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Old 16.08.2012, 11:54
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Life in Switzerland - 6 months experience

I have read a lot of information on EF which helped me settle well and thought I should also contribute my wee bit in helping someone new settling in. I have been here for a little over 6 months now and I completely accept that I am not an expert when it comes to anything about Switzerland. This post is only my journey through the last six months in a completely new place with a completely unknown language.

Cost of living

I have read numerous posts on this topic and yet I see numerous posts asking questions on the same thing. Nothing wrong, but I feel the salary and the disposable income that you need completely depends on your lifestyle. We moved to Switzerland after living in United States and England and the cost of living was a complete shock for us. For instance, eating out was no big deal in both the countries or in other places we have lived. I donít think we ever Ďplannedí a budget for eating out. However, to have a decent dinner or lunch here it costs a lot more. And I have found the service pathetic. We havenít eaten out too many times in these six months except for the fast food restaurants, so this may not necessarily be true. The upside is that, I cook a lot of variety at home now. I enjoy cooking and I find that everyday I am looking up new recipes and having lot of variety at home. Not to mention the fact that we enjoy home cooked meals and not really missing eating outside.
Generally everything costs more in Switzerland. Just for instance, when the summer started, I went to C&A and found some really nice summer collection. For some reason I didnít buy anything. The same weekend we went to Germany and I popped into the C&A there and I found the same collection priced lower! So shopping in Germany makes a lot of sense especially for our little boy who grows out of everything every 2-3 months. Cleaning items are a lot cheaper in Germany. And also I find the variety more in Germany but in no way it can compare to the variety in United States.
I like buying vegetables in the farmerís market and I feel all the veggies and fruits are very fresh and better quality than I have seen in other countries. Same with milk and chocolates.

Lifestyle

I think our lifestyle had improved after moving here. I always had a help to do my household chores. Now I do all that on my own. It has not only brought more discipline and time management in my life, but has also helped me burn calories with no extra effort. We are eating healthier food and doing more cycling/walking than before. My son who used to love watching TV and playing the video games is now into more outdoor activities. The food aspect may not be the same if you are used to eating a lot of meat (we do not eat meat or fish). Meat is generally expensive here.

Schooling

We moved to Switzerland when our son had just turned 4. He did not speak a word of German nor did we. One of the wisest decisions was to put him in a kinder krippe (or child care) 5 full days a week though it cost us a fortune (I am not working). He enjoyed the krippe and learned the language in no time. It also helped him when he started kindergarden this month.
We also toyed with the idea of putting him in an International school but honestly I was not as happy with the International school as I was with the public school here. I was very impressed with the way teachers handle kids and needless to say, my son enjoyed the kindergarden. Hopefully he will enjoy going forward too.
Again, schooling is a decision which is very personal. Had we had plans of moving to another English speaking country within the next 5 years, we would have definitely enrolled our son in an International school. We have no such plans and also we felt if by chance we move, then my son would have already mastered another language for free! It maybe more difficult for an older child to integrate.

Housing

I am not particularly happy with the housing situation in Switzerland. For one, we could not afford an independent house and I do not fancy staying in an apartment. Secondly, the common washing machine came as a big shock to me! That said, after 6 months, I kind of like the apartment we stay. It is small and cosy and I have gotten used to the washing cycle. I feel there is a lot more of discipline in our lives now. The neighbors are not troublesome and we have not had any issues with making noise at our home (my son can sometimes be loud). The renting agency responds reasonably well. Overall I am happy though I feel it could have been better.

Driving and holidays

I find driving in Switzerland more stressful than other places that I have lived. First I do not understand German fully and sometimes it is difficult for me to make out signages. Some of the roads are closed at night and there are no signs of the closing until you actually drive into the road. By the camera has already taken a picture and the fine is on its way. Speed limits are crazy too. I have seen stretches where the speed limits are 70km/h and the after about 100m suddenly it drops to 50km/h. even at the exits of the motorway have drastic reduction in speed limits. Owing to the stressful driving we have had lesser of weekend getaways, something we were used to in other places we have lived in. however there are lot of SBB offers that come which help you travel the whole of Switzerland without making a dent in your pocket.

Health Insurance

It is definitely a major expense. Also, 6 months down the line I still havenít got a pediatrician for my son. They just donít new patients and I have been put on waitlist. My son hasnít had anything major other than chickenpox and that was handled by the family doctor. Having a family doctor also brings down the insurance cost.

Employment for the trailing spouse

When I say trailing spouse, I mean the wife. This is one of the most frustrating aspects if you have been working until now. I read a wonderful post here about the time it takes to get a job and the salary bracket you target. I think it is true. I have met lot of younger spouses who have managed to get jobs within 6 months. The jobs become scarce as you grow older (assuming you rise up the corporate ladder with age) and 80% of the companies here are SMEs meaning they serve mostly the local market and hence knowledge of German is a must. It takes a lot of determination and support from your partner to say sane Ė that is to say the least. It is very important not to get frustrated and start focusing on other things else it affects the health of the whole family. We have been able to pull through the frustrating moments and I feel the love has only grown. Keep trying and you will eventually be there. There are some wonderful posts on here about the different means to look for employment.

Language

Language can be intimidating. We enrolled for the German classes (A1) the first month itself. We can speak and understand individual words now and can manage general day-to-day things. I would strongly recommend taking language classes. It not only helps you to stand on your feet but also make local friends. There are various levels Ė A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2 Ė and you can judge whether or not to attend the classes of the next level depending on your needs. For most jobs, they ask for C1.

To conclude, the past months have been a learning experience and we do not regret the decision of moving here. I guess there are things that can get better but I am confident with time those things will get addressed to too. I have met many wonderful people here both through this forum and outside of the forum. The EF is a great repository of information and also a great place to make friends.
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Old 16.08.2012, 12:19
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Re: Life in Switzerland - 6 months experience

Brilliant summary. It matches my experience (well, where it overlaps; I have no kids for example) too.
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Old 16.08.2012, 13:20
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Re: Life in Switzerland - 6 months experience

wow! I love your 6 months review, thank you!!. I just moved here one month ago and your review will be a big help for me. Thank you!!!
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Old 16.08.2012, 13:39
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Re: Life in Switzerland - 6 months experience

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wow! I love your 6 months review, thank you!!. I just moved here one month ago and your review will be a big help for me. Thank you!!!
Hope your first month went well. I feel the first month is the toughest
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Old 16.08.2012, 13:52
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Re: Life in Switzerland - 6 months experience

Being a vegetarian family is a good idea here, given the cost of meat and the good quality of the fruit and vegetables.
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Old 16.08.2012, 14:05
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Re: Life in Switzerland - 6 months experience

Thank you for your excellent summary!!!
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Old 16.08.2012, 14:57
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Re: Life in Switzerland - 6 months experience

Life in Switzerland - 25 years experience

Day 1: arrived from the USA for a job. Single, can only speak English. Had to look on a map to figure out where Switzerland was. All belongings fit in 3 cardboard boxes.

Day 9000: Married, can speak German pretty well, 2 kids born here, both fluent in German and English, attending local schools. Gained Swiss citizenship, have a house, 2 cars, all belongings require two moving trucks to transport. Special firm needed to transport grand piano.
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Old 16.08.2012, 21:50
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Re: Life in Switzerland - 6 months experience

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To conclude, the past months have been a learning experience and we do not regret the decision of moving here. I guess there are things that can get better but I am confident with time those things will get addressed to too.
I know people who were miserable from the day they moved here until the day they left. They were on good salaries, lived in luxurious homes, kids went to international schools, and they had household help.

As you have demonstrated it is all about attitude, and yes, things can get better but they can also get worse.

As for the pediatrician, this should not be a problem. Contact me by PM (or email via my website) and I can try to help you.
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Old 16.08.2012, 22:23
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Re: Life in Switzerland - 6 months experience

Day 1: wicked place...

Day 700: cheating wife, divorce and all sort of crap...
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Old 16.08.2012, 22:26
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Re: Life in Switzerland - 6 months experience

Day 1: What a great place!

Day 4335: What a great place!
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Old 16.08.2012, 22:56
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Re: Life in Switzerland - 6 months experience

Day 1: Cold and skint!

Day 184: Hot, +1 kid and still skint!
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Old 16.08.2012, 23:08
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Re: Life in Switzerland - 6 months experience

26 years ago (at the end of the month), came here with a computer, electric guitar, motorcycle, and a job. Also spoke French, almost no German, even though moving to Zurich.

22 years ago, moved south with computer, several more guitars (that I brought back from the US), motorcycle, car, wife, and another job. Spoke French, some German, but no Italian, even though moving to Lugano.

Meanwhile, still here, different computer, another couple guitars, 5 more motorcycles, a different car, and speak Italian at home (with my wife, English with my kids).

As far as restaurants go, unless they cook better than I do (which usually means Michelin starred), I don't bother, and the price for a Michelin starred restaurant is generally cheaper around here.

Tom
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