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Old 12.06.2006, 08:46
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Deciding not to move to Switzerland

I'm Gary, and I've applied for a job at ETH-Zurich and am hungrily devouring as much information as I can about living/working in Zurich so I can make an educated decision if I get an offer.

I'm on the Expats-in-Zurich and Families-in-Zurich Yahoo lists, and while they've been good so far (a bit much traffic at this point) I'd like to get more perspectives on what CH is really like.

After spending a few weeks reading, and reading, and reading some more (I've read through most of Hampshire's book and have a few more coming) I've decided that with my family (wife and 3 small children) relocating to Zurich isn't very likely, because the typical salary ranges at ETHZ are nowhere near what it would take for me to support my family. I've been to homegate.ch many times, even online shopped at Migros, and I must say that CH is one incredibly expensive place to try to live. We're doing fine on my US salary (house, two cars, savings, etc., etc.) so "starting over" in CH isn't as appealing as it was a few weeks ago.

Anyway, since I don't know what the real salary would be (even assuming I get an offer), I'm guessing that there's about a 1 in 5 chance we'd "go for it" and relocate. Still, the more I can learn, the better.

I'm glad to be here and get the real scoop!
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  #2  
Old 16.06.2006, 02:44
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Re: To any and all...

I do not know zurich, except yes it is very expensive. I know what postdocs at ETH earn and what those in Bern earn, and the difference does not make up for the raised Zurich prices.

One thing, I am not sure if you would be on local contracts (if you will be paid by the EU let me know, as you need extra advice), but settle your salary before you sign anything.

I am at Bern uni, and am saying, you do not want surprises after having relocated. One thing, I hope you are a high level academic, otherwise I do not see how you can support a family by yourself at ETH. But perhaps ask a few scientists there.....And if you depend on your wife getting a job, be careful, this is not a guaranteed situation (the partner getting a job); other expats suggest this may be more difficult than in other countries.

Oh, and never settle for just a gross salary, ask ETH to send you a list of your deductions, so you know your netto salary after taxes. To give you an idea, I pay 37% of my postdoc salary in taxes/deductions.
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Old 16.06.2006, 02:48
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Re: To any and all...

Oh, a scientist I know was a postdoc at MIT earning 40k U$ a year and she now ears 47k in Euros here, and she says she is much worse off, and we are only living in Bern which is WAY cheaper than Zurich.

And forget about two cars, one small car if you really need it I would say. Otherwise, public transport is much cheaper.

On the upside, doing research here might be easier as there is more money for research than in many EU countries; not sure about the US though.
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Old 16.06.2006, 10:43
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Re: To any and all...

Hi, just wanted to add my two pence.

I am a junior post-doc at ETH Zurich and I've been here for nearly four months now.
The deductions on my salary are about 23%. It's true that I'm not paying health insurance because of an agreement between Italy and Switzerland on this, but still it's quite low compared to many other countries.
From what I've experienced in these last four months I'm way better off here than any post-doc in UK, even with more experience than I have. On the other hand, I am on my own so my salary has to be enough only for myself. Anyway I can afford a decent flat, I furnished it and I can treat myself to a few extras I probably couldn't have afforded with a post-doc position anywhere else in Europe.
The downside in my opinion is that it's not very easy to start having a social life here, but maybe having your family with you would make things easier.
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Old 16.06.2006, 16:29
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Re: To any and all...

This position is a permanent technical support position, not an academic job, or a post-doc, or something like that. I managed to find the ETHZ salary ranges and job classes, and from what I can determine, the position just can't pay what I would need to support my family. We will see, of course, but from what I've seen of prices, how people can do much more than just get by is a mystery to me!
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Old 16.06.2006, 18:03
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Re: To any and all...

Hi Gary,

One word of advise, honestly, it seems you've got quite a good life going for yourselves in the US:

DON'T DO IT!!

Not because of the country, it's great over here, but my personal experience is that I had to start all over again, also financially. We were just 2 people, and already finding it hard on an above avarage salary. Let alone if you like to gain some future financial security: for example, buying a house is impossible without some significant savings (say minimum 100.000 USD).

If you however REALLY want to come and live here, do only come if you have a well paid job, and your wife ideally as well. Once you make 140.000 CHF per year as a start, you can have a pretty good life with a 5-headed family.

Ciaociao.
P.s. OK, if you do everything in the cheapest possible way, shopping in Germany, live in the mountain 30 mins from Zurich, make it a mission so to say, you could survive on a lower salary, say 100.000 CHF. I know single guys in their mid twenties, no family, asking 70.000 CHF for a pretty normal job...just as an indication
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Old 16.06.2006, 18:42
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Re: To any and all...

I believe the "linchpin" of my (possible) decision will be the net salary. We're doing fine here - I believe something like 130k-140k CHF will be equivalent to what I make here, and I don't see that as very likely.

Thanks to everyone for the comments and advice!
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Old 16.06.2006, 19:50
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Re: To any and all...

Then I would add that one of the criteria would be, how necessary it is for you to get that position. If it is a once in a lifetime chance to get a great job, then consider everything together. If it isn't, I would be very careful and do even more research before making the decision to move. Include pensions in this too as you may end up with a bigger gap.

If you have a permanent job now, and you like it, then it is an enormous amount of upheaval for your family. These are always difficult decisions and the problem if you move is, you won't know for ages whether it is the right choice. If you stay, you have to ask yourself, have I/we missed a great chance?
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Old 16.06.2006, 19:57
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Re: To any and all...

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Then I would add that one of the criteria would be, how necessary it is for you to get that position. If it is a once in a lifetime chance to get a great job, then consider everything together. If it isn't, I would be very careful and do even more research before making the decision to move. Include pensions in this too as you may end up with a bigger gap.

If you have a permanent job now, and you like it, then it is an enormous amount of upheaval for your family. These are always difficult decisions and the problem if you move is, you won't know for ages whether it is the right choice. If you stay, you have to ask yourself, have I/we missed a great chance?
You've nailed the biggest problems/issues right on the head. Do I really want to go through all the expense/stress/hassle just to end up at about the same place we are now, or, in a nightmare scenario, worse off? My wife and I have spent many hours discussing the entire thing, and there are just so many things to think about!
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Old 17.06.2006, 00:31
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Re: To any and all...

We have been going through this as well.Although we don't have as far to travel (uk) the thought of uprooting family, leaving friends and a way of life we understand made us question wether we are doing the right thing.
Financially we will be a little better off but not enough to make that the reason for moving, but, we are using it as a chance to give a our son a private education and us a chance to spread our wings.
Everyone relocates for different reasons and only you and your family can decide if the risk is worth it, but if it is any consolation you are not alone in your confusion!

good luck with whatever you decide.
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Old 17.06.2006, 10:40
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Re: To any and all...

Indeed there are a tons of things to consider

Things here work somehow different as in the US, some things are cheaper somethings are not. I must say that we relocated from CH to the US (Florida), lived there for about 5 months but came back, our experience there wasnt very good, but I will try to be fair on what I have to say:

What is true there are tons of things that are not comparable.

For example:

Fuel prices are really high, interest rates are little higher and it is not that *easy* to buy a car as in the US (walk in the car shop and leave in 30 min with your car). You gotta pay taxes, (based on the engine power), insurance is not that cheap either, etc, etc,etc. So whats the deal then? Deal is that most people use cars only for leisure. Of what I have seen here in CH, what people usally do is move close to where they work (opposite as in the US, changing jobs is something that people normally dont do unless there is a strong reason for it, in other words when you take a job; expected is that you stay with that job for years (hence the 3 month probation you normally get before you decide to stay in your new job). Having said that, you will find that Switzerland has a very good train and bus system, also in the major cities you have trams. People walk A LOT around here, bicycle is the prefered transportation system. People are very respectful for cyclists and streats are very well marked. Both my wife and I have been living here for about 5 years, we didnt have car for the first year, we got one afterwards because shopping may become complicated with a bicycle, however we only have one car. Bottom line is that here a car is more commodity while in the US you cant live without one.

Food, this is an interesting thing. Expensive? We found the prices roughly the same as here (usually we shopped at Publix), however the quality is not comparable at all, most of the products are canned and even if the aint they taste like plastic or have a certain artificial flavour. Try comparing the prices of BIO products with regular products here, that is the closest you could get quality wise , and you are still not even close. Parmessan cheese for example, if you buy Kraft for sure its cheap it doesnt taste at parmesan at all, get the real Parmesan (US$ 3.5 100gr if I remember correctly) thats almost twice what you pay here. If you gonna move here, forget about meat !!!, that is a HUGE luxus, cow meat that is, Pork is relatively cheap. That is something we really miss (besides those kick ass BBQ Ribs from Tony Romas )

Good thing is that there is no Credit History here, so you dont have to worry about building one. That is because you pay everything cash (very few stores have credit systems) ... yeah that somehow sucks.

Be aware of something regarding taxes, you get taxed at income, tax depends if your married, number of children, religion, etc. If you are married with 3 children then you are in a very good tax level, plus you get 150 Chf monthly for every child from the state (called Kinderzulage). Also people with at B-Permite (something like HB-1) pay fixed income tax (called Quellensteuer - taxing at source), still not sure of that is a good thing or not, but most people say its better, I actually dont care about it that much as its not "optional".

I would say 140K is an awfull good salary!!!!, I have a collegue that his monthly income is around 8200 (before taxes), he has two kids and they are able to live very confortable. Salary of course depends where the company is located, salaries in Zürich are relatively high, but also living costs are higher, but taxes are lower (funny huh?). I live in Kanton Thurgau, apartements are really cheap (would say 30% cheaper) but I pay around 6000 Chf more per year on taxes ... yeah I know thats weird . Therefore I am moving to Zürich in two weeks

Clothing and electronics is something that you would really miss, that for sure is really really expensive.

There are a handful of advantages of living here:
- Italy 3 hours drive
- France 2 hours drive
- German 40 min drive (5 min WALK from where I currently live)
- Austria 2 hours drive
You can get cheap flight tickets to anywhere in europe, go to Londo for the day for only 20£. Plus you get a great opportunity to learn other cultures and other languages, and drink some nice beer

One very important thing: Once you get a work permit, your wife doesnt!!! She will be allowed to stay, but not to work unless she finds a company that is willing to sponsor her work visa, and that is not an easy thing!

If I would be in your shoes I would plan to come and stay for a couple of years, that is having the possibility to return to the US. Perhaps you stay ( as I and many others did) or perhaps you dont. One things is for sure, its worth having the experience.


HTH
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Old 17.06.2006, 11:03
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Re: To any and all...

Quote:
One very important thing: Once you get a work permit, your wife doesnt!!! She will be allowed to stay, but not to work unless she finds a company that is willing to sponsor her work visa, and that is not an easy thing!
This I don't think is true, as soon as my husband received his B Permit I was able to automatically apply for a B Permit also, we were told that a spouse gets the same permit as their working spouse, but if you are unmarried your don't automatically get a permit if your working partner gets one

Although I say all this, I am still waiting for my permit and its been over2 months since I applied!

Nicky
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Old 17.06.2006, 12:44
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Re: To any and all...

As far as I know, that is the case for spouses of EU nationals, which is not my case.

Not sure if this rule is Kanton dependant.

If you know any different please let me know !!!

Thanks
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Old 18.06.2006, 21:08
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Re: To any and all...

Hi Gary,

Interesting thread. This is one of the reasons why I set up this forum in the first place. I wanted a place where ordinary people can share their opinions and experiences of what Switzerland is really like. Often books or other sources of information are written from the author's perspective and may not apply in individual situations.

I may get shouted down by the rose-coloured-glasses crowd (who usually come from dirtier/poorer/less developed countries than Switzerland), but I think you have made the right decision.

Funding a wife and a family in CH is *not* an easy thing to do at all. Single people who have good jobs generally give it the thumbs up for low taxes (again, low depends on what you are used to - I consider them "medium" and so do various OECD statistics on taxation). As you've probably already worked out the following factors (apart from the culture shock) are counting against you:

* You are married. Married people where both partners work pay a disproportionately high amount of tax compared to single people. This is recognised as a major problem and work is underway to change it.
* Your wife may wish to work, but as was pointed out earlier will probably not get permission to do so. Even if she does she will have a hell of a time getting a job without German (and even if she does have German it won't be easy). Of course this depends on her skill. If she does manage to get a job, then she will be in a high tax bracket from her very first franc (see previous point).
* Health insurance costs are getting higher and higher, and those with families have a huge monthly bill for the minimum cover required by law. Again, singles without kids have the biggest advantage here - they pay only for themselves.
* Food. Do you like to buy high quality and food and good cuts of meat for your family? This aint cheap! I know many people who grew up here having meat only 2 or 3 times a week as children. Again - singles who only have one mouth to feed to do not have to do meat runs over the border and will often respond with "Yes but I get a higher salary so it balances out". You've been wise enough to run the numbers for your situation and you've seen that it doesn't balance out.

In addition to the above points you've also been considering education. When I first moved here I thought that parents who put their kids in the international schools were wasting their money. Knowing what I know now, I would not put my kids (which I don't have anyway), into the Swiss school system. Again, not everybody would agree with me, but that's the way it goes. Bottom line is that you won't be able to afford to put your kids in the international school.

Sorry I don't have better news for you - but I guess you figured that out already.

By the way - I'm renaming the subject line of this thread and moving it to help and tips. The thread has outgrown its original status of an introduction.
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Old 18.06.2006, 22:16
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Re: Deciding not to move to Switzerland

Just a question, when you say you have not been offered yet, do you mean the interviews are still going to come? If so, I would imagine that if they invite you. they'd pay for your flight, and this would be a great chance to check out a few things, like housing, schools etc. while you are here....
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Old 18.06.2006, 23:59
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Re: To any and all...

Quote:
Hi Gary,

Interesting thread. This is one of the reasons why I set up this forum in the first place. I wanted a place where ordinary people can share their opinions and experiences of what Switzerland is really like. Often books or other sources of information are written from the author's perspective and may not apply in individual situations.

I may get shouted down by the rose-coloured-glasses crowd (who usually come from dirtier/poorer/less developed countries than Switzerland), but I think you have made the right decision.[...]
Thanks for all the input and information. My wife and I have discussed as many issues as we can think of, and it's looking less and less likely that we would relocate, even assuming I get an offer and the net salary is do-able.

There are so many benefits here that we currently have that we would lose, and with a family, a decision to "jump in" with both feet is not one to take. If this opportunity was 10 years ago, the decision would be much easier - no kids, no house, less in experience and salary requirements...

Yes, by not relocating, we would lose a lot of very interesting possibilities and opportunities - but are all those really worth it? At this point, I'd have to say no.
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Old 19.06.2006, 00:02
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Re: Deciding not to move to Switzerland

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Just a question, when you say you have not been offered yet, do you mean the interviews are still going to come? If so, I would imagine that if they invite you. they'd pay for your flight, and this would be a great chance to check out a few things, like housing, schools etc. while you are here....
Yes, I have not had a formal interview yet - it's been a month since I sent in my CV and had contact with the individual offering the job. No formal offer, certainly!
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Old 10.08.2006, 18:31
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Re: Deciding not to move to Switzerland

I finally got up the nerve to ask the hiring individual what the latest news on the position was, and he replied with a note stating that they had hired another candidate for the position. Oh well!

I've enjoyed reading everyone's posts on all the topics that have come across the forum in the last couple of months, but there's really no reason for me to stay.

Thanks to all who offered advice and comments!
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Old 10.08.2006, 19:00
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Re: Deciding not to move to Switzerland

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I finally got up the nerve to ask the hiring individual what the latest news on the position was, and he replied with a note stating that they had hired another candidate for the position. Oh well!

I've enjoyed reading everyone's posts on all the topics that have come across the forum in the last couple of months, but there's really no reason for me to stay.

Thanks to all who offered advice and comments!
I'm often amazed at how downright unprofessional some HR "professionals" are. Telling you the position was filled by someone else is just basic courtesy and costs nothing.

Well I guess we won't be seeing you around - so good luck!
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Old 10.08.2006, 19:15
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Re: Deciding not to move to Switzerland

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I'm often amazed at how downright unprofessional some HR "professionals" are. Telling you the position was filled by someone else is just basic courtesy and costs nothing.
Yeah, that was a little tacky - it's been a couple months and I've been waiting and waiting and waiting...

Quote:
Well I guess we won't be seeing you around - so good luck!
Thanks - you can delete my account, actually, or, if I can do it myself, let me know.
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