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Old 13.04.2012, 14:13
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Switzerland newbie

Hi All!

Me and my family are relocating to Switzerland in summer and I will be starting a job in Bern. Very excited about the move and our new home country. I've been doing a lot of research on the intricacies of life in Switzerland and I feel we'll be in for quite a ride This forum has been very helpful in explaining various topics. Though certain aspects like fundamentals of taxation and the plethora of quaint rules/regulations make me wince occasionally. But I'm sure that with help from this forum I'll be able to figure things out.

I have an introductory question, which hopefully will not be out of place here.. Both me and my wife speak a little bit of French. I learned it in high-school for several years but have never actively had to use it. My wife took a half-year course a while a go for fun. Neither of us knows any German. Currently we are trying to figure out which city to live in. I understand that Bern is quite German oriented whereas there are several cities not too far away where French is also actively used (Neuchatel, Biel, Fribourg). Also, my wife will be staying home with our 9 month baby and would need to by on her own during the day. I don't mind a 30 minute train ride to Bern and maybe living in a smaller city will be nice, but I'm not quite convinced one way or the other. How hard would it be to manage in Bern without any (initial) knowledge of German? Being a bigger city than my other options, can I expect people to be more used to non-German speaker? Or should we also consider farther options like Lausanne? I'd appreciate any suggestions regarding this choice (Bern vs. living in/commuting from smaller nearby 'French' cities)
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Old 13.04.2012, 14:36
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Re: Switzerland newbie

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Hi All!

Me and my family are relocating to Switzerland in summer and I will be starting a job in Bern. Very excited about the move and our new home country. I've been doing a lot of research on the intricacies of life in Switzerland and I feel we'll be in for quite a ride This forum has been very helpful in explaining various topics. Though certain aspects like fundamentals of taxation and the plethora of quaint rules/regulations make me wince occasionally. But I'm sure that with help from this forum I'll be able to figure things out.

I have an introductory question, which hopefully will not be out of place here.. Both me and my wife speak a little bit of French. I learned it in high-school for several years but have never actively had to use it. My wife took a half-year course a while a go for fun. Neither of us knows any German. Currently we are trying to figure out which city to live in. I understand that Bern is quite German oriented whereas there are several cities not too far away where French is also actively used (Neuchatel, Biel, Fribourg). Also, my wife will be staying home with our 9 month baby and would need to by on her own during the day. I don't mind a 30 minute train ride to Bern and maybe living in a smaller city will be nice, but I'm not quite convinced one way or the other. How hard would it be to manage in Bern without any (initial) knowledge of German? Being a bigger city than my other options, can I expect people to be more used to non-German speaker? Or should we also consider farther options like Lausanne? I'd appreciate any suggestions regarding this choice (Bern vs. living in/commuting from smaller nearby 'French' cities)
Hello and welcome. I don't have time for a longer answer, but you will certainly get by in Bern with French AND English. Plus there are quite a lot of french-speakers living and working in Bern.

The main question is: Is your French allready good enough to have a social life?
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Old 14.04.2012, 11:06
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Re: Switzerland newbie

Hello and welcome to the Forum.
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Old 19.04.2012, 09:53
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Re: Switzerland newbie

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Hello and welcome. I don't have time for a longer answer, but you will certainly get by in Bern with French AND English. Plus there are quite a lot of french-speakers living and working in Bern.

The main question is: Is your French allready good enough to have a social life?
Thanks for the reply! I'm mainly asking the language question because I visited Bern last year and found it hard to communicate in restaurants and shops. I wasn't expecting to get by in English but 90% of the time even French didn't help me and I had to resort to sign language and pointing. Maybe I just had bad luck or ended up in a very German part of town, but this made me a bit cautious. Especially if I'll have to deal with some procedures/paperwork in some cantonal/government office and only German is acceptable. So I'm hoping that living in Neuchatel or Biel/Bienne would alleviate the language troubles somewhat.
There's another thing I'm wondering about with regards to living in Neuchatel and working in Bern. As they are in different cantons, would this cause me extra paperwork headaches?
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Old 19.04.2012, 11:50
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Re: Switzerland newbie

First and foremost I think you will love living in Switzerland. As an American living here with her husband, I've found the unique idiosyncrasies of the country to be a challenge only when you are the kind of person unwilling to bend or be kind. We are, after-all, the foreigners. I say that because I know how challenging it can be to completely relocate to a new place and want to fit in/integrate as much as possible. The hearts of the Swiss people are there, they're just buried a little deeper than the Americans or the English (I only speak from my experience) and take some working out and trust to finally know.

I would recommend reading the book, "Swiss Watching" by Diccon Bewes. It's a GREAT book and tells you all about the country from the perspective of a well-read and researched Englishman who lived here for many years. I learned so much about the country and the people, and I unfortunately only read it recently. I wish I had read it before I moved here because I think it shows the Swiss culture in a very honest and interesting light.

I hope that helps in some way.
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Old 19.04.2012, 12:23
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Re: Switzerland newbie

I currently live in the Lausanne area, and like you, had French in high school and in college. I am also taking French classes. No matter where you live, you will probably have more difficulty with the language barrier than you anticipate. This is not to frighten you, just to let you know that even with my basic French, I still wind up pointing and acting things out. (Thankfully, I have not had to pretend to be a turkey, like my friend did around Thanksgiving time--that was embarrassing!). But despite my mangling of the language, most people are fairly accommodating. They see that I am trying, and they help out. As for the cantonal offices, I have found very few employees who speak English, so I get a LOT of French practice there. That may be different in Neuchatel or Fribourg.
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