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Old 04.08.2018, 16:29
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Any advice for non-EU master students to rent a flat?

Hello guys. I am a Chinese student that would enrolled in ETHz as a master this September. I have looked over student housing (WOKO, JUWO, student village, living science, student-vinzenz, maximilianeum) but all said that there is no room now. I know many(5+) Chinese new students are facing similar situations so I think we might need to rent flats on our own.

First problem is the residence permit. We don't have much to spent so hotel rooms or temporary housing like UMS would be our last choice. I have asked some landlords on Airbnb but got negative response for permit. Many of us cannot arrive in Zurich earlier than Sept. 4th due to visa's entry date so temporary flats on homegate/flatfox from Sept. 1st are seemed impossible(sent emails but usually got no reply). So could a hostel's address be possible to register? This is the only cheap choice I know now.

Then the work contract/proof of income becomes the problem. Master students don't have income and so we have to persuade landlords without these files. All the threads I find here now are about people want to rent a flat before they have jobs so we are facing different situations. How could renting with no income become possible? Paying more deposits? Or showing our bank account balance? We all deposit at least 20k CHF in Chinese banks for visa application. But the control of foreign exchange in China would make it difficult for us to transfer these money into a Swiss account in a short period.

As for flatshare like wgzimmer, student.ch etc, I have sent many emails but got no reply. There is a thread on this forum, also written by a Chinese, that mentioned the difficulty to find WGs for Asians since we need to compete with other EU/Swiss applicants...
I throw all my anger and frustration here, in exchange for some wise suggestions

I am feeling a little frustrated now so I really appreciate any help from you. Thank you very much!
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Old 05.08.2018, 07:10
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Re: Any advice for non-EU master students to rent a flat?

I'm sorry that you're finding this all so stressful, and I understand.

The need for accommodation in Zurich is great, so all types, whether individual apartments, or shared flats, are in great demand. For this reason alone, it is highly unlikely that anyone, no matter from where they will be arriving, will be able to find accommodation before they get here. Doing it by mail is highly unlikely to work. This part has nothing to do with being Chinese.

Shared student accommodation from one of those institutions you list is allocated - and then more likely when the semester starts.

However, when it is not run through those institutions, applications for shared accommodation (WG) are often done by interview. When one person leaves an already established group of students sharing a flat, the others advertise the room. They receive dozens of applications, and any mail which says merely: "Hi, I'm jctian, coming to study and looking for a room from 1st September" is highly unlikely to get any response at all. As they filter through the many applications, their criteria are likely to be around what they think the applicant and they have in common, and how they'd get along in everyday living. Of the many applications, they select a few and invite those people over to an interview.

At the interview, they show them the flat, and everyone who lives there is present, and the candidate is asked to talk about themselves and explain what they think is important about living in a shared space. Sometimes several candidates are invited over at the same time, and everyone talks. After all the interviews are done, one candidate is chosen. Obviously, this process cannot easily be done from outside of Switzerland.


Do you have a couchsurfing profile? If not, I suggest you make one. Take a lot of time to read the profiles of experienced couchsurfers, to learn how they built their profiles. Fill in a lot of information about your insterests, hobbies, family, what you wish to learn in the world, your taste in music, what you like to read, what you do if you have a free afternoon, how you travel, and how you live now.

This next part was told to me by a Chinese couchsurfer, so I have only her explanation to go on (I am not Chinese). She said that, at least in the part of China from which she comes, it is considered very rude to talk a lot about oneself, or to describe one's achievements, or even one's interests, because doing so could make one appear boastful or domineering. She had lived in Europe for a year or two, and could point out differences. She showed me couchsurfing profiles of Europeans who had written, for example, "I love mountain climbing, the higher the better" or "I can teach you to dance salsa" or "I once restored an old car" or "I spent a few months walking 150km through New Zealand" or "I'm not a professional musician, but I like to play the guiter, flute and piano" and said that when she first saw statements like these she was shocked at how forthright and brash these people were. She said her parents would think people who wrote like that should probably be avoided, because they were too proud of themselves, and too individualistic. She told me that she had had to learn that in Europe, however, these points are welcomed, because they are ways to get to know the person.

If you look at this post in the thread to which you linked: https://www.englishforum.ch/1391118-post11.html
you will see that Odile asked that OP to tell us something about him/herself, and the OP did, but very, very little (by Swiss standards).

A Swiss person who might have a room to let is interested in trying to decide about a candidate with questions along these lines, for example:
  • Will I get along with this applicant?
  • Do we have interests in common?
  • Are his/her ethics similar to mine?
  • Could we spend a comfortable evening at home together?
  • Is this person noisy, or considerate?
  • Do we have the same attitude to alcohol and to cooking and to keeping the flat clean?
  • Has this person taken the time to understand the public transport system?
  • Does he/she have a bicycle?
  • Is he/she a meat-eater, vegetarian or vegan?
  • Has he/she been to Europe before?
  • Does he/she smoke?
  • How much English does he/she speak, and how much German?
  • What does he/she do for fun? Sports? Dancing? Movies? Hiking? Sewing? Visiting museums?
  • Why did he/she choose Zurich and how was it possible to get a place to study here?
  • What does this person hope to achieve here, academically, but also outside of their studies?
  • For how many years will the person be here?
  • What guarantee is there that the rent will be paid punctually?
  • Does the person have enough of a budget to cover other living expenses like fhis/her own food, transport, phone, washing powder, electric light-bulbs… or will this person become a financial burden on the other people living here?
I recommend that you work on your couchsurfing profile. Ask your friends to each make one, too. Write one another very carefully thought-out references showing how you met, what you've experienced together, what you have learnt from the other person, why you would recommend him/her as a fellow traveller or guest in someone's home.

If you have already lived in shared student accommodation, and it went well, then ask your former flat-mates to make couchsurfing profiles, so you and they can write references for one another, including stating that you shared a flat for six months, and enjoyed … or appreciated … or learned… from each other. Include in your profile something like: "If you'd like me to, I can cook you a great x (name of Chinese dish) but I can also happily eat vegetables without strong-smelling Chinese spices."

If you can, meet other couchsurfers where you are now, and ask them for advice, including, if you have the time before you leave there, actually couchsurfing (for real) in someone's home.

Make sure everything on your profile, including all the references, is 100% true. Once your profile shows a lot about who you are, read a lot of profiles in Zurich and write to some of those potential hosts, making a connection to something in their profiles, and request to be allowed to stay for a few days when you first arrive. If you find five who each say yes to three days, then you'll have your first two weeks covered. If you are very lucky, one of them might help you find a room for a bit longer. As soon as you stay with any couchsurfer, take the time to write a careful, personal reference, thanking them.

Whenever you apply to anyone's WG advert, include a link to your couchsurfing profile, or to your profile in other social media which shows something of who you really are as a person.

Even if you prefer not to use couchsurfing, I still think that in any application you make directly to a WG, it is a good idea to write something about your interests and attitudes to life and sharing, i.e. beyond merely age, gender and direction of study.

I hope that helps you to find somewhere.

Last edited by doropfiz; 05.08.2018 at 07:25.
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Old 05.08.2018, 09:26
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Re: Any advice for non-EU master students to rent a flat?

Do note that money in a Chinese bank won't cut it for the permit/visa application. It has to be either in a Swiss bank here or a Swiss bank that has a branch in China.

I'm not sure you understand how the whole process works. Have you actually been accepted by the university to start your course in September? If so I assume that was back in February/March and you should have applied for your student permit/visa with the Swiss Embassy/Consulate in China around June. If you haven't already done this, then I'm sorry but there's no way you're going to get the permit approval (which is what allows you to get a Type D visa to enter Switzerland) before the course starts. The application takes from 8 to 12 weeks.

https://www.eda.admin.ch/dam/countri...Student_EN.pdf
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Old 05.08.2018, 17:04
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Re: Any advice for non-EU master students to rent a flat?

I think the OP and his co-students have their visas. He mentions they can not arrive until 4th September due the conditions on the visa, probably two weeks before the semester starts.
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Old 06.08.2018, 06:40
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I'm sorry that you're finding this all so stressful, and I understand.

The need for accommodation in Zurich is great, so all types, whether individual apartments, or shared flats, are in great demand. For this reason alone, it is highly unlikely that anyone, no matter from where they will be arriving, will be able to find accommodation before they get here. Doing it by mail is highly unlikely to work. This part has nothing to do with being Chinese.

Shared student accommodation from one of those institutions you list is allocated - and then more likely when the semester starts.

However, when it is not run through those institutions, applications for shared accommodation (WG) are often done by interview. When one person leaves an already established group of students sharing a flat, the others advertise the room. They receive dozens of applications, and any mail which says merely: "Hi, I'm jctian, coming to study and looking for a room from 1st September" is highly unlikely to get any response at all. As they filter through the many applications, their criteria are likely to be around what they think the applicant and they have in common, and how they'd get along in everyday living. Of the many applications, they select a few and invite those people over to an interview.

At the interview, they show them the flat, and everyone who lives there is present, and the candidate is asked to talk about themselves and explain what they think is important about living in a shared space. Sometimes several candidates are invited over at the same time, and everyone talks. After all the interviews are done, one candidate is chosen. Obviously, this process cannot easily be done from outside of Switzerland.


Do you have a couchsurfing profile? If not, I suggest you make one. Take a lot of time to read the profiles of experienced couchsurfers, to learn how they built their profiles. Fill in a lot of information about your insterests, hobbies, family, what you wish to learn in the world, your taste in music, what you like to read, what you do if you have a free afternoon, how you travel, and how you live now.

This next part was told to me by a Chinese couchsurfer, so I have only her explanation to go on (I am not Chinese). She said that, at least in the part of China from which she comes, it is considered very rude to talk a lot about oneself, or to describe one's achievements, or even one's interests, because doing so could make one appear boastful or domineering. She had lived in Europe for a year or two, and could point out differences. She showed me couchsurfing profiles of Europeans who had written, for example, "I love mountain climbing, the higher the better" or "I can teach you to dance salsa" or "I once restored an old car" or "I spent a few months walking 150km through New Zealand" or "I'm not a professional musician, but I like to play the guiter, flute and piano" and said that when she first saw statements like these she was shocked at how forthright and brash these people were. She said her parents would think people who wrote like that should probably be avoided, because they were too proud of themselves, and too individualistic. She told me that she had had to learn that in Europe, however, these points are welcomed, because they are ways to get to know the person.

If you look at this post in the thread to which you linked: https://www.englishforum.ch/1391118-post11.html
you will see that Odile asked that OP to tell us something about him/herself, and the OP did, but very, very little (by Swiss standards).

A Swiss person who might have a room to let is interested in trying to decide about a candidate with questions along these lines, for example:
  • Will I get along with this applicant?
  • Do we have interests in common?
  • Are his/her ethics similar to mine?
  • Could we spend a comfortable evening at home together?
  • Is this person noisy, or considerate?
  • Do we have the same attitude to alcohol and to cooking and to keeping the flat clean?
  • Has this person taken the time to understand the public transport system?
  • Does he/she have a bicycle?
  • Is he/she a meat-eater, vegetarian or vegan?
  • Has he/she been to Europe before?
  • Does he/she smoke?
  • How much English does he/she speak, and how much German?
  • What does he/she do for fun? Sports? Dancing? Movies? Hiking? Sewing? Visiting museums?
  • Why did he/she choose Zurich and how was it possible to get a place to study here?
  • What does this person hope to achieve here, academically, but also outside of their studies?
  • For how many years will the person be here?
  • What guarantee is there that the rent will be paid punctually?
  • Does the person have enough of a budget to cover other living expenses like fhis/her own food, transport, phone, washing powder, electric light-bulbs… or will this person become a financial burden on the other people living here?
I recommend that you work on your couchsurfing profile. Ask your friends to each make one, too. Write one another very carefully thought-out references showing how you met, what you've experienced together, what you have learnt from the other person, why you would recommend him/her as a fellow traveller or guest in someone's home.

If you have already lived in shared student accommodation, and it went well, then ask your former flat-mates to make couchsurfing profiles, so you and they can write references for one another, including stating that you shared a flat for six months, and enjoyed … or appreciated … or learned… from each other. Include in your profile something like: "If you'd like me to, I can cook you a great x (name of Chinese dish) but I can also happily eat vegetables without strong-smelling Chinese spices."

If you can, meet other couchsurfers where you are now, and ask them for advice, including, if you have the time before you leave there, actually couchsurfing (for real) in someone's home.

Make sure everything on your profile, including all the references, is 100% true. Once your profile shows a lot about who you are, read a lot of profiles in Zurich and write to some of those potential hosts, making a connection to something in their profiles, and request to be allowed to stay for a few days when you first arrive. If you find five who each say yes to three days, then you'll have your first two weeks covered. If you are very lucky, one of them might help you find a room for a bit longer. As soon as you stay with any couchsurfer, take the time to write a careful, personal reference, thanking them.

Whenever you apply to anyone's WG advert, include a link to your couchsurfing profile, or to your profile in other social media which shows something of who you really are as a person.

Even if you prefer not to use couchsurfing, I still think that in any application you make directly to a WG, it is a good idea to write something about your interests and attitudes to life and sharing, i.e. beyond merely age, gender and direction of study.

I hope that helps you to find somewhere.
Thank you very much doropfiz. These are great advice for finding WGs as I have never thought about culture difference before. I have put some personal info in the emails but now I think it just not enough. And making a couchsurfing profile seems to be a great idea.

But the cultural diversity may be larger than you think. It seems there are few people have experience about couchsurfing or flatshare as Chinese people tends to rent a place together rather than finding flatshares. There were more PhD students(joint programs between Chinese universities and ETH/UZH) and fewer master students(2-year master program comparing to 5-year PhD in USA) before so housing has not become a problem until recent years. I think I have to seek advice from those who have lived in student housings in Zurich.

But in fact most Chinese students usually have a lot experience(although a bit different from that in Europe) in flatshare as we live in school dormitories during Bachelor study and there are usually four people living in one <20 m^2 room . I think the basic rules like not bothering others or organizing group activities would be similar and I need to write more about these in the profile when writing emails next time.

So couchsurfing then finding a WG is an feasible option, but what about renting a flat directly with no work contracts? Just nearly impossible?

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Do note that money in a Chinese bank won't cut it for the permit/visa application. It has to be either in a Swiss bank here or a Swiss bank that has a branch in China.

I'm not sure you understand how the whole process works. Have you actually been accepted by the university to start your course in September? If so I assume that was back in February/March and you should have applied for your student permit/visa with the Swiss Embassy/Consulate in China around June. If you haven't already done this, then I'm sorry but there's no way you're going to get the permit approval (which is what allows you to get a Type D visa to enter Switzerland) before the course starts. The application takes from 8 to 12 weeks.

https://www.eda.admin.ch/dam/countri...Student_EN.pdf
We have got our visa. But many of our visas' entry date is Sep. 4th(two weeks from beginning of the semester) no matter what date we wrote on our visa application form.

UBS seems to be the only Swiss bank that have branches in China but it doesn't provide service for private clients here. Some Chinese banks have branches in Switzerland(but also only cooperate banking) so we would put deposits in these banks for visa applications and transfer these deposit to new Swiss bank accounts when we arrive here.

Last edited by 3Wishes; 06.08.2018 at 13:30. Reason: merging consecutive replies
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Old 06.08.2018, 07:47
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Re: Any advice for non-EU master students to rent a flat?

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I think the OP and his co-students have their visas. He mentions they can not arrive until 4th September due the conditions on the visa, probably two weeks before the semester starts.
Yes, totally misread the OP.
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Old 06.08.2018, 07:52
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Re: Any advice for non-EU master students to rent a flat?

What about reaching out within the Chinese student population already in Zurich? Given the bachelor student living situation you describe (4 people in 20m^2) maybe someone would be pleased for a bit of extra money for a month or so in exchange for a return to school dormitory style sharing?

Maybe someone in your group of connections has a cousin or friend ahead in his studies who knows someone already here? Or is there some sort of cultural organisation where Chinese in Zurich meet? Or a Chinese students society? (no idea what they might be, if I was searching for contacts who might help put me in contact with other British people, I'd try things like the British Chamber of Commerce, the American Women's Association, Church of England)

Of course, no need to stick with Chinese compatriots....just thinking that people who have gone through the same hassle (visa) and understand your cultural frame will be the quickest route for a temporary solution.
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Old 06.08.2018, 09:14
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Re: Any advice for non-EU master students to rent a flat?

Hey don't lose hope.

You'll find a flat eventually. As a non-EU, no one will rent you a flat from homegate or immoscout without a salary so your only option is a WG (flat-share). Apply for as many as you can and eventually you'll get something, even though it might not be the best one for you. Look for fix-term WG's, the ones that are only for a few months because once you're here, it's much easier to find a flat.

My first flat was only for 6 months (Non-EU) and quite a few flats said no to me too. After that, it was a breeze.
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Old 06.08.2018, 11:22
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Re: Any advice for non-EU master students to rent a flat?

Hi

Firstly sorry for responding without reading all the posts, as I have a busy schedule.

1. I do not know if the rules regarding 21000 CHF have changed, but you can have local currency worth 21000 CHF in a local bank which has a branch in Switzerland. The German term for that is "Schweizer domizilierte Bank". The bank say you have x in local currency which is equal to … CHF according to the exchange rate on zy.re.2018 etc
2. ETH has a portal. That is the easiest way to get accommodation. If not, they also provide a shelter which is a cheap shortterm option may be. Contact the International Student Support at the ETH for this. You can use when you arrive and then find an accommodation may be. You can also find accommodation much easier outside the city of Zurich, but you should increase your travel budget by 100 CHF maybe. With regard to salary, if you are lucky enough you will find a person who can just sublet a room without asking you to prove your salary. Also, ask the international student community and facebook groups about this.



Wish you all the best. I am sorry if my response is irrelevant.
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Old 07.08.2018, 11:12
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Re: Any advice for non-EU master students to rent a flat?

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What about reaching out within the Chinese student population already in Zurich? Given the bachelor student living situation you describe (4 people in 20m^2) maybe someone would be pleased for a bit of extra money for a month or so in exchange for a return to school dormitory style sharing?

Maybe someone in your group of connections has a cousin or friend ahead in his studies who knows someone already here? Or is there some sort of cultural organisation where Chinese in Zurich meet? Or a Chinese students society? (no idea what they might be, if I was searching for contacts who might help put me in contact with other British people, I'd try things like the British Chamber of Commerce, the American Women's Association, Church of England)

Of course, no need to stick with Chinese compatriots....just thinking that people who have gone through the same hassle (visa) and understand your cultural frame will be the quickest route for a temporary solution.
Thanks for your advice heckenhocker. I think finding a place to stay is not that difficult. But the real problem is the permit and I am fearing that two weeks may not be long enough.

There is a wechat (similar to whatsapp) group named "housing in Zurich" that contains about 500 Chinese people. But I only see ads about temporary places(usually starts in August) with "no registration" comment or some sublets that prefer people who is already in Zurich & people with salary(so I would never get it). Life is just hard for new master students.

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Hey don't lose hope.

You'll find a flat eventually. As a non-EU, no one will rent you a flat from homegate or immoscout without a salary so your only option is a WG (flat-share). Apply for as many as you can and eventually you'll get something, even though it might not be the best one for you. Look for fix-term WG's, the ones that are only for a few months because once you're here, it's much easier to find a flat.

My first flat was only for 6 months (Non-EU) and quite a few flats said no to me too. After that, it was a breeze.
Thank you kngavl. I never thought about fix-term WGs but it would be a feasible choice once we arrive in Zurich.

I have spent some time searching for temporary housing (only for September) last week on homegate & flatfox, sent emails to about four places, suggested that we would have someone on behalf of us to meet him/her and he/she could get all the rent once the contract is signed, but only got one response and that was a no .

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Hi

Firstly sorry for responding without reading all the posts, as I have a busy schedule.

1. I do not know if the rules regarding 21000 CHF have changed, but you can have local currency worth 21000 CHF in a local bank which has a branch in Switzerland. The German term for that is "Schweizer domizilierte Bank". The bank say you have x in local currency which is equal to … CHF according to the exchange rate on zy.re.2018 etc
2. ETH has a portal. That is the easiest way to get accommodation. If not, they also provide a shelter which is a cheap shortterm option may be. Contact the International Student Support at the ETH for this. You can use when you arrive and then find an accommodation may be. You can also find accommodation much easier outside the city of Zurich, but you should increase your travel budget by 100 CHF maybe. With regard to salary, if you are lucky enough you will find a person who can just sublet a room without asking you to prove your salary. Also, ask the international student community and facebook groups about this.



Wish you all the best. I am sorry if my response is irrelevant.
Thanks you harry.c. ETH have given us some examples of this "equal to" style statements, but our banks(BOC, CCB) just don't issue them. Most of us have to transferred our money into CHF/USD/Euro.

I'll go to ETH's housing office with some friends when we get in Zurich. But what I am really worried about is the 14-day limitation to get a permit.
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Old 07.08.2018, 11:36
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Re: Any advice for non-EU master students to rent a flat?

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There is a wechat (similar to whatsapp) group named "housing in Zurich" that contains about 500 Chinese people. But I only see ads about temporary places(usually starts in August) with "no registration" comment or some sublets that prefer people who is already in Zurich & people with salary(so I would never get it). Life is just hard for new master students.

I'll go to ETH's housing office with some friends when we get in Zurich. But what I am really worried about is the 14-day limitation to get a permit.
In theory you can use any address where you actually live as an registration address. AirBNB, a Hotel, the Youth Hostel, or even the campground Wollishofen. I personally wouldn't care if an ad for a place says "no registration". Why? Because the law overrides this, as you must register if you actually live there. Who ever rents the place has simply no say in this and such a clause is totally void.

Problem is that the authority want to see a long term rental contract, which is one which is 3 months or longer. With some persuasion you can make them accept a shorter one, specially if you say that you intend and will stay in the same town for a long period. As the city of Zurich is quite large (in Swiss terms in Chinese terms it is a tiny village), you study at ETH this is very likely.
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Old 07.08.2018, 14:08
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Re: Any advice for non-EU master students to rent a flat?

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I have spent some time searching for temporary housing (only for September) last week on homegate & flatfox, sent emails to about four places, suggested that we would have someone on behalf of us to meet him/her and he/she could get all the rent once the contract is signed, but only got one response and that was a no .
Reading online about the kinds of rooms there are, on the market, to rent, is time well worth spent, to learn about how things are here, about prices and locality, before you get here.

However, mailing to ask if you can rent the place, while you are still outside of Switzerland, is most likely, I am sorry to say, a waste of time. Renting a room just does not work like that here. Even if you carry on doing the same thing, over and over, it is still counter-cultural, and unless you are very unusually lucky, you are unlikely to succeed with the method you are using. Please remember that, here,
  • any people who would be sharing a home with you will want to meet you before they decide
  • rental agencies and landlords will not even consider renting to someone from abroad, who is not already here and can prove that they have the permits and papers.

I can understand that you are apprehensive, and I would be if I were in your position. But please take some comfort in the fact that not just you, and not even just the other Chinese students, but thousands and thousands of students in every university city in Switzerland will be facing exactly this issue. Therefore, this problem is well-known. The start of the semester is a very, very busy time.

As part of your research before you arrive in Switzerland:
  1. Write to your department secretary / supervisor and explain that you are already searching for a room, but that you have been told repeatedly that this is nearly impossible to do from outside of Switzerland. Don't complain about the fact that it is difficult. Just ask them for advice, and whether they have any suggestions you could follow, to find a room (in addition to any advice which may already be on the ETH and the University of Zurich Websites, for students).
  2. Study the public transport maps on https://www.zvv.ch/zvv/en/travelcard...zone-maps.html. See "zone maps" and "route network maps". And here are the prices https://www.zvv.ch/zvv/en/travelcard...s/tickets.html.
  3. As Heckenhocker suggested, contact any Chinese students already in Zurich, who may be able to advise you how they found a place, or who may pass on their rooms to you as they leave.
  4. Work on your couchsurfing profile (and ask your friends to do theirs, too, for the references), make it really friendly and personal, and then write a lot of careful, respectful requests to people whose profiles you have read well, and when you do, make a connection to something they have written. Try to set up a couchsurfing host for at least the first two or three days. Much better if you can find several hosts, each for three days, to cover the first few weeks. Tell all these hosts that you are also requesting to stay with other hosts, and that you will be very busy looking for a room as soon as you arrive. While you are staying in each host's home, make sure you leave everything very tidy and clean, and better than you found it. When you leave, ask them whether, if you still can't find a place, you could please request to stay with them for another few days, later.

Once you get here, register correctly with the municipal authorities. Take along all your papers from the ETH, so show where your base is. Explain to the people at the municipal office that you will be staying at these 4 or 6 or 8 addresses, on these and these dates, while you are looking for a room. Say that you will report back to them as soon as you have something more definite.

Then work your way through all the rooms you researched before you got here. Have a look at all the notice-boards on campus, or in supermarkets: there are still physical notice-boards besides the electronic ones. Approach looking for room like a full-time job (except, of course, when you have to be busy with your studies). Tell everyone you meet that you are looking.

My advice is that in mails, phonecalls and personal conversations, you do not, however, complain that things are very hard for master's students, or for students from abroad, and I recommend that you do not ever claim that your difficulties are because you are Chinese. I say this because you cannot, in fact, know whether or not this is true. Like everywhere in the world, unfortunately some people here do discriminate racially, but many, many people really don't, and it is not wise to assume, from the start, that people will have something against you. It is especially not kind to the individual person to whom you are speaking, to indirectly accuse them or their culture of racism. In fact, it is much more likely that, at first, it will take a bit of work from you (just as it does for any new person arriving from abroad) to adapt to the way things work here in Switzerland.

I wish you a good start, and you'll see, it'll all work out fine, as the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.
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Old 08.08.2018, 15:57
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Re: Any advice for non-EU master students to rent a flat?

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Reading online about the kinds of rooms there are, on the market, to rent, is time well worth spent, to learn about how things are here, about prices and locality, before you get here.

However, mailing to ask if you can rent the place, while you are still outside of Switzerland, is most likely, I am sorry to say, a waste of time. Renting a room just does not work like that here. Even if you carry on doing the same thing, over and over, it is still counter-cultural, and unless you are very unusually lucky, you are unlikely to succeed with the method you are using. Please remember that, here,
  • any people who would be sharing a home with you will want to meet you before they decide
  • rental agencies and landlords will not even consider renting to someone from abroad, who is not already here and can prove that they have the permits and papers.

I can understand that you are apprehensive, and I would be if I were in your position. But please take some comfort in the fact that not just you, and not even just the other Chinese students, but thousands and thousands of students in every university city in Switzerland will be facing exactly this issue. Therefore, this problem is well-known. The start of the semester is a very, very busy time.

As part of your research before you arrive in Switzerland:
  1. Write to your department secretary / supervisor and explain that you are already searching for a room, but that you have been told repeatedly that this is nearly impossible to do from outside of Switzerland. Don't complain about the fact that it is difficult. Just ask them for advice, and whether they have any suggestions you could follow, to find a room (in addition to any advice which may already be on the ETH and the University of Zurich Websites, for students).
  2. Study the public transport maps on https://www.zvv.ch/zvv/en/travelcard...zone-maps.html. See "zone maps" and "route network maps". And here are the prices https://www.zvv.ch/zvv/en/travelcard...s/tickets.html.
  3. As Heckenhocker suggested, contact any Chinese students already in Zurich, who may be able to advise you how they found a place, or who may pass on their rooms to you as they leave.
  4. Work on your couchsurfing profile (and ask your friends to do theirs, too, for the references), make it really friendly and personal, and then write a lot of careful, respectful requests to people whose profiles you have read well, and when you do, make a connection to something they have written. Try to set up a couchsurfing host for at least the first two or three days. Much better if you can find several hosts, each for three days, to cover the first few weeks. Tell all these hosts that you are also requesting to stay with other hosts, and that you will be very busy looking for a room as soon as you arrive. While you are staying in each host's home, make sure you leave everything very tidy and clean, and better than you found it. When you leave, ask them whether, if you still can't find a place, you could please request to stay with them for another few days, later.

Once you get here, register correctly with the municipal authorities. Take along all your papers from the ETH, so show where your base is. Explain to the people at the municipal office that you will be staying at these 4 or 6 or 8 addresses, on these and these dates, while you are looking for a room. Say that you will report back to them as soon as you have something more definite.

Then work your way through all the rooms you researched before you got here. Have a look at all the notice-boards on campus, or in supermarkets: there are still physical notice-boards besides the electronic ones. Approach looking for room like a full-time job (except, of course, when you have to be busy with your studies). Tell everyone you meet that you are looking.

My advice is that in mails, phonecalls and personal conversations, you do not, however, complain that things are very hard for master's students, or for students from abroad, and I recommend that you do not ever claim that your difficulties are because you are Chinese. I say this because you cannot, in fact, know whether or not this is true. Like everywhere in the world, unfortunately some people here do discriminate racially, but many, many people really don't, and it is not wise to assume, from the start, that people will have something against you. It is especially not kind to the individual person to whom you are speaking, to indirectly accuse them or their culture of racism. In fact, it is much more likely that, at first, it will take a bit of work from you (just as it does for any new person arriving from abroad) to adapt to the way things work here in Switzerland.

I wish you a good start, and you'll see, it'll all work out fine, as the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.

Thanks again for your help doropfiz. Both of your replies are very helpful and I would follow your advice.(Asking my roommates making couchsurfing profiles is a bit difficult but I'll try again)

If you think that I suggested racism in my content, I apologize for that. East Asians usually stay away from these racial dilemmas so I didn't notice it in when writing down these words. If there is a need, I could edit my replies on your demand or you could ask someone to delete it.

Two reasons why I mentioned my nationality: (now I find that there is no need to do so.)

1. the thread I quoted is written by a Chinese and he mentioned the difficulty in finding a WG since we have to compete with EU/Swiss people. (And I haven't heard anyone successful, maybe the successful people just graduated and leave the wechat group.) I fully understand it as people would prefer someone who speaks German, likes similar music, books & movies rather than something they never heard of, and doesn't make any "crazy Chinese cuisines". There is nothing regarding racism here and I really appreciate that you could share your experience with that Chinese couchsurfer.

2. I need to deal with regulations on foreign exchange by Chinese government. I cannot get all my deposit into a Swiss account at one time and this would just make the renting process more difficult.

I really thought a temporary flat for a month is the best chance for us when I sent these emails as income wouldn't matters. But now I have understood the difficulties. Thank you for your prompt response to my inquiry and I really appreciate all the information you have provided me with.
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Old 08.08.2018, 16:09
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Re: Any advice for non-EU master students to rent a flat?

It's okay, jctian, I didn't find your posts impolite, not at all. I was only wanting to help you avoid a mistake that I have seen other newcomers make: when things didn't work out for them, right away, they assumed a racial discrimination. I wrote about that, here, because I observe that locals don't enjoy that kind of thinking. And when one is new, it is an easy error to make.


About "competing" with other candidates, (who may be European, or from anywhere else in the world) yes, that's true. The demand is very high, and there is not enough affordable accommodation. However, I think you are well on your way to understanding quite a lot about the attributes which are likely to be considered a "winner" here.

Unfortunately I can't comment on the foreign exchange side. Except to say that you should do everything in your power to move the necessary money before you arrive in Switzerland, and also be sure to leave a properly registered Power of Attorney with somone you trust (your parents, for example, or a lawyer) in China, who will continue the work on all aspects of the foreign exchange which you are not able to get completed before you leave.
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Old 09.08.2018, 12:09
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Re: Any advice for non-EU master students to rent a flat?

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1. the thread I quoted is written by a Chinese and he mentioned the difficulty in finding a WG...
There's a lot of wrong advice in this thread. I'm a non-EU ETH graduate, and I've had to work through many of issues you're currently facing. Canton Zürich is forgiving when it comes to foreign students. The first housing address is mainly a way for them to verify that you're living in Zürich and that you'll be able to receive your ausländerausweis (B permit card) by mail once they've taken your biometrics.

The student living situation is chaotic. This is true for everyone. Here's what you need to do. Monitor the internal ETH housing directory and apply to every listing that comes up, even if the room is only available for a couple of months. Get your name on the list for WOKO, JUWO, and Living Science, even if the next allotment period isn't until next semester (or next year). The subsidized rent is significantly cheaper than anything else you'll find in Zürich. You should also email every housing manager. WOKO allows tenants who rent a double-room allotment to sublet one of the rooms. They also let tenants sublet for short term periods (e.g., while they're away for internships). The housing managers will know who may be looking to sublet or a room and may be able to put you in touch.

You're most likely going to spend the first couple of months moving between short term arrangements. A lot of foreign students do this. It's not a big deal. You can also look for places on Tutti.ch. However, you're probably going to end up renting a flat-share from someone you meet after you arrive.

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2. I need to deal with regulations on foreign exchange by Chinese government. I cannot get all my deposit into a Swiss account at one time and this would just make the renting process more difficult.
You do not need to transfer all of the 21,000 CHF to a Swiss bank account, and you honestly should not. The 21,000 CHF requirement only matters when you are applying for your student visa. Canton Zürich wants to know that you have the equivalent of this amount in CHF with an approved bank. It doesn't matter whether it's actually in CHF or if it's held outside of the country. You're past this step anyway and you won't have to worry about it until you go to renew your visa in 2019.

You're also a college student. Very few people who are looking to sublet a room will ask you for a bank account statement. You're most likely going to be renting from Robert, who's a year ahead of you at ETH and only cares that you pay your rent and that you don't call the cops every time the nineteen year old undergraduates next door are blasting EDM in the common kitchen at 1:00 in the morning.

Swiss banks aren't very generous when it comes to foreign currency exchange fees. Convert however much you need to live for your first one-two months before you leave for Zürich. Open a student account with Post Finance when you arrive. After that, get in touch with the local Chinese expat community (the folks who have lived here for a while). China is something of an exception because of the currency exchange restrictions, and they'll be able to help you out more than we will when it comes to this.

There are a couple of other things to keep in mind. Non-EU students are allowed to apply for approved non-KVG health insurance plans, which are significantly cheaper than standard heath insurance plans. You should also try to get a research assistant position at ETH or Uni Zürich as soon as you can. You'll have a much better experience if you do applied research (which is what ETH is known for) than if you only stick to your studies. Also, if you want to find a job in Switzerland after you graduate, think about taking one or two semesters off (which you can do) and use the time to enroll in a full time language program.
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Old 10.08.2018, 08:34
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Re: Any advice for non-EU master students to rent a flat?

Moving in with German speakers might be an advantage. It will be hard first, but it will pay out. You'll learn a lot about culture and common misunderstandings ;-) Meet your Asian friends at Uni and try to spend time with your WG- subletters.

I did that when I went to study in NYC. Many misunderstandings first - cultural and language-wise. Sometimes I was really confused or frustrated how my roommates /classmates did things. After a while, I found about rules and stuff and learned to read them.

We're still friends.

I read a lot, did on-campus-work. After that year, I read, wrote and spoke English good enough to master the Cambridge Proficiency Test.

And it was all for free :-)

Last edited by marischi; 10.08.2018 at 08:45.
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