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Old 04.06.2010, 11:15
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Starting Salary for Foreigner -- not THAT kind of thread

Hello all,

I'm still in the process of wrestling with the Behörden and have been in contact with my potential employer(s) the last few months.

I was offered a very challenging position in the medical field -- managing a holding company. At first I was very excited about the job opportunity, the idea of living in Switzerland (Kanton Zürich) and continuing my work in business development in the nuclear medicine industry.

I have read countless threads on this forum, spent hours researching - using several websites/databases in order to educate myself on the subject. Among them:

www.payscale.com

www.lohnrechner.ch

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...al)_per_capita

I have since become a bit jaded and feel that I have been offered, on the one hand, the closest thing to a dream job I could imagine -- BUT the pay is abysmal.

This got me thinking about other non EFTA / EU OPs on this forum and the patterns I have seen in their emails , now viewed in the context of mine:

Two (general) problems come to mind:


A.) naive foreigners (of which I seem to be one) not truly understanding the daily financial expectations a life in Switzerland (in my case Zurich) require.

B.) employers seem eager to take advantage of A.)

I have seen many threads on this forum in which university educated IT professionals from India, US, etc have, according to Swiss industry websites, been offered salaries lower than those of ETH PhD students or technical/factory workers with significantly less formal education.

I'm not sure to which degree each affects the other, but I'd wager its case-specific. In my case, I was eager to go back to Europe (I'm American) and the opportunity excited me to the point where I foolishly forgot to do the economic and demographic research. Shame on me, I suppose.


Just to put things in context: I am 29, have an MA in Economics from a top British University, have technical experience and training in the Nuclear Medicine field, 3 years related work experience in marketing and business development and am fluent in Spanish, German and Russian.

They have offered me 4,000 Swiss Francs per month with no mention of providing healthcare. Thankfully, I've not yet signed a contract but the original salary discussed now seems like a proper insult.

I am meeting with ye olde bossmen next week and will discuss this issue candidly but politely. If they are non-receptive, I think I would be best off walking away. If they really want me they will pay me more. Period.

TO ANYONE ELSE IN THIS SITUATION: If you feel you are being taken advantage of in such a way, it's best to be direct, forthcoming and honest. While it's hard to discuss salary for some, you'll be thankful in the long run if you start your professional relationship with the understanding that you are to do your job as an employee and the employer is to pay you FAIRLY for said work.

Also: do your homework. Getting on this forum and asking "is this fair?" or "how much am I worth" without even bothering to look on your own is not only a waste of other people's time, it is an insult to your own ability to establish a preliminary notion of what your salary should be (which isn't hard!!) There is more than enough info out there !

I would encourage any and all, regardless of nationality or professional background, to consider the situation in a similar fashion.

Any thoughts and/or comments would be welcomed but I mostly wanted to vent and provide a few lines of anecdotal encouragement to any other non- EU Ausländer who may find themselves in a similar situation.

"And that's all I have to say about that." - F. Gump

- WL

Last edited by wanderlust; 04.06.2010 at 12:10.
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Old 04.06.2010, 11:22
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Re: Starting Salary for Foreigner -- not THAT kind of thread

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Just to put things in context: I am 29, have an MA in Economics from a top British University, have technical experience and training in the Nuclear Medicine field, 3 years related work experience in marketing and business development and am fluent in Spanish, German and Russian.

They have offered me 4,000 Swiss Francs per month with no mention of providing healthcare. Thankfully, I've not yet signed a contract but the original salary discussed now seems like a proper insult.
First of all: A great thank you for doing your homework and not making one of those hundreds of threads "is 4k a good salary?"...

I would be careful with most of the online resources on salaries, but 4k is nothing short of a joke. The industry you mention typically pays well and with your education and experience I would expect you to make in Zurich something between 80 and 120k CHF a year. I made it a very wide band as a lot will depend on the individual company. I have seen people with the same age and work experience making significantly more, but very few with a relevant degree and work experience making less than 80k.
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Old 04.06.2010, 11:23
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Re: Starting Salary for Foreigner -- not THAT kind of thread

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They have offered me 4,000 Swiss Francs per month with no mention of providing healthcare. Thankfully, I've not yet signed a contract but the original salary discussed now seems like a proper insult.

Nice read you got there.

4000 CHF per month is definitely a humiliating insult for your qualifications and position, the cashier working at Migros (Supermarket) make more than this.

Even if you agree, i don't think your employer would be able to get your permit approved as this salary is definitely lower than the the current going rate, which for the Swiss government is an essential factor to keep the work market stabilized.

Good luck with your meeting.
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Old 04.06.2010, 11:26
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Re: Starting Salary for Foreigner -- not THAT kind of thread

Hm 4000 CHF is a small sum to be honest
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Old 04.06.2010, 11:27
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Re: Starting Salary for Foreigner -- not THAT kind of thread

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4000 CHF per month is definitely a humiliating insult for your qualifications and position, the cashier working at Migros (Supermarket) make more than this.
Cashiers at Migros are doing around 3.2 - 3.4 per month. And we know close to nothing about the position that the OP was offered.
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Old 04.06.2010, 11:32
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Re: Starting Salary for Foreigner -- not THAT kind of thread

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Cashiers at Migros are doing around 3.2 - 3.4 per month. And we know close to nothing about the position that the OP was offered.
4K after deductions should be around 3.3 to 3.4 K & he did point out his position.

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I was offered a very challenging position in the medical field -- managing a holding company
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Old 04.06.2010, 11:40
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Re: Starting Salary for Foreigner -- not THAT kind of thread

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Nice read you got there.

4000 CHF per month is definitely a humiliating insult for your qualifications and position, the cashier working at Migros (Supermarket) make more than this.
No they don't, they make less than 3.5k / month.
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Old 04.06.2010, 11:42
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Re: Starting Salary for Foreigner -- not THAT kind of thread

Thanks for the replies, all.

To the one point, I'm sorry if I was not clear enough: The position would require me to coordinate and manage through the holding, the (complementary) activities of 4 medium sized nuclear medical companies based in Germany, the UK and Russia.

Lots of travel is involved, as well as numerous on-site duties, which should (eventually) include bookkeeping and financial controlling once the holding gets up and running. The holding was established in order to facilitate the (growing) group's entry into the Chinese, Indian and US markets.


The "growing" part is what frustrates me the most, perhaps. I have seen the financials -- the company is very profitable but I fear management's lack of knowledge regarding Switzerland may explain this low salary, which in Berlin Kreuzberg would be a lovely little sum I might add ! ! Maybe management would be well served by asking generalized "how much is HE worth" groan-evoking questions on this very forum...

That might have been to my benefit !

Merci Vielmals !
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Old 04.06.2010, 11:51
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Re: Starting Salary for Foreigner -- not THAT kind of thread

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4K after deductions should be around 3.3 to 3.4 K & he did point out his position.
Well, I'm no rocket scientist but I think 3.2 gross is a tad different than 4.0 gross.

And yes, he did point out his position, but "managing a holding company" can be done in many ways, some I can think of being merely imply aggregating the books at the end of each quarter...
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Old 04.06.2010, 12:00
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Re: Starting Salary for Foreigner -- not THAT kind of thread

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They have offered me 4,000 Swiss Francs per month with no mention of providing healthcare.



Good luck in your negotiations. Initial offers are sometimes low. That doesn’t mean that you won’t get something fair. I highly recommend that you try to avoid sarcastic UK negotiation techniques with Swiss bosses. You’ll be misunderstood and find yourself explaining the comment and looking like you are insulting them and appearing rude. Swiss like facts laid out just like in your email above (even when the facts seem obvious) followed by a little time to think here. If they want you those numbers will increase without too much effort. The only alarm is that they came in so low to begin with. Practice your patient approach. Silent pauses are very effective. They know this offer is low.

I suggest that you also research the healthcare system here. As you are negotiating a better salary, try not to fall into the trap of expecting the employer to pay for your healthcare premium. They get confused and you look unreasonable. Health care insurance is required by everyone here but not paid by the employer. Healthcare discounts are sometimes available in larger firms but the premiums rarely a part of the employee/employer relationship.

Good luck! See you in Zurich soon.
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Old 04.06.2010, 12:06
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Re: Starting Salary for Foreigner -- not THAT kind of thread

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Good luck in your negotiations. Try to avoid sarcastic UK negotiation techniques with Swiss people. You’ll find yourself explaining the comment and looking like you are insulting them or rude. Swiss like facts laid out just like in your email above (even when the facts seem obvious) followed by a little time to think. If they really want you those numbers will increase significantly without too much effort.
Thanks for the Z well wishing!

It is worth mentioning that management is German -- the big bossman being an East German scientist (*he is now almost 60 so he grew up on the "other side of the wall") neither of which have ever lived or worked in Switzerland and are, as I briefly mentioned but should have elaborated on, also rather novice when it comes to die Schweiz... I hope this provides a significant portion of the explanation.

@ Shorrick, are those your REAL eyes?
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Old 04.06.2010, 12:11
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Re: Starting Salary for Foreigner -- not THAT kind of thread

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First of all: A great thank you for doing your homework and not making one of those hundreds of threads "is 4k a good salary?"...

I would be careful with most of the online resources on salaries, but 4k is nothing short of a joke. The industry you mention typically pays well and with your education and experience I would expect you to make in Zurich something between 80 and 120k CHF a year. I made it a very wide band as a lot will depend on the individual company. I have seen people with the same age and work experience making significantly more, but very few with a relevant degree and work experience making less than 80k.
Do you think 3 years experience is worth that much?
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Old 04.06.2010, 12:12
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Re: Starting Salary for Foreigner -- not THAT kind of thread

You may have just answered your own question. Salaries in Germany are much lower than in Zurich. Just bring the facts and watch as your dream job moves forward.
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Old 04.06.2010, 12:17
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Re: Starting Salary for Foreigner -- not THAT kind of thread

Nothing against you personally, but: you're still very young and can't possibly have enough experience (unless you received your M.A. when you were 15) for an upper management position. I find it highly strange that they're offering you this job. Also, 4000 a month is an insult. You'd get more working at the Migros cash register. I think the whole job offer smells somewhat fishy to me.


As for health coverage:

Health care isn't usually provided by the employer in Switzerland.
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Old 04.06.2010, 12:32
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Re: Starting Salary for Foreigner -- not THAT kind of thread

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Nothing against you personally, but: you're still very young and can't possibly have enough experience (unless you received your M.A. when you were 15) for an upper management position. I find it highly strange that they're offering you this job. Also, 4000 a month is an insult. You'd get more working at the Migros cash register. I think the whole job offer smells somewhat fishy to me

If you say so. Technically speaking, it is essentially project management, which should evolve into something larger once the holding gets going. The term "upper management" is not appropriate in my particular situation. I have no direct reports at present but would, according to management, eventually need some assistance. I think the fact that I am young, energetic and open is precisely the reason why they approached me.

Let's not get caught up in semantics or technicalities and engage in skeptical forum-fencing. Initially, I was reluctant to provide any information about myself or my salary for fear of wasting time doing just...well, what I'm doing right now!

I wrote with an open-mind and truly wanted to (only) say "stand up for yourself, do your homework and take accountability for your own involvement in your professional dealings" -- particularly when dealing with the subject of moving abroad, in this case Switzerland.

I digress: Yes, the salary is crap.
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Old 04.06.2010, 12:55
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Re: Starting Salary for Foreigner -- not THAT kind of thread

If they will not budge I guess you could take the job with written into your contarct that after 6 months if all is well and you are both happy that your salary could be increased by x amount and then to be visited every 12/18 months.
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Old 04.06.2010, 13:50
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Re: Starting Salary for Foreigner -- not THAT kind of thread

@Wanderlust: I think you've nailed the correct point, i.e. the "big bossman" has no idea of salaries vs. cost of living in Switzerland and more specifically in Zurich.

Just for comparison purposes: a bilingual experienced secretary in Zurich can expect to earn between 6K - 7.5K, depending on the industry.
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Old 04.06.2010, 14:00
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Re: Starting Salary for Foreigner -- not THAT kind of thread

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Just for comparison purposes: a bilingual experienced secretary in Zurich can expect to earn between 6K - 7.5K, depending on the industry.
Please name a company that pays that much.
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Old 04.06.2010, 14:02
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Re: Starting Salary for Foreigner -- not THAT kind of thread

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If you say so. Technically speaking, it is essentially project management, which should evolve into something larger once the holding gets going. The term "upper management" is not appropriate in my particular situation. I have no direct reports at present but would, according to management, eventually need some assistance. I think the fact that I am young, energetic and open is precisely the reason why they approached me.

Let's not get caught up in semantics or technicalities and engage in skeptical forum-fencing. Initially, I was reluctant to provide any information about myself or my salary for fear of wasting time doing just...well, what I'm doing right now!

I wrote with an open-mind and truly wanted to (only) say "stand up for yourself, do your homework and take accountability for your own involvement in your professional dealings" -- particularly when dealing with the subject of moving abroad, in this case Switzerland.

I digress: Yes, the salary is crap.
90-110k and point out the following 1.) you work more hours in CH, 2.) the additional costs are low (you cost the company 125% of your salary, in Germany 147%) 3.) you can be sacked quicker and less chance for recourse
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Old 04.06.2010, 14:05
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Re: Starting Salary for Foreigner -- not THAT kind of thread

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Please name a company that pays that much.
For a start, I do, and I've based my assistant's salary on what is typically paid in my branch (patent attorney) for that age/experience/know-how. Go to any of the larger legal companies around here and you'll receive a similar answer
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