Friday, August 07, 2015

Dear Frau: How Can I Move to Switzerland?

The Frau has been a bit overwhelmed lately. Her inbox is still overflowing from the Vox piece about how Switzerland ruined The Frau for American life.

One of the things many people asked in their emails was this: How Can I Move To Switzerland Too?

Out of exhaustion and guilt for not replying to every person, The Frau has decided to answer this question here. But she’d like your help, yodelers. If you’ve moved to Switzerland from elsewhere, what was your path? If you don’t mind leaving a note in the comments, it would help a lot of people who are tired of America and ready for a country whose government actually cares about its people.

That being said, as The Frau has said before—and has also written an entire book about—the reality of life in Switzerland is not always a box of chocolates either.

But for those who still want to go abroad, The Frau’s recommended path is her own:

Work for an international company in your own country for a couple of years.
Once they like you, ask if a transfer would be possible.
If they say yes, great. You’re set. Hopefully moving costs and bureaucracy are taken care of. (Well, the bureaucracy never ends…just so you know.)

Another path?
Go abroad as a student. The Frau met with a nice young man from Chicago this week who wants to get out of Chicago. His plan is law school in Australia. That works too.

Another path?
Go visit Switzerland and try to network while you’re there. This could work, eventually, never say never. Or hey, apply to jobs in the country via various job boards or through a recruiter. Just know that unless you have VERY unique skills (especially if you’re from the U.S. or Canada—in other words, NOT living in the European Union), your path will be hard. The Swiss government requires any company giving a foreigner a job to prove to them that they couldn’t find a Swiss person to do that work. Or a non-EU person. Americans are third-string in Switzerland. That’s why it’s better to try the first two paths if you can.

Still have questions? Any yodelers have answers or other paths? Leave a comment.


Irene said...

Fall in love with a Swiss and have a baby together - and even then bureaucracy never ends!

I have tried some of your suggestions as well. I first moved abroad to Belgium as a exchange student. I then moved to the Netherlands to look for jobs there and networked my way there. And I applied online for positions in Ireland and eventually moved there with a job in a big American bank. While these three approaches worked very fine for me in the rest of Europe as a EU national, they weren't really useful in Switzerland. In spite of dozens of applications and a slightly exotic cv (mathematics and econometrics and fluent in five languages) I've never managed to get a job here.

Dominik said...

If you're a IT guy (especially software programmer) you might have it easy finding a job in Switzerland. We are in DESPERATE need of more software developers here (too many jobs, not enough people).
I keep getting mails and phone calls from head hunters on a daily basis trying to entice me away from my current job to take this "fantastic opportunity" for some other programming jobs.
There's dozens of job agencies here that focus on IT jobs. Just google a bit around and you will find them. I'm sure they are more than happy if you contact them and offer your skills.

Anonymous said...

Funny, everyone wants to go to Switzerland.... I think it is fine without kids, but with kids. Think about are maybe not in the position to send your kids to private school in Switzerland. I have lived six years in Switzerland, my daughter entered the country with 14 month, my son was born there. Day care in Switzerland is very pricy, so I never started to work there. And my husband worked for a bank, so his salary was good. The most playgrounds belong to an appartment complexe, if you are not living there you are not always welcome. Public playgrounds are rare and often in a bad condition. (Not everyone is living in Zürich or Baden.) Kindergarten is mandatory as of 4, and from my experience very demanding. Kids are required to sit still and listen, sometimes for nearly an hour. Every step of your kid is monitored, before entering school they do assessment tests with tables apart (Hello, with 6 year olds?). I have found it very stressful and competitive at times for my daughter. There are lots of MUST DOS and not CAN DO.... The kindergarten starts at 8h40, but kids are allowed to come as of 8h20 (but not a minute earlier even in winter), finishes at 12 and begins again at 14h for 1,5 hour (one time in 1. kindergarten, 2 times at 2. kindergarten). Your kids should walk alone to kindergarten because you have to strengthen their independency.....and when school starts it is nearly the same. My kid spoke Swiss German without an accent but was still moked at school, because we are German. All kids are required to speak High German as of primary school. She was already able to, so she got fewer times to practice, reading or anything else. Maybe it was only this teacher but it was not a nice experience for a 6 year old. Best part was physical education which lasted one hour inclouding changing clothes and the obligatory shower afterwards.
But the best part is, when your kid is entering teen age, it will be difficult to find a spot in a school which prepares for university and most of all to GET one.

Switzerland is a beautiful country but it is really not always heaven to live there, and after six years of living a normal life (without payments and help from companys to settle there), I would not recommend to start life there. If everything is paid, do not hesitate it will be a fantastic opportunity!!!

Jennifer @ This Off Script Life said...

...Or you do what I did, and marry an EU citizen, who will bring you to Switzerland for his job. The only problem is that, depending on your line of work, it can be difficult to find a job in your field. I'm a U.S. licensed IP attorney, and I've found it really difficult to practice in Switzerland. So, I'm trying my hand at screenwriting and travel writing instead :)

Best of luck to everyone out there wanting to make the transition to Europe.

Stephanie said...

I went a similar route as Jennifer, and married a Swiss. I spent 5 years in Zurich, and now after returning to the U.S. last year, I realize how great of a country Switzerland truly is. You can hate Switzerland for a million reasons (as someone did above), but there's no denying it's a country bustling over with breath-taking natural beauty, efficient and reliable public transportation, feeling of safety and has a government that works and cares about it's people. I was also discouraged when seeking employment, but we could afford the style of living we wanted with my husband's salary, had an affordable, modest apartment (which as a side note was less than half the price we pay now in the outskirts of NYC) and could afford part-time childcare. Of course there is room for improvement, and the language itself can be a huge deterrent, but it's not a surprise that Switzerland consistently ranks high on quality of life.

Anonymous said...

I had been looking for a job in Europe after spending lots of time there as a consultant. Through a friend I found a Swiss company looking for a native English speaker with my particular skillset. This was six years ago, before the latest round of discussions about foreigners in Switzerland, but they did not seem to have a hard time getting the Visa for me. It is certainly not perfect here (but that is true of anywhere you live), but it is beautiful and a good place to rear children, at least so far.

Chantal said...

Danke all for the great comments. Yes, Switzerland is not right for everyone and it does take a lot of adjustment, but it's hard to argue that the country runs like the clockwork it manufactures. And it's beautiful. Good luck to those of you yodelers making big decisions.

Amanda said...

Our path: (Background -- my husband and I are both US citizens.) My husband (a mechanical engineer) took an internship during University with an international company with headquarters in Germany and Liechtenstein. After the internship, he was offered a full-time job at the Liechtenstein location, but since we couldn't live in FL, the company arranged for us to get residence permits to live in Switzerland. We got relocation benefits including moving costs, a stipend, and aid from a relocation specialist. (The relocation specialist was actually an American who worked for an international company that sent her to CH for work and she never left!) Unfortunately, our permits were for residence only, so I was not able to work under my partner's permit as many trailing spouses are able to do. We left because I could not find work that would sponsor me. Had my husband worked for a company that was actually based in Switzerland, I would have had no problem getting a teaching position at an international school. I know of some people who have applied directly to Swiss companies while still in the US and landed a job, but like Chantal mentioned you have to have a very specialized skill set.

Unknown said...

Random job that required a law degree and native English skills. But really, I think getting attached to one specific place or path is a mistake. Switzerland wasn't even on my radar, it came up as a random opportunity that I decided to try, and it ended up being a great place to go for a few years, but I think I would have enjoyed a lot of places for a few years. Being open to a new experience in an unexpected place is what will bring along a Switzerland (or an Australia or a Tanzania). I'm half-unrealistically plotting my next "Switzerland," perhaps this time in Africa.

Anonymous said...

Don't do it, stay where you are! Keep your questionable american "values" with you, don't disturb ours!

Chantal said...

The Frau agrees that you should keep your options open. You never know what country you will fall in love with or where the opportunity will be. There's a big world out there. The important thing is at least seeing and understanding a part of it so that you can better understand where you came from.

Alex said...

The last part, about finding a job, and the employer having to prove you're uniquely skilled, is rather funny. That's also valid for any foreigner that wants to move to the US and might have already found a job. The US makes it even harder than any European country. Basically, it's an even situation, altough I'm pretty sure the US will win the beaurocracy battle by far :D

Federica said...

For me, it was a job rotation with my employer, one year which turned into 2.5!
Switzerland was a random location, I actually wanted to go to Germany but they wouldn't let me because I did not speak German (at the time). It was not the first country where I moved to, nor the last. It was a great experience in many ways (friends I met, new places I saw, being close to my family, learning about a different way of living, etc.) but to be honest, I could't wait to leave at the end, I missed my U.S. life!

I just enjoy the "can-do" attitude here in the U.S., which I think is particularly suited for a "perpetually hungry" personality like mine.

I am now happily back in the U.S. for the long run. Ironically, both my fiance and I are from different European countries (Italy and Germany) but we could not imagine going back now (shhhh...don't tell our parents!), maybe in the future, who knows? We just like living in the U.S. too much - he has been here for 25 years and I, on and off, for almost 9. We do enjoy going back to visit our families and friends periodically (but they also come here to visit us).

I'd say that any experience living outside of one's own country (and comfort zone) is truly enriching and valuable. Switzerland may or may not be for everyone, but how will you know without giving it a try? ;)

Anonymous said...

My experience in moving to Switzerland was a rather long and tedious process that involved a lot of heartache. I wanted to move to Switzerland since I was 13 years old after I spent a lovely summer here. I came back for a summer when I was 15 and then got caught up in life, university, etc in California. Switzerland seemed like a far off dream until I came on holiday in 2008 and my lifelong family friends said I should try coming out for a year to live there. I looked for every opportunity until I decided it was not possible.

Then, in 2010, I was looking into MBAs in a particular field and was planning to do it in my hometown (so I could save money by living with parents) until an opportunity came to study in Switzerland. I applied and to my luck, I got in. It was an amazing year and I didn't want to leave. I found an internship in a European company that used my student visa to get me a working permit.

Once my permit expired, they tried to get me a normal B permit to work and it failed at the federal level (despite passing the commune and cantonal levels). I sadly had to return to the US and worked there for 2.5 years, never giving up hope that I would make it work out somehow, eventually.

I applied to jobs constantly in Switzerland. Jobs way below my level as well just to get something. In the end, I was getting rejection after rejection due to not already having a visa, being located far away, having an American passport, blah blah blah. Even after a few very promising interviews.

Finally, I was on what I told myself would be the last job application before giving up on the dream to return when I got my chance. It was with an international company that was able to hire from anywhere in the world and they were able to get my working permit approved in 3 business days!! I have been back in Switzerland for just over a year and I absolutely love it!! Working conditions, nature, active lifestyle, expat community, travel opportunities, etc...

Life is not perfect here (or anywhere else for that matter) and there are things I miss about home but for now, I am really happy I made it back here.

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