Moving to Switzerland from the US and UK - what you need to know
For anyone considering moving to Switzerland from the US or UK with young children, here is my report card one year on from arriving here.
Clean public spaces, nice parks for kids
Safe - we even had a lost wallet returned to us
Beautiful - the mountains, the lakes, proximity to nature - it is stunning
Skiing - need I say more?
High salaries - relative to the US/UK
Low taxes - relative to UK at least
Good international schools for expat children and good local schools too
Central location for trips within Europe - Easyjet flies everywhere in expensively
Punctual, safe, clean and reliable public transport
Ability to claim tax savings when shopping in Germany or France if you live close enough
Great climate - nice seasons and warm, sunny summers
Lots of festivals and international events throughout the country
Great museums for all interests
Good quality food in supermarkets
Friendly community of expats
Good language schools for learning the local dialect
Excellent healthcare - although you do pay for it in your premiums
Now the Bad ..
The dialects are difficult to learn and of limited value to your children growing up if you intend to return to the US/UK
Extremely high prices of housing/real estate/new and used cars
High cost of health/car/personal insurance - this came as a real surprise
High cost of clothing and commodities
High taxes for personal imports - forget ordering anything from Amazon as you will be taxed on everything that enters the country
Complicated bureaucratic processes for getting your B-permits and Swiss driving licenses - but this is the same world-wide
Complicated process for importing a car from the US - the whole process including bringing the car up to Swiss code cost around $15,000 and took about 6 months
Unwieldy system of recycling - they give you a calendar of recycling days for different materials and you have to drop different things off in different places - not very consumer-friendly compared to the all inclusive blue wheelie bins back home
And the downright Ugly!
Silence-obsessed neighbors who have no qualms about literally screaming at your 2 year old children while they are on the tram/playing in their own garden - both have happened to us and we thought we were strict with our children!
The 'Bunzlies' - a stereotype of the older generation but certainly based on fact - when they see you are foreign, they will shout at you or your children for eating on the tram or for leaving your car running while you set your GPS - both have happened to us and to lots of others judging by this forum
The graffiti - it is so ugly and is everywhere and no-one makes any effort to clean it up
The smoking in public spaces - so many people smoke, even in children's playgrounds. I can't understand why the public health message about this has passed Switzerland by.
The inability to politely wait in line for trams and at shopping counters - the Swiss sense of order seems to disappear in this area
The Swiss fear of confronting issues directly - rather than come talk to you about a problem they will post rude notes on your car/apartment door or even call the police when your toddler is crying after 10pm - these have all happened to us. It has really surprised us how people will not talk to you directly if they have an issue.
Swiss drivers - whatever you do, respect the right hand rule where you have to yield to the drivers entering roads from the right - it is very unclear for US/UK drivers as they have few stop or yield signs, the side-roads just lead in to the main thoroughfare. If you yield for drivers voluntarily do not expect them to thank you as they would in the UK. Also, pedestrians simply walk out without looking on pedestrian crossings, expecting you to do an emergency stop if you are just 5 meters away - again different to the cultural norm in the UK and US where most pedestrians make eye contact with you to make sure it is safe to cross. Lastly - always give way for the trams - they stop for no-one!
To summarize - like anywhere, and we have lived in the UK/US/Australia and France - there is always the good, the bad and the ugly. We have been here one year now and have had some wonderful experiences as well as some disappointing ones but overall we are happy here.
I hope this report will help newcomers and people thinking about moving to Switzerland - at the very least my advice would be:
1. Negotiate hard with your salary and welcome package as there are so many hidden costs after you arrive
2. Unless you have a very high value car, do not import it from the US as it is not worth the trouble and cost.
3. Get a head start on learning the language as soon as you learn you are moving to Switzerland - it really helps
4. If you have young children, make sure you move to an area/apartment building that is family-friendly as the adage 'children should be seen and not heard' is the cultural norm here.
The following 6 users would like to thank zephr7 for this useful post:
Personally, I don't find the auto insurance so expensive here.
I pay about 110 per month here and paid about 95 per month
in the US.
Agreed, except for health insurance. I had to pay for one month of health insurance in the US after I left my last employer - it was more than $400/month for just me. Now, in Switzerland, we pay 440 CHF for two people's insurance - similar coverage.
Re: Moving to Switzerland from the US and UK - what you need to know
440 bucks for two people health insurance is damn cheap. Regarding car insurance the fee will be lower after some years if you have no expensive car crashes or whatsowever. I pay maybe 75 a month with Teilkasko (and it could be cheaper if I would not have missed the last opportunity to cancel the insurance and get a cheaper one).
Re: Moving to Switzerland from the US and UK - what you need to know
My 2 cents worth,
the weather. Its certainly a step up from the UK but depends upon where in the US you are coming from. The summers here can be a little, lets say wet (looks outside at grey clouds).
Health care is comparable to the US or cheaper for us here (company covers whole thing no co pay). Car insurance in the USA was a joke especially when I first moved. They wouldn't recognize any driving experience outside the USA and I finally got 1200usd for 6 months after initial quotes of 4500usd for the absolute minimum legally required insurance.
B permits and license here were much easier and better than the UK or the USA. The UK gave me two (are they National Insurance numbers?) identities. Basically they merged me with a taxi driver from Birmingham with the same name.
The US I couldn't get a driving license because I couldn't provide enough information to NJ to prove who I was. Green card, passport, bills, still not enough. Only when i realized my marriage certificate was an additional form of id could i take the theory test to get a licence.
SSN I had to go 3 times because they just didn't do what they said they would. The whole process of moving to the US was a nightmare. Including not having any credit history.
Grafiti exits everywhere. I haven't been confronted by any drunk 14 year olds in the parks here (like in the UK) but I haven't been looking.
The smoking and queuing or lack thereof is most of Europe, not just Switzerland. On smoking coming from Australia, the UK and USA were also way way behind us, and the USA is state by state with not all states at the same place. No queuing is annoying for me but both are just a different culture.
Moving is hard wherever you go and everyone probably has slightly different experiences.
We are lucky to have had no issues with bad neighbors.