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Moving to Zurich-please tell me how wonderful it is

43 replies

Chalkpink · 30/04/2010 22:59

Hi,
DH came home this evening and dropped the bombshell that he has been asked to move to from the UK to Zurich. It would be a promotion and I think he cant refuse it as to do so will be career limiting. He needs to make a relatively quick decision.
I am a SAHM with 4 DCs (aged 7,5,2 and 3 months). I am feeling very tearful this evening.

We have not lived abroad before, although DH lived in Zurich for a period a few years ago and commuted on a weekly basis. I stayed here with the children. He wont even contemplate commuting this time.

Please can someone provide me with reassurance that Zurich will be great for me and the kids and tell me a little of what it's like to live in Zurich.

Thankyou
Chalk

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LIZS · 01/05/2010 07:24

There is a very large expat community there but the Swiss can be very reserved and have a certain way of doing things. Ignorance is no excuse. Try this group and this group for more specific advice and support. Would your elder kids go into local schools or is International School(£££) included in the package(plus healthcare, help finding some where to live etc) . It is almost 5 years since we left and still miss it in some ways.

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kreecherlivesupstairs · 01/05/2010 09:02

We live in the next canton over. Zurich is a very vibrant place in some ways, but rather old fashioned in others. Like LIZS said, Swiss people can be reserved and they do definitely have a different way of doing things.
Your children will learn to ski and do a lot of outdoors things. Personal responsibility is encouraged and children take themselves off to school alone at age 4. If they go to local school, be prepared for the bizarre hours. You should practice shopping only M-S and not after 6. You should also get used to shops being closed over lunchtime and some on Monday mornings.
Do get a decent relocaton package. Ask for an agent to help you with housing and schools, try to get health insurance included as it is chuffing expensive.
Will keep checking and post anything else I think of.

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Chalkpink · 01/05/2010 20:04

Hi,
Thanks for your help so far. I have had 24 hours to think about it and am a wee bit calmer today (or is it just denial).

My main worry is that I'm just about coping with the kids now(new baby = hard work), what on earth will it be like in a different country. Do toddler groups etc exist in Switzerland? They are my life line here as Monday-Friday me and the kids tend to be on our own due to DHs addiction to work.

Yes, international schooling is included in the package - although I hear places are like hens teeth and they want DH to start in September so we haven't got long to find one.

The company he works for moves a lot of employees globally so is used to relocating them and I think there will be a lot of help but I feel a bit overwhelmed at the moment.

Our current state school is very oversubscribed. Should we come back I'm really worried we wouldn't get back in. (I know this is a long way away but I cant help worrying about it now).

Keep the advice coming. Any hints, tips regarding schools, living and bringing up children in Switzerland would be more than welcome!! Thank you

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kreecherlivesupstairs · 02/05/2010 07:19

I don't know about mother and toddler groups, our dd was already six when we moved here. I imagine, if yourss is anything like ours, you'll be surrounded by other mums at the school and should find it relatively easy to make friends.
Have a look at the englishforum.ch, I found it really useful before we moved here.

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LIZS · 02/05/2010 10:14

yes there are mums and tots - some locally run, some set up by Expats. The posters on the sites I linked to will know of the current ones operating. Daycare/playgroups do exist but private ones are £££. Expats tend to use daycare from a younger age than in UK even if not working. Be aware that this is less regulated than in UK.

The equivalent of HV's are the Muetterberatung, each Gemeinde(ie.town) has a clinic which runs once or twice a week, but primarily healthcare, including routine checks and vaccinations, is dealt with by a Paediatrician (hence why you need to negotiate for the cost to be included). Again once you know where you are going to live other expats can give you a steer as to a good English speaking one.

This is a good source of info too. Quality of life there can be great but comes at a cost.

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LIZS · 02/05/2010 10:19

oh and September is a way off. We knew in March to move in May ! My permit didn't come through until April and I was already pg with edd mid August so dh went for May 1st and ds and I followed end of May. New school year starts around 3rd week of August so you may want to try and get organised for then, although people come and go all the time.

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Waedigirl · 02/05/2010 18:54

Hi Chalkpink

Zürich is wonderful.... We moved here 3.5 years ago (before DC) and no way am I moving anywhere else. It's a more old fashioned way of life here in many ways, but kids can be kids, play out, do loads of healthy stuff etc.

Lots of things to do with little ones, summer is all about the badis (swimming places / beaches at the lake) and parks, winter mountains, sledging etc.

google Strandbad Mythenquai, Zürichhorn, Bäckeranlage (park) Park im Gruene, Knies Kinderzoo for a flavour of the types of things.

There are English playgroups (mostly in the city) and quite a few English / American expats who are all pretty friendly, meetups at Starbucks etc.

Private childcare is v expensive but I think it's very good quality of care - my dd is at a bilingual nursery as I work, and it's wonderful. Nursery is called Kinderkrippe.

When you have an idea of where you might live, use the site www.map-search.ch to see where it is in relation to things and transport links etc.

Very very hard to find an apartment and typically moving dates are just four times a year for most people with the usual contracts - so make sure you have a relocation agent to take you round, even better is is they give you a flat for a month or so, then you can go to viewings once you arrive. Much easier then you can apply straight away.

www.homegate.ch is one of the better known sites for accommodation.

Down side, shops and services as others have said, lots of random paperwork (in German) get DH colleagues here to help. Also many Swiss reserved / lots of rules etc. but Zürich reasonably cosmopolitan.

On the plus side, the working culture here is much more 9-5 than the UK and people rarely have long commutes or traffic problems, so you may be pleasantly surprised at a more present dh ;)

What else can I tell about? Switzerland is a bit of a love it or hate it kind of place, after a year here, you'll know....

It suits me cos I'm organised, like things to run smoothly, am fairly outdoorsy and am not bothered about living somewhere remotely edgy....

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sophistikat · 02/05/2010 20:35

Echoing other posters. We have been here several years nows and think Zurich is a wonderful city. It is somewhat old fashioned. Expect a lot of your mail to be addressed to your husband...The shops are all closed on a Sunday (except bahnhoff and airport), this takes some getting used to but once you are used to it you find you dont miss the Sunday openings so much.

It is a very family orientated culture/city so as others have said expect to see more of your DH.

It is very difficult to get an apartment, so really push for all the help you can get. A lot of apartments (especially older apartments) have a shared washing machine in the basement so if your own washing machine is important to you then make sure your apartment has one: dont assume it will have one if it does not specifically say so in the advert.

Public transport is fantastic, everything runs on time and connections are seemless.

The shopping is fabulous

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kreecherlivesupstairs · 03/05/2010 08:39

Great advice from sophistikat. We have a shared washing machine (with 8 other flats) which is a real PITA as I can't wash every week so we have a pile of laundry every 10 days or so. We can't use the machine on Sundays either, our hauswart locks the door.

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Bonsoir · 03/05/2010 09:41

If you are a SAHM with four small DCs you will definitely need full-time domestic help. When you move abroad to a place you do not know and where you do not speak the language, everything you do will take you four times longer than it did at home. Plus you will have no support system to fall back on. In your position, I would look for an English speaking mothers' help/cleaner (so that you can leave your DCs with her, and converse with her easily yourself) who has been living and working locally for many years and knows things inside out. An experienced Filipina or Sri Lankan lady would be the right sort of person in Paris but I don't know the Zurich market at all. Maybe someone who does can advise?

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LIZS · 03/05/2010 10:34

Bonsoir , CH isn't part of EU and is very strict about "imported" help and work permits etc. You may find a localised Eastern European (although immigration is very stricly controlled) but there is plenty of redtape before you can employ them. fwiw I knew lots of largish families there who happily survived with minimal help - using a babysitter, cleaner and/or daycare/school where necessary. Also property is expensive and larger apartments/houses with garden not easy to come by , so not much scope for live-ins unless you can bear the additional costs.

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Bonsoir · 03/05/2010 10:49

I see so many expats "fail" through lack of material/physical support here in Paris - the people who are lonely/isolated/find it really difficult to adapt are usually the ones who don't bite the bullet and buy in the extra support they need to compensate for their incompetence in a new environment/lack of family/friends. But completely agree that you have to work out what is available and usual locally.

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kreecherlivesupstairs · 03/05/2010 11:17

Bonsoir, I think you are being incredibly rude. Your assumption about the OP are staggering. I don't know anyone, really, who has full time domestic help, I do know a couple of people who have a cleaner for a couple of hours a week, but full time. I've managed to cope despite arriving from Thailand where I did have a full time home help. It is a question of trial and error, the OP will be fine.

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LIZS · 03/05/2010 11:34

It is true it isn't a lifestyle for everyone and those who feel under pressure to go along as a trailing spouse, perhaps having previously had their own careers etc, can find the adjustment a challenge. Some never do find their niche, but that is down to a multitude of reasons - language, culture, support, mental attitude and so on. Support comes in various guises and the expat community itself is a really good source. Zurich has an expat population of over 20%, tending to be concentrated in certain areas, so there is plenty of advice and friendship available.

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Bonsoir · 03/05/2010 12:01

Why are my assumptions about the OP "staggering"? She says "My main worry is that I'm just about coping with the kids now(new baby = hard work), what on earth will it be like in a different country." I am trying to help her address that, and in particular to make her not feel bad or hopeless for needing help and support at a difficult time.

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Bonsoir · 03/05/2010 12:03

kreecher - I think you have one child, right? Four children and one child are quite, quite different to manage, you know!

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MmeLindt · 03/05/2010 12:05

Many of my friends and neighbours here in Switzerland have domestic help, few of them have full time help.

Chalkpink
I live in Geneva and while I cannot tell you anythign about Zurich, I can say that moving to Switzerland was the best thing that we have ever done.

Life here is very good, we have a good expat package so are able to survive without me having to work - which would be difficult since I don't speak French and child care here is so expensive.

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Bonsoir · 03/05/2010 12:10

You don't have to have full-time help forever - you just need more flexibility initially, especially if you have pre-schoolers who need to go to the park/have naps/eat regular meals when you are spending hours on errands that would barely register on your radar back home.

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kreecherlivesupstairs · 03/05/2010 12:54

Bonsoir, yes I have one child and I can appreciate how much more work more would be, but, I am assuming that the OP's husband works for a multinational or bank. She should get a decent relocation package and help with registering etc. A cleaner would be the icing on the cake but, like Liz pointed out they are costly and the aggrivation involved (insurance and pension) amy not be worth it.

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myrubicon · 03/05/2010 14:11

ChalkPink - I can't add too much to the first few comments except you could also try this site, which is specifically for English speaking families moving to or already living in Switzerland. There are some very knowledgeable posters/members.

If the relocation package is similar to mine, you will probably have a relocation agent assigned to you(?). If so, spend some time between now and then making a list of all the things you'll want to know to help you hit the ground running - even the tiny daily details that make life tick along- and ask the agent or look at the online forums for answers.

Also, you'll need insurance for pretty much everything! As others have said, do check these our (especially medical), although yous DH's employer may well include that as part of the package.

Learn a few key words in German. Zurich has it's own dialect of Swiss-German, which you can easily adapt from basic high german later on.

Re being wonderful... well, if you like clean streets, public services & transport that really does work perfectly, weekend ski trips, clean air, an established ex-pat community, children with a sense of communal and personal responsibility, then perhaps you'll like it here.

It's not Eutopia though. Comparing Swiss life to English life is (for me at least) a series of trade-offs. The most important advice, I think, is: Make a real effort to meet other ex-pats. Doing a school run will be a big help.

The Swiss are generally very welcoming, but will seldom consider you a real friend, even after several years.

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Waedigirl · 03/05/2010 19:33

Chalkpink, I can introduce you to some English mums groups. It's really easy to meet people when you have kids in common here, I definitely know more people than I did in London. And pretty likeminded as well in terms of age, stuff people like to do etc.

Expats are always willing to make friends and invite you to places, as you never know how long people will be saying you can never have too many friends iyswim

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Waedigirl · 03/05/2010 19:34

how long people will be "staying...."

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Chalkpink · 03/05/2010 20:57

Thank you everyone for your help.

DH is flying over to Zurich tomorrow and is meeting with HR there to discuss ex pat package etc and perhaps go to see a school so it feels like things are moving really fast. It was suggested he go and look at some available accomodation but he doesn't have time - can anyone tell me where the highest concentration of ex pat families live? Where are the international schools situated? We dont need to live in the 'cool' or lively part of Zurich and given the size of our family I doubt we are going to find something centrally that will fit us all in so we are happy to live out towards the suburbs.

Thanks for the links LIZS and myrubicon, I will have a good read.

Waedigirl your offer to introduce me to some English mums groups sounds fantastic.

Have added 'own washing machine' to list of requirements. Can't imagine sharing one with the amount of washing 4 DCs generate .

My head is in a bit of a whirl, thanks for helping me focus my thoughts so far!

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kreecherlivesupstairs · 04/05/2010 07:45

Housing is a disaster. I don't know if you are looking at houses or flats, if it is the latter, I'd definitely ask for a flat with a lift that comes from the car park or a ground floor flat. We are on the first floor, but I have to climb 66 steps to get to the entry to our flat then another 24 to our flat. I know, I do it several times a day.

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ErnestTheBavarian · 04/05/2010 08:26

Morning Chalkpink, only just seen this.

I was in Switzerland for 8 years or so - 4 in Basel and 4 in Zurich. I also have got 4 children.

We lived outside the city, 20 mins on the local train network, in a little village on the Rhine. It was absolutely stunning.

I think you need to think carefully about what sort of life you want to achieve in terms of appartment in the city, proximity to expats, larger house out of the city, whether or not you want the kids to go to local school or IS ( I personally am huge advocate of local schools), I think it would help to have a hint at least of how long the minimum stay would involve. Bearing in mind in CH kids start school aged around 7, so even your oldest would only just be at the start so a great age for learning the language.

I loved living in Switzerland. I found the lifestyle and the possibilities (access to the countryside, access to europe, skiing etc) to be amazing. My kids had freedom that many many kids in UK could only dream of. It was, especially for them, totally idyllic.

I disagree strongly that you would need help, let alone full time. TBH I find that odd. It is true that your attitude to the move would have a big impact on how smoothly and successfully it goes, but there are plenty of sources of support without paying for full time help That is a big personal thing anyway. I couldn't even stand a cleaner coming in for 3 hours a week, never mind someone in my home full time. Shudder.

I am now living in Bavaria (in case you didn't guess) so not too far away. Sill, nothing beats Switzerland. I really loved it there. And my boys really really were very happy there too.

Feel free to CAT me or ask away and good luck.

ps def. make sure you have your own washing machine. Blimey. I had a friend whose rostered day was once a fortnight! sods law her ds would puke all over his sheets the day after wash day. Even if all went well, she had uge piles of laundry then had to spend the entire day doing relay runs to the washer and drier, the entire day once a fortnight not able to leave the house or do anything other than laundry. Madness. I told my dh no appartment, own washing machine. And we got it no problem, and you know we managed it no problem. Had an amazing house in Basel. sigh.

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