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Old 29.05.2015, 23:01
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Texas to Zurich - Are we insane for considering?

Hi there, I just posted my introduction and this is my first specific post, so hopefully I'm not in the wrong place with this.

At this stage we are considering a potential move from Austin, TX, USA to Zurich. My husband is being recruited for an IT Program Manager position there, and I am a stay-at-home mom to our young child.

Based on some brief research online, it seems the cost of living is in fact quite a lot higher than we are used to here in Austin, so I'm wondering if we're crazy for even considering this move. We have a toddler, two Great Danes, a house cat, and a baby on the way (due in October).

I'm wondering about some general considerations that might aid us in our decision as well as salary discussions. What should a decent gross annual salary look like for a family in our situation? How difficult/expensive is it to find housing suitable for a family of 4 with (large/many) pets? Is giving birth in Zurich as an expat a reasonably straightforward process?

I'm sure the answer to a lot of this is "it depends", but I was hoping for some anecdotal information that might help give us a place to start in this big decision!

Thanks so much in advance!
Lauren
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Old 30.05.2015, 00:24
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Re: Texas to Zurich - Are we insane for considering?

First issue might be finding a place that will take your pets.
You will need a relocation agent.
Just my opinion, if the company will not cover the cost the job in not paying enough.
If you see this as an adventure and leave the pets behind. You are in the center of Europe and can visit many countries, learn new langagues etc.
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Old 30.05.2015, 00:50
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Re: Texas to Zurich - Are we insane for considering?

Texas and Switzerland have very different values on various scales. It would take some mental adjustments. Size, for example. Fridges and ovens are small, like college dorm rooms or bachelor pad small. The country is small and land locked, and the effect on the mentality is that you cannot afford to mess up. You may feel like someone is keeping an eye on you waiting for a misstep.

Social protocol is another. In Texas, I can hear a store clerk's life story and current situation if I hung around long enough. In Switzerland, there are co-worker who've locked themselves in their office, never seen, and many don't know their names.

Unfortunately, these are not simply cash flow situations. They are very different perspectives of the world. I think it is enriching to experience another culture. Others find it very painful to adjust, and nearly go nuts. See the Forum's complaints corner. Many get stuck in limbo where neither place feels like home anymore.

If you are able, I would keep a footprint in both places. Good luck!
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Old 30.05.2015, 01:14
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Re: Texas to Zurich - Are we insane for considering?

Hi,
American near Zurich for just over a year. As has been said, there is more than money to consider. My wife and I moved from SoCal and her parents are retiring in Blanco TX. From the financial side I would wonder how much you net in Austin vs what you plan to negotiate for the move. I can say for us a 20-30% increase was necessary for me to start getting serious but I didn't have the kid or big dogs. I also did not have to work in Zurich or crave center of big city life. We are generally happy with how things have worked out but if I had a 15% pay cut it would be a very different situation.

Hope this helps

Eric
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Old 30.05.2015, 04:08
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Re: Texas to Zurich - Are we insane for considering?

@TXKatz

My guess is that, unless your husband’s job is in the very top range of salaries, you will probably not be able to afford to live in a home large enough to accommodate two large dogs and a cat. Even if you can afford such premises, many landlords (and you will probably be renting) do not permit animals in their premises at all. This is quite common, here. And many people live in flats/apartments and not in houses. That is only partly because houses are more expensive, and partly because there are not so many built, and the most of the cities’ populations live in flats. A flat is deemed unsuitable for large dogs, per se.

Having said that, you could ask a few relocation agents about this, yourself. And look in the threads about pets/animals in this forum, where there a lot of folk are knowledgeable about transport, quarantine, vet’s fees, etc..

Some employers pay for a relocation agent. This kind of perk was common during boom times, but is becoming less automatic, as are school-fees for international schools, or the costs of flights back to the States a few times a year.

As you can imagine, questions along the lines of yours are very common on this forum. You can find other thread with similar information by using the search function (upper right of the screen) with search-words like budget, moving, immigrating, cost of living, lifestyle, salary, etc.

You might like to wade your way through these two long threads along the lines of your questions.

Budget For Family of 4 in Basel
kayakdad

What lifestyle will we have
Pinkpanter

I absolutely second what Phos has written. Immigrating to Switzerland (or perhaps from anywhere to anywhere) can be a miserable experience for anyone who persists in expecting the way Thing Are Done in their country of origin to be the standard, correct and usual way. However, Switzerland can be a fantastic place to live for anyone open to learning the local language, ready to face a challenge of living in much smaller premises and using the super public transport, open to learning the local language, interested in taking up something new, open to learning the local language, genuinely interested in encountering a completely different approach to live, and to be open to learning the local language… oh, I think I already said that latter bit. You get the point.
Welcome!
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Old 30.05.2015, 05:28
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Re: Texas to Zurich - Are we insane for considering?

Regarding the pets, here are some things to consider:
1. Can't speak for Zurich, but in our move from TN to Basel, having large pets (Golden and Great Pyrennes) severely limited our options for housing in an already very limited market. Finding the right size place that allowed pets became impossible and ultimately, we had to leave them back at home. (And I did have a Relo package with a dedicated agent).
2. From their POV, CH would not have been a good place for them. They had access to open land and water every day where they could free run and be dogs. And the GP did what he was bred for- which was protect the heard and bark* at anything that was a possible threat ( squirrels, rabbits and hairless apes mostly) which he did with full drooling zeal. Here- they would have to act like well behaved school children (seen and not heard) as the laws here are very strict.
3: Shipping large dogs is incredibly expensive, and with an oversize breed, well let's just say I've bought new Harley's for less. And that was just for the 1 GP ( custom built crate, etc). it's also logistically complex- only a few airports seem to process dog shipments overseas and there are lots of rules. There are a few companies that provide this service. Get a quote to see what I'm talking about. Again - my company was willing to cover this but if you are on a fixed relo budget- it has to be considered.

As much as I and the family miss them every day, it was the right choice for us and them. They are with two sets of life saving friends - the golden is back with her brother and mother and gets to run in the Wasatch mountains every day. The GP is on a high desert ranch in CO doing what he loves- sitting on a hill and watching the herd.

Which brings me to the last bit. If you can't make it work with them here- please take the time to find the right home for them.

Good luck.

*there is a reason why bark control devices use GPs in their marketing ads. WOOF! Louder than some bells here for sure.

Last edited by VFR on top; 30.05.2015 at 05:37. Reason: Spelling
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Old 30.05.2015, 07:55
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Re: Texas to Zurich - Are we insane for considering?

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Hi there, I just posted my introduction and this is my first specific post, so hopefully I'm not in the wrong place with this.

At this stage we are considering a potential move from Austin, TX, USA to Zurich. My husband is being recruited for an IT Program Manager position there, and I am a stay-at-home mom to our young child.

Based on some brief research online, it seems the cost of living is in fact quite a lot higher than we are used to here in Austin, so I'm wondering if we're crazy for even considering this move. We have a toddler, two Great Danes, a house cat, and a baby on the way (due in October).

I'm wondering about some general considerations that might aid us in our decision as well as salary discussions. What should a decent gross annual salary look like for a family in our situation? How difficult/expensive is it to find housing suitable for a family of 4 with (large/many) pets? Is giving birth in Zurich as an expat a reasonably straightforward process?

I'm sure the answer to a lot of this is "it depends", but I was hoping for some anecdotal information that might help give us a place to start in this big decision!

Thanks so much in advance!
Lauren
No, you're not crazy.
I don't know if the insurance will cover the birth in your case, so you might want to check this out first (not as a deterrent, but just so you know). Otherwise, for that position, I'm pretty sure your husband's salary could match your expectations, by and large. I only hope you can stay at least 2-3 years, it wouldn't make that much sense to move a large family for only a year or two.
Your kids are still very young, so if you decide it's not for you, you can go back "anytime" you want (more or less, depending on the contractual obligations), it's not like they would have started the school here, learned to adapt etc.
Great opportunity to visit all the places you probably always wanted to visit.
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Old 30.05.2015, 10:04
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Re: Texas to Zurich - Are we insane for considering?

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Texas and Switzerland have very different values on various scales. It would take some mental adjustments. Size, for example. Fridges and ovens are small, like college dorm rooms or bachelor pad small. The country is small and land locked, and the effect on the mentality is that you cannot afford to mess up. You may feel like someone is keeping an eye on you waiting for a misstep.

Social protocol is another. In Texas, I can hear a store clerk's life story and current situation if I hung around long enough. In Switzerland, there are co-worker who've locked themselves in their office, never seen, and many don't know their names.

Unfortunately, these are not simply cash flow situations. They are very different perspectives of the world. I think it is enriching to experience another culture. Others find it very painful to adjust, and nearly go nuts. See the Forum's complaints corner. Many get stuck in limbo where neither place feels like home anymore.

If you are able, I would keep a footprint in both places. Good luck!

This is the best reply I have seen in years. I am Texan and Swiss, have a daughter in Austin and have lived there.

As much as I LOVE dogs ( Great Danes..amazing) and have taken all our dogs on our international moves, they would probably be happier in Texas with large amounts of space..And you'll be infinitely more free to explore and enjoy Europe without that extra responsibility. ..especially with a new baby.

However, if you do choose to bring them, you may want to know dogs in Switzerland ( and many European countries) are usually well behaved and accustomed to sitting quietly, at your feet while you enjoy a meal, in restaurants. ( Great Danes may not fit...) If you want to leave them at a sitter, the daily price can be substantial. (50-100 ??) Most of the time, it is quite difficult to find open spaces to let them run, so you'll do a lot of walking with them.


Good luck with your decisions!
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Old 30.05.2015, 11:42
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Re: Texas to Zurich - Are we insane for considering?

Y'all know I'm going to say this...

When one brings a pet into one's life, one takes on a responsibility for the animal's natural lifetime - including international moves.

If after having researched all possibilities one truly believes that this move is not in the animal's best interest, one either does not accept the assignment, or only the employed partner moves, the family stays behind with the pets.

I make no apologies for my hard core stance. I have spent many years volunteering in rescue here in Switzerland, and yes - expats are among the worst offenders.

Yes, having dogs in Switzerland can be difficult and expensive, one must often be prepared to make compromises in order to ensure that the animals have a good life here. But if you are willing to make those compromises it certainly can be done. As you can see by the many stories we dog owners post in the Pets Corner.

(The Meloncollies, three now but at one point five, all in my tiny Swiss shoebox of a house, might not have the space we had in the US or Asia, but they live happy, healthy, adventure-filled lives here. As do most dogs I know whose owners are committed to their welfare.)

No, you will likely not live as you did in Texas. Materially, especially wrt housing, you will likely need to accept a different standard of living - or be prepared to spend significantly more to try to replicate something even marginally close to what you have now.

But Switzerland has much to offer, even when living in our tiny houses in our crowded neighborhoods. The question for you and your family is: Will what Switzerland offers you and your family, will this adventure, balance out the material compromises you likely need to make?

That is an individual decision, can only be made based on your individual situation and values. For some the answer is no, for many the answer is an enthusiastic yes.

---

But whatever you decide:

A pet is for life. Always.

/sermon.


What breeds are your dogs? Be aware that half the cantons have some form of BSL in force, which might affect your decision or your choice of where to live. Hop on over to the Pets corner, there is plenty of information there.

ETA:

Just re-read your post and see you have Danes. No problem wrt to BSL, Danes are welcome in all cantons, although they require a permit in TI, and the fact that you have two would require a permit in GL. But chances are you wouldn't live in either of these cantons anyway. In ZH Danes are List 1, large dogs ( any dog over 15kg/45cm ) which triggers additional mandatory training classes beyond the federal SKN - if they were born after 31 Dec. 2010. But no biggie - the classes are fun, and a great way to meet new friends and kindred spirits. You could also live in one of the surrounding cantons, depending on how far you are willing to commute. Dog control is the compentency of the cantons and communes, hence there are (at least) 26 different sets of laws.

However, be aware that ear cropping and tail docking are banned in Switzerland, this is a federal law. (Animal welfare is the competency of the federal government). If your Danes are cropped/docked you have some bureaucratic hoops to jump through in order to import them - but it's do-able. If this is the case, contact the cantonal Veterinäramt in the first instance. The purpose of the ban is to improve animal welfare - so even though docking and cropping are forbidden and someone already resident in Switzerland may not import a docked/cropped dog under any circumstances, there is an exception granted to a long time family pet who moves with the family (this is important) when they first enter Switzerland. A measure designed to improve animal welfare shouldn't result in making a long time family pet homeless, hence this exception.

You should get in contact with MacGregor's Daughter, EF's resident Dane expert, who shares her life with the lovely Miss Ebby. To put a smile on your face and to balance some of the negative comments, take a read through this wonderful thread:
R.I.P Cazimir - welcome Ebby!


Good luck with your decision.

Last edited by meloncollie; 30.05.2015 at 16:06.
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Old 30.05.2015, 12:21
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Re: Texas to Zurich - Are we insane for considering?

Oh, forgot about dogs.
In my neighbourhood, a family house (nothing fancy and rather old but spacious) with a relatively generous garden was rented for around 4200 chf/month. (some friends used to live there so I'm sure about the price....yes, I've asked ).
I think it's do-able if OP will be in the top range of salaries, which is quite likely.
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Old 30.05.2015, 12:27
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Re: Texas to Zurich - Are we insane for considering?

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As much as I LOVE dogs ( Great Danes..amazing) and have taken all our dogs on our international moves, they would probably be happier in Texas with large amounts of space..And you'll be infinitely more free to explore and enjoy Europe without that extra responsibility. ..especially with a new baby.
I rescued a black Lab from a shelter in the US on the day before she was to be put to sleep. I'm convinced she knew it too. So I take her to Switzerland, and gave her to an elderly couple. They walked her 5 times a day and she roamed freely through the forest. She even had her own personal couch in the middle of the house. Its like she died and went to heaven.

I think Texas is way too hot for some dogs. Dogs do great here.

<woof>
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Old 30.05.2015, 14:05
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Re: Texas to Zurich - Are we insane for considering?

Hello Lauren,

No, not insane, but very brave

For me the dealbreaker in your situation are the dogs. They will exclude 90% of the available accommodation. This means you will need to rent a house with enough space and this can be very expensive. Of course you could find something in the country, but at the beginning I think living in a town is better. The reason for this is social contact, especially for your wife and the children. I've often seen that when one partner stays at home it leads to tensions if he/she cannot make social contact and new friends.
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Old 30.05.2015, 14:45
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Re: Texas to Zurich - Are we insane for considering?

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No, you're not crazy.
I don't know if the insurance will cover the birth in your case, so you might want to check this out first (not as a deterrent, but just so you know).
Basic insurance will cover the birth and all the scans/doctors visite etc from the day she registers here. The basic cover for Pregnancy and birth is actually very good.
What she won't be able to get is the supplementary insurance which would give here more choice of clinics and private/semi private room.
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Old 30.05.2015, 15:44
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Re: Texas to Zurich - Are we insane for considering?

A few more websites to check out, this time for housing.

www.immoscout24.ch
www.immostreet.ch
www.homegate.ch
www.home.ch

Most of the sites have English, but the individual property details will be in German so you may need to use a translation package until you get used to which words mean what. Keep in mind that here bathrooms, kitchens, storage rooms, etc, are not counted in the room numbers in adverts so a 3 room place could be either a living room and 2 bedrooms or a living room, separate dining room and 1 bedroom. The .5 you'll often see on adverts is when the living/dining area is combined as one room.

You will need to look at renting a house I think, 2 Great Danes in an apartment will be no good for anyone, you or your neighbours. So use the advanced search options to find places where pets are allowed. Even if you do find a place please check and double check that your particular pets will be welcome. While some places may accept dogs they may also be thinking of the smaller breeds rather than GD sized animals. If possible get it written into the rental contract that your pets are allowed and also expect to pay a bit extra on your personal liability/contents insurance to cover any damage that they may do. It will be easier to find a place if you look outside of the immediate Zurich area, but keep in mind commuting distance from hubby's place of work. You can check these with the SBB's website which will give you detailed info for bus/train journeys from point A to point B.

http://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html

Dog ownership is very strict here compared to the US and there are several things you'll need to do. First you need to make sure you know what is required to bring your pets into the country. Use the handy tool you'll find here on the Swiss Vet Office website.

http://www.blv.admin.ch/themen/04670...x.html?lang=en

Secondly, within 10 days of your arrival you must take both your dogs to a vet to be checked over and to have them registered in the ANIS database. You'll also have to pay a yearly dog license fee in whichever gemeinde (town) you settle in.

Thirdly you or your husband, whoever is likely to be walking the dogs regularly, needs to take the mandatory SKN theory and practical course for dog owners. If you've had dogs for many years you may be able to skip the theory course with the approval of the cantonal vet office, but you still have to do the practical side iirc. This must be done with each dog so you'd have to do the course twice. The practical side must be completed within 1 year of your arrival in Switzerland. I don't know how manageable this would be for you with a toddler and a newborn. There are trainers around who do offer the course in English and there is one oneline source for the theory part which is also available in English. Also given the size/weight of your dogs you will also need to do a further course required by Canton Zurich.

Fourthly, you'll need to familiarise yourself with the local dog ownership rules of your particular gemeinde. These include things like when dogs can be off leads or have to be on them. For example in our gemeinde from April until mid-July dogs must be on a lead at all times when in the forested areas due to the young forest dwelling animals being born and raised. Other rules could be that muzzles must be worn, etc; each gemeinde has its own rules on this so as well as knowing the canton requirements you must also find out these once you move in.

Now back to you. You'll often see CHF120,000 a year mentioned (jokingly) as the minimum figure needed to live here, but in your case that may be a very good starting point. Use the following website to check on the various insurances you may need to get an idea of what your costs may be.

www.comparis.ch (it is in English as well)

Check the following to get an idea of grocery and other household stuff.

www.migros.ch
www.coop.ch
www.aldi.ch
www.lidl.ch
www.denner.ch

Aldi, Lidl and Denner will all be cheaper than Migros and Coop, but they are smaller stores so you may need to mix your shopping to get everything.

Once you have a rough idea of costs then you'll be able to think about what sort of figure you can negotiate for.

Another thing to consider, being Americans, is that you will still need to file US tax returns no matter where you live in the world plus you will also need to report your "foreign", i.e. outside of US, bank accounts if the aggregate amount comes to more than $10,000 at any time of the year. You may also owe US tax on top of your Swiss taxes. Start your research on this here:

http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Inter...-Aliens-Abroad

Also Americans are not that welcome at Swiss banks due to the US's FATCA law so your choices for a basic checking/salary account (which is all you will get - no mortgage/investments) are limited: UBS, Credit Suiss, PostFinance and the cantonal banks of Zurich and Basel seem to be the only ones still accepting American clients. To open an account here you will need to sign a W-9 form to allow said bank to pass your account info on to the IRS.

Finally, if you haven't been put off by all this and are still seriously considering the move I suggest you get hold of a copy of "Living and Working in Switzerland" by David Hampshire. It's full of useful info for both before and after you move here. You can order it from your local bookshop or via the Internet.
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Old 30.05.2015, 19:12
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Re: Texas to Zurich - Are we insane for considering?

Thank y'all very much for the feedback, this is all very useful information!

My husband is German born and raised, and I studied German in high school/college and also lived in Munich for 2.5 years, so hopefully the language wouldn't be too much of an issue (though I will admit that "Schwiitzerduetsch" sounds very strange to me!).

It does sound like pets and therefore housing would be our biggest issues, and there's no way we'd leave these guys behind. (For those interested, I made them my profile pic - the puppy is now 10 months old and MUCH bigger )

I'm guessing at this point we're probably leaning towards just staying put in Austin - being an expat was certainly much easier without a family to worry about! Maybe the company will surprise us an offer a relo package/salary that is impossible to turn down, but after more discussion we've decided that it would take an awful lot to make us move right now.

It's definitely good to know that if we do end up in Switzerland that there is a fantastic expat community - that was such a huge help for me when I moved to Munich, so I'm happy to see that it seems to be a global phenomenon.
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Old 30.05.2015, 19:21
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Re: Texas to Zurich - Are we insane for considering?

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there's no way we'd leave these guys behind.
Good on ya!

I hope you do make it over here, we need more dog owners like you.

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For those interested, I made them my profile pic - the puppy is now 10 months old and MUCH bigger
Oh my - stunningly gorgeous doglets.


Wishing you and the family, two and four legged members, all the best.
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Old 30.05.2015, 23:33
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Re: Texas to Zurich - Are we insane for considering?

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I'm guessing at this point we're probably leaning towards just staying put in Austin - being an expat was certainly much easier without a family to worry about! Maybe the company will surprise us an offer a relo package/salary that is impossible to turn down, but after more discussion we've decided that it would take an awful lot to make us move right now.
I think you just need to be lucidly aware of what you are in for, and your expectations are set accordiingly. Budgeting 2 to 3 trips a year to recharge in Texas would help cope. Your kids could pick up a new language, and it is centrally located in Europe, for touring.

Just one other point of comparison I wanted to add. Its relatively safe here, and the crime rate is low. I think there is less factor of fear of your fellow human beings hetr. So in other words, you didn't really need firewrms here. . But yeah, I know Austin is a relatively enlightened place. Just sayin.
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