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2 years in Switerland

Note: This was originally posted on 2018-Jan-01. Technically this was written after 2 and a half years, but 2 years fits the menu better.

This was a follow up to my first post after 1 year, and was then followed by a post after 5 years.

I moved to Switzerland over 2.5 years ago, and as it is raining out and I am feeling thoughtful here is a reflection of the move and my subsequent time here. I made a post on here 2 years ago about my thoughts after 6 months, so this post is kind of a redo/update of that (and this is also heavily focused on the German speaking part of the country). I have also written about moving to Solothurn in particular (something of that is probably of interest to just a few people in the MedTech industry).

In short it has been a fantastic experience: I moved into a flat in the old town of an absurdly pretty town, got the chance to fully explore the country, made friends and feel I have integrated and understand the country very well. The move itself was very easy for me. But the language has been the slow and hard part.
Partly I wrote this for myself to help clear up my thoughts and memories, but hopefully it will be interesting and helpful to others.

Serious bits

There are plenty of blogs (eg: the German Way), forums, and books (eg: Living and working in Switzerland by David Hampshire) out there dealing with the matter. Blogs from other expats are sometimes wonderfully accurate, but sometimes they seem to describe another country altogether. I am mostly going to avoid serious bits as they are covered well elsewhere.

One thing I will say is transfer your driving licence to a Swiss one right away if you are from a country that can. After 1 year your license is no longer valid in Switzerland. I swapped mine after 2.5 years no problem, but everything I read suggested that you might have to retake the whole test again. What is outdated and what is certain Kantons only is very confusing so take the safe option and do it soon.

Why / How

Basically I just ended up here slightly by chance. I (at the time M/28/UK) was doing a PhD in Biomaterials and had been wanting to do a Post-doc outside of the UK (adventure, travel, and experience), but had been focused on Germany or Australia and had never really considered Switzerland. Then a job with the right requirements popped up through contacts as I was writing up my PhD. I applied, got the position, and suddenly found myself about to move to a country which I didn’t really know a whole lot about and to a town I had never heard of.

There were two major aids here: the culture and highly specific skills of academia makes it very easy to find a job in another country, and as an EU citizen (for now) I get equal rights and easy access to Switzerland. So it was just a case of entering the country normally and telling them I was here once I set myself up.

The move

All things considered this went surprisingly smooth.

Entering the country I just walked through customs just like any holiday maker with a big bag. I then left the airport by the wrong country – a problem which is possibly unique to Basel/Mülhausen – before correctly entering Switzerland and meeting my new boss for the first time in arrivals. He escorted me to our town and informed about various things work and life related on the way (99% of which I forgot pretty much instantly as my mind was overwhelmed with so much to take in).

I had been expecting to use the flat my new workplace rented for visitors, but I found out late on that it was already taken by some interns, and so I had to find my own place at very short notice. Browsing the standard property websites I quickly realised that my original idea of finding myself a furnished flat was not going to happen – such properties are very limited in number and absurdly expensive. I got very lucky and found a room to sublet almost instantly though the flatmate finding website (though be warned flat sharing is not a common thing here like it is in the UK). Not only did I get a mostly furnished flat to live in, but it was in the historic old town, and I had a Swiss housemate which made starting so much easier as I had both an instant friend and a local guide / information source.

Having since searched for a proper flat 2 years later I have found it is a rather slow process. You typically have to arrange with the current tenant to see the flat, rather than just getting an agent to take you around a selection. Often the tenant feeds back to the company which means appearing in a smart(ish) outfit and being friend helps, certainly the quickest and most positive responses I got were when I had a good chatty tour with the current tenant. Applying then takes ages as you have a to fill out a form for each flat, and the answer can take anything from a few hours to a few weeks. On the plus side you legally get a day off from work to move house which is nice.)

I moved into the flat without a rental contract at first as it took time for the landlord to approve me as a sub-tenant. Whilst slightly chaotic (I took most of my first months wages in a large pile of cash), this made the whole chicken-egg process of getting setup in a new country vastly easier. Once the rental contract came through it was simple to just go to the Kanton with my passport and work/rental contracts and register as a resident, followed by a quick trip to the bank to get myself a bank account. And just like that life fell into place.

For the mandatory health insurance (you have 3 months, but start early as it takes at least a month for it to actually be processed) I just went on Helsana and figured out a reasonably cheap package. I haven’t changed it since, but many Swiss take it very seriously and constantly swap to keep the cost down.
I didn’t really have to spend much time on official matters, and didn’t really come across any serious problems or delays (other than sleeping on the floor for a few weeks as Ikea delivery takes ages). Even setting up a bank account with no common language went surprisingly smooth and quickly.

Adjustment and getting used to a new life

I went in with a 1 year contract and a mentality that I would jump in, make the most of the time to see everything I could, and then hop out again to move on elsewhere afterwards (or stay if possible, but I was very open to whatever).

During the early days keeping yourself busy is probably the best thing you can do. On which point the first few “honeymoon” months are a magical time when everything is different and exciting – make the most of them. Especially for me as I turned up at the end of May which is possibly the best time of year – warm weather, snowy peaks, and green meadows. During my first summer I constantly bought new and novel things in the supermarket, and went on trips almost every weekend. My co-workers started to become quite amused as I turned up every Friday with hiking boots and a backpack to head off directly into the mountains after work.

It of course isn’t all rustic cabins and mountains. Most people moving into Switzerland will go to the Flatland: which can be wonderfully charming with old town cores, rustic villages and rolling forested hills, but can also be ugly industry and forgettable charmless towns. From October to February the Flatland suffers from a dense low fog which swallows the light and leaves you in a depressing world of grey for weeks or months at a time. You can escape above it to a world of beautiful clear views and sunshine at the weekend (some people go up armed with deckchairs and newspapers), but during the working week you are rather stuck with it.

My past experience made dealing with the move quite easy: having moved to Australia as a kid, and a few times in the UK for uni I had gotten used to new places and new people. I also suspect I have it very easy as an outsider here: I am white, speak English as my mother language, and am skilled (ie: I look like I fit in, I can almost always communicate, and I arguably add something to the country). I don’t mean that in a “the Swiss are horribly racist” way, but a just “the closer you are to the culture you move to then the easier it is” way.

With my housemate and friends I made at work I found myself with a social life fairly early on. Partly due to that, and partly due to not wanting to fall into the expat-trap, I didn’t get around to meeting my local English speaking society until almost 2 years after I arrived. In retrospect it would have been better to join them early on for advice and tips.

Moving from one western country to another isn’t too big a challenge. But the little differences can pile up:

  • If you come from anywhere but Norway then converting the prices back to your home currency will give you a heart attack each time you go to the shops here. It is best to stop doing that ASAP. Prices are high, but pay is good.
  • Getting used to the way things work takes time. I was utterly shocked on arrival to find the shops here in Solothurn close at 6:30pm during the week.
  • One of the curious bits of adjustments was the steady stream of small differences that I became aware of as time passed. For example after months of spending at least part of every day in the countryside I finally realised what it was that seemed off to me – there were no fences or hedges and so it all felt strangely open compared to the English countryside.


This is the one thing that gets to me the most about living abroad. It can really isolate you or give you the feeling of being isolated even when you are being socially accommodated (I feel guilty about it and hate having to drag the conversation back to English). Being near the Röstigraben I sometimes end up in a French dominated group (of which I speak almost nothing beyond ordering a coffee) so the effect is somewhat doubled.

You can survive here without German – I have met plenty of people working at big companies like Novartis that do. English is kind of the common language here – far less people speak multiple Swiss languages fluently than you would expect. Still, when someone in Switzerland says they “only speak a little French” it tends to me they can only converse for an hour or two (as opposed to “a little French” in the UK which means you can count to 5). Once you are setup and enter the rhythm of everyday life then (other than the odd official letter) it is easy to just coast along in English. This is understandable in some ways: coming home after work it can be hard to find the motivation or time to sit down and study something serious (especially with a family), and learning by immersion is often about as much fun as learning to swim by being thrown into a tsunami.

I wanted to learn the language regardless, but I also happened to move to a very Swiss company in a small town that is almost unknown internationally. As such I was always immersed (drowning) in Swiss-German and had plenty of motivation to learn.

I would sum up the experience of learning a language as you move to a new country as three stages:

  1. The initial novelty. You have just arrived and everything is exciting and new. You don’t understand anything but that is fine: you are armed with a range of apps, you are confident that immersion in the language will make sound like a native in a few months, and you can even identify some of the items in your kitchen in German already.
  2. The frustration stage. You have completed Duolingo and other such things, politely smiled through hours of German, and learnt your dative/genitive/etc – but you don’t understand a fucking thing beyond the fact that the important looking sign in the train station says something about platform 4.
  3. Starting to click. You might still mix up words and your grammar makes the language less of an art and more of a frontal assault. But you understand what is said and get the message across. Conversational level has been reached, and the long road to fluency begins.
  4. Bonus Swiss-German stage. You read, listen, and talk High-German without trouble. Then you pop into Migro and the cashier asks you a simple question in Swiss-German, but you don’t understand a bloody word. You sigh and lower your head in shame/frustration.

I had 3 years of German at school in the UK which was something but not amazing (I showed an example GCSE exam to Swiss colleagues and they literally laughed). Still at least that gave me some words and installed a basic appreciation of the language which helped me restart 10 years later. Having recently started learning French from nothing I actually do appreciate that my school German was a helpful foundation, though I think 3 years of “bare minimum because I had to” at school translates to about 3 months of part-time “because I want to” later on.

I didn’t have much time before moving out so I just played with some game/apps on my phone, which taught me one or two words but were mostly useless. On getting into Switzerland I hit Duolingo and worked my way through it. It is certainly attractive being easy, free, and full of happy binging sounds. But overall I would say it is really limited. You are so far from everyday understanding at the end. Some people claim to watch TV shows or hold full conversations based purely on Duolingo, fuck knows what they watch or talk about but I was nowhere near that. It is useful as something to play with, but as a supplement to other methods. I found Memrise after completing Duolingo, but at this point I could not be bothered with more repetitive filling in the blanks – so I didn’t really bother with it. Instead I moved onto youtube, games, newspapers, classes, and whatever interaction occurred in my daily life.

My German has come quite a way and generally impresses most people I talk to here given the amount of time I have learnt it in (and sometimes that I have bothered to learn it at all, though I feel I could be so much further with less time “wasted” on other things):

  • On arrival I would say I was A1. I could introduce myself and say that I had a cat (which was a lie), count, and identify a few objects and animals. But that was about it.
  • Now after 2.5 years I can understand most High-German and join in on most topics, so would put myself at B2. Though my grammar is still far from pretty, and a long German session can still burn me out. I can barely remember any genders for nouns and mostly just pick whatever sounds best in my head. Whether I fully understand Swiss-German is very hit or miss.

I must say that I really like Swiss-German. I like how it sounds and it is so much more interesting and full of character than High-German. However….

Learning German in Switzerland can be absurdly frustrating (more so than usual High-German). Swiss-German makes it so much more complicated (basically see this video). You can reach total fluency in High-German, but then get utterly floored by the simplest question from a Swiss person. The Swiss like to laugh when people ask them if “Swiss” is a language, but I would argue that Swiss-German is basically a whole other language. The pronunciation, grammar, and even basic words are often very different. It isn’t so much that the goalposts have been moved, but that the whole fucking game has changed. The idea of trying to play football whilst the other team are playing Gaelic football is about on the right lines. This video makes the point rather well. And on the point of a whole different game…..

Still there is no ß in Swiss-German (you just use ss instead) which saves some faffing around at least. It also helps to know that Swiss-German gives most normal Germans a hard time too (German TV often gives Swiss speakers subtitles).

This is infinitely more frustrating as a native English speaker: people often hear my accent and switch straight to English – and usually keep going in English even when I keep responding in German. Sometimes in a shop the salesperson will run off to find an English speaking worker (and sometimes they will then run off to find another worker that speaks better English). Even the middle aged butcher in my little town speaks perfect bloody English. On the flip side having a Swiss address means people often assume I am Swiss and hit me with the hardest dialect they can muster. Going to check into a B&B as the only guests that night the host greeted me with a barrage of Swiss-German only to get a deer-in-the-headlights response from me (much to the amusement of my Swiss girlfriend). Partly this is also down to the Swiss not liking to speak High-German. Older people and those from rural areas may not have used High-German very much and so for them it can be like an alien language in some ways.

Technically you can learn Swiss-German, but unless you are already fluent in High-German (or just plan to live the rest of your life in that part of Switzerland dealing only with Swiss) that would be insane. Every Swiss-German speaker (theoretically) understands and talks High-German (even if it pains them) so you would be pointlessly over specialising with a language that most German speakers can’t understand. Especially so as Swiss-German varies drastically by region (yes even in this tiny place), and it isn’t a defined language so if you write it out you just write it as it sounds to you in your dialekt. I have been told that any structured class on it is just a waste of time. Just learn the Swiss part by exposure as you go along – you are never going to easily pass for a local with the dialect anyway.

For putting the language to use it is much easier for me to talk German with strangers, or with people I know speak no English. When you start speaking English with people it is far too hard to then switch language years down the line when your German is good enough to function properly. I live with my Swiss girlfriend but we almost always talk in English when it is just us as German feels so strange.

While it is endless frustration, it really does payoff and feel good. For example when checking into a hotel in Graubünden the receptionist was delighted that I spoke in German rather than just shouting at her in English and I got very friendly treatment for the rest of the time. Also we had regular internal presentations that are given in German, at the start I was filling sheets of paper with scribbled words and translations from my phone as I tried to keep up, but at the end I only needed to do so for one or two words which was rather nice. And of course being able to fully function and communicate with people in daily life is rather a good payoff too.

The downside of this is that when I return to the UK it takes me a few days to stop talking German to strangers (especially if I have had a few beers).

For learning in Switzerland I found these tools very useful:

Note: I have since created a dedicated page for learning Swiss-German.

  • The free commuter newspaper 20 minutes is the best tool for learning German in Switzerland (probably also French and Italian too). It is not going to win any journalism awards. But it has short, simple, neutral articles – grab a copy each day and scribble all over it. The odd Swiss-German word is included which helps build up the local lingo. Some of it (ie: the people/community section) is invented bollocks, but it mostly helps give you an idea what is important in the country and how Switzerland works.
  • has a number of Swiss words which makes it my mobile/internet dictionary of choice for Switzerland.
  • There is an Allmanisch German wiki if you want to pick up a feeling for the way the dialect feels.
  • SRFplay. TV and radio on demand in High and Swiss-German. You paid for this with your Billag, so abuse the hell out of it.
  • SRF radio is available on podcast through services like Spotify. There are various topics in High-German regarding Switzerland and the rest of the world, and some local stations in Dialekt. I rather like SRF4 – the news radio station – which is in mostly nice clear High-German.
  • Youtube has some useful resources. Swiss-German channels like Ask Switzerland provide plenty to listen to. It also has some SRF stuff which might help if you are not already in Switzerland. Search “bi de lüt” for shows focused on Swiss life with some strong Swiss-German accents.
  • The Australian/Swiss comedy of Rob Spence. Not so easy to understand but somehow reassuring.

For German in general I would also suggest:

  • /r/German and the resources on their wiki/faq.
  • There is so much on youtube. Easy German is a favourite.
  • Dive in – to hell with how stupid you might sound.
  • Joining a class. The learning process is much more fun when you have some people at your level to share the frustration. I spent almost a year trying to decide what level to join – online tests kept putting me as A1, but the overall meaning of each level made me think B1, in the end I went B1 and it was perfect (so bollocks to yes/no online tests).
  • Duolingo provide a nice way to get started and keep steadily learning. The simple focused nature of the tree and short time requirements of the stages mean you don’t get overwhelmed and don’t need to worry about setting more than a few minutes aside for it. But overall it is really limited in what it actually teaches you of the language, so you need to heavily use other medium in addition to it. Think of Duolingo as a snack: something quick, convenient and easy to keep you going, but it isn’t going to properly fill you up. Complete the tree and practice if you find it useful, but don’t bother aiming for the highest level or for a 1000 day streak.
  • I am not a massive gamer but I swear by video games as the best way to learn. The mix of interaction, language, and fun makes for a very effective learning environment (that and being able to attack someone with a sword when you get sick of them speaking German to you is rather satisfying…..). The trick is to find something story based with a good separation of language and action: RPGs like Skyrim are perfect for this (especially using console to pause and quick save/load to repeat bits), whereas something action based like COD is too distracting. This worked especially well playing games which I completed in English years ago, where I could just about recall the gist of the story to help me along but had forgotten many aspects and details.
  • Music. I built a spotify playlist when I first arrived. It started out as random sounds, but through 2 years of steady listening and learning I can now make sense of it.
  • Read out loud (though maybe not on the bus).
  • Emon publishing do local Krimis with one probably set where you live or are interested in. Not exactly the best books in the world but entertaining enough.

The Swiss

Sometimes I feel I understand the Swiss, other times they are complex enigmas. The nature of the country often feels very contradictory at times (often liberal and conservative at once). And of course the urban/rural, and language divides only make this more complex.

Take anything you read pre-2000 with a big pinch of salt. The country seems to have changed significantly since then: going from a dull but practical country to a much more fun and outgoing one. The summer months especially are very lively as people head outdoors to drink at bars, go to festival, and jump in the lakes/rivers. Younger Swiss are very open and there is less of the formality that you get with the older generations.

The Swiss tend to operate in two modes in public: city and mountain. In urban areas the Swiss are along the lines of the quiet closed society of stereotypes, but get them into the countryside and they can become super loud and chatty. I have been on Post buses where the entire bus was interacting and best friends by the end of the trip, and if you get on a train to the mountains with a group of retirees you will know about it.

I am a fairly private person but the Swiss sometimes really beat me there. Once a co-worker who I spoke with most days casually mentioned that he wouldn’t be in the next day, I assumed he had to wait for a delivery or something – turns out he was getting married. This has happened twice now. Most other co-workers got this treatment too, so it isn’t (just) that I am insufferable.

I have however always felt very welcomed here. On one of my first days I went walking in the Jura mountains near my town. As I sat on a peak to eat lunch an elderly local man started talking to me. My German was almost non-existent then but I managed to get the idea across that I had just moved there to start work. On finding out that this foreigner who barely spoke a word of German (let alone the local dialect) was moving in to work he wished me well and gave me a Ricola. A small gesture, but one that really stuck with me. Having improved my German I have only felt more welcome since then.

On which point the Swiss are very tolerant with language. Absurdly so really. In my early days I only once or twice got very gentle remarks that I needed to improve my German (buying curtains was one notable early occasion where my few words in German really failed to get me far) but generally they did everything to accommodate me and then as my skills picked up they started to throw praise at even my crude German. Whether that is just being polite or they are just genuinely impressed that an English speaker learnt German I am not sure.

The Swiss are almost always very considerate. Dog walkers will stop to hold their dog in place whilst bikers go past. Even the bored teens drinking on the street at night don’t bother anyone walking past. The main exception is the growing number of wankers who think they are special and can just walk around with their music blasting out of some powerful speaker (though that is probably more common elsewhere).

Some habits of talking took a while to get used to. The British habit of saying sorry to express sympathy (or anything) rather confuses the Swiss who take it to just mean guilt. Understatement isn’t really a thing here which either leads to confusion or hilarity – one day at work I was being shown a process with a sample being taken out of the oven at 1400C, on being warned that it was very hot I replied that it was indeed a wee bit toasty, the poor worker taking the sample out was almost collapsing with laughter from what I thought was just a standard comment.

The absolute worst thing about the Swiss is their obsession with putting their bag on the seat beside them on the train (the overhead racks are apparently only there for aesthetics). They will move it if you ask, but not until you do so (no matter how obviously busy the train might be) which can create a passive aggressive awkwardness about it. Some talented people have even mastered the art of taking up 4 spaces by themselves, and then manage not to notice that there are other people on the train.

A few other thoughts:

  • Stereotypes exist for each region in the country. Generally they are fairly mature. Coming from the UK and Australia where anyone more rural than you is having sex with their sheep (and/or incest) this was quite a surprise.
  • One thing I find curious is that the image of sport (TV adverts etc) here is more of families and normal people doing it as opposed to super-athletes. And most people are quite outgoing with sport and such-like.
  • Shaking hands is a big thing here. Get used to that in situations where a hello or just polite nod would do in English speaking lands.

The Long Term

Having started with a mentality of in-and-out (with as many mountains as possible in the meantime) I have found myself getting somewhat more established here. I got extended several times to 2.5 years, met a Swiss girl, moved in with her, and am now looking for further work.

For me adapting and getting used to life here was fairly easy. I made friends via work, and my housemate. I explored every part of the country (far more than most of my Swiss acquaintances). Through watching and reading the news I now understand much better how the country works and the variations in who votes and thinks what. I can’t name the president or most of the politicians, but they are not so influential here and having no say myself in the politics I have an excuse there.

There has been some frustration and feeling of being useless and/or isolated. I sometimes get a desire for home, without actually knowing what home even is to me anymore. But generally it has been very positive.

I only really miss a few things:

  • Exotic food. Swiss food tends to be a little less exotic than the options in the UK. I really miss the omnipresent cheap curry-houses. Likewise standard food in the supermarkets (whilst almost always good) is less exotic. This isn’t so bad in the bigger cities like Geneva and Zürich, but I live in a much smaller town.
  • Spicy food. Food listed as hot/spicy here tends to have all the power of slightly tangy ketchup. But this might just be a result of years of idiotic English competitive curry culture on my behalf.
  • Cappuccino. This is often a standard cup of coffee with a few mm of slightly foamed milk on top. Getting what I would call a proper cappuccino is a rare and exciting experience here.
  • Culture. You can talk English with locals but it just isn’t the same. Hanging out with fellow expats helps abit there, but they are often from all over the world so you often still miss out on a proper connection.
  • Opening hours. I dream of shops that open on Sunday and/or beyond the early evening.

The main downside has been that the longer you spend somewhere the more mundane it becomes. A few days spent in Grindelwald or somewhere like that might leave you with the memory of the country as a magical place. But when you stay somewhere for longer then it becomes normal and less special with every passing day. I still love it here, but had I only stayed for the first summer than it would have stayed far more wonderful in my memory. Of course then I would just be yearning to come back.

What would I do differently?

If I were to repeat it again knowing what I do now (though they are all of course easier said than done):

  • Allow more time for finding a flat. I got lucky on arrival, but now realise how long this process can be.
  • Hit the language harder and faster. This was partly delayed by finishing up corrections and work for my PhD, but I really should have joined a class early on, and also have picked up French sooner once I started to get conversational with German.
  • Make more effort to be social. I feel I integrated well, but could have done more to join a local club or been more socially outgoing on arrival.

How to be Swiss:

  • have some Aromat on your table (even if it is made by Unilever).
  • Swim in a lake/river during the summer.
  • Join a club. Dancing, music, sport… just about everything exists and they are quite a big part of local social life and often a point of pride in the community. Though of course the language might be very off putting at first.

Things to try:

  • If you are here more than a few weeks then try to get into every language region at least once. If you are here for a number of months then try and visit every little area. For a tiny country there is so much variation in landscape and culture.
  • Wine. You can’t find it outside of the country, but Swiss wine is actually pretty good.
  • Beer. There are loads of small Breweries all over the country, Switzerland apparently has the most breweries per capita in the world. Feldschlossen is the “standard” mass produced beer you find everywhere. Compared to the standards in other countries it isn’t too bad, but try and find something more interesting.
  • Cheese. More than just Emmental. Try everything you can.
  • Vermicelle. A desert made out of minced chestnut. Best in autumn.

Useful quickfire points:

  • Swiss plugs are like (but not identical to) standard European ones. Standard European ones do not always fit here, come prepared with at least 1 Swiss specific plug.
  • Kantons have lots of power and the way they are run can vary quite a bit. The Kanton and place you live in can have rather a large effect on the taxes, health insurance, and various quality of life factors.
  • Catholics kantons have far more official holidays (on such days the shops in protestant kantons will fill up with shoppers from the surrounding kantons). Swiss holidays fall on a date, not day of the week, and many firms make bridge days for holidays on a Tuesday or Thursday. This means that year to year the number of official holidays you have can vary from almost none, to having what feels like the the whole of May off work. The absolute worst is holidays on a Saturday when you miss the day off, and all the bloody shops are closed.
  • Look into at least getting the Half-Tax train pass even if you don’t plan to take public transport too often – it applies to most cable cars and ships too. Combined with supersaver tickets on the SBB app you can buy tickets for specific trains at quieter times for 25% of the normal cost. If you live with someone else who has it then you get a discount. Same with the GA: my girlfriend is a student, and I live with her, so we both save about a third off the GA.
  • Name is last name, not first name (vorname), in German. I ruined countless forms until I got used to that.
  • The Swiss 1 looks like an upside down V at times. That caused some confusion too.
  • Look into Reka money. It is basically “voucher” money that is usable for leisure and travel in Switzerland (accommodation, food, transport, activities). You can’t use it everywhere, but you can get it at as little as 80% of the cost in CHF. Saving 20% off travel inside Switzerland is very nice. For best results see if your company has an account in place to help you get the checks or a savings account (mine gave it out as a summer holiday bonus). If you do use the banknote like checks bear in mind that you often don’t get change from them, so prepare a mix of the checks and coins to cover the full cost.
  • Another useful thing is Mobility car rental where you can pick up a rental car (of various sizes) from numerous sites (mostly train stations). This is wonderfully useful if you just need to make the odd short trip to IKEA or for a particular hard to reach spot for a few hours. Registration to driving is a matter of hours, and after that booking a slot and setting off is a process of seconds.
  • Charity shops are not a thing like they are in the UK. So cheap and easy 2nd hand things are not always so easy to find. There are Brockis’ which fill the same role, but they are not every second shop on the High Street.
  • Asterix and Obelix is rather popular here. Brush up on that for Switzerland and your country to understand the references.
  • If you are swapping the side of the road you drive on, then try and cycle rather than drive as much as possible at first. It is much easier to quickly dash onto the pavement when you go wrong on a bike than with a car (maybe best if you stick to simple quiet roads). Cycling on the right helped me clear my left-sided instincts out so when I finally drove on the right it was natural.

Not so useful points:

You will spend the first few months with a Swiss kezboard mixing up the z and y kezs.

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