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Old 11.06.2019, 23:17
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US Accountant looking to relocate with family to Switzerland in coming years

Hello everyone, and before I start, thank you for your time and input on the topic.

I am an accountant with over 10 years of experience, currently working in Public Accounting as an Auditor in FL, USA. My family and I had had Switzerland for quite a while in our bucket list and have been thinking recently of the possibility of moving there as a family (2 kids - 6 years old and 4 months old). I am currently studying for the CPA so before considering the possibility of relocating, I would at least bring the license to the table plus Big 4 experience and skills. I'm aware that the Financial Industry plays a big game in the Country. That said, how difficult would it be for us as a family to move to the Country? How difficult would it be to get a job? I've been monitoring openings and there's a lot of opportunities for individuals with my background and expertise across the Country. Demand seems actually higher than available candidates, is this correct? I also speak Spanish, English and starting to learn German and plan to aim at French right after and maybe Italian along the way after being fluent in the other two. This is a 2-3 years plan so we are thinking ahead and beginning with planning and would like your input about this whole process. We plan to visit the Swiss consulate soon who is not far from us. We are also planning a trip to CH soon.

Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks!

-JJV
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Old 12.06.2019, 06:54
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Re: US Accountant looking to relocate with family to Switzerland in coming years

Get transfered over here, best chance to relocate. You are in a very competitive market where it is very difficult to hire non EU persons.
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Old 12.06.2019, 07:16
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Re: US Accountant looking to relocate with family to Switzerland in coming years

Welcome to the forum.

As roegner said it's not easy for employers here to hire non-EU personnel. There are quota limits for permits and when they run out that's it until the next year. Employers have to prove they can't find a Swiss/EU national who could do the job before they'd be able to hire you.

https://www.sem.admin.ch/sem/en/home...zulassung.html

Also, depending on exactly what you want to do, you may need to have your qualifications recognised by this organisation before you'd be able to work here.

https://www.sbfi.admin.ch/sbfi/en/ho...-services.html

If you have an EU nationality then having an EU passport would bypass the hiring criteria problem.

Since you're an accountant you may already know this, but I'll post it anyway just in case you don't. Americans are persona non grata here in Switzerland due to the US's FATCA law so you wouldn't be able to get anything other than a basic checking/salary account from a severely short list of banks willing to even consider you for an account. No mortgage, no investments, unless you're pretty wealthy to start with. To open an account here you'd have to sign a W-9 form to allow the bank to send your account details on to the IRS.

And that's because as a US citizen you're obliged to continue filing US tax returns and could end up owing the US tax on top of any Swiss ones. Start your research on that here.

https://www.irs.gov/individuals/inte...-living-abroad

You would also need to fill in an FBAR form every year detailing any foreign, i.e. outside of the US, bank accounts which come to an aggregate figure of more than $10,000 at any time of the year.

Unfortunately if you do have an EU nationality it doesn't make any difference to the above taxation/banking situation.
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Old 12.06.2019, 15:08
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Re: US Accountant looking to relocate with family to Switzerland in coming years

In addition to everything Medea said, I can give you some specific info for multinational companies, (which are the only kind of companies who still offer ex-pat style transfer packages.)


If you only speak English, (and your Spanish counts for zero in Switzerland), and you come from an non-EU country, you had better be the top accountant in the accounting department to have any chance in hell that your transfer will be approved by Switzerland.


In other words, whatever guy or gal in the home company, in the US for example, gets sent over here to be the president of Europe or EMEA must request your transfer to Switzerland and present the case that BECAUSE YOU ARE SO NECESSARY to the success of the entire business, you should be allowed in. You know how many times I saw this happen in my husband's tenure as president of his multinational? Exactly four times. All other people in his office except his CFO and his COO were multilingual and from the EU and were on local contracts.



A regular guy from Florida with a CPA who only speaks English who wants to just hop on over and find a job is absolutely delusional. Never going to happen. You would have a much better chance in Spain assuming you are fluent in Spanish.
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Old 12.06.2019, 16:31
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Re: US Accountant looking to relocate with family to Switzerland in coming years

OP, have you applied for any jobs here?

Getting a work and residence permit is tough but not impossible. I do recommend getting a job there in a company that could relocate you to CH though.
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Old 12.06.2019, 18:03
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Re: US Accountant looking to relocate with family to Switzerland in coming years

JJVazz, you might find this thread of interest:
https://www.englishforum.ch/educatio...ds-cpa-us.html

Your first consideration should be the general perception of the value of a US CPA in Switzerland/Europe. This is not my area, far from it, so I will leave it to others to advise you. Hopefully the posters on that thread who do have industry insight will respond here.

And I'll second The Spouse's comments: Do not underestimate the difficulty of getting a permit as a non-EU, especially an American.

I hope you are able to make your dreams come true - but eyes wide open.

ETA:

You mention that Switzerland is on your bucket list, might I ask what draws you to this country? Wanting to upend your family and move to a country you have never even visited is a huge leap... especially when that is a country with highly restrictive immigration policies for non-EU citizens, where your nationality could be viewed as a negative. That's two strikes off the bat...

I ask because we have time and time again seen rather naive posts from Americans whose desire to move here is largely driven by a very inaccurate idea of the country. Much of what one reads in the US press about Switzerland - from all political spectra - is, frankly, utter bumf.

So before you get your heart set on, and put a not inconsiderable amount of your time and treasure towards, what is likely to be a long shot perhaps a discussion of what you hope to find here might be in order. Maybe we can help focus the picture you have so far drawn.

Again, all the best.

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Old 12.06.2019, 21:38
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Re: US Accountant looking to relocate with family to Switzerland in coming years

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I am an accountant with over 10 years of experience, currently working in Public Accounting as an Auditor in FL, USA.

I am currently studying for the CPA so before considering the possibility of relocating, I would at least bring the license to the table plus Big 4 experience and skills.
A couple things, of concern:
- Why after 10 experience have you not already completed your CPA. Here it is normal for big 4 staff to do this within the first 3 or 4 years....

- A US CPA is not recognised qualification for equivalence in the EU/EEA/CH, so you would need to take the exams for one of the European Institutes. The Irish Institute of Chartered Accountants, of which I'm a member, does recognise CPA as an entry qualification for their exams plus a few exceptions from the first level exams. But that is about it.

- In terms of US GAAP knowledge, most European Accounting bodies offer post qualifications in it and indeed many of those working in such positions, will also have experience of work in US partner offices etc.. This is an example of the type of course I'm talking about.

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I've been monitoring openings and there's a lot of opportunities for individuals with my background and expertise across the Country. Demand seems actually higher than available candidates, is this correct?
It is true that all of the big four and many others are represented in Switzerland. However, it would be more accurate to say that there are local firms that are members of the big 4 etc.. What that means is that the vast majority of the work is local, even the work done for MNCs. That means you need knowledge of the local laws, language and at least an EU/EEA/CH qualification.

The same goes for most of the MNCs, you are there to do the local work, unless you are at a very senior position.

Others have already commented on the standards required for a citizen of a third country to get a work permit here. And honestly I don't see that you are bring anything to the table that can't already be got somewhere in the EU/EEA, so it is hard to see what would motivate an employer to try and get a third country permit for you.

It is not impossible, but I'd say extremely difficult in the circumstances.
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Old 12.06.2019, 23:04
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Re: Jobs for American citizens in Switzerland

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There is not much to consider there for most people, 30 minutes and you are done.

And it has nothing to do with Switzerland, and was still the case when I moved here back in 1986.

Tom


Did you move to CH from the US? If so, how was this process? Did you have any "special skills" as everyone seems to mention here in all their posts?


Thanks,
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Old 12.06.2019, 23:05
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Re: Jobs for American citizens in Switzerland

With your constant repetition in various posts, you are becoming very tiresome.....
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Old 12.06.2019, 23:11
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Re: Jobs for American citizens in Switzerland

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There is not much to consider there for most people, 30 minutes and you are done.

And it has nothing to do with Switzerland, and was still the case when I moved here back in 1986.

Tom
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With your constant repetition in various posts, you are becoming very tiresome.....
Well the fact that some individuals have made it being a US citizen and no clear answer is provided as what everyone calls "special skills" is hard to tell what would the next steps would be. Besides, a Forum is for this purpose. You don't need to reply to any of my questions.
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Old 12.06.2019, 23:32
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Re: US Accountant looking to relocate with family to Switzerland in coming years

Thank you everyone for sharing all this information.

In regards to some of the questions that were asked, I am one of the top Accountants in our department. I'm the only one that works across departments when necessary due to my expertise in multiple software and industries among other skills in business and financial practice.

Spanish, even though, it's been given a zero in this thread, many companies are currently seeking bilingual (English & Spanish) speakers to help with that Spanish speaking market which has been doubling for the past few years, and yes I'm talking about Swiss entities. So German, French and Italian can be learned there after as the job they are offering is not targeted locally, but you would still need to learn the languages at some point which won't be a problem at all.

In regards to the 10+ years of experience in the field and no CPA yet, that's because I have not needed it at any point and wasn't pursuing it until last year that I decided to just get the study material and get it as it could be helpful in the future. Also, I have a decent income (about triple the median household income in the state of FL) and have never been asked by any employer to get my CPA. This is a new personal goal.

The information that has been shared is very valuable to me and would like to thank you all for it.

P.S. I may not bring new or unique skills that can't be found there, but I'm willing to learn whatever is necessary to make this a reality.
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Old 12.06.2019, 23:42
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Re: US Accountant looking to relocate with family to Switzerland in coming years

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OP, have you applied for any jobs here?

Getting a work and residence permit is tough but not impossible. I do recommend getting a job there in a company that could relocate you to CH though.

No. I have not yet apply to any jobs as this is a 2-3 year plan. I'm working towards my license first here in the US and then will work on getting the tests in Europe to be recognized as a Chartered Accountant. We, as a family, are also learning German so at least we can communicate with the locals when we visit. We will learn the Zug German once we find a good and reliable teaching source which we haven't at this point, only German.


Thanks!
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Old 12.06.2019, 23:55
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Re: US Accountant looking to relocate with family to Switzerland in coming years

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JJVazz, you might find this thread of interest:
https://www.englishforum.ch/educatio...ds-cpa-us.html

Your first consideration should be the general perception of the value of a US CPA in Switzerland/Europe. This is not my area, far from it, so I will leave it to others to advise you. Hopefully the posters on that thread who do have industry insight will respond here.

And I'll second The Spouse's comments: Do not underestimate the difficulty of getting a permit as a non-EU, especially an American.

I hope you are able to make your dreams come true - but eyes wide open.

ETA:

You mention that Switzerland is on your bucket list, might I ask what draws you to this country? Wanting to upend your family and move to a country you have never even visited is a huge leap... especially when that is a country with highly restrictive immigration policies for non-EU citizens, where your nationality could be viewed as a negative. That's two strikes off the bat...

I ask because we have time and time again seen rather naive posts from Americans whose desire to move here is largely driven by a very inaccurate idea of the country. Much of what one reads in the US press about Switzerland - from all political spectra - is, frankly, utter bumf.

So before you get your heart set on, and put a not inconsiderable amount of your time and treasure towards, what is likely to be a long shot perhaps a discussion of what you hope to find here might be in order. Maybe we can help focus the picture you have so far drawn.

Again, all the best.

Hi meloncollie and thank you for your reply.

I've been studying very closely Switzerland for the past few years and we are very attracted to the education system, culture, life style, professionalism, economy and high-end living, just to mention a few things. We also truly love nature. Also, even though, we have not visited - yet, we have close friends and family members who have but don't have the intention of staying even if they could. We are planning a two weeks visit later this year to see it from our own perspective and see if it actually agrees to what we have researched for the past years and suits our needs as a family. This is something that we have given a lot of thought and would like to start preparing toward this big move if we can make it happen.

I understand it is difficult to make this happen and that's why we are looking for some guidance on how to make it less difficult and more into a reality. It is not impossible and we are open to learning whatever we have to if we decide this is the right Country for us (which we truly think it is).

This is not something we thought over night and we are not rushing this process. We totally understand how difficult it could be, but we are willing to take our chances for the sake of our future and our family.

Makes sense?
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Old 13.06.2019, 01:43
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Re: US Accountant looking to relocate with family to Switzerland in coming years

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No. I have not yet apply to any jobs as this is a 2-3 year plan. I'm working towards my license first here in the US and then will work on getting the tests in Europe to be recognized as a Chartered Accountant.
Well it is going to be an 6 year plan then, because the only place you are likely to get a recognised accounting qualification in English, is Ireland (assuming BREXIT goes ahead) and that will require at minimum a residency period of at least three years.
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Old 13.06.2019, 01:49
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Re: US Accountant looking to relocate with family to Switzerland in coming years

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Spanish, even though, it's been given a zero in this thread, many companies are currently seeking bilingual (English & Spanish) speakers to help with that Spanish speaking market which has been doubling for the past few years, and yes I'm talking about Swiss entities.
Why would an employer want to go through all the hassle of getting you a permit, when they can get a native Spanish speaker, with no permit issues, who can start next week rather than having to wait months to see if your will be approved. And they will also have qualifications that are recognised in Switzerland.
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Old 13.06.2019, 02:00
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Re: Jobs for American citizens in Switzerland

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Well the fact that some individuals have made it being a US citizen and no clear answer is provided as what everyone calls "special skills" is hard to tell what would the next steps would be. Besides, a Forum is for this purpose. You don't need to reply to any of my questions.
I don't know how many different ways it needs to be spelled out....

- If you had got your CPA out of college and in the first 3 or 4 years at a big four, spend a couple of years as an Audit Manager, followed by a while as an Senior Audit Manager or Director or Consultant, you'd be in with a chance.

- If you had got your CPA, a masters and a PhD in finance, you'd be in with a chance

- If you and worked in Industry, added an MBA to your CPA and reached a senior position such as a group controller, you have a chance.

There are plenty of part qualified accountants all over Europe that have priority over you and no matter how you talk it up, as far as the authorities are concerned you don't have any recognised qualifications or skills that are not already available within the European market.
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Old 13.06.2019, 06:32
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Re: US Accountant looking to relocate with family to Switzerland in coming years

As TheSpouse said, I worked for an american company and the only americans we could hire here were the top people, like the CFO, global head of risk and functions like that.

Being multilingual isnīt that much worth here as a lot of people speak several languages ( in Switzerland this is taught at school). Learning German up to a near native level in 2-3 years is quite an achievement that will take a lot of your time and not many people will be able to do that.

Working across departments is actually something we expect from all our accountants here, doesnīt bring much if they are staying in a bubble and have no idea what is actually going on "outside"?

Make sure that you are top of the rank and unique, then you may have a chance. But the fact is that there are loads of people here, well qualified, who speak several languages and who know the local accounting requirements as well as f.e. US GAAP.
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Old 13.06.2019, 07:32
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Re: US Accountant looking to relocate with family to Switzerland in coming years

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As TheSpouse said, I worked for an american company and the only americans we could hire here were the top people, like the CFO, global head of risk and functions like that.

Being multilingual isnīt that much worth here as a lot of people speak several languages ( in Switzerland this is taught at school). Learning German up to a near native level in 2-3 years is quite an achievement that will take a lot of your time and not many people will be able to do that.

Working across departments is actually something we expect from all our accountants here, doesnīt bring much if they are staying in a bubble and have no idea what is actually going on "outside"?

Make sure that you are top of the rank and unique, then you may have a chance. But the fact is that there are loads of people here, well qualified, who speak several languages and who know the local accounting requirements as well as f.e. US GAAP.
It depends on the field, as you may know it's not the same in IT for instance. That being said, I can see his expertise is not easily transferable to the local market and that would be a much bigger problem than getting a permit and a bank account. Plus the language issue of course.
But I don't know, I know people even from my country who work in accounting and finance for a period that started when we were super-discriminated and restricted as third nationals and that makes me think if they could do it then why not someone else.
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Old 13.06.2019, 07:36
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Re: US Accountant looking to relocate with family to Switzerland in coming years

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I've been studying very closely Switzerland for the past few years and we are very attracted to the education system, culture, life style, professionalism, economy and high-end living, just to mention a few things.
You do sound like one of those naive Americans then. Take off the rose coloured glasses.

Yes, Switzerland has a high standard of living... compared to some countries. However, it is a tiny country, densely populated veering on the overcrowded in many areas. If you go to the cities where there are jobs, be aware that housing markets tend to be oversaturated; you will likely live in a tiny flat, cheek to jowl with you neighbours.

And speaking of neighbours, be aware that you will face restrictions to your personal choices that usually confound the typical American. Your neighbours have more say in how you live your life than is imaginable in the US. Add 'Nachbarrecht' to your research.

If you are a typical Floridian living in a single family home with decent sized garden... these are very rare, and very expensive. So squirrel away your pennies, you will need them if you are hoping to replicate the typical middle class US lifestyle. To give you an idea, my house, microscopic by US standards, is actually larger than average here. When my US friends see how we live, they assume that we must be skirting the poverty line.

On a typical mid level management or skilled professional salary you will live a very nice Swiss life - but be aware that that nice Swiss life may be quite different from what you would be able to afford in Florida.

Many people love it here, many Americans adapt to and appreciate the different values that undermine the typical Swiss lifestyle. But you do need to understand what the differences are and ask yourself if you and your family are prepared for a fundamental change.

On the plus side, (mostly) affordable health care for everyone. Thank doG that Swiss 'conservatisim' is the socialism Americans can only dream of.

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We also truly love nature.
Sure, there is nature aplenty here. The alps are glorious. But the cities are concrete jungles. If you are dreaming of Heidi, be aware that there are few accounting jobs on the Alp.

On the plus side, no alligators.

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We are planning a two weeks visit later this year to see it from our own perspective and see if it actually agrees to what we have researched for the past years and suits our needs as a family.
A two week tourist visit will give you as much insight into living in the real Switzerland as a trip to Disney Word will prepare you for everyday life in Kissimmee.

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Makes sense?
No, not much.

Please listen to the voices of experience.

As other posters have explained, you do need to understand the reality of what you have to offer vs what it takes for an employer here to be willing to go out on a very expensive limb to bring a non-EU employee here.

You do not seem to grasp that immigration to Switzerland is highly restricted, anti immigrant attitudes run high among the general Swiss population. By law, preference goes first to EU citizens, third country nationals can only be considered if, after extensive searching, no CH/EU citizen is qualified and available to do the job.

To give you an idea how reluctant companies in some sectors are to bringing non-EU folks here: In my husband's company, if after that aforementioned extensive search it is indeed deemed that the only (affordable) talent available is abroad, the job more often moves to where the talent is, rather than bringing the talent here. This is the result of continuous belt tightening in a global market.

Yes, there are several Americans here; many of us came over years ago, before the FMOP, when it was a lot easier for an employer to bring talent over - and when the economy was in much better shape.

Lastly - do not underestimate how disliked America is in Switzerland today. Your passport gives you a toxic tinge that you will need to work hard to overcome. Again, take off those rose coloured glasses.

I honestly do wish you all the best. But the please listen to the voices of experience, and set your sights accordingly.
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Old 13.06.2019, 08:08
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Re: US Accountant looking to relocate with family to Switzerland in coming years

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You do sound like one of those naive Americans then. Take off the rose coloured glasses.

Yes, Switzerland has a high standard of living... compared to some countries. However, it is a tiny country, densely populated veering on the overcrowded in many areas. If you go to the cities where there are jobs, be aware that housing markets tend to be oversaturated; you will likely live in a tiny flat, cheek to jowl with you neighbours.

And speaking of neighbours, be aware that you will face restrictions to your personal choices that usually confound the typical American. Your neighbours have more say in how you live your life than is imaginable in the US. Add 'Nachbarrecht' to your research.

If you are a typical Floridian living in a single family home with decent sized garden... these are very rare, and very expensive. So squirrel away your pennies, you will need them if you are hoping to replicate the typical middle class US lifestyle. To give you an idea, my house, microscopic by US standards, is actually larger than average here. When my US friends see how we live, they assume that we must be skirting the poverty line.

On a typical mid level management or skilled professional salary you will live a very nice Swiss life - but be aware that that nice Swiss life may be quite different from what you would be able to afford in Florida.
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Well, I wouldn't call naive people who are sincerely looking to get what they feel it's going to be a big improvement/achievement for their lives.

You are right mentioning space and housing standards though.... at least it's not Japan. Now that would be a shock. What OP should also think of is the education system here - not in terms of better or worse, but different, a very different mentality is shaping the school system. I know people who went back home because of that. Don't know why is never mentioned when discussion relocation, that plus "what's your partner/spouse going to do here??????" Women are inclined to sacrifice their own careers, ambitions for the sake of the family, for the greater good. Well, that's our strength but no-one should ask from us so much. Just saying.
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