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-   -   Why I HATE Switzerland. (https://www.englishforum.ch/complaints-corner/489-why-i-hate-switzerland.html)

gurutalon 18.05.2006 10:33

Why I HATE Switzerland.
I've been here just over a year and I still can't speak the language, don't have a job, and live over 2 hours from anywhere! Currently we are living with my wife's dad in Brig in the canton of Wallis. My wife is going to the university and working part time, our only income. She is making 20 swiss francs an hour, which here is pathetic. I am at home with her dad everyday and our 11 month old daughter. I'm going crazy, literally. We can't find anyone to rent us an apartment around Bern, Basel, Zurich, Solothurn, etc. any central hub really, that's a 1-2 room cause they all say it's too small even though we are currently in an 11 m square room. We only have about 500 francs for it so can't go bigger. Anyways, today was the first time I snapped and got violent tendencies, I didn't hit anyone, but I attacked the wall and think I broke my hand. I don't know what to do anymore. I'm at my wits end. I've tried applying for teaching, have no experience, tried applying for cooking and no agency wants to help me, and have 5 years of sales experience, but can't prove it, because the company I worked for in the states, Ames went bankrupt. I'm seriously thinking they would be better off without my LOSER butt and contemplating going back to the states where I can talk to people and don't feel so stupid and isolated. Any advice?

Lob 18.05.2006 11:04

Re: Why I HATE Switzerland.
Have you discussed this with your wife? It seems that you've moved from the US with only a plan to use her folks as a stepping-stone and that she would go to university?

Have you been to the local job centre? What permit do you have? Also agencies such as Adecco might be able to help you with that first step - but it sounds like you would have to travel.

What's the tourism industry like in your area? I think there are ski/wellness/other businesses where the language should not be too much of a barrier as there will be many non German-speaking visitors?

Don't get too down, you need a checklist of things to do, see, places to visit and ask for advice or jobs.....focus - because your family needs you!

mark 18.05.2006 12:17

Re: Why I HATE Switzerland.
Sounds like a very sub-optimal situation! But you've come to the right place - at the very least you can get some things off your chest.

I know you've probably been told this before - but at least beginning to make an effort with German will make a world of difference. I know the odds are stacked against you having to look after the child etc, but you really don't have much choice but to try!

What are your hobbies? Are there any clubs in the area where you could go to find people with similiar interests?

I see another stumbling block here is your location. This makes it very hard to do anything, and the dialect in Wallis is such that other people in the country can't understand anything.

If your budget is 500 francs per month for accomodation then you certainly won't get anything in Zurich!

Have you tried going to the Gemeinde (with your wife) and talking to them about your problems? Are you eligible for any social assistance, and maybe you could talk to their social worker? What about registering with the unemployment office - I know they won't shower you with jobs, but they might send you on a German course.

Jack and BaccusWines (Ed) are both on this forum and are in the food industry, maybe they can offer some advice as well?

litespeed 18.05.2006 14:11

Re: Why I HATE Switzerland.
I understand to some degree how you feel, I was not in an unsimilar position when I first arrived. My wife had a low paying job, I was unemployed and we were living with her parents who were quite poor. On the other hand, we have no children.

If you are in Brig, as stupid as it may sound, you might be better off learning French. There are a lot of english-speaking companies in Lausanne, which correct me if I am wrong is not that far by train from there.

Hitting walls and damaging your hand are not going to work. Language is critical here, I think that has got to be your first step. Practice with your father-in-law.

Scott 18.05.2006 17:53

Re: Why I HATE Switzerland.
Basically, gurutalon, you have received good ideas from the others. I can only understand your situation, would drive me stir-crazy as well. But the walls didn't put you where you are, so don't punish them.

Communications is number one. Remember also, the squeeky wheel gets the oil.

Good luck, if you need assistance, let me know... and take care of your hand!

Jack 18.05.2006 18:08

Re: Why I HATE Switzerland.

Originally Posted by mark
Jack and BaccusWines (Ed) are both on this forum and are in the food industry, maybe they can offer some advice as well?

I definitely agree with everything the other members have so far offered. It is a difficult situation for sure, but it is not a mountain that can not be climbed! Language is a huge barrier - it can create a terrible sense of isolation. Perhaps this should be your first challenge... Try visiting a school and seeing if they can help you out, or as someone else pointed out...visit your local government office and see if they will put you in school! As for work... Canton Wallis has the most restaurants per person in all of Switzerland (last time I checked it was something like one restaurant for every 25 residents). These restaurants serve a tourist industry, and they are always looking for help. Have you tried knocking on doors - literally? You might be surprised as to what will open up for you. Try going to the larger hotel/restaurants first, and don't expect a dream job. If you have the skills in the kitchen, you will move up rapidly... If you don't like knocking on doors, then try writing letters and sending them directly to the chef. The best paper to look in for a job is the Hotel Tourismus...it comes out every Thursday, but you will need some German to navigate the ads. The challenge is yours...no one will fix the problem for you. As Mark pointed out, though, this is an excellent forum to get a bit of feedback...the rest is up to you!

good luck,

mark 18.05.2006 18:39

Re: Why I HATE Switzerland.
Just thought I'd offer a positive note (tongue-in-cheek) - at least your phone isn't tapped here :)

gurutalon 18.05.2006 19:33

Re: Why I HATE Switzerland.
We have tried social services, but the ones in her town won't help pay for anything out of that town and the ones in Bern, where she wants to be, won't help, cause we are not registered there. I have a B permit. I didn't really have plans moving here, because I assumed that with an English Lit. degree I couldn't do much and wanted to get a cook job when I learned the language, but I also assumed learning it would take me less than 6 monthes. The employment office in town lists many restaurants, like you claimed, but they all have the requirement of Swiss deutcsh mutter sprechen, which is not me by a long shot. I did 4 weeks intensive in Zurich and can get by in present tense, but that is about it. Also my cooking experience is 3 and 1/2 years in a diner, so I don't think that will help much. I found an English bookstore in Bern and hope that if I keep my eyes peeled a postion will open and I can use my English Lit. and sales exp. to get it.

Lob 18.05.2006 19:37

Re: Why I HATE Switzerland.
have a look at Wallstreet Institute and Cambridge etc. TEFL might help you a little in the meantime?

mark 18.05.2006 19:49

Re: Why I HATE Switzerland.
Just one point - it is not legal for a position to be advertised as swiss-german or mother tongue. This is a bit of an academic point for you since your german isn't up to the level anyway, but employers can ask for good German skills, but they can't ask for mother tongue, or insist on Swiss German.

They can however practice age and gender discrimination by openly advertising that they want a male or female or want to hire only a younger worker. Personally I think that's outrageous, but like many things which I find outrageous here they aren't considered a big deal by most of the (voting) population.

German isn't a simple language, but it isn't a difficult one either. It can get very frustrating until you get to the point where you have enough to manage simple conversation. Believe me, once you reach that point things will take off very fast (assuming you can find people to speak to in High German where you are!!).

I got to that point after about 4 months of private lessons of 2 hours per week. I was living in London at the time so didn't get a chance to practice much, but when I went to Germany things got easier very quickly. I think one of the biggest issues for English/Americans speaking German is actually their pronunciation, and it is something I worked on the hardest when I learnt German.

You were probably put into a class with a whole lot of other people who had terrible pronunciation. I also attended a group class once I arrived in Germany and found I progressed at about 20% of the speed as I did with private lessons, in the end I stopped group classes and just went out and talked with people. But I had a solid grammatical foundation at that point, so was just able to build the vocab I needed and pick up slang etc.

Finding a good private teacher is tough, but will give better results. Paying for it might be another problem though.

I have private Japanese lessons (4 hours per week), but I found a good way to reduce the cost. My teacher is in Cape Town and we do the lessons via skype. This means I end up paying about 20 francs per hour - which is a damn site cheaper than the 100+ I'd have to pay here - and I get a really well qualified professional teacher/translator into the deal!

So don't give up on the German - you just have to find a way that works for you.

The Laundry Man 19.05.2006 17:32

Re: Why I HATE Switzerland.



muze7 20.05.2006 14:13

Re: Why I HATE Switzerland.
Hi Gurutalon

One thing I have always been told is that in a situation like yours, it would be good to do volunteer work. Why? Because while you looking for other things, you need to occupy your mind, and equally important, you need a network of people, both local and people who might be aware of jobs that require a very good command of English.

There are lots of organisations that are run by Swiss as well as expats, which could thus provide you with such a network. They tend to be family orientated too, so you could take your daughter and wife to events, which again provides more possibilities to get to know people.

One example in Bern is the International club of Berne. They seem really friendly and have both Swiss and foreigners. I am sure they could use help in organising things and if you explain your situation, they probably wave the first year of membership (which is 45 CHF for a family I think). Otherwise, there are many clubs like these, perhaps also where you live.
And don't forget to think broadly. Think also of international organisations that may be based in Bern. I know Medecins sans Frontiers (doctors without borders) is not, but there might be other organisations that could use someone with excellent English. Don't forget, if you have a degree in Engl. Lit, your verbal and especially writing skills are marketable. Try to use this to your advantage and think of a niche where they could use you. (In my view, the level of English here among local professionals is not always up to standard, so you would think there is a need for someone with your skills, so like someone said, if you can simultaneously improve your spoken German, that should be enough to get started somewhere). As a sideline, it may also be useful to read the special section of one of those books on getting a job, where they explain how academics / graduates can summarize their skills into generic skills rather than specifics of their degree; as a Science PhD student I found this very useful as we have a huge range of skills but need to learn how to market them more).

If your wife works/studies at the uni, do you qualify as a partner for cheap language courses? Also, you could maybe setup a trade otherwise, get a local to teach you, and you teach them English, for free. The Cambridge Institute in Berne may be a good source of interested people. Or put up signs in supermarkets, Free English Tuition in exchange for... etc.

Lastly, but very importantly, if the walls close in on you, you need to get rid of all that adrenaline that stresses you out. It is most vital you get out of the house more. If it is one thing that helps feel less stressed, it is physical excercise. If you do not like running for example, find the swimming pool, they should have large discounts if you can say you are unemployed. It does not matter what you do, even if you temporarily have to pick up a sport you do not like, but you need to get rid of these stress hormones as they cause your frustration to build up, leading to things like anger. Trust me, I have been there and it does help tremendously.

muze7 20.05.2006 14:23

Re: Why I HATE Switzerland.
I forgot, is she studying in Bern? If so, have a look at this

financial help for students

And look here for a room for two people for about 580 for 18-22m2
in University accommodation
look for the bottom house (it is in English too)

Carrie 21.05.2006 09:30

Re: Why I HATE Switzerland.

Originally Posted by muze7
Also, you could maybe setup a trade otherwise, get a local to teach you, and you teach them English, for free. The Cambridge Institute in Berne may be a good source of interested people. Or put up signs in supermarkets, Free English Tuition in exchange for... etc.

I would strongly suggest this, too! A lot of foreign students here do something called a tandem program. You teach someone your mother tongue (or language you know very well!) in exchange for lessons in the other person's language. This sounds like what you will need to do if not able to pay for language courses out of pocket at the moment - find someone who speaks German or French who wants to learn or improve in English.

Otherwise, insist on using the second language wherever and whenever possible. Don't fall into the trap of letting other people speak shoddy English to you. Good, shoddy, whatever the level may be, their English will improve and your second language won't. Be tough and insist!

With your baby, couldn't you find other people with children to talk to, such as Spielgruppen (play groups)? I think you'll find more than just boring moms there - there will be women waiting to get back into professional life, just like you. Maybe even the occasional father, too. I'm not speaking from experience on this one, but lots of people told me I should have a baby in order to meet other people when I was having language difficulties. I didn't go that far, but seeing as you've already got the baby, why not? ;) If nothing else, it'll be an outing for you and the kid and the kid gets socialization, too.

Lastly, I just want to applaud gurutalon for going out on a limb and sharing his frustration with us. In this country, it just isn't acceptable to say to ANYONE that you are going nutso, even if you are! It's even rarer to see someone receiving so much compassion and useful advice - so thanks to everyone here at this forum, too! This is such a proactive bunch! I think we've all been there before in some way or another, or else we wouldn't be able to sympathathize with you.

muze7 25.05.2006 12:16

Re: Why I HATE Switzerland.
Yes, and let us know how you go, and/or if you need more advice.

robyn 21.06.2006 12:47

Re: Why I HATE Switzerland.
Hi there !

Hey, life here in Europe is totally different from life in the US. Don't compare them ! There are pros and cons in both sides of the ocean.

It is a shame, though, that you are in a foreign country for 1 year, sitting at home and yet, do not speak the language ! Are you learning it ? do you want to learn it ???? you do have to sit down and study it ! when I arrived here, I immediately bought cds with books and was studying 4 hs a day ! Three months later, I was able to do simple job interview speaking some basic German, endless opportunities started to land into my email box ! I am here since 1995 and simply love it. You are lucky that you have a roof and food for free - I was alone, had to pay for a cheap room and buy cheap food for a number of months !

Keep applying as an English instructor - that's your best shot for a better wage. Have no experience is not an excuse. I did not have any experience and was hired in 3 different places (English school, supermarket and hotel kitchen) plus was teaching private classes for kids. Put an add at the local newspaper - you've got to move your butt, baby, because it won't happen if you ain't do a thing.

Don't forget that you are not in the US - you are the one who has to adapt to your life in another country, not them !


ps: if the worst happens, there are always possibilities to work from home for some US company providing that you have an internet connection - and where home is, it really does not make any difference. Good luck.

Idgie 13.07.2006 21:38

Re: Why I HATE Switzerland.
Hi, gurutalon

How are you? Have you been able to improve your situation? Has any of the advice you received helped you? I do hope so. Some of us talked about your miserable situation, so I just wanted to let you know that.

Enjoy the sunshine

gurutalon 15.07.2006 12:20

Re: Why I HATE Switzerland.
Yeah, things have gotten a little better, my wife is working part time, and even though where she works is 2 and 1/2 hrs. away and she hasnīt worked in 2 weeks cause of lack of contracts it is extra money. Also her dad sold his run down house in the middle of nowhere, he only got about 1/2 of itīs value, but we get a small portion of it,so that helps and in Sept. we are moving to Bern. So until then I am waiting til Bern and hope to find something there.

stamp 16.07.2006 23:31

Re: Why I HATE Switzerland.
Hi there

i tried to contact you through private mesaging, but don t know if it worked out or not..

I have friends working as English teachers in Basel area and heard that they lost some teachers due to relocation etc..

dont know if it might be interesting for you or not, but might be worth a try..

let me know what you think and we can sort out the contact detsils etc


John Mc 17.07.2006 17:04

Re: Why I HATE Switzerland.
I hope you are not getting too much advice... Here's my bit.

There cannot be too many native english speakers in your area, and with a degree in English literature TEFL may be a good initial career for you while you learn the language.

Schools will , in the most part, insist upon a CELTA qualification (ask me later when you are at that bridge), but in the meantime why not try teaching conversation classes to intermediate level Swiss. I am sure there cannot be a lot of competition where you live. You could put signs up in supermarkets etc. A qualified teacher can charge about 80chf an hour in the cities, so I imagine 40 might be considered a bargain.

Any teaching experience you acquire prior to a course will be invaluable. Although the CELTA is a very worthwhile course, you really only learn by doing. So why not give it a try?

Good luck!

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