|14.01.2006 - What's it really like living in Switzerland?|
What's it really like living in Switzerland?
Many people think of Switzerland as a country full of mountains, watches, chocolate, banks, gold, and people loaded with money. To a large extent those swiss stereotypes are actually quite true; Switzerland is indeed a beautiful mountainous land, swiss watches and chocolates are some of the finest in the world, and Switzerland's stable government combined with successful banking, insurance and pharmaceutical industries have given rise to a large middle to upper-middle class.
The prospect of a safe and wealthy life in a land of great natural beauty, culture and clean streets lures many foreigners into seeking permanent establishment in Switzerland. But do these foreigners get what they come for and are they happy with their new lives? Really it depends on a little luck and a lot of effort, but for many people the answer is no. The main stumbling blocks are cultural integration and money.
Is it really that hard to integrate successfully with the swiss and the swiss way of life? Swiss people in general are sincere and hard-working but fairly reserved and not very outgoing. Most swiss people will be happy to talk to you if you ask them a question, but don't expect anyone to come up to you and start a conversation in a bar, and don't expect to be invited to dinner by workmates. Most foreigners quickly give up on forming strong relationships with the swiss and instead fall back on the support of their expat communities - and that's normally where they stay. Of course one's chances of integration are much better if one learns to speak the local language, but that's no mean feat in the german speaking part of the country since there are many dialects of swiss-german and swiss-german itself is a spoken-only language.
But friendship making isn't the only social or cultural difficulty experienced by most foreigners. The swiss have many rules and idiosyncrasies and most of them aren't written down! Things like extreme punctuality and cleanliness, being forbidden to make any noise after 10pm, starting work at 7am, and not being allowed to do any work at all on sundays (including cleaning your house). Many neighbours wont hesitate to call the police if you temporarily park in their parking space. Add to that the fact that non-europeans need to wait 10 full years before applying for permanent residency or 12 years before applying for naturalisation. This means that they can't start their own businesses, they need to re-apply for residence permits when changing jobs, they need special permission before purchasing residential property and they aren't even allowed to live outside of the district where they are first granted work.
With all of the cultural difficulties when living in Switzerland, surely there should be one thing that isn't a problem; money. But despite Switzerland's great wealth, many immigrants find themselves to be financially stressed for their first few years in the country. Jobs tend to be fairly well paid by international terms, but swiss cities are some of the most expensive in the world and swiss people have already had many years to establish themselves financially.
This article isn't intended to scare you away from considering a move to Switzerland! Rather it aims to highlight the fact that coming to Switzerland isn't an express ticket to riches, happiness and a perfect life. Many economic immigrants decide to pack up their bags and go within their first few years in the country. But there are many more that learn to adapt to the swiss way of life and once they've done that they can be truely happy here. Switzerland is, and always will be, a country full of mountains, watches, chocolate, banks, gold, and people with money.
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