Re: Moving to Switzerland?
I am a dual national (German/USA) and have spent long periods of time living in both the US and Germany. We (an ~ 50 y.o. gay couple, without children) left San Francisco two years ago after suffering from burnout after many years of working in the software industry there and have been travelling in Europe ever since, on a journey, trying to find the right place to live. Since we can work from home, as your husband does, it has placed us in to the same position you are in: Where would you live in the world, if you could choose?
Our travels so far have lead us from Portugal (specifically Lisbon), where we initially spent several months to a prolonged stay of over two years in southwestern France (in the Basque region). We have decided that while this is a wonderful place for vacation, we don't imagine we will ever 'feel home' here in France. Having known Switzerland from the many vacations my parents made here while I was a child, and given the changes in immigration rules, we are cosidering a move to either the Zurich or Bern areas to start our own little software firm.
What this journey, combined with my switching between Germany/USA several times during my life has taught me so far, is that it is very hard to anticipate the mentality of a place unless you have been there for a while. The main reason we are considering leaving France is the strong sense of 'you are not French' that I have encountered here. The language barrier is a part of that more than anything else, combined with the prejudices against things that are 'anglo-saxon'. While I speak very good French in general, I find it hard to find many people that will help me by meating me half-way. There are many French, so the need to speak English is much more contained to the few that need to deal with tourists. If you speak even broken French they immediately stop using English with you.
I believe this is generally true of those countries in Europe that were once dominant cultures: France, Germany, England and Britain, perhaps Italy. Those cultures have large bodies of literature and were never forced to integrate outsiders heavily. They have strong, very protectionist domestic markets, and as their cultural influence is now very heavily diminishing, they have somewhat of a complex about it. Each country reacts differently to this, but I would stay away from them.
The smaller countries, and particularly Switzerland, have always been 'multicultural' to some extent. They have smaller egoes. If you go visit Belgium or the Netherlands or Sweden many people speak excellent English and are willing to use it freely with you. I have a good friend in Belgium whose parents, well into their late 70's, even speak fragments of English even though it is a big stretch for them. What I'm trying to point out is that in some places people will try very hard to maike you feel welcome and in others they won't.
The other thing you might consider is that it may be very important for you to give your kids as much exposure as possible, based on your choices, to the outside world. The way I integrated in the US (as the child of two German speaking parents) was to totally become engaged and accepted by assimilating the language and culture in school until the age of twelve. My parents then moved back to Germany and I went through the reverse process of having to totally assimilate Germany, the nuances of its language, and its ways. These things put a great deal of stress on me as a child, and there were moments when I hated my parents for this. I just wanted to be American at one point, and later I just wanted to be German. Integrating the two is a challenge for anyone, as you might find for yourselves after being away from the US for a longer period of time (say 10+ years).
A last word about the Swiss: There are quite a few prejudices about them in the different countries of Europe and as with all prejudices, they hint at the root of some differences between cultures, while giving them a negative spin. But at the root there may lie some truth. The words efficient, orderly, perfectionist and reserved come to my mind first.
I don't know i this is true any longer, but it was also always said that the Swiss would not accept you as their own until you were there for a very long time. I hear this is changing, and the changes in immigration law seem to be along those ligns. But there is still a debate going on in the country about how to become part of the wider world in the age of globalization. There seem to be many projects in the financial and pharmaceutical industry that are run with English as the working language for whole project teams. There are entire recruiting firms where everyone speaks perfect English and it ia hard to tell if these are native Swiss or not.
I'll leave it at that for now... Have funn on your journey. And feel free to ask more details if you like ;-)