a private or a public university, however, they must secure a student visa within a short period of time after arriving here in Austria. Before the visa can be issued, an international student needs to be able to demonstrate two things: their enrolment in an Austrian educational institution, and evidence that they are covered by appropriate student health insurance.

Amidst all the hubbub of the first few weeks of arriving in Austria and diving into your studies, it can be difficult to remember to arrange for student health insurance before the crucial date by which you must apply for your visa. This difficulty often results in students needing to leave the country altogether and then re-enter it, often during the middle of studies, in order to conform to the regulations are health insurance and student visas. Luckily, FeelSafe is aware of these difficulties, and our simple online registration allows you to bypass any such difficulties and immerse yourself in Vienna, the city of universities. It’s just one way FeelSafe is making Austrian student health insurance faster, better and easier!

What Makes FeelSafe Different from Public Cover

(W)GKK

GKK is the public insurance company in Austria. They have been operating for a long time in the market. Their basic cover is available to international students. FeelSafe, however, offers everything GKK does, and more – and for only a fraction more per month. In this blog post, let’s compare what what the two providers cover.

What GKK covers:

  • No online purchases. To get covered by GKK, you have to go to their office during working hours (which are limited), take a number and wait in line.
  • Only German spoken. Employees of GKK do not necessarily speak English. Everything, from the contracts to customer support, is in German. If you’re just starting in Austria and don’t speak German fluently, you may miss important information.
  • Basic medical services:
    • Full guarantee of cost coverage for stays in public hospitals in a multi-bed room
    • Medical treatment (public doctors)
    • Brand medicines and generic medicines
    • Physiotherapy, ergo-therapy, logopedics
    • Medically indicated psychotherapeutic treatment
    • Dental treatments

Similarities

  • International student health insurance
  • 100% guaranteed. The health insurance in accepted from all authorities (e.g MA35)
  • Same prices
  • Full guarantee of cost coverage for stays in public hospitals in a multi-bed room
  • Medical treatment (public doctors)
  • Brand medicines and generic medicines
  • Physiotherapy, ergo-therapy, logopedics
  • Dental treatments

Feelsafe

FeelSafe not only offers everything that GKK offers, but much more besides. Whereas GKK offers you the basics, and takes a lot of trouble to sign up to besides, FeelSafe offers you more, more quickly, and with a lot fewer hurdles to jump to get it.

What makes Feelsafe different:

  • Online services. You can buy your health insurance online in 5 minutes and in this way avoid any long queues.
  • Live chat. Live chat is available on our front page. Ask questions and get the answers you need in real time. In English, too.
  • Speedy Confirmation. Confirmation of your purchase is sent via e-mail within 24 working hours.
  • Extra medical services (beside all the services that the public option offers):
    • Transportation back to your home country when medically necessary.
    • Medical treatment (private doctors)
    • Medical treatment (complementary medicine)
    • Homeopathic medicines
    • Home visits by a public or private doctor
    • Repayment for glasses or contact lenses up to € 379,- / two years
    • Helicopter transport from difficult to reach locations after an accident

MSc. Emi Trepçi

FeelSafe and the new approach towards health insurance!

FeelSafe is a company that offers different types of health insurance. Our targets are international non-EU students, guest professors, researchers, scholars, and expats, but with or without jobs and families in Austria.

 

With that in mind, one might think that FeelSafe is nothing more than a normal insurance company, but in fact there are  several  factors that distinguish FeelSafe from most of the insurance companies that are nowadays in the Austrian market.

 

Since when the company was founded it was a priority for the co-founders to help foreigners coming to Austria for educational or working purposes.  When international people (specifically non-EU citizens) come to Austria, they tend in the most of the cases to find themselves confused or lost in all the paperwork and the bureaucracy of the local institutions. The language barrier especially can exacerbate these difficulties.

Uniquely among private insurers, FeelSafe can amazingly offer almost the same exact prices that the public insurance company offers.

 

The process of getting information about the services and buying them is really fast, easy, and efficient. On our website there is a live chat where you can ask any questions you might have and get answers on spot. All the communications are done in English, to avoid any communication difficulties.

FeelSafe Rollercoaster Logo

Of course, internationals face plenty of complexities when they first arrive in-country, but since nobody can solve everything simultaneously FeelSafe decided to focus in on making health insurance as fast and easy as possible.

Giving people the opportunity to buy a health insurance online makes a big difference. No longer must international students wait for hours in long lines; everything begins and ends on our website. With our confirmation guarantee, students and researchers are all set for their visa or residence permit application within 24 working hours. Our insurance is fully accepted by all Austrian authorities, including MA35.

All these things FeelSafe offers go to improve the stay of internationals in Austria. With this efficient and fast service, you will have all the more time to enjoy everything Austria has to offer!

And if you’re into adventurous and extreme sports, why not indulge yourself? After all, you’re fully insured. FEEL SAFE all the time!

MSc. Emi Trepçi

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