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Old 24.02.2008, 23:01
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How do people live here?!

Okay, first I have to apologize for being a spoiled, ignorant, American. Bear with me though, I am trying to expand my horizons!

How does the average family live in CH? Expat or otherwise? I don't know if doing my real estate search wrong or what, but it seems like the only housing available are tiny apartments. Are there no single family homes? Is that reserved only for the very wealthy? Do families really live in 100m apartments with only two bedrooms and access to a laundry room only once a week? To me, this seems like craziness. And then I read posters who say that people only come to CH for the money, when it doesn't seem to provide a very extravagant lifestyle.

Maybe everything really is bigger in Texas? Currently each of our 3 children have their own room- is the perceived necessity for personal space an American thing? Here it is unusual and looked down upon if your children have to share a room.

I promise I am not trying to be rude, I think I am just going through culture shock. Is my dream of having a single family home and my own washer and dryer impossible in CH? I think I could manage having two kids to a room, and even adjust to apartment living, but honestly how would a family of 5 do laundry with the usage of machines just once a week?

Please understand I know I am ignorant! I am honestly confused about the "rich" living when it all seems to small to me.
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Old 24.02.2008, 23:06
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Re: How do people live here?!

Your question is asked by many - me included.
I think Switzerland is the only western country where ownership of a washing machine is not universal.

Most (70-80%) people here rent, and spend their money outside the house (5 weeks yearly vacation is almost the norm).

However - the quality of life here is great (health, schools, safety), taxes relatively low and salaries relatively high.
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Old 24.02.2008, 23:09
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Re: How do people live here?!

Don't feel bad for asking questions. Things are different in Europe.

This is generally the case, although this is not necessarily the case depending on where you live and how much you can afford. The city apartments are smaller and more expensive and the houses outside of the cities (towns really) are bigger and more affordable.

Things are very different from Texas I imagine, but you can easily adapt and enjoy it.
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Old 24.02.2008, 23:11
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Re: How do people live here?!

United States - few people, lots of available land.Switzerland - lots of people, little (or none as far as Geneva is concerned) available land.What available land there is will be used in order to maximise yield (i.e. no single family homes).Combine that with the fact that we do not have the luxury of having near-free gas, and you have the answer.
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Old 24.02.2008, 23:20
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Re: How do people live here?!

Remember, Switzerland is really only the size of a large US city's metropolitan area. Though by surface area it's quite a bit bigger.
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Old 24.02.2008, 23:47
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Re: How do people live here?!

Might I also mention that housing here is built to last 1,000 years and withstand an atomic attack, which has it's price, whereas the average housing in Texas is built to last 15 years and withstand a minor wind storm which also has its price? A million bux here will buy you a decent house or apartment with its own laundry room, whereas the same money in Texas will buy you a straw palace that the building code here will reject out of hand.

If you are expecting to come live in Switzerland without leaving America, I'm afraid it won't work.
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Old 25.02.2008, 00:14
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Re: How do people live here?!

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How does the average family live in CH? Expat or otherwise? I don't know if doing my real estate search wrong or what, but it seems like the only housing available are tiny apartments. Are there no single family homes? Is that reserved only for the very wealthy?
Yes there are single family homes available for middle income as well but if everyone had a single family home in Switzerland we'd have to annex several neighboring countries to fit it all in. Remember, something like 80% of Switzerland is unbuildable due to the mountains so instead of building out the Swiss build up (apartments).

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Do families really live in 100m apartments with only two bedrooms and access to a laundry room only once a week? To me, this seems like craziness.
100 m² = 1076.391 ft², that's not a bad size place if it's only got 2 bedrooms. My smallest 2 bedroom apartment was around 60sq.m. As far as the washing goes you learn to become organized., I once had an apartment that I got the wash room key for 2 days every 3 weeks..! My present place (which I own) is 136 m² which equals 1463.891 ft² with 3 bedrooms, not huge but very adequate. It also contains a washer/dryer so I can wash 24/7 if the moods strikes but since becoming "organized" I still only do wash once every week or two.

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And then I read posters who say that people only come to CH for the money, when it doesn't seem to provide a very extravagant lifestyle.
The Swiss are very reserved, extravagant is not a word you'd use to describe a Swiss. Sure, people come here sometimes only for the money but I'd have to say here it's more about quality.

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Maybe everything really is bigger in Texas? Currently each of our 3 children have their own room- is the perceived necessity for personal space an American thing? Here it is unusual and looked down upon if your children have to share a room.
Don't confuse quantity with quality, just because your house in Texas is bigger doesn't mean it's better. In Texas if you get pissed off and put your fist through the wall you've got a hole that needs patching, do the same thing here and you'd be lucky to ever use that arm properly again. Walls here are walls and not props.

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Is my dream of having a single family home and my own washer and dryer impossible in CH?
Not impossible but you may need to resize some of your dreams if you wish to live here. I bought my own apartment, 3bd. 2bath, 2 car garage, large hobby room in the basement and yes.. my own washer and dryer
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Old 25.02.2008, 01:34
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Re: How do people live here?!

Thank you all for your answers. I still find myself thinking on Texas scale. Of course there is not enough room for everyone to have a single family home! Still, it is nice to know that there are a few!

As for scale, our current home is 3,000 sq ft (279 sq m), so yes, 1076 sq ft still does seem small! I don't see how I could possibly be organized enough to do the laundry of 5 people in one day. That may be a personality flaw, but not one I am likely to get rid of anytime soon! Is it very difficult to find housing in which one has their own washer/dryer? Maybe this is the reason the Swiss have such small families?

I'm very much looking forward to the adventure that this move could bring. If America overseas is what I was looking for it certainly wouldn't be worth the move! Although, I have to admit some of the lifestyles changes would be a big shock!

I had no idea American homes were so shoddly built by comparison. Could you really hit a Swiss wall and not put your fist through it? That seems amazing!

Thanks for "schooling me" as we say in Texas!
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Old 25.02.2008, 02:34
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Re: How do people live here?!

No, The Incredible Hulk wouldn't last long with Swiss walls.

It's primarily a function of money. There are plenty of large apartments, houses and charming rennovated farm houses to be found, though more may be for sale than to rent. First you might want to decide what your budget is and then look to see what you can find on the market, though the best places are more likely to go from hand to hand than be put on the market, so while looking at what is on the market, you might give an agent the job to find what you are looking for. That is what we did, and yes, we bought 170m2 plus laundry room, cellar and parking. For a family of five, maybe you should concentrate on looking for an Einfamilienhaus with garden, maybe newly built or now under construction, or a farmhouse.

Some links to check through:

http://www.suche.ch/index.cfm?rid=159

http://www.homegate.ch/homegate/choo...efault&lang=en

http://www.graffenried.com/

http://www.scout24.ch/ImmoScout.aspx?lng=de
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Old 25.02.2008, 04:44
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Re: How do people live here?!

We have a little washing machine which fits under a cabinet, just like our dish-washer. Lots of people have them. You can get one at Fust for 800-1200 CHF. It's small, so we do laundry pretty regularly. The folks upstairs have one too, 'cause I can hear it once in a while when it gets out of balance.

I'll also back up VWild1 on the notion that if one's fist were to meet a Swiss wall the fist would lose. The walls in our 95 square-meter apartment are steel-reinforced concrete with a lathe and plaster outer layer. I think this construction method is pretty much the standard.
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Old 25.02.2008, 04:44
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Re: How do people live here?!

Oh, and I guess I should point out that since we don't have a car we can spend all of that money on something else.
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Old 25.02.2008, 07:11
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Re: How do people live here?!

In Zurich it is becoming more commom for apartments to have their own washer/dryer, especially in the newer buildings. I know several people who have their own and if you look you should be able to find one too.
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Old 25.02.2008, 07:17
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Re: How do people live here?!

Oddly enough, I had a conversation just the other night about someone trying to smash a hole in the wall with their fist. I don't think it was in the interests of science though.

dave

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No, The Incredible Hulk wouldn't last long with Swiss walls.
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Old 25.02.2008, 07:35
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Re: How do people live here?!

So now you know the first test you should do when looking at flats etc. Hit a wall.
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Old 25.02.2008, 07:46
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Re: How do people live here?!

I should also mention that the number of rooms advertised in an apartment add is not the number of bedrooms; it's the number of rooms total (actually they don't count the bathroom in Geneva or the kitchen in Vaud). If you see an add for a 3.5 room apartment in Vaud that's 2 bedrooms, a front room and some kind of dining room. A 3.5 room in Geneva is 1 bedroom a front room, a kitchen, and a dining room.

So with three kids depending on the ages I would look for a 4.5-5 pièce in Vaud or a 5.5-6 pièce in Geneva. The good news is that the market is a bit more open for larger places like that, and that the property managers (Régies) give preference to families with kids.

With this in mind the square meter situation isn't that different from cities in the US, considering a Geneva 6 pièce is probably going to be around 150m³.

Of course you can always get a big place in neighboring France, which is what people do if they want to live a more American car-commuter lifestyle.
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Old 25.02.2008, 08:04
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Re: How do people live here?!

Hello,

We've just got here and had EXACTLY the same thoughts. We're from UK. We've just had a baby so wanted a place with a washing machine and a bit of outside space. We saw an enormous number of flats and did heaps of research before we arrived. All we seemed to find were new builds which had a communal laundry room - although, to be fair, the new builds here in St Gallen often have a laundry room per flat. There wasn't much in the way of outside space either - usually a balcony looking straight into someone elses. We wanted a little house, too, with a garden for when our bab finds his feet.
We did find, though, that a lot of the places would allow you to plumb your own washing machine in if you wanted. We just looked and looked and we've got a flat now with a laundry room and a balcony that isn't overlooked. Not exactly what we wanted; top floor, no lift but a bit of space and clean clothes!
Good luck!
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Old 25.02.2008, 08:51
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Re: How do people live here?!

Simple work around: Buy a compact washing machine that fits under the washbasin.
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Old 25.02.2008, 08:54
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Re: How do people live here?!

Well I moved here from Silicon Valley when what I could afford on my Silicon Valley engineer salary was simply a 1 bedroom apartment. It was not too big and I had to share the laundry room too. In the US they closed the laundry room at 10. p.m., and it was often busy, because in an apartment complex of about 30 families there were only two laundry rooms each with only two washers and two driers.

Here in switzerland on my engineer salary I can afford a 2 bedroom apartment in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Bern. There are two laundry rooms (each with one washer and one drier) but there are only 8 families in the apartment complex so the ratio is 4 people per washer/drier pair, which is better than what I had before. There is no washing machine schedule and unlike in the US I am able to wash/dry past 10 p.m. if I want to (though I would then have to deal with the "lint police"--annoyed little old ladies that I have for neighbors, but that's another matter).

What I love about my Switzerland apartment is how nicely oriented it is. It is built to maximize the amount of light it gets in the day and it is full of windows, so there is not a single dark corner. My living room gets sunlight for 6 or so hours a day, while in the US I only got that for two hours, at best, in the summer.

The only thing that's missing here in Switzerland is the apartment complex swimming pool. Oh well, can't have everything. On the other hand, you can go skiing within an hour after walking out of my front door. Compare that to the 4 hours drive to Tahoe and it is evident I am doing much better here.

Plus, I am much happier. Happiness is direclty related to how much beauty surrounds you. In the mornings I look out my window and see the Bernese alps. That's much better than the old road that was next to my silicon valley apartment window.

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Old 25.02.2008, 09:45
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Re: How do people live here?!

That is another facet of Swiss, and European life that we should address. Generally it's pretty safe to live in a full-on urban envronment here, including in Geneva. With kids.

In the city, especially a city like Geneva, Lausanne, Berne, or Zurich is that your life expands outside of the walls of your own apartment to encompass lots of public spaces, like cafés, neighborhood centers, and what have you. As I wrote in another thread there are three major supermarkets within walking distance of our apartment. What I didn't write is that all three of them and the apartment itself fall within what would be the bounds of a Wal*Mart supercenter back home, and I'm not including the parking lot. In the same distance I have 7 cafés, two acceptable Mexican restaurants, 4 wine bars, 3 nightclubs, 4 traditional Swiss restaurants, two vietnamese places, a Tamil grocery, a Bengal grocery, a COOP pronto which is open on Sunday, 3 language schools, 5 dentists and that's just scratching the surface.

The children's hospital is 25 minutes on foot or 2.5 minutes by taxi (I've timed it -- and there are always taxis because of the night club). There are two competing private clinics within a 10 minute walk. The firehouse and police station are both just around the corner, and on Wednesdays and Saturdays there's a farmer's market basically outside of our back door.

I'm actually not sure if my avoidance of owning a car prompted my preference for urban spaces or if it was the other way around.

Last edited by MarkJ; 25.02.2008 at 13:55.
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Old 25.02.2008, 09:52
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Re: How do people live here?!

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Don't confuse quantity with quality, just because your house in Texas is bigger doesn't mean it's better. In Texas if you get pissed off and put your fist through the wall you've got a hole that needs patching, do the same thing here and you'd be lucky to ever use that arm properly again. Walls here are walls and not props.


As an experimentalist, I can attest to this, at least in a house I rented in the mid-West. I'm a small person, but a little pissy 'kick' to the wall resulted in a huge hole that required several hours of patching up with steel mesh and pieces of drywall. Here, I can barely pound teeny holes in the concrete with a ball-peen hammer.

On to the general topic, I will say that if you're dead set on living as you do in Texas, you'll just be very unhappy here unless your income is extraordinary. Simply put, personally I'm glad to have given up enormous refrigerators and other material things for a lifestyle with much shorter commutes, wonderful hiking/biking/exploring opportunities. Mind you, AFAICS the general house building trend here is also going towards larger homes further away from work... lots of new construction near where I live with square 'footage' about 150 m2 and more. Complete with granite counters, induction cook-tops, built-in steamers and the like.

By the way, if you're interested to see what one type of contemporary 'typical' construction looks like, see this blog which is written in English, but is rather inconveniently (IMHO -- sorry blog owner!) organized:
http://www.chblog.ch/fabton/9211/OUR...N+HOLE....html
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