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Old 02.12.2014, 15:18
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Expat Living: CH versus GERMANY? Differences/similarities?

I'm wondering how non-EU people here (that have lived in both Switzerland and Germany) feel about Expat life comparatively in either country?

For sake of comparison, let's compare say, German speaking canton of Zurich or Basel with another large city in Germany (Berlin/Munich/Frankfurt/Hamburg.) I am aware the cost of living and salaries are different.

I'm simply looking for some comparisons regarding daily life, specifically:
- How it was to integrate, make friends, find a job and activities (not being fluent in German)?
- Which offers the greatest variety of activities, things to do?
- What do you enjoy the most/least about both countries?
- What are the biggest cultural/demographic/climate differences?
- Where were you happiest and why?
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Old 02.12.2014, 16:42
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Re: Expat Living: CH versus GERMANY? Differences/similarities?

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I'm wondering how non-EU people here (that have lived in both Switzerland and Germany) feel about Expat life comparatively in either country?

For sake of comparison, let's compare say, German speaking canton of Zurich or Basel with another large city in Germany (Berlin/Munich/Frankfurt/Hamburg.) I am aware the cost of living and salaries are different.

I'm simply looking for some comparisons regarding daily life, specifically:
- How it was to integrate, make friends, find a job and activities (not being fluent in German)?
- Which offers the greatest variety of activities, things to do?
- What do you enjoy the most/least about both countries?
- What are the biggest cultural/demographic/climate differences?
- Where were you happiest and why?
I was not an expat when I lived in Germany, but I guess knowing that people in Germany will speak Standard German would make it relatively easier to integrate than here in German-speaking Switzerland In the latter, the ability to understand Swiss German, with its various dialects, would help in integrating, although some local people would be happy to speak in Standard German. People still can survive in both areas without fluent German.
In big cities in Germany, there are many varieties of activities, as well as here in Zürich or Basel. So, I don't think there's much different. Berlin is probably bigger and thus offers more activities.
I should admit that the social welfare in Germany is better than here in Switzerland, but then you pay higher tax in Germany.
Considering the climate difference, I wouldn't say there is much difference, except it's usually relatively colder in Germany. I can't say much about the cultural difference, because I don't think there's much difference either, except the fact that Swiss people don't like being compared to the Germans
Well, where was I the happiest? I'd say it's relative. Here I can easily enjoy mountains and lakes. But in big cities in Germany, it's more lively I think.
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Old 02.12.2014, 18:10
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Re: Expat Living: CH versus GERMANY? Differences/similarities?

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I'm wondering how non-EU people here (that have lived in both Switzerland and Germany) feel about Expat life comparatively in either country?

For sake of comparison, let's compare say, German speaking canton of Zurich or Basel with another large city in Germany (Berlin/Munich/Frankfurt/Hamburg.) I am aware the cost of living and salaries are different.

I'm simply looking for some comparisons regarding daily life, specifically:
- How it was to integrate, make friends, find a job and activities (not being fluent in German)?
- Which offers the greatest variety of activities, things to do?
- What do you enjoy the most/least about both countries?
- What are the biggest cultural/demographic/climate differences?
- Where were you happiest and why?
i am German now living in CH. you cant compare none of those cities above to Zurich or Basel. Berlin (home town) has roughly 4mio people living there.
the variety of things to do is endless! i dunno, it has 6 major theatres, gazillions of cellar stages where plays are shown when Zurich has 3 and a handfull of these stages here. there is 100 museums to 5 in Zurich, 1000 clubs to 10 in Zurich. Berlin has 200 parks, here its a 20sq km lawn at the lake, a few smaller parks. the same for Munich or Hamburg... the variety outshines Switzerland by far. Zurich/Switzerland has for every taste and style a niche, but limited. in these German cities you can choose from endless options... i say same counts for London, Copenhagen, Amsterdam etc pp. BUT: you will have the same situation here as there, that you can live your life peacefully and anonymous. I tend to say Zurich is way way way more cleaner! but i miss dog shit every now and then as it shows people actually live there...its no postcard scenery 24/7 like here.
big difference is the public transport: punctuality and time you need to travel from A to B. in return most of the german cities have better bike paths throughout the whole city. Germany is by far easier to get by making acquaintances. sit in a Munich beergarden and you wont sit there for long alone. somebody will chat you up... beer is our common ground and lingo, so... doenst matter if you can talk Bavarian as long as you know what "prost" means. bureaucratism is big in Germany but again id say Germany and its people are less lawabiding than its here, especially in Berlin and Hamburg, Munich might be an exception. service is also crap, but in Switzerland...its stoneage and people came just out of their caves. but in Switzerland you hardly find any vending machine broken, everyzhing works hassle free! all these subscriptions like passes for public transport etc. is just ace! any facility you enter in Switzerland is like a brand new 5* spa. its so well maintained... its incredible! in that respect Germany is massively run down!
taxation is the biggest nightmare one can think of in Germany. nah, you cant think of such a system if it wouldnt exist there! (i am feeling way more in control of my spendings, costs, though cost of living is much higher here. that was a massive relief and still is.) the state is peoples enemy, whereas here people have a different approach. politics, EU crap and all that comes with it... i am glad i am living here and watch it as a bystander now.
finding a job i think was and still is easier for me here. also i made much more progress in my career here. work ethics are different here. i cant name one company in Germany telling you, that after 5 months you MUST take holidays as its not healthy for you etc. so they look after employees more here. as everything here works rather smooth, it makes life hasslefree and easy. its like you live where other people go for hols and it makes some things i miss from Germany less important. also you get used to that here is no späti-business, so no 24/7 corner shops open all night in every borough of your city. you organise stuff differently. what i am missing is the variety of shopping. after 8 years i reached the limits. plus a few local specialties like a proper bockwurst, bread, brezn n stuff... never say never but i would never go back. never!
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Old 02.12.2014, 18:40
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Re: Expat Living: CH versus GERMANY? Differences/similarities?

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work ethics are different here. i cant name one company in Germany telling you, that after 5 months you MUST take holidays as its not healthy for you etc. so they look after employees more here.
Are you saying that when it comes to paid holidays, CH is better than DE?
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Old 02.12.2014, 18:48
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Re: Expat Living: CH versus GERMANY? Differences/similarities?

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Are you saying that when it comes to paid holidays, CH is better than DE?
haha, no! i know peeps that have 30+ days of holidays plus diverse local holidays and the like... sums up to 40-45 days... big difference in germany.
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Old 02.12.2014, 18:57
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Re: Expat Living: CH versus GERMANY? Differences/similarities?

Very good post Flo, thanks. Aren't you concerned by all the anti-foreigener rhetoric in the Swiss media? If you had a family here, wouldn't you prefer to move back to Germany? (Germany does give better tax breaks for children than CH)
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Old 02.12.2014, 19:02
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Re: Expat Living: CH versus GERMANY? Differences/similarities?

for non-EU, I can sum up the most important difference very briefly:

EU Blue Card.

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Old 02.12.2014, 19:54
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Re: Expat Living: CH versus GERMANY? Differences/similarities?

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the variety of things to do is endless! i dunno, it has 6 major theatres, gazillions of cellar stages where plays are shown when Zurich has 3 and a handfull of these stages here. there is 100 museums to 5 in Zurich, 1000 clubs to 10 in Zurich.

Germany is by far easier to get by making acquaintances. sit in a Munich beergarden and you wont sit there for long alone. somebody will chat you up... beer is our common ground and lingo, so... doenst matter if you can talk Bavarian as long as you know what "prost" means.
Thank you for the detailed post! The 2 things you mentioned above are quite important to me (variety of things to do, and welcoming fun culture - easy to make acquaintances... ) but I suppose I need to spend more time there to see for myself!!!

There is something a bit creepy to me about Switzerland's perfect, placid facade... I just can't seem to get used to the silent evenings, closed doors on Sundays, spotless streets. Sometimes I hope that the bus or train is late, just to see people have some sort of emotional reaction from the disorganization!! lol!!!
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Old 02.12.2014, 21:16
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Re: Expat Living: CH versus GERMANY? Differences/similarities?

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Very good post Flo, thanks. Aren't you concerned by all the anti-foreigener rhetoric in the Swiss media? If you had a family here, wouldn't you prefer to move back to Germany? (Germany does give better tax breaks for children than CH)
i think the first WE i spent 2004 in Goldau made me hold my breath: a 3rd reich-like styled poster showing black, red and yellow hands grabbing swiss passports from a christmas tree. phew! also looking up to 18 city lights at the HB platforms showing this minarett campaign is making me thinking sometimes: seriously? do you SVP/rightwingers know, that with that indifferent communication, you "speak" to all foreigners, also those you welcome here? and you ruin your image by doing so being racist, xenophobic and all that?

it took me a while to understand that (thats the way i understand it) the whole xenophobic rhetoric and campaigns aims in large scale at "joe the plumber". as what i heard and read in the media, also in "weltwoche" or swiss peeps being guest in german tv shows is, that the EU with Bulgaria, Poland, Rumania and the like and the free travel and work rights puts pressure on the small jobs and low wage sector. and i hear that if the voters base erodes in these SVP cantons, the SVP will be in big trouble. hence the "easy to get" in your face communication. because its simpler to argument as "them foreigners" instead of differenciating "skilled tax payers are good, rest we better keep out".

when it comes to anti-german athmosphere... i never had any bad experiences yet. i think its a result of a) understanding swiss german b) keeping a low profile and being a bit more considerate and held back when it comes to my life here. all the pisstake i laugh about! its that they rub against us germans for so many psychologically reasons... penis trouble. get a couch and talk about it to get some selfesteem, haha!

family... no! yes its more "social" in germany, but still... all that does not work over there is still keeping me here and always will.
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Old 02.12.2014, 22:05
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Re: Expat Living: CH versus GERMANY? Differences/similarities?

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taxation is the biggest nightmare one can think of in Germany. nah, you cant think of such a system if it wouldnt exist there! (i am feeling way more in control of my spendings, costs, though cost of living is much higher here. that was a massive relief and still is.) the state is peoples enemy, whereas here people have a different approach. politics, EU crap and all that comes with it... i am glad i am living here and watch it as a bystander now.
...
Imho Germany's biggest nightmare is those forever-complaining Germans everywhere. Crowds of public crybabies that occupy every single space of society. Luschen und Waschlappen, slimy whimps.
On the other hand, due to massive German immigration to Switzerland, you have them also here. So it's a no-win situation.
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Old 02.12.2014, 22:40
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Re: Expat Living: CH versus GERMANY? Differences/similarities?

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Very good post Flo, thanks. Aren't you concerned by all the anti-foreigener rhetoric in the Swiss media? If you had a family here, wouldn't you prefer to move back to Germany? (Germany does give better tax breaks for children than CH)

As for the rhetoric - as a German, you get used to it.
You basically get it from any country a German soldier has set foot in (or a German bomb has been dropped) in the last century.

Germany's size and economic power, its history make it an easy target.

As for the tax-breaks - well, before you get a tax-break, you've first got to earn enough. And even then, the tax-office will first take the money away for you to maybe (!) return it to you a couple of months later.
Childcare is much cheaper in Germany - but simply only because the market can't pay more.

I really, really like the Swiss tax-system, as it encourages responsible public spending. In Germany, every mayor will want to build a monument for himself: a public swimming-pool, a municipal hall etc.pp.
Here, it goes to the ballot and often thrown out subsequently.
Because people here can directly see for themselves and calculate "OK, it will cost me X Steuerprozente".

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i think the first WE i spent 2004 in Goldau made me hold my breath: a 3rd reich-like styled poster showing black, red and yellow hands grabbing swiss passports from a christmas tree. phew!
When I came to Switzerland (2005/2006), some of the posters reminded my of pictures from my history-books. Do a Google image-search for "der Stürmer", to see what I mean.
I'm glad the rhetoric has since been toned down a bit and it didn't catch-on in the German press.

I agree with the notion that Germany is run-down. It's not even that bad in the South, but a large part of the infrastructure in Germany (particularly schools, but also bridges, roads) is slowly but steadily decaying due to lack of funding for anything but superficial repairs.
Of course, the longer you put off investing there, the bigger the problem gets.
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Old 02.12.2014, 23:10
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Re: Expat Living: CH versus GERMANY? Differences/similarities?

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As for the rhetoric - as a German, you get used to it.
You basically get it from any country a German soldier has set foot in (or a German bomb has been dropped) in the last century.
...
So that's why Switzerland is a paradise for German migrants. Escaping from shitstorms from former occupied countries. Thank God Switzerland cannot be one of those.

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I really, really like the Swiss tax-system, as it encourages responsible public spending. In Germany, every mayor will want to build a monument for himself: a public swimming-pool, a municipal hall etc.pp.
Here, it goes to the ballot and often thrown out subsequently.
Because people here can directly see for themselves and calculate "OK, it will cost me X Steuerprozente".
...
Imho Zurich is much dirtier, Switzerland much more unefficient, and on the other hand Berlin, Munich and Hamburg much more boring than others depict it. But of course, it might depend on the working field and, after all, de gustibus ...

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When I came to Switzerland (2005/2006), some of the posters reminded my of pictures from my history-books. Do a Google image-search for "der Stürmer", to see what I mean.
...
That might be a little bit exaggerated, but yes rhetorics is stronger than most of SVP themes (which are not a priori right-wing positions, for instance). AfD, Front National, that Farrage fool from that stinky rotten bankrupt island have much more extremists' views than SVP. Btw. SVP is not a strong party because of, but despite those posters.

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I agree with the notion that Germany is run-down. It's not even that bad in the South, but a large part of the infrastructure in Germany (particularly schools, but also bridges, roads) is slowly but steadily decaying due to lack of funding for anything but superficial repairs.
Of course, the longer you put off investing there, the bigger the problem gets.
Sometimes I ask myself where you all are living. Are you all from the former Soviet East, maybe Uckermark or Spreewald without any infrastructure if not all that old Ossi crap, and now you think you've hit the Jackpot in downtown Zurich (which btw. has a very antique public means system)? I don't think Switzerland is so well equipped in terms of infrastructure, public expenditure and stuff like this. And not a very clean place either.

And - which is my main concern - I don't think anybody is making a big compliment in stating that technical things work very fine and everything is very clean, nature is nice and the grass is green,
if only there weren't all those Swiss around (who are difficult, not as easy as the allmighty Germans, social wrecks and all that stuff ...).
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Old 03.12.2014, 11:11
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Re: Expat Living: CH versus GERMANY? Differences/similarities?

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For sake of comparison, let's compare say, German speaking canton of Zurich or Basel with another large city in Germany (Berlin/Munich/Frankfurt/Hamburg.) I am aware the cost of living and salaries are different.

I'm simply looking for some comparisons regarding daily life
I quite agree that aside from the official language there is very little similarity between Germany and Switzerland - especially if you compare it to Berlin (beautiful, delightful, lively city, CRAP weather), Frankfurt (pretty) or Hamburg (another delightful city AND by the sea, oh yeah!) - Munich, as every German person will tell you, is altogether different, being in Bavaria and much more similar to Zurich...

anyway, I lived in both and to me:

- How it was to integrate, make friends, find a job and activities (not being fluent in German)?
Germany is more easy going from a social point of view, but in Munich you will find shopkeepers that REFUSE to speak or understand you if you don't speak Bavarian

- Which offers the greatest variety of activities, things to do?
Germany, specifically Berlin is one of the most electrifying cities in the world

- What do you enjoy the most/least about both countries?
in Switzerland I can speak more English and the cheese is better

- What are the biggest cultural/demographic/climate differences?
see my comments above

- Where were you happiest and why?
I think that's a bit personal ;-)

joking aside, hope this helps.
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Old 03.12.2014, 12:34
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Re: Expat Living: CH versus GERMANY? Differences/similarities?

It depends on the working field and one's interests, if a place is considered interesting or boring.
Berlin to me is one of the worst places in the world, however others love it. For me it's very negative that you don't earn quite anything, people are awful, culture is crap, food is terrible (I don't care if it it's cheap as I would never eat Currywurst and those horrible things, they are even worse in the former Soviet part than elsewhere, because in the Western part you have at least the cuisine of the immigrants, who would never want to settle in the eastern part, considering the natives there), and from Berlin everything is far away, except Ossizone. But again, this is personal. So who cares.


The point is rather that from a cultural point of view, Switzerland is traditionally a free country and a country of immigration, at least in some cantons and regions, for centuries, and much more open than others depict it here, imho, meanwhile Germany is quite a village everywhere, social control and supremacy mentality all over the place (you don't have to burn a German flag to try; which btw, with regards to the Swiss flag, in Switzerland is no crime, if one didn't steal the flag before). True that German public speech is or was more political correct, but look at how Germany's public opinion considers the role of the Germans (as victims, taxpayers and cashcows for everything and everybody, even of WWII) and how big is the percentage of net immigration and where foreigners live.
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Old 03.12.2014, 13:14
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Re: Expat Living: CH versus GERMANY? Differences/similarities?

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Berlin to me is one of the worst places in the world, however others love it. For me it's very negative that you don't earn quite anything, people are awful, culture is crap, food is terrible.

Switzerland is traditionally a free country and a country of immigration, and much more open than others depict it here, imho, meanwhile Germany is quite a village everywhere, social control and supremacy mentality all over the place .
Could you explain a bit more how the culture/people/politics are different in Germany? Are you saying that Germany is more socially conservative and less open (to say foreigners, for ex: less willing to speak English & mix)? Do you feel that in Germany there is more of the "village/keep to yourself" mentality?

Thank you all again for your thoughts & feedback.
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Old 03.12.2014, 13:30
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Re: Expat Living: CH versus GERMANY? Differences/similarities?

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Could you explain a bit more how the culture/people/politics are different in Germany? Are you saying that Germany is more socially conservative and less open (to say foreigners, for ex: less willing to speak English & mix)? Do you feel that in Germany there is more of the "village/keep to yourself" mentality?

Thank you all again for your thoughts & feedback.
I personally found the mentality in Berlin very cosmopolitan and open, like Hamburg, Frankfurt is a lovely place to live - whereas Munich as a city is an oversized mountain village - like *ahem* most of Switzerland.

Switzerland is much more conservative than the cities you mentioned in Germany (again, parts of Bavaria excepted), and, frankly, what the Germans call "schiki miki" (up its own backside to the rest of us): too much money I suppose, meaning they turn their nose up at all foreigners, forgetting that until about 100 years ago, when cars became popular, the winter lasted about 6 months, during which time they were COMPLETELY isolated by ice and snow and could go back to the favourite past-times of isolated places worldwide (incest, alcoholism and sheep-shagging all come to mind) - sorry I am generalising and being snobbish, rude and dismissive but there is not really a lot of ELEGANCE in Switzerland and Bavaria, is there?

right, now I've been thoroughly spiteful I'll go and hide in a corner
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Old 03.12.2014, 13:49
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Re: Expat Living: CH versus GERMANY? Differences/similarities?

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Could you explain a bit more how the culture/people/politics are different in Germany? Are you saying that Germany is more socially conservative and less open (to say foreigners, for ex: less willing to speak English & mix)? Do you feel that in Germany there is more of the "village/keep to yourself" mentality?
...
Maybe "keep to yourself" mentality is more Swiss like, as it's more a value in Switzerland that everybody is responsible for himself, not the collectivity.


However, imho yes, in the contrary to popular belief among Germans, Switzerland is less socially conservative than other places. It is not since yesterday that Switzerland has regions of immigration till today and that a high percentage of the Swiss is of "non-Swiss" ethnical Background, not speaking of the portion of foreigners still coming to and living in CH.
Of course things are not always easy,

however ask a Turk in the Western part of Germany or, probably much more difficult - as immigrants generally don't even dare to settle in the eastern part - ask a Vietnamese immigrant in the East for their opinions on Germany, by comparison to what a foreigner in CH could tell you.

I don't say that Germany is such a terrible place and Switzerland a paradise, however I do think that with the German unification and the new role Germany was forced (quite unwilling) to pick in the EU, old German values (yes, there are some, and I don't mean punctuality and discipline) plus some of the new ones adopted after 1945 (for obvious reasons) got kicked overboard. So Germany is not as attractive as it used to be in the 70ies and 80ies (if it is for EU immigrants at this very moment, it is because others are even worse), meanwhile Switzerland, step by step and only slowly, at least improves in a good direction. With regards to multiculturalism, integration, participation, culture, at least.
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Old 03.12.2014, 14:22
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Re: Expat Living: CH versus GERMANY? Differences/similarities?

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Could you explain a bit more how the culture/people/politics are different in Germany? Are you saying that Germany is more socially conservative and less open (to say foreigners, for ex: less willing to speak English & mix)? Do you feel that in Germany there is more of the "village/keep to yourself" mentality?

Thank you all again for your thoughts & feedback.
All right, I'll add my 2 cents...

Switzerland - better scenery and financial situation. Friendlier people (meaning strangers on the street who say "hi" when out for a walk. Possibly easier to make friends in Germany)

Germany - everything else...

I lived from '98-'03 in the Rhein-Neckar Area (Mannheim/Heidelberg) and from '09 -'11 just outside of Munich. High German - SOOOOOO much easier than Swiss German. Shopping - more choice, more shopping hours, cheaper. More of everything - clubs, sports, entertainment, space...

It is hard to explain the feelings I have for Switzerland - I should love it - the kids are happy, I am happy with our house, I have a few local friends, but something is missing... I think, in all the German speaking world, I would feel more comfortable living in Germany or Austria over living here. But as I said, the money here is better due to higher salaries and lower taxes...

Cuturally, Germany is a much more formal society, always saying Herr So.and.So or Frau So.and.So versus first name. And the Germans are big on their titles and keeping relationships on a Sie level (at least at work). I do like the informality of the Swiss people in this sense, as I don't feel as bad when I slip and use du instead of Sie...
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Old 03.12.2014, 15:12
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Re: Expat Living: CH versus GERMANY? Differences/similarities?

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but in Munich you will find shopkeepers that REFUSE to speak or understand you if you don't speak Bavarian
thats bollocks. if one would do that, he ran out of business. Munich is full of "zugroaste", "isarpreissn"... that does not work and i did not have that in 7 years ever.
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Old 03.12.2014, 15:31
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Re: Expat Living: CH versus GERMANY? Differences/similarities?

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I personally found the mentality in Berlin very cosmopolitan and open, like Hamburg, Frankfurt is a lovely place to live - whereas Munich as a city is an oversized mountain village - like *ahem* most of Switzerland.

Switzerland is much more conservative than the cities you mentioned in Germany (again, parts of Bavaria excepted), and, frankly, what the Germans call "schiki miki" (up its own backside to the rest of us): too much money I suppose, meaning they turn their nose up at all foreigners, forgetting that until about 100 years ago, when cars became popular, the winter lasted about 6 months, during which time they were COMPLETELY isolated by ice and snow and could go back to the favourite past-times of isolated places worldwide (incest, alcoholism and sheep-shagging all come to mind) - sorry I am generalising and being snobbish, rude and dismissive but there is not really a lot of ELEGANCE in Switzerland and Bavaria, is there?

right, now I've been thoroughly spiteful I'll go and hide in a corner
this reads completely backwards to me.
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