How to survive Vienna, Austria’s endless lockdowns and mandatory masks

Due to the Austrian government’s reaction to Covid-19, Austria has now had more national lockdowns than almost any other country in the world.

Lockdowns that are damaging Austria’s economy, bankrupting thousands of businesses, and have so far caused over 938,000 people in Austria to either lose their jobs permanently or be placed in a short-time working scheme.

For me, a non-Austrian living in Vienna, Austria’s endless lockdowns and mandatory masks are things that, overall, I do not participate in.

Particularly as I believe Chancellor Sebastian Kurz is making an enormous mistake.

That does not mean I break the law, however, nor am I advising that you do.

Instead, when I arrived back in Austria in August after several months of being stuck in the U.S., I decided to organize my life so that it went on pretty much as normal.

With Austria’s lockdowns and mandatory masks simply existing outside my sphere of reality.

Surprisingly, it is not difficult to do and, for me, allows me to survive Vienna, Austria’s endless lockdowns and mandatory masks with little or no stress.

Here is what I do to ensure all of that.

Hopefully, some of it might help you too.


This is the only kind of mask I currently wear

I do not wear masks and will not wear FFP2 masks


I have asthma, so find it difficult to breathe when wearing a mask. FFP2 masks would be almost impossible for me.

That is why, since I arrived back in Vienna last year, I organized my life so I do not have to wear masks, while still sticking to the regulations currently set out by the government of Sebastian Kurz.

This is how I do it:

  1. I never take public transportation. I walk everywhere instead. Not only does that mean I don’t have to wear a mask when getting from A to B, I have also saved over 365 euros on public transportation costs this year by walking.
  2. I do not physically shop in Austria. That includes groceries and food, which I order online and arrange to have delivered directly to my apartment instead. The rest of the items I need I order from Amazon Germany or other similar websites.
  3. I do not visit any place that requires a mask be worn. That means shopping is out, museums are out, restaurants, clubs, bars etc (if they ever open again!) are also out of bounds for me at the moment. While I miss being able to do those things, I am fine continuing to do that until the restrictions disappear.
  4. I will not wear the newly mandated FFP2 masks due to not being able to comfortably breathe in them. Sadly, that means I will not be able to take a flight on Austrian Airlines I had planned on booking next week, as FFP2 masks are now mandated on those flights as well.
  5. Should masks become mandatory outside on the street, I won’t leave my apartment until they are not. I am fine with that as well.

Surprisingly, by doing all these things, an additional bonus is I have spent far less money in 2020-2021 so far than I ever have before.

Who knew avoiding masks could be such an enormous money saver!!!


I spend a lot of time in my lovely, colorful kitchen on my computer working

I spend most of my time at home

As I work from home online,  unlike many others in Vienna, I am lucky to not be forced to leave my apartment unless I want to.

That means I can spend my time on things I like doing and that enrich my world, without having to work around one of Vienna’s lockdowns or the mandatory mask law.

Now that we are in an extended lockdown until February 7th, that usually means I leave my apartment most days to go for a walk (you need exercise to keep you healthy and to clear your mind, and Vienna is a wonderfully walkable city).

Other than that, my day is planned around doing yoga at home, cooking healthy meals, working on my career and, of course, relaxing.


My career is my priority during Vienna’s lockdowns

Along with freelance writing work, I also own and run several websites. Including this one.

When I arrived back in Vienna, I decided the easiest way to deal with a lockdown was to make my career my priority and use the additional time I now have to plan ahead for when the Covid-19 mess has finally ended.

After all, if I didn’t, I would regret wasting all that time once this craziness is done.

That has meant having many more hours in a day to spend on my career, whether it is writing articles, planning new projects, contacting potential future collaborators or clients, doing research or taking online classes at Skillshare.

All of this I do with the general goal of having an even stronger career after Covid.


I love my bright, comfortable studio apartment. It’s a lovely place to spend my time during Vienna lockdowns

My home is my sanctuary

As I am being forced to spend so much time indoors, and particularly as we have had an 8pm curfew for weeks, I have made sure my Vienna apartment is my sanctuary.

That means I reorganized everything so my living space looks lovely, and so that things are easy to find.

It means I sweep the floors every day and clean the flat twice a week, I make sure things are always put away after I use them, and I make the rooms I spend most of my time in warm, comfortable and inviting.

That way, when I sit down with a cup of herbal tea for an afternoon break, I look around and love what I see. It also means I can live a mostly stress-free life.

Absolutely vital in the time of Covid.


Members of The Yogscast stream on Twitch daily, and upload hundreds of YouTube videos

I make daily time for entertainment

As I don’t own a TV, my entertainment is predominantly YouTube videos or Twitch streaming (I am an obsessive gamer and a long-time fan of The Yogscast among many other channels), as well as watching anime on Crunchyroll, reading, or playing one of the more than 700 video games I currently own.

I make time every day to do one or all of these activities. That way I never feel deprived or depressed, even if I am stuck indoors or working long hours.

I talk to my parents and best friend on Skype

I don’t spend a lot of time on Skype as it would rob me of valuable time away from my career goals or relaxation.

I do, however, speak to my parents on Skype 2-3 times a week, sometimes more, and I make a habit of hanging out with my best friend for a couple of hours at least once a week.

As I can’t currently go out to meet friends here in Vienna, I make sure I have some interaction with other people online most days of the week.

Even just a 10-minute Skype call with my mum, dad or both makes my day just that little bit happier.

I cook healthy meals

If you spend a lot of time indoors, as most of us in Vienna are doing at the moment, you should make your life as healthy as possible. A healthy body reduces your stress and improves your mental state.

Vienna’s lockdowns have allowed me to do that via walking, yoga at home and cooking healthy meals.


I always make a healthy breakfast to get my day started off right

I am vegan, but never had time to try most delicious-looking vegan recipes before. Now I do. I also bake my own bread now that I am not grocery shopping in Vienna every day, and I make my own oat milk.

Again, much cheaper than buying it in a Vienna supermarket, as well as being easy.

Homemade bread tastes and smells delicious too!


Vienna has so many almost empty streets that are wonderful for walking in, especially now when it can be depressing going out with all the masks

I exercise every day

Whether it is going for a long walk around Vienna’s beautiful streets (usually on the quieter ones as I like my solitude and prefer to be away from crowds), or doing yoga at home (this is one of my favorite YouTube yoga instructors), I make sure I get exercise every day.

Exercise not only keeps your body fit and healthy, it is a big stress reliever and, for me, something I cannot do without.


Open the windows

Even if you are staying home all day during Vienna’s lockdowns, open your windows!!

It may be winter, it may be chilly, but even just a few minutes of fresher-than-your-apartment-air will wake you up, and at least make you feel as though you are outside.

It will make your apartment smell fresher too.


Keep your head while all those around you are losing theirs

In this time of continually tightening restrictions due to government panic, the mood for many people living in Austria is dire.

The way I avoid becoming involved in that spiral into depression so many are now experiencing is to refuse to join the hysteria over a virus more than 99.8% of people that contract it survive.

That means not reading the newspapers, not trolling the Internet for the latest ‘news’ about Covid-19 (after all, what is ‘fact’ today will be completely the opposite tomorrow), and not worrying about what will happen in the future.

After all, I cannot control the future, I can only control the present.

So I live in the moment, do what I love, make myself happy and satisfied and, above all, protect my own financial security.

The latter also means I do not buy anything I do not absolutely need as, when this is all over, I want to be sure I have enough money to continue on with a decent life.


Final words…

In other words, my words of advice to you are — take a deep breath, take care of yourself and, above all, keep your head while all those around you are losing theirs.

These are just some of the things I do to survive Vienna’s never-ending lockdowns.

Others include getting a good night’s sleep every night, learning something new (currently Japanese) and pampering myself daily with a home manicure, face mask or long soak in a hot bath.

I hope some of these things are helpful for you too.

About Michelle Topham

I'm a journalist, and the founder of Oh My Vienna. I have been living in Vienna since 2016 as an immigrant, because 'expat' is just a fancy word that means exactly that.