Making it in Austria – National Language as Launching Pad to Career

July 12, 2022

A gateway to culture and people

Do you speak German? About 90% of English-speaking applicants with academic training find themselves with this question and sometimes feel annoyed and a little disappointed. Why do you need to know German in Austria when the world works in English? There are corporate languages, aren't there? Yes, there are. It is possible in principle to work here without speaking German. Possible, but to "get a foothold" here and for longer certainly not useful, because every language contains a great deal of knowledge, experience and local connotations.

Several white paper balls, inside a blue one, around which a rocket taking off is painted with chalk
Speaking the local language might not be necessary, but can be launching pad to further boost your career.

Language as a gateway to culture and to people's hearts

That is why immersion in the culture of a country is so important, only with the local language, apart from better career opportunities, you will benefit in the long run and also only in this way you will have the opportunity to integrate effectively into a society. Especially if you work as a manager or team leader.

When I came to Germany more than 20 years ago, I didn't want to "only" learn the language in order to use it for my studies after returning to my home country, but I also wanted to "live" it and thus get to know a new cultural universe.

The fact that I speak German fluently has not only given me a much wider choice of professional opportunities, but also made bureaucratic ways of everyday life less complicated and allowed me to act independently. Almost like in my home country.

Katerina Vollmann Portrait

Katerina Vollmann

  • Career Partner of the WU Executive Academy

Good knowledge of the local language is a decisive factor that not only opens doors, but also hearts.

For a career outside the international community

From the point of view of an executive search consultant, in addition to a large international community, there are of course also a number of companies in Austria that actually no longer require any knowledge of German. However, this is highly dependent on the industry.

Nevertheless, outside of these companies and community, if you don't want to live in an "expat bubble", a good knowledge of the local language is more than valuable. Also, if you want to have customer contact. If one cannot speak the language, one is simply left out.

As a rule, it is still true for applicants, prospective executives and managers who want to establish themselves here that the local language is an essential and supporting pillar of the career and that knowledge of the German language or the willingness to learn it here, in Austria, is, if not expected, then at least desired.

Here a statement, Katerina likes very much: “Living in Vienna or Germany without learning German is like looking at the local world only through the television without going out yourself. Not unpleasant, but it is and remains a very truncated experience.”

Other alumni also share their experiences of how knowing the local language was beneficial for their career.

Share this