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Advice on Vaud, Switzerland

(23 Posts)
Egede Thu 06-Aug-09 11:11:13

I've been lurking on the Swiss threads for a while and thought it was time to introduce myself. I've just been asked to apply for a job in Lausanne and am v. tempted - we've always wanted to live in France and speak good French, but there's no way anyone not French would get a job in my field there. However, DS1 has Asperger's and DH is sahp and we're generally a feminist and Guardian-reading household. Am I falling for stereotypes in thinking of Switzerland as deeply conservative, and does anyone have anecdotes about SEN in schools in Vaud? I know the official package but I'd be interested to have stories about what actually happens. I've looked at the Swiss parents forums but I think Mumsnet has more people who will get what I mean...

Thanks very much to anyone with time to answer!

quidnunc Thu 06-Aug-09 11:52:54

Hi Egede,
I can't add much value here, but yes, the Swiss are indeed a conservative bunch, although slightly less so in Vaud due to the French influence. You will likely be irritated by their insistance that all official documents, bank accounts etc will be addressed to your husband. Women only got the votea couple of decades ago in some cantons! There are, however, a fair number of SAHDs in the major cities.

Are you considering a local state school, or one of the few fee paying schools? If the latter, any SEN resources are an expensive add-on.

Have you looked at

I wish you well in your decision. For what it's worth I would prefer Vaud / Geneva over Basel!

LIZS Thu 06-Aug-09 11:54:14

have you join the yahoo group Expat Moms in Switzerland ? There is a wealth of knowledge on all sorts of subjects - both specific to life in CH and more general parenting issues - there and the same moderator also has a Special Needs based forum where you might get more info on your specific query. The only experience I have is of a colleague of dh's who moved to Geneva and their ASD son attended a private school on a weekly boarding basis.

The area around Lake Geneva tends to be less conservative and more international than the more rural areas of CH btw so don't think your outlook would necessarily stick out !

Egede Thu 06-Aug-09 12:16:41

But they can't send bank stuff to dh, I'm the one who makes the money and organises everything! Can't we do some kind of administrative gender swap? I was thinking of state schools - ds1 is mostly OK in mainstream here and we're not keen on private education in general (and most of the international schools seem to say that they don't take children who don't fit the school ethos, and the one thing I do know about ds1 is that he doesn't fit any institutional ethos if he can help it). Maybe we're just not the Swiss type? But the job looks interesting and we fancy the language and the food and the environment.

I should look at the yahoo groups I know, I just spend too much time on the internet already.

LIZS Thu 06-Aug-09 12:41:38

There is also a Swiss Schooling spin off ! However I have to say ime very few expat children I've come across have been treated sympathetically within the public mainstream system as regards SEN, maybe French speaking canotns are different though ? The moderator of these groups has a wealth of just such experience, both with her dc and teaching, so worth making the effort imho.

quidnunc Thu 06-Aug-09 13:01:30

"But they can't send bank stuff to dh, I'm the one who makes the money and organises everything"

My DW earns more than I do since moving here. The move to CH was driven by a job offer made to her. I followed happily, and found a job locally. However, even if I were a SAHD all official docs would be in my name (for example, letters to DW would be addressed to "Mr Quidnunc, a/o Mrs Quidnunc"). Married couples are treated, at least in my canton, as a single tax unit. not so in some others.

You may be able to ask/demand that they drag themselves into the correct century, but you may just be told that the 'systems aren't designed to do that', as happened with someone we know in your situation.

This is only based onmy limited experience, so hopefully you will be OK in Vaud. My FIL lives in Nyon so I can ask him if you wish.

heading4home Thu 06-Aug-09 13:04:06

Hi Egede. I am also the breadwinner in our family and my husband is a full time student. However, the bank account is in his name and the letters come to him - even my new cashpoint card, MINE, came in an envelope addressed to him. This is something that drives me completely crazy, but anyway...

I don't know much about Vaud or the French speaking parts of Switzerland, I live in Basel. My experience is that the top layer of Switzerland is very conservative but if you dig a little deeper, there is a great deal of very liberal, alternative people. I think this may be a bit of a Basel-thing though, because of the Steiner school etc. And Basel has a 40% non-swiss population, which may make a difference.

On a negative note, I have a good (American) friend with a special needs daughter, and from his experience, the swiss medical and school systems are fairly old fashioned in terms of treatment and education. So I would look into this very thoroughly.

On the whole, I love living here. There are so many pros and cons, but no country is perfect. Now my daughter is in the Swiss school system, I think we will stay here for the foreseeable future.

heading4home Thu 06-Aug-09 13:07:03

Apparently the post office is a bit more 21st century - if you have a post office account, you can have a joint account (in both your names) or even one of your own. shock

Egede Thu 06-Aug-09 13:25:50

Thank you all for your thoughts. It's really cheering to hear from other couples who've emigrated with similar arrangements - I've worried a lot that DH would end up feeling thoroughly marginalised and invisible if we moved somewhere where it's weird to have a mother as breadwinner, though he's keen to try it. I suppose in some ways the bank stuff might compensate! Though I have my own accounts in my own name, which is different from his (please don't tell me the Swiss wouldn't recognise this arrangement). I suppose I would just have to summon up my liberal acceptance of cultural difference...

Clearly it's the SEN stuff that needs a lot more research and hard thinking. We used to think ds1's AS was mild, but it's becoming more noticeable as he gets older and I'd guess that the stress of an international move would temporarily exacerbate some of the odder behaviour. And his French is minimal. I wonder if an ASD-friendly international school that we can somehow afford might turn out to be the central consideration.

Niftyblue Thu 06-Aug-09 13:29:07

Look at the international school In Rolle
"La Cote" they do SN and are meant to be hands on in the SN area
we start there in Sept for just this reason

Egede Fri 07-Aug-09 16:49:06

Thanks! Googling La Rolle suggests it's a startup that hasn't got off the ground yet, but I guess that's out of date? I'll join the yahoo groups but I'd still be very grateful for any further thoughts/stories from Swiss mumsnetters.

TheMysticMasseuse Mon 10-Aug-09 13:16:14

Egede, no advice on your questions, but just thought i'd let you know that we are about to move to Geneva and I am also a Guardianista- so on that front at least you won't be on your own

there's an english school near Geneva (Geneva ENglish School), why don't you give them a call, they may be geared up for SEN or have advice. I have no evidence of this but from what i can see the Brits are miles ahead of everyone else when it comes to SEN. and they were the nicest admissions people i have spoken to on the phone...

ps Expat Moms is really good- i would def join that group.

Egede Mon 10-Aug-09 20:29:22

Maybe we can be the Vaud post-colonial marxist-feminist consciousness-raising association and go wave placards outside the banks... I've applied for the job, but mostly by way of keeping the possibility open and of course I may not get it. And I've joined the expat moms group, so we'll see!

TheMysticMasseuse Tue 11-Aug-09 12:51:08

Lol Egede, that's a deal! good luck with it all

Egede Wed 19-Aug-09 14:27:44

Just bumping in case anyone has anything to add - waiting to hear about the job but apparently my chances are good.

Egede Sat 05-Sep-09 22:30:28

Bumping again now lots of the Geneva people seem to be back... The other complication is that we are overseas at the moment and this would be the second country in two years. Has anyone done that? Both ds1 and dh are keen, but I do worry about yet another complete disruption (while also enjoying the picaresque aspect).

MmeLindt Thu 10-Sep-09 16:11:40

I have no advice on the SN side of things, but I am the Official MN Genevan Cheerleeder so thought I would add my thoughts on life in Geneva in general.

We are really enjoying life here and can only recommend coming here. I have not noticed that letters are addressed to my DH instead of me, but then I am not one to notice things like that anyway. I do know that anything that I organised is in my name or both names.

It is quite conservative here <slight understatement> and the school hours are not set up for both parents working. Saying that, things are improving. Our school offers a lunchtime club and many schools also offer an after schools club. The private/international schools are presumably much more geared towards working mums.

Standard of living is high in this area, there is lots to do and see at the weekends, wine festivals, markets, sporting events. There is rarely a weekend without something on.

Egede Fri 18-Sep-09 18:05:05

Thank you, Mme. Lindt! How hard a time do you think foreign children in general have in state schools? There are very mixed reports on the expat moms site and it's hard to tell if there are regional or urban trends or just the whole range of experience. Ds1 has little French but I'd like to think this move would be the permanent one (where we are now is lovely but it would be a crap career move to stay), and in principle I'd much rather he integrated, but there's both the AS and the foreign-ness to consider. Is there support for learning French?

MmeLindt Fri 18-Sep-09 18:17:30

There is support learning in most Cantons.

DD and DS were both offered support, DD was 7yo and had 3 hours a day in a special non-French speakers class. DS went one morning a week, he was 4yo.

Now in our second year, DS is fairly fluent and DD not bad. She is having one extra hour a week after school.

Even the non-French speakign parents get French lessons, paid for by the Canton. I am not sure if this is available everywhere.

IMO the state schools, particularly in the small villages/towns are very good. Ours is a small school, only 90 pupils so the teacher/pupil ratio is very good. The school is very friendly, the teachers lovely and the whole community supports the school.

We had an end of year fête and the whole village was invited. The village council paid for meals for everyone, we just had to buy our own drinks. The DC paraded through the village then performed the songs that they had learned. After a few speeches (the school leavers were each presented with a digital camera as a leaving present) the children were entertained by volunteers (face painting, dressing up, craft activities) while the parents and guest drank wine coffee and relaxed. It was a great end to the year.

I think that if you come to Switzerland with an open mind (and no experience of schools elsewhere) then you will probably find the local schools good. If you have a particular idea of the kind of school you want then you might find it less satisfying.

Of course, lots of expats go for the International schools as they are on a fixed contract. I have however heard mixed reviews about the international schools too.

TheMysticMasseuse Fri 18-Sep-09 19:55:00

sorry to hijack but the schools thing really interests me. from my whirlwind tour of geneva last week the local schools seemed AMAZING, the facilities were beautiful. obvioulsy i have no idea what they are like academically... and for me we have the problem that we are already a tri-lingual family and i feel a bit stressed schooling dd1 (who would be starting next september i think) in a fourth language... it may be too much for her.

but that's not what i wanted to say, sorry Egede i do ramble on.... basically the relocation consultant we ahve hired told me that a while ago she helped a family relocate and one of the kids had SN and she got accepted without problems at Institut de Lancy in Geneva, which follows the english curriculum. so that is one possibility (although far from Vaud, and i don't know if the school is any good). The international school of geneva was much less welcoming.

this lady has 3 children herself and lives in Lausanne, and told me her children have attended every kind of school (international, swiss private, swiss state) and that she thinks the swiss state school has been the best...

Egede Fri 18-Sep-09 21:34:28

Not hijacking at all, MM, the more ideas the better and, you being a few months ahead of me and with similar reservations (though we'd be moving for my job and I'm generally keen on the idea of 'somewhere else' - we're in Scandinavia at the moment where I'm on secondment for a year to try out the idea of emigration), I'm watching most of your posts with interest.

That all sounds promising, and Mme Lindt, thanks for the specific info about Geneva. Your village sounds most enviable! Ds1 is in the international school here because we knew from the beginning it was only for a year and he's much happier than he was in our (very good) state primary at home, where he was bullied and they paid lipservice to his diagnosis but never really took it seriously. He's having fun now but I do worry a bit about lack of academic content. He generally does better with clear rules and regulations, and I guess to that extent Swiss schools might suit him, but he also needs everyone to recognise that whatever his academic brilliance, he really doesn't get the principles of social interaction. Ds2 is nearly 3 and settled very quickly here without knowing a word of the language. DH and I speak fluent French so I'm not worried about that.

All this, of course, is me getting ahead of myself - the appointment procedure is the slowest I've heard of and they'll be interviewing just before Christmas, so I mustn't get too keen on the idea. But I am, rather...

MmeLindt Sat 19-Sep-09 06:41:59

From what I have heard, many Swiss parents put their children into private schools for a year or two just ahead of the decision making year (I think it is P4 but am not sure about that). It is nit unusual for DC to move schools a couple if times.

The children are streamed then into vocational schools so the years results are very important.

DH was told by a Swiss colleague thta the locals generally only put their child into private schools if they don't think that they will be able to keep up in the local schools.

TheMysticMasseuse Sat 17-Oct-09 08:43:37


not sure you are still following this thread or still planning to move to switzerland. i have just come back from a house and school hunting trip and found a leaflet for

i thought of you!

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