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  • ‘We Did The Right Thing’: How This Couple Moved from Manila to Vienna During The Pandemic

    Just seeing the look on their daughter’s face whenever she’s outdoors made the move worth it.
    by Cielo Anne Calzado .
‘We Did The Right Thing’: How This Couple Moved from Manila to Vienna During The Pandemic
PHOTO BY Justin Espejo
  • It’s one thing to move to a new city or the province and another to settle into a new country. Just the idea of uprooting the family to settle in a place that’s thousands of miles away from friends and family can be daunting, but it’s something Justin and Kat Espejo faced head on for their daughter, Kara.

    “It was really brought upon by how the pandemic situation was and still is in the Philippines. Having a 1-and-a-half-year-old daughter at that time and seeing her stuck between the bedroom and living room of our place was heartbreaking and challenging for us,” Justin shares with SmartParenting.com.ph.

    Justin, and her wife, Kat, didn’t have plans of leaving the Philippines for good, but they were blessed with the opportunity to provide a better life for Kara. Kat, who works at Microsoft as finance manager, was due for role movement and she asked her manager if she can look into roles outside the Philippines.


    Flying from Manila to Vienna

    The family of three enjoying a weekend at a park.
    PHOTO BY Justin Espejo

    According to Kat, she and Justin were initially considering moving to Canada, New Zealand, or Australia but roles weren’t opening up for her. As if meant to be, she stumbled upon an opening at Vienna, Austria which required applicants to be English speakers.

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    “When the option opened, we began researching about Vienna and found that it’s consistently voted as the most livable city in the world for several years, its family benefits are top-tier, and it’s right in the middle of Europe so we could have easy access to any European city we like to visit, which is a plus since we love traveling as a family,” Kat recalls.

    Working at Microsoft made it easier for the family of three to make the move happen since the company provided assistance throughout the process. From helping them prepare the necessary documents to receiving guidance from immigration lawyers from Austria, it was a breeze, to say the least.

    “There was a relocation agency that helped us with finding apartments and other settling-in items and a logistics company that helped pack and ship our stuff. If we were left to figure everything out for ourselves, it would have been tedious and exhausting, especially the immigration process,” says Kat.


    Life in Vienna

    Kara recently started Kindergarten and her parents are happy to see her interact with other kids.
    PHOTO BY Justin Espejo

    Is it expensive to live in a city like Vienna? The couple is surprised to discover that it’s not a very expensive city. “As a finance manager, one of the things I had to look up was the salary versus the cost of living,” Kat muses.


    “The only thing that is more expensive here is eating out. The rest is cheaper. My grocery basket costs the same as in the Philippines, but for much better quality. Rent is reasonable, but most importantly, healthcare and education are free!

    “Being used to how it is in the Philippines, I forgot that these are rights, not something we should be paying very expensively for. Taxes are higher, yes, but at least I see where they go,” she adds.

    Since Kara recently started Kindergarten, Kat and Justin don’t have to pay tuition. They just pay a small amount monthly for her school meals which are mostly organic and prepared by an in-house chef.

    The changes and upgrades are more than welcome for the family of three. After three months of living in the picturesque city, it’s safe to say that they are settling in pretty good.

    Outdoors at last! After almost two years of being stuck indoors, Kara was finally able to play outside when they moved to Vienna.
    PHOTO BY Justin Espejo

    They enjoy discovering parks and places to visit, but most importantly, allowing Kara to enjoy the outdoors. They live just minutes away from a park where Kara can play, have fun, and interact with kids her age.

    “I’ll never forget the first Sunday that we got outside to visit a park. The look in Kara’s face when we allowed her to keep running, to sit down and even lie down on the grass – I could see how happy she was. Honestly, that made me feel like we did the right thing in moving,” Justin happily shares.

    Parks and playgrounds in the city are not only spacious, each is also well-maintained to make sure the young ones are safe while playing.

    Raising kids in Vienna

    Kat and Justin want Kara to grow up as a citizen of the world, learning not just Filipino values but being independent, too.
    PHOTO BY Justin Espejo

    Though they’re living a thousand miles away from the Philippines, Justin and Kat want to make sure Kara learns the Filipino language and values.

    “I try to teach her some Filipino words and expressions, but my biggest thing would have to be respect for the elders so we make her call her lolos and lolas as ‘lola nanay and lola mama or lolo tatay and lolo daddy.’ Of course, being responsible enough to do household chores when she’s older. I want her to learn the value of hard work,” explains Justin.


    Aside from being a Youtube filmmaker and content creator, Justin is a full-time Dad. He wakes Kara up every morning and help her prepare for school.
    PHOTO BY Justin Espejo


    Meanwhile, Kat believes in combining the best from both cultures, with the goal of raising a child that’s a citizen of the world. “We like how Filipinos are sweet and extra caring to kids, but at the same time, we love how they teach kids to be independent early on here,” she says.

    According to Kat, Saturdays are meant for errands because shops are closed on Sundays. “Vienna is so family-oriented that they make sure people spend time with their families on Sundays,” she shares.
    PHOTO BY Justin Espejo

    Putting down roots in a new place is a learning process and the Espejos are lucky to have friends who live in other European cities who can visit easily. They also value video calls with relatives back in the Philippines.

    The family plans to settle down in Vienna for good but they plan to visit the Philippines for vacations when the situation gets better.
    PHOTO BY Justin Espejo

    As they establish new routines and learn to adapt, the family is happy to be able to take the leap. “Moving abroad is an experience I will always regret if I don’t do it. If it doesn’t work out, we can always go home. Luckily, it has been working out well,” Kat shares.

    Justin, who is a photographer and Youtube filmmaker, made a short video documenting their move to Vienna. Watch it here.

    Click here to read what it's like raising Filipino kids in different countries.

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