Blog - Living in Switzerland

Added on Wednesday, 2020-05-06 19:57 CEST in category Zurich
A bit over a year ago we had decided we'd been living in Rotterdam long enough, and that it was time to embark on our next adventure abroad. We eventually settled on Zurich, a.o. because of the high standard of living, the nature, the central location in Europe, and of course work.

Although we had a bit of a rough start, we were optimistic we'd like Switzerland a lot. In some ways we do, but unfortunately we also ran into quite a few unpleasant surprises. We chatted with new friends and colleagues about these issues, and time and time again we were told to "give it a year, and then make up your mind". It's now been a year, and indeed, it did take about a year for things to stabilize, to go through the different stages of culture shock, and to properly assess our new life in Switzerland.

The bad

Every country where we've lived has its own pros and cons, often very different from the others', and Switzerland would be no different. It's fantastic to discover your new country's pros, but also crappy to discover its cons. A few negative outtakes:
  • Online shopping is so underdeveloped. Inventories are out of date, delivery costs an arm and a leg, and Amazon Germany doesn't deliver most of its products to Switzerland.
  • Everything is slow:
    • it took three months for our credit cards to come in;
    • the standard notice period (rent, daycare, etc.) is three months;
    • bank transfers take two working days by default;
    • delivery of products bought online can take anywhere up to three weeks (not from China; from within Switzerland).
  • The Swiss highly value traditions and don't seem to like change much, so everything is stuck the way it was:
    • by far most payments in shops are made cash instead of by card;
    • all official communication is done by post (tax returns, government communication, moving pension funds when changing jobs);
    • banking apps are slow and often just don't work;
    • mobile parking apps made their introduction in Zurich only about a year ago;
    • many houses still have shared washing machines;
    • on Sundays (nearly) everything is closed.
    All this seems to come from a sense of complacency: everything is already great, so why change? This was highlighted by some graffiti I saw in Zurich city center: "CHANGE NOTHING!"
  • Everything is expensive, and especially manual labor costs an arm and a leg. Yes, the salaries make up for it, but I can't quite wrap my head around CHF 30 (€ 28) per hour for a maid, or CHF 12 (€ 11) for a single shrimp at a restaurant.
  • The assortment at the supermarkets is so bad we regularly have to go to three different ones just to get everything we need. We do this in the morning, because by day's end they'll be out of a lot of items.
  • The bicycle infrastructure is a mess. First you share the sidewalk, then you go onto the road, or between two lanes of cars, and suddenly your bike lane ends. Because there are few cyclists, drivers are very much unaware of them, so I get cut off a lot.
  • There are very strict noise regulations depending on the house where you live: no washing on Sundays, or no flushing the toilet after 22:00. Our rental agreement says we can't drain our bath after 22:00. (Fortunately all our neighbors are very relaxed about this :)
  • The churches on the other hand can ring their bells whenever they want (including at night), because that's "tradition". Seriously.
(See also the Russian and Czech versions.)

The good

But there's a lot of good as well :)
  • We have a great home with a private garden and a balcony with a view, and a forest with deer and fields with cows a few minutes walking away.
  • We get along well with our neighbors, but inside our home we don't even notice they're there.
  • Work's been amazing: the salary and perks are great, and I'm learning a lot.
  • Our daughter has Russian daycare and a Dutch nanny.
  • Switzerland has great health care.
  • We have a constant feeling of being on vacation because of:
    • Switzerland's gorgeous nature;
    • its lower latitude (similar to middle France);
    • its ample options for hiking, skiing, biking, etc.

The future

In general we like our life here, because the pros outweigh the cons. But then again, that was the case everywhere we moved :) And never did we stay in one country longer than 5 years, so why would Switzerland be different?

This international mindset comes with an interesting consequence: because we don't expect to stay here very long, why invest much in integration into the country? And likewise, why would the Swiss (or Czechs, or Russians) invest in you, if you're not going to be around for long, and don't speak their language well enough?

Consequently, we're mostly in touch with other foreigners. They not only know, but also accept that friends can unexpectedly come and go, because they're in the same situation as we are.

When? We don't know. We stayed in Moscow a lot longer than we thought, and in Prague a lot shorter, so anything may happen. But I'll be sure to let you know :)