(Probably) moving to Zurich.

(78 Posts)
NaturalBaby Thu 10-Oct-13 14:19:39

DH has been headhunted, interviewed and pretty much offered a job in Zurich. He is thrilled.
I have struggled as a sahm for the last few years and spent the last year rebuilding my life to a point where things are pretty good for me and the dc's...see where this is going?!
We've just moved into our dream house, the dc's are in a fantastic private school with lovely friends and equally lovely parents.
Please tell me about living in Zurich with 3 boys and help me see how fantastic this opportunity is.

luxemburgerli Tue 29-Oct-13 15:48:15

A note of caution: be wary of thinking DH will have a quick commute (from Baden or Rheinfelden) to Zurich. I tried to drive there from Baden and it was a nightmare. Gave up and went back to the train, which is really very good (to Baden, and probably to Rheinfelden too).

WallyBantersJunkBox Tue 29-Oct-13 15:54:42

Really Lux? I drive about twice a week and never have any problems - traffic is heavy, but not really at a standstill for me.

If he won't be driving there is a direct train to Zurich HB every hour in under an hour.

Just a thought to widen access to some other school options.

luxemburgerli Tue 29-Oct-13 16:23:51

Interesting Wally, I always had issues at the place where the motorway from Baden joins the main Zurich motorway. Driving home was bliss though!

beresh Tue 29-Oct-13 19:56:46

If your DH is getting more money I'd look into going to live in one of the Zurich lakeside communities. They tend to have plenty of expats and english speakers in the local schools, the lake is lovely in summer, it's closer to the mountains and there are a number of bilingual schools.

heather1 Tue 29-Oct-13 21:23:34

It is nice by the zurich lake ( I've also lived in a village near the airport) especially in the summer with the lake swimming. But then some of the non lake areas have great outdoor swimming pools.
If your going down the international school route I think it's better to be closer to them as driving there and back every day can be a bit of a pain.

LIZS Tue 29-Oct-13 21:38:43

ZIS has a primary school campus in Baden but I'm not sure how well established it is yet as only started about 5 years ago. There is also an IS in Wallisellen and Winterthur as well as several near the lake - ZIS, ISOZ and one in Zug to name but a few, plus some bilinguals, but they can be tight for spaces. Whereabouts in Zurich will he be based ?

NaturalBaby Tue 29-Oct-13 23:34:12

Have gone through options with DH - he will be working in Baden and has found a house there so would like the dc's to go to the local school there. He isn't allowed a car to drive to work so will have to use public transport if we don't live in Baden.
He looked at a montessori school in Brugg but I would have to drive them there (unless we live there, but he's not keen) and he isn't convinced about the montessori teaching.

What is ZIS?

Has anyone got a child in a local school? how did they settle in? I'm just so worried about ds1 as he can be really introverted and shy, and takes ages to settle into new things. Would you recommend the local school?

Ds1 is 6 in May so it sounds like he'll get another year in kindergarten with his 4yr old brother which would work.
luxemburgerli how old are your dc's? My youngest will be 3 in January so I will be looking for things to do with him as well at some point.
beresch that book looks perfect! will order.

WallyBantersJunkBox Wed 30-Oct-13 07:18:03

Local school wasn't an option for us at the time as we were both working and needed the extra hours that a private school could offer. When you added up childcare costs and English tuition it was cheaper to do the bilingual route. We also didn't know if I would get a permanent contract at the time, so with that in mind, a return to the UK was a possibility.

We have been to the local school and we are considering it now as my husband is at home, and my son plays with all the kids on the street. My neighbours have come from the UK and their DS is he same age as yours and goes to the local school. He didn't speak any German, and now he is fluent. The Swiss schools provide extra German lessons free of charge on Wednesday afternoons. He is always out playing with the local kids, and I see him doing the trek to school with all of them. As I said there are only 16 kids in his class - so plenty of time for the teacher and assistant to spend settling dc in and making sure they are supported.

We live in what the Swiss would call a town, but actually it's more like a village. Even then there are 6 UK families that we know of here. 30% of the Swiss population are overseas immigrants and not all of them are in private school! A lot are German, but there are also Serbian, Portugese, UK, USA, Indian, Thai etc. Your son definitely won't be the only non Swiss child in school.

It is really hard to get over these fears when you move, I know - but this is a very wealthy country with fewer social problems than the UK, and you don't have schools in special measures etc.

Have you actually visited the area your DH has been looking in? Seen the house etc? Made an appointment with the school to visit? It would be great if you could, as I am sure it would put your mind at ease, otherwise it is easy to create scenarios and concerns that you can't shake off.

WallyBantersJunkBox Wed 30-Oct-13 07:22:46

Sorry just re reading the post - our local school has the KG and primarschule together (KG is just like a Recption class equivalent for 3 years here) so it might be worth checking that scenario in the local school as your DC might be together for a bit longer?

LIZS Wed 30-Oct-13 07:24:23

ZIS = Zurich International School. Has several campuses from early years through to High School but only primary/middle in Baden so far as that campus is relatively new. Most IS follow IB syllabus which may or may not suit your dc. Check the cut off points for local school entry, some cantons like ZH are end April , other areas may differ. Even a May bday may not be the eldest in the year as there is some discretion for Feb. to April bdays to stay down, although more rarely for May to advance. IS uses end of August.

Might also be worth bearing in mind the walk to/from local school and kindergarten as they go unaccompanied. From Baden you would probably want a car to get to the mountains etc .

WallyBantersJunkBox Wed 30-Oct-13 07:37:09

www.amazon.com/Going-Local-Guide-Swiss-Schooling/dp/3905252252 a book by Margaret Oertig might help too?

Making the most of my day off today. grin

NaturalBaby Wed 30-Oct-13 10:08:45

Thank you so much Wally. I'm sure he'll be fine, but I keep thinking about the times when he's been really clingy and shy, refusing to go to class, or extra curricular stuff and even parties ignoring his friends because he's been anxious, so I have visions of him refusing to go to school, especially if I can't go in with him like I do at the moment. Ds2 is a year younger in school so it would really help Ds1 if they could go to school together, I think they would be together in the local school as it has a kindergarten from what I remember DH saying.

I haven't been to visit yet. I could go on my own but probably wouldn't be able to until the new year, or we could all go out as a family for the day over a weekend.

It sounds exactly like the lifestyle we've always wanted, and we can't wait to get into the mountains! DH will get a family car from work but isn't allowed to drive to work, so I'll get the car for the dc's during the week.

luxemburgerli Wed 30-Oct-13 13:53:47

NaturalBaby I am pregnant with my first, so it's all new to me! Not much child-related advice though, I'm afraid.

I am living between Brugg and Baden. Is your DH not keen on Brugg because of the commute? If so, it's really very, very easy. 2 train stops, and the buses and trains are reliable here (don't stop/slow down in snow, rain, etc). Although Baden is bigger, Brugg is sizeable (nearly 10,000 people) and has reasonable shops and a nice big indoor/outdoor swimming pool. If he's worried about it being less international in Brugg, I'd say a good half of my apartment building is English speaking because they work at a nearby institute that requires it. Just thought I'd mention these things so that you don't rule out a possibly great option due to not knowing.

If you'd like to check out some commutes to schools/work places then this is the website to use. The good news is DC under 6 years travel for free with a paying adult (I think up to 6 DC with one adult). Travel can be expensive so this is a big plus.

I wouldn't worry about your DS1 in the local school. I have no experience with Swiss schools, but I moved from England to Austria when I was 5 and went to the local school. I'd say it took about 1 year for me to be truly fluent in the language, but it oddly wasn't much of a problem. Kids don't need to be able to speak to play together. The only language related problems I ever had were with adults. If I remember right the language learning was a slow curve. For months it seemed like there was barely any progress (I suppose while the vocab was built up), and then suddenly it took off. It was the same for my siblings.

NaturalBaby Wed 30-Oct-13 15:02:13

DH isn't keen on the Montessori school in Brugg because they are in such an academic school at the moment so standards are very high and there are a lot of facilities - he said there didn't seem to be much outdoor play space at the montessori school and was worried about a lack of resources for older children. He wants to cycle to work which is why he's really keen to live in Baden.
I emigrated when I was 6 and it wasn't a positive experience at all so I'm trying not to let that cloud my judgement.
I made the decision about nursery and school so I'm very reluctant to let him call the shots now!

LIZS Wed 30-Oct-13 16:09:43

Think you might have to accept that, in the earlier years of primary at least, academics are not the focus of either local or International schools and adjust your expectations accordingly. Lots of schools are not in traditional school premises ie office style buildings or unattractive concrete and may share outdoor and sports areas. I remember being taken aback that a highly rated nursery was situated on the first floor of a commercial building with no outdoor area. Ratios and standards differ too, as it is relatively unregulated compared to UK.

beresh Wed 30-Oct-13 20:05:45

Mine are in a local Zurich school. My DD was 5 when we moved and she's quite quiet. She liked KG much better than English school from the start, as it was so much calmer and smaller, she got to learn useful stuff and she got to come home for lunch, even though she left behind lovely friends in her class in England.

When she didn't start speaking German after a few months, despite having twice weekly german lessons, the KG teacher sent her to a weekly class for children lacking in confidence, which really helped as she was much less shy than the swiss kids there. After 6 months she was speaking a bit and was phoning friends up to ask them over to play. 4 years on she can't remember not being able to speak German and gets very good grades but she's insistent we never make her start from scratch in a new language again, as it wasn't easy at first!

May birthdays are tricky as he'll be the oldest/youngest. If he's good at mental arithmetic I'd try to get him in school next year as it is incredibly slow to begin with and if you go back to the uk before the end of primary he'll be 2 years behind. In year 1 they learn 1-24, year 2 1-100, year 3 1-1000.

heather1 Wed 30-Oct-13 21:58:05

I will second the comments about academics. In the early years I mean up to about 10 it really isn't academic and I don't think the kids are pushed at all. This counts for local and International schools.
If I could give you any advice after 2.5 years here it would be don't stress about the academic side of things. Don't compare and don't worry. It is was it is and as long as your children are making friends and their German is coming along that's the main things.
For an example- no formal learning in local Kindergaten. Year one of school (uk year 2) they will learn to read and count up to 20. It's a bit more serious than the Uk but some of the topic they did were great e.g. A term on Mushrooms, which Ds loved and still talks about a year later. International Schools such as ZIS aren't much more academically rigorous to be honest. More fun and informal- the kids can call the teachers by their first names. But more nurturing and gentle from the Swiss system.
That's my take anyway and we did 18 months of local school and are now in the International system.
Ps don't believe it whe ppl say 'oh 6 months and they will be fluent' it depends on the child and don't sweat it, it will come when your child is good and ready and you can't force it'
Ooh that was long!

NaturalBaby Wed 30-Oct-13 23:09:09

I'm not too worried about the standards, I just want us all to feel part of the community I think and school is a big part of our lives here at the moment - most of my friends and the dc's friends are there and we spend a lot of time hanging around, chatting at school so it's going to be hard to adjust. I do feel like they could have done with a lot more play and nursery (summer babies so only had 1 year in nursery).
I worry when I hear about kids changing schools because I have 3 dc's to fit in!

LIZS Thu 31-Oct-13 06:49:11

Also be prepared for the dc to be coming and going at different times of the day , even if ostensibly at same site. Lunchtimes are long , straddle a window of about 2-3 hours late morning/early afternoon and start/finish times can vary. There isn't a school gate social culture in local Swiss school as they walk themselves to and fro. You would get that more at IS.

heather1 Thu 31-Oct-13 21:28:08

We took tv, DVD player and couple of lamps and the iron you can buy cheap plug convertors on Amazon. W got about 6. Most flats and houses come supplied with fridge/freezer so you shouldn't need those. A bit smaller than the standard uk sizes tho.
Au pair you won't be allowed unless you fluently speak one of the Swiss national languages. There are a few babysitting agencies around if you need a babysitter. Or most areas have a parents organisation which has a babysitter list. Expect to pay 15chf an hour for a teenager up to 20/25/30chf an hour for some one more experienced or with their own car. That's in the Zurich area anyway.

WallyBantersJunkBox Thu 31-Oct-13 23:31:35

You can register with the area Red Cross for babysitting services. They will then provide a list of local contacts and their qualifications.

NaturalBaby Fri 01-Nov-13 08:21:03

DH has handed in his notice so just need to wait to find out about schools from the relocation agent. Ds1's been practicing the sounds he's learnt in year 1 this morning (and teaching ds2) and reading everything he sees which has got me wondering about what he'll be doing in school in a few months time!

I've got a Michel Thomas set of CD's but need to find something for the ds's to get them started until we get German lessons booked for them. We're watching Muzzy clips at the moment to introduce a few German words.

We have work to do on the house, I'd love to put it off and just enjoy our last few months living in England but we can't ask anyone to live in the house in it's current state sad. As much as I would love a warm home with a new kitchen, bathroom and boiler I really don't want to go through the process of getting one this winter!

Don't know if anyone has mentioned it and don't want to scaremonger. I have had some friends who switched from international to local primary schools and were very happy. Others have taken their children out again because they were bullied for being foreigners and teachers were not doing anything about it. Please check this out as much as you can before you commit to a school.

NaturalBaby Mon 11-Nov-13 21:28:17

I've heard this a few times and this is my biggest concern for my 5yr old. He may get a term of kindergarten if we move in Easter, and I'm not agreeing to anything (let alone booking flights) until we have seen the school and spoken to some mums who have dc's there. I have heard that half the kids in the local school are expat kids so hoping that's a good sign.

Yes, that does sound like a good sign.

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