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Old 26.10.2015, 01:47
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I can speak only English. Is that an issue in Basel, Switzerland?

Hi everyone!


I might get an opportunity to work in Basel. One of my concerns is will I be able to communicate with administrative officers, doctors, etc. if I can speak only English? I know experiences may wary, but what is our general opinion?


Thanks,
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Old 26.10.2015, 01:49
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Re: I can speak only English. Is that an issue in Basel, Switzerland?

It's fine.
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Old 26.10.2015, 02:38
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Re: I can speak only English. Is that an issue in Basel, Switzerland?

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Hi everyone!


I might get an opportunity to work in Basel. One of my concerns is will I be able to communicate with administrative officers, doctors, etc. if I can speak only English? I know experiences may wary, but what is our general opinion?


Thanks,
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I can speak only English
Are you sure?
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Old 26.10.2015, 03:11
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Re: I can speak only English. Is that an issue in Basel, Switzerland?

Oh I am so sorry '22 yards', I didn't know this forum represents place where people cannot make typos. My apologies for that, next time I will go through my message few times before posting to check grammar and I will also turn on spell checker.

I also apologies for being tired after I spent 60 hours in last 4 days in the airplane. Sorry for that buddy, won't happen' again. Next time I will make sure to rest well before posting any new messages here.

And now for serious - please give me a break! If you can't help then please stop being troll and leave the thread.
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Old 26.10.2015, 03:33
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Re: I can speak only English. Is that an issue in Basel, Switzerland?

You will be welcomed into this forum with open arms if you start off like this.
You made errors in your first post which can easily be seen as more than typos, since they change the meaning of what I think you actually wanted to ask.

On topic:
In general you will be able to communicate in English, but do not expect official documents to be provided to you in English. Official languages are German, French, Italian and Rumantsch, and depending on where in CH you go, you might only receive documents in the official language spoken in the region you're in.
While people generally make an effort to communicate if they see you cannot speak German/French/Italian/Rumantsch, an expectation to have everything handed to you in English because you don't speak any other language is widely frowned upon. So make an effort to learn your region's official language as quickly as possible.
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Old 26.10.2015, 03:57
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Re: I can speak only English. Is that an issue in Basel, Switzerland?

Hi glowjupiter,

If we want to be grammatically precise, I said I can speak English, not write it Anyway, can we park this on the side please?

My question in post #1 was probably not clear enough so I will try to rephrase myself. Switzerland would not be first country where I live as an expat, so I know I have to learn language of the country to be able to "function" normally. Otherwise, it would close to impossible to feel welcomed, change jobs, etc.

I was more interested if I can use only English at the beginning without some major issues? For example:
- I have a small kid and it is very important for me to be able to communicate with the doctors somehow. Will English do the trick?
- At certain points in time I will need to do paperwork and probably communicate with Swiss administrative workers. Will I be able to communicate in English?
- Etc.

Thanks,
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Old 26.10.2015, 04:02
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Re: I can speak only English. Is that an issue in Basel, Switzerland?

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Hi glowjupiter,

If we want to be grammatically precise, I said I can speak English, not write it Anyway, can we park this on the side please?

My question in post #1 was probably not clear enough so I will try to rephrase myself. Switzerland would not be first country where I live as an expat, so I know I have to learn language of the country to be able to "function" normally. Otherwise, it would close to impossible to feel welcomed, change jobs, etc.

I was more interested if I can use only English at the beginning without some major issues? For example:
- I have a small kid and it is very important for me to be able to communicate with the doctors somehow. Will English do the trick?
- At certain points in time I will need to do paperwork and probably communicate with Swiss administrative workers. Will I be able to communicate in English?
- Etc.

Thanks,
Good to know that you're aware of the necessity to learn the local language. If you can only speak, but not write English fluently, and not speak or write any official Swiss languages, make sure you improve your English writing skills before coming here.

If you want English speaking doctors, it is not a given that this'll happen with just any doctor you come across. So I'd recommend that you ask for recommendations for English speaking doctors here on EF and/or look for English speaking doctors on doktor.ch.

For contact with administration you might need to bring along a translator depending on what you're dealing with.

Last edited by glowjupiter; 26.10.2015 at 04:16.
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Old 26.10.2015, 05:10
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Re: I can speak only English. Is that an issue in Basel, Switzerland?

Thanks for replies guys.

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Good to know that you're aware of the necessity to learn the local language. If you can only speak, but not write English fluently, and not speak or write any official Swiss languages, make sure you improve your English writing skills before coming here.
Tiredness and jet lag probably took their toll on me. I know I am not Shakespeare, but you must admit my English is not that bad. Or it is?

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If you want English speaking doctors, it is not a given that this'll happen with just any doctor you come across. So I'd recommend that you ask for recommendations for English speaking doctors here on EF and/or look for English speaking doctors on doktor.ch.
Of course I am not expecting every single doctor to speak English fluently, but as long as there are some that does, that will be enough

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For contact with administration you might need to bring along a translator depending on what you're dealing with.
Good to know.
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Old 26.10.2015, 08:18
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Re: I can speak only English. Is that an issue in Basel, Switzerland?

"So long as there are some that do". Maybe do what I do. After posting, read the post through in your head, then edit and correct the typos.

You can definitely arrange your healthcare around fluent English speakers.
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Old 26.10.2015, 08:58
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Re: I can speak only English. Is that an issue in Basel, Switzerland?

Don't let these guys get to you. Basel is a very international city, so you will find a lot of people who speak English, including doctors. However, it would greatly benefit you to start learning German. If you ever want to leave the city,
you will want to be able to communicate with people.

Also, when you make the slightest mistake, you will want to know what the crazy, old Swiss ladies are yelling at you.
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Old 26.10.2015, 09:22
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Re: I can speak only English. Is that an issue in Basel, Switzerland?

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- At certain points in time I will need to do paperwork and probably communicate with Swiss administrative workers. Will I be able to communicate in English?
No, such things are only done in the local language.

Even my wife, who speaks no German, has to deal in German with her Swiss-German Heimatort (or, rather, I do on her behalf)

Tom
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Old 26.10.2015, 09:31
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Re: I can speak only English. Is that an issue in Basel, Switzerland?

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No, such things are only done in the local language.

Even my wife, who speaks no German, has to deal in German with her Swiss-German Heimatort (or, rather, I do on her behalf)

Tom
Tom, I think it is high time that your wife learns a bit of German.... I am sure her Heimatort geranium committee ladies would agree with me.
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Old 26.10.2015, 09:31
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Re: I can speak only English. Is that an issue in Basel, Switzerland?

where if your wife from?
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Old 26.10.2015, 09:39
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Re: I can speak only English. Is that an issue in Basel, Switzerlland?

You can get by only speaking English, most of the time. I found an English speaking pediatrician, family doctor, gynecologist, dentist and dental hygienist without toommuch of a hassle. Like wise for services, you can find an English speaking hairdresser if you need it, and many restaurants will have Enligsh menus.

There are three areas where it gets complicated:

1) everything that has to do with the authorities. The people you meet may or may not speak English, and all paperwork will be in German. Consider getting someone to help you out until you can get by. My husband spoke enough German when we arrive so we could get by, but barely.

2) housing. Same there, the person who will show you the apartment may or may not be able to speak English with you, but don't expect the lease or any other documentation to be in any other language than German. And the mamangement company may send all communications to you in German (and expect that you communicate with them kn German). We found housing was more complicated than point nr 1), and were very happy to have the assistance of a relocation agency to help us out while looking for a flat and for the first months after moving in (lots of issues with the flat). Our contact person at the management company will for example not answer my emails if they aren't in German.

3) school. For obvious reasons. Our son goes to a bilingual school, hence so far it's not a problem, but he's likely to go to local school next year and I know I have to be prepared for a 100% German interface. Possibly Swiss German.

In other words, unless your kid is to start school really soon, it's the first few months that will be hardest and I would advise you to invest in Germand classes but also to consider the use of a relocation agent (or translator/interpretor) in order to sort out the administrative and the housing issues without getting lost in translation.
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Old 26.10.2015, 09:44
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Re: I can speak only English. Is that an issue in Basel, Switzerland?

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Hi glowjupiter,

If we want to be grammatically precise, I said I can speak English, not write it Anyway, can we park this on the side please?

My question in post #1 was probably not clear enough so I will try to rephrase myself. Switzerland would not be first country where I live as an expat, so I know I have to learn language of the country to be able to "function" normally. Otherwise, it would close to impossible to feel welcomed, change jobs, etc.

I was more interested if I can use only English at the beginning without some major issues? For example:
- I have a small kid and it is very important for me to be able to communicate with the doctors somehow. Will English do the trick?
- At certain points in time I will need to do paperwork and probably communicate with Swiss administrative workers. Will I be able to communicate in English?
- Etc.

Thanks,
OP, you will survive even with a less than perfect English. I know plenty of foreigners who dont have English as their mother tongue, know no German or just very little and survive quite well in Zurich for instance. I expect Basel to be similar..
However, you may wish to do a bit of research before choosing your GP, pediatrician for the kiddo etc. As far as Swiss administrative workers go, again, not everyone speaks English but they will ask someone from their colleagues to help you, when needed.
I would say you will be OK in the beginning.
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Old 26.10.2015, 09:44
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Re: I can speak only English. Is that an issue in Basel, Switzerland?

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. . . I might get an opportunity to work in Basel. One of my concerns is will I be able to communicate with administrative officers, doctors, etc. if I can speak only English? I know experiences may wary, but what is our general opinion?. . .
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. . .
And now for serious - please give me a break! If you can't help then please stop being troll and leave the thread.
All communications with the RAV (unemployment office) are necessarily in a local language which in the case of Basel is German. You may require their services earlier than you would wish, if your reaction to the legendary Swiss sense of humour gets you into trouble at work.
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Old 26.10.2015, 09:46
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Re: I can speak only English. Is that an issue in Basel, Switzerland?

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where if your wife from?
Tom's entire life history and daily journal entries are available here.
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Old 26.10.2015, 10:35
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Re: I can speak only English. Is that an issue in Basel, Switzerland?

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Hi everyone! I might get an opportunity to work in Basel. One of my concerns is will I be able to communicate with administrative officers, doctors, etc. if I can speak only English? I know experiences may wary, but what is our general opinion? Thanks,
Your questions have been more or less answered; some folk run into more trouble than others. Single, healthy young men may have fewer problems with a lack of the local language than parents who have to cope with schooling and more often need doctors and dentists and may have more discussions (British understatement) with neighbours about children learning to play the trumpet...

On EF; some folk run into more trouble than others. A lack of information in someone's profile and nothing written by them in the Introductions sub-forum is not an ideal start. This is partly because quite a few of the folk who might be ready to answer a question would prefer to have a bit more background knowledge. If I read English with mistakes in, check the profile and see that the person speaks several other languages, I am more tolerant of their slip-ups than if they have said their mother-tongue is English and that they are looking for work as an English teacher or translater! (We've actually had a couple of these on here!)

Another tip is to look at the 'title' of folk before reacting. Anyone with something about 'mod' in their title, is likely a Moderator and although this doesn't mean they don't get contradicted and critizicised on here, it does mean that they put in quite a lot of work to keep this place clean and tidy. They may get a couple of Brownie points and as a new member I wouldn't have wanted to put their backs up too much!
The 'one liners' may be irritating when you want a proper reply, but they are sometimes the things which keep the knowledgable members coming back online to see what is going on. And the knowledgable members might be the ones who can answer your question accurately - and even if they can't, the 'one liners' and non-helpful replies keep your thread nice and visible on the front page.
End of Monday's sermon.
Basel is a lovely city. Enjoy it.
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Old 26.10.2015, 10:38
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Re: I can speak only English. Is that an issue in Basel, Switzerland?

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OP, you will survive even with a less than perfect English. I know plenty of foreigners who dont have English as their mother tongue, know no German or just very little and survive quite well in Zurich for instance. I expect Basel to be similar..
However, you may wish to do a bit of research before choosing your GP, pediatrician for the kiddo etc. As far as Swiss administrative workers go, again, not everyone speaks English but they will ask someone from their colleagues to help you, when needed.
I would say you will be OK in the beginning.
Agreed. For us housing was the most difficult issue to deal with without good command of German, and we don't regret the use of outside help. Personally, after having gone through the moving routine twice in Zürich, I would never sign a lease or an inspection report I don't understand perfectly.

With the administration, it worked somehow as a) the documents are usually pretty straightforward (most people can figure out how to fill the forms), b) as you mentioned, in most case there will be someone who can help. My only encounter with an official office where nobody wanted/could help me out in a language I could speak was with the police (over the phone ), and even then I got it right in the end.

However, one has to have a good tolerance for linguistical frustration. I remember a friend of mine who stopped going to the restaurant because she couldn't bear not being able to read the menus; needless to say, she has since moved from Switzerland...
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Old 26.10.2015, 10:42
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Re: I can speak only English. Is that an issue in Basel, Switzerland?

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... Our son goes to a bilingual school, hence so far it's not a problem, but he's likely to go to local school next year and I know I have to be prepared for a 100% German interface. Possibly Swiss German...
I don't know how it is in Zürich, but at school teachers are supposed to communicate only in High German, even with the kids. They don't always, but they're supposed to.

However, they never spoke to us in dialect. Sometimes in High German (one teacher spoke fluent English but refused to communicate with us in that*), sometimes we'd talk in English and the teacher speak in German, sometimes entirely in English - depending on the English abilities of the teacher.


*obviously his political stance about foreigners "must speak our language" outweighed any benefit to our daughter that might have accrued by us fully understanding what he was wittering on about. However he'd already written her off and put her in the lowest stream after primary. Where she was for three months, before being put into Secondary, and ending up in Gym... Hey - you meet idiots everywhere.
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