Posts Tagged ‘Switzerland’

Moving Abroad: Finding Ways To Do It

Tina Ferrari
  • By Tina Ferrari
  • October 27th, 2010

One thing I have learned through the years is that to live abroad, you absolutely must not limit yourself to thinking *inside* the box in terms of figuring out how to do it.  I grew up with a desire to live abroad, and while in my very young years I was probably little bit unrealistic in my fantasies (if I were to talk to the Tina Ferrari from 15 years ago, I’d say no, you may not just show up without a plan, papers, etc.), it was a positive time for me.  As I grew up and got more realistic, however, I began thinking it was less and less possible to live abroad.

I didn’t have exciting grades or tons of university credits.  I didn’t have money; in fact, I had some debt.  I didn’t have any sort of prospect for a regular work visa. I thought overseas assignments were just for executives making the big bucks.  There were times when I was downright sad that I couldn’t figure out a way to get over the pond and have my adventures.  The truth is, however, that no two expat stories are the same. In my travels, I have learned some ways to be creative in living abroad.

1. Au pair in Switzerland. Now, I say Switzerland and not Europe because as far as I know, no EU countries have an actual “au pair” visa (in fact, I hear they convince you to get a student visa to be allowed to stay as an au pair).  I, on the other hand, lived in Swizerland for 8 months, in 2002.  I found a family through an au pair agency, they took care of getting me the proper domestic worker visa, and I was on my way.  What is an au pair, you ask? It’s a young adult who lives with a family and helps with the children part-time in exchange for a small stipend, room and board.  There is the chance that upon arrival you find yourself working more as a maid and teaching the child English instead of learning the local language, but there you go.  Being an au pair.  While there were a lot of things I didn’t like about it, it was a great way to get my feet wet in Europe and immerse myself in another culture.  I fell in love with the beauty of Switzerland, was just a couple hours from Italy, and, most importantly, I was legal.

2.  As a student. Well, in Italy if you want to enroll in a University as a regular student it’s not so easy.  You have to have somewhere around a zillion college credits, and when you move over there you start from the bottom. If you enroll in several months at a language school, it is rarely possible, as the school must be recognized by the Italian education ministry.  But, there are a few which are recognized.  In my case, in 2006, this was the University for Foreigners of Perugia.  I enrolled for six months, took the program on language and translation, and off I went.  The classes were boring but I had my way into Italy.

3. Citizenship. Okay, this isn’t always available to everyone.  But in my case I qualified for Italian citizenship because of a direct line to my great-grandfather who never renounced his citizenship.  It took a long time and was frustrating at some points, but in the end it happened.  It’s worth it to look into your family history and see if you may have a blood connection to another country, and see what your options are.  (If you’re looking into Argentina, your options for residing permanently are, if I remember correctly: marry an Argentine, be born to an Argentine, or give birth to an Argentine.)

How did you find a way to move abroad legally?

Tina Ferrari is a tango dancer, translator and writer currently based in Lecce, Italy. She writes as well as on her own blog, Tina Tangos. Comments are always welcome!

Top Swiss Expat Blogs

Chantal Panozzo
  • By Chantal Panozzo
  • September 29th, 2010

By Chantal Panozzo

What blog are you looking at?

What blog are you looking at?

One of the easiest ways to make the transition to life in Switzerland is to read a few good expat blogs. The writers can become both characters and friends, and much of the information you’ll find on blogs is entertaining, personal, and real.

Below I’ve listed some of my favorite Swiss blogs, in no particular order:

Write On This blog is sponsored by the news site, Every two months, it features a different blogger, so the blog offers a variety of opinions and perspectives on life in the land of cheese and chocolate.

ExpatCH To learn to love roesti and raclette, conquer avalanche paranoia, and stop smiling so much, read this new blog, written by American freelancer Bill Harby.

Kelly & Wojtek’s Blog Learn to speak German, go on fabulous Swiss hikes, and know just where to take a lady in Switzerland, by reading this blog, written by one of the founders of the Zurich Writers Workshop.

Musings from a Mad Cow Read this blog and you’ll benefit from lessons in adjective profanity, facts learned from reading the freebie local paper, and more. Also written by a Zurich Writers Workshop co-founder.

Twissted Swisster What happens when an American businessman moves to Switzerland? He learns to play the alphorn, he learns how to busk in the streets of Switzerland, and he just can’t seem to stop photographing cows.

From A to Z Written by fellow ACC blogger, Kristi, From A to Z is a hilarious look at all facets of Swiss living. From making fun of trolls on English Forum (oh there are many!), to living with dogs in Switzerland “yes I am THAT dog owner”, From A to Z leaves no topic untouched by sarcasm.

One Big Yodel This post just wouldn’t be complete without a little self-promotion. On my own Swiss expat blog, I ponder the lack of cheddar in the land of cheese, the 10 steps that make up a decision to move abroad (#7: check who is president—2006), as well as staying on top of the latest news (stop the press! The grocery store in Wildegg is now open during lunchtime!).

What are your favorite expat blogs?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland who has written for a variety of publications on two continents. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad.

Canton Aargau. What’s not to love?

Chantal Panozzo
  • By Chantal Panozzo
  • September 23rd, 2010

By Chantal Panozzo

Canton Aargau. A place to call home?

Canton Aargau. A place to call home?

When expats are choosing where to settle in Switzerland, Canton Aargau is never high on their list. They want to live in Zurich, Geneva, or Basel—not in little towns in the middle of nowhere. And who can blame them?

When I moved to Switzerland, I had no idea that I would be living in Canton Aargau, otherwise known as the Alabama of Switzerland. I just thought, I’m 15 miles from Zurich, how different can it be?

Well, life is a little different, even a few miles west of Zurich. Not everyone is a redneck in Canton Aargau, but people tend to be a bit old-fashioned here. Kids still come home for lunch. People can still smoke in bars and restaurants. And English is not as prevalent as it is in Canton Zurich.

Even though I often get made fun of for living here, living in Canton Aargau has its advantages: there are fewer expats and thus permits are easier to obtain. You are forced to learn German because your survival depends on it. And there’s something to be said for living in a traditional Swiss village versus a big international city like Zurich. You get the real deal Switzerland.

Another advantage to living in Canton Aargau is that unlike living in Canton Zurich, you do not need to pass a German exam to obtain that coveted C Permit. In Zurich, you must pass the A2 German test or higher to obtain your C Permit. For most people, this shouldn’t be a problem, but still, the test means time and money (about CHF 300).

Canton Aargau is also interesting because of its many castles. From the castle ruin in Baden to the completely furnished castle in Wildegg, the area can be fun to explore. You can even hike from castle to castle. For example, Lenzburg castle is only a 3-kilometer hike from Wildegg castle. And both castles can be toured and also have beautiful gardens.

Sometimes I think life would be easier in one of Switzerland’s “big cities” for an expat, but still. I’ll always have a special feeling for my Swiss home. I even own a Canton Aargau flag now. Yes.

What canton do you live in?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland who has written for a variety of publications on two continents. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad.

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Don’t Miss the Cow Parade

Chantal Panozzo
  • By Chantal Panozzo
  • September 7th, 2010

By Chantal Panozzo

The Alpabzug in Urnaesch

The Alpabzug in Urnaesch/Photo: Chantal Panozzo

Big bells. Flower headdresses. Men in yellow knickers. What’s not to love? One of my favorite parts of fall in Switzerland is an event known as the Alpabzug. What exactly is that? It’s a big festival that involves dressing up cows and sending them down from the mountains for the winter. There are several of these cow parades going on in Switzerland in September:

Descent of the Alpine cattle in Brigels/Breil

September 11, 2010

Descent of the Alpine sheep in Leukerbad

September 12, 2010

Sichlete Descent of the Alpine Cattle in Bern

September 13, 2010

Descent of the Alpine cattle in Flims (this is a beautiful area of Switzerland and the cows here wear flowers headdresses)

September 18, 2010

Descent of the Alpine cattle and farmer’s market in Urnaesch (this is the traditional cow march with yodeling, alpine cheese, and Appenzeller fashions—i.e. yellow knickers. See One Big Yodel for more information. However, the cows here do not wear flowers, they wear big bells.)

September 18, 2010

Alpine Festival with descent of the Alpine cattle in Charmey

September 25, 2010

Procession of the Alpine cattle in Weggis

September 25, 2010

Procession of the Cows in Crans-Montana

September 25, 2010

Descent of cows from mountain pasture Moiry

September 25, 2010

Don’t forget to bring your camera. And don’t just stand there, why not follow the procession yourself? I did this last year and ended up back at a farmer’s home near Urnaesch where the family yodeled together, like it was just something normal you do. And for them, it was. It was definitely something to see.

What’s your favorite cow parade in Switzerland?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland who has written for a variety of publications on two continents. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad.

Biking in Switzerland

Chantal Panozzo
  • By Chantal Panozzo
  • September 3rd, 2010

By Chantal Panozzo

Bikers take over the roads at a SlowUp event in Switzerland

Bikers take over the roads at a SlowUp event in Switzerland

The police in Switzerland will do anything to keep their jobs. Crime rates are low, so things that would never be considered criminal in other countries get top priority here: trash procedures must be strictly observed or you may face a CFH 250 fine just for putting your bag out early, people flushing toilets after 10 p.m. may be investigated, and then there are those equally crazy people riding bikes.

A few weeks ago in Zurich, police had nothing better to do than to stop every biker and check to see if they had their “velovignette” sticker. These are registration stickers (yes, you must register your bike), available at the Migros customer service desk as well as at many sports stores and the post office. The stickers must be purchased yearly if you ride a bike in Switzerland. They only cost five francs, but if you don’t have one, the mistake could end up costing you a lot more: 40 francs.

The velovignette sticker provides the rider with liability insurance in case of a crash. It’s also supposed to make finding and returning stolen bicycles easier.  The sticker system has been in place for fifty years but for many expats, it’s a new concept.

Besides a little sticker shock, Switzerland is a great country for bikers. Most roads have marked bike paths, hundreds of mountain trails beg for attention, and from April to September, numerous SlowUp events are held throughout the country.

I’m particularly partial to SlowUp events because they allow me to see parts of the country I otherwise wouldn’t see. Every other week or so, about 30-60 kilometers of roads are closed to motor vehicles on a Sunday. Taking over the roads instead, bikers and inline skaters form a giant street party and free granola bars and apple juice are typically offered along the route.

If you’re a biker in Switzerland, where do you like to ride?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland who has written for a variety of publications on two continents. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad.

Finding your place in a new country

Chantal Panozzo
  • By Chantal Panozzo
  • August 18th, 2010

Searching for yourself can be tough

Searching for yourself can be tough

By Chantal Panozzo

Moving abroad can be difficult. Suddenly you’re far away from friends and family and the ways of life that you knew best. It can be isolating. It can be confusing. And if you’re a trailing spouse who has given up your job so your spouse can advance his, it can feel like you’ve lost your identity.

So how do you gain that identity back?

By focusing on what you love. By giving yourself goals to accomplish. By becoming that hidden person you always wanted to be.

For me, this meant focusing on my writing. Giving myself goals so that I would write a book while also getting to know fellow writers. Writing a blog also helped me accomplish this. So has founding a group and event.

Part of my work as a writer abroad meant co-founding a writing workshop. It’s called the  Zurich Writers Workshop and the first event will be held October 1-3, 2010. It will feature workshops in both fiction and creative non-fiction writing. The instructors will include New York Times Bestselling Author Susan Jane Gilman and University of Oxford Fiction Tutor Amal Chatterjee. You’re invited.

Other expats I know have found their place by taking art or language classes, creating greeting cards and selling them at local markets, or taking leadership roles in already established clubs like the American Women’s Club of Zurich. I know expats who have also learned to play the alphorn and made Swiss friends in the process, found part-time jobs volunteering, and others who focus on entering sporting events like triathlons and bike races. And then of course, there’s always the option of looking for a job that will allow you to continue the career you had before. Just remember to have patience. No matter what you focus on, developing a new identity takes time.

Have you found your identity in your adopted country? If so, what was key for you?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland who has written for a variety of publications on two continents. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad.

Great Swiss Cities

Chantal Panozzo
  • By Chantal Panozzo
  • August 2nd, 2010

Forget about Zurich. Take the train here.

By Chantal Panozzo

Ah, the great Swiss cities. High standards of living. Clean streets. Safe for children. In the 2010 Mercer Quality of Living survey, three Swiss cities made the top 10.  And I’ve got three words for that: Blah. Blah. Blah.

Yes, this is all true. Yes, Switzerland is wonderful. But we’ve heard it all before and all of these facts about perfection are starting to bore me.

It’s time to have fun. Fun in Switzerland? Yes. It is possible. So in this post we will not be talking Zurich, Geneva, or Bern. We will be talking about Bitsch. And Bubikon. And Locarno FART. These are all proper Swiss cities. Cities so great, they make you get out your camera before you even leave the train station.

And there’s more: Buttikon. Wankdorf. Weggis. Wow. You have to admit, we expats in Switzerland live in a great country.

My little Swiss town even celebrates a thing called Badenfahrt where you can buy a shirt that says “Baden” on the front and “Fahrt” on the back. Yes. They wear them proudly. And no, I am not above bathroom humor.

But it makes me wonder—what English words do German and French speakers find hilarious? One of my Swiss friends likes the word “saliva.” He thinks it sounds like the name of a transvestite. Another Swiss friend cringes at the word “pickle” because it sounds like the German word for “pimple.”

Oh, and to sum it all up, I have had multiple opportunities to shop at Anis in Wunderland in Zurich, but if you live far away, never fear, you can just visit their website: Oh, and I live on the Badstrasse. Which, in German, is quite pleasant, but auf Englisch, it is probably not such a good thing.

What’s your favorite Swiss city?

Dining out In Zurich – For all Budgets

Kristi Remick
  • By Kristi Remick
  • August 2nd, 2010

Photo courtesy of Hiltl

Photo courtesy of Hiltl

By Kristi Remick

OK, beating  a dead horse alert – Zurich is expensive.  Not only is it expensive, it isn’t known for being a food mecca and for a wannabe foodie like myself, it was one of the things that really unnerved me when we decided to move here.  I love to eat out and I even have a few rules:

A. It must taste and look good

B. The product must justify the cost

C. The service should be good as it is part of the experience

D. I must feel the need to rub my belly vigorously afterwards and/or be so in love with my dish that I talk to it like it is a newborn child…and not just any newborn child, MY newborn child

I have come to find out that my rules and eating out criteria are a bit too stringent for Zurich.  The food here doesn’t always taste and look good, the product very rarely justifies the cost, the service is typically short of mediocre and I as I indicated in a post on my site recently, my stomach has atrophied due to lack of use (it is a muscle you know).  Let’s be fair though, even though Zurich doesn’t have the plethora of good, cheap eats that I once took for granted in Atlanta, it does have good eats for all budgets…ahem, Swiss Budgets that is.

$ (5- 15 francs per person) Vorderer Sternen Grill – In my opinion the BEST veal sausage stand in Zurich and many will agree with me.  You will never find this place void of a line and for around 15 francs you can get a St. Galler Bratwurst, pommes frites and an ice cold tall boy beer. You can dine here or take your sausage across the street and dine on the lake.

$$ (15-50 francs per person) Hiltl – If there is a Zurich food institution, it is Hiltl.  Founded in 1898, it is Zurich’s oldest vegetarian restaurant. Since Zurich cuisine is heavily German influenced, the fact that a vegetarian restaurant has survived over 100 years in the land of sausage, cheese and potatoes is in and of itself a miracle. Boasting the most amazing buffet I have ever encountered and great a la carte selections, Hiltl is my “go to” place for a solid, healthy meal here in Zurich.  The food here is heavily influenced by a variety of Asian cuisines and even has some Swiss classics like the vegetarian form of Zuricher Art.

$$$ (50-120 francs per person) Restaurant Kreis 6 – The city of Zurich is divided into districts or neighborhoods called “Kreis” and this little restaurant, set in a small house where its walls are covered by modern art,  is cleverly named after its location.  I was unable to find their website but this restaurant came highly recommended to my husband and I for a romantic dinner location.  While the service was a bit rocky at first, the food and ambiance quickly made up for the few hiccups which were quickly rectified.  Be careful though, if you get an appetizer, main, dessert and wine, then you will easily ring up a bill of 120 francs (or more) per person.

$$$$ (Anything over 120 francs per person) Restaurant Mesa – This one star Michelin rated restaurant is worth the splurge.  The food was artistically presented, balanced and delicious.  The service was impeccable and I left with my pants unbuttoned.  If we can one day afford it again, we would happily go back.

I haven’t scratched the surface of what Zurich has to offer food wise because after being let down over and over again, I stick to what I know tastes good for the money I am willing to spend.  I need to get over this fear though and rely on recommendations from trusted sources. Anyone out there have a favorite restaurant in Zurich?  If so, help a wannabe foodie and her readers out?

When I am not busy stuffing my face with chocolate, you can find me over at From A to Z blogging about my life in Zurich Switzerland.

Budget Travel in Switzerland

Chantal Panozzo
  • By Chantal Panozzo
  • July 23rd, 2010

By Chantal Panozzo

Save money in Switzerland. Really.

Save money in Switzerland. Really.

Chinese food, $25. 1-hour train ride, $60. Night in a Swiss hotel, $200. How the heck can someone travel on a budget in Switzerland?

After all, Switzerland recently was reported as having the highest hotel rates in Europe. It’s tough to find anything under $200 a night, let alone $150. Even on the Swiss Budget Hotels website, “budget” is considered the prices I quoted above. Yes.

So what’s a traveler to do?

Travel like a European. By staying longer, you’ll save more.



The key to making a vacation affordable in Switzerland is to rent an apartment.  But since most apartments are only available for a minimum of seven nights, you need to stop vacationing like an American with your head cut off and start vacationing like a lazy European that doesn’t have anywhere to be except in a chair enjoying the scenery. And staying seven nights in an apartment will be cheaper than a long weekend at a hotel. Guaranteed. Staying a week will also guarantee you at least a few days of decent weather too.

In the resort town of Bettmeralp near the Aletsch glacier, an apartment can be found for 2 people for around CHF 500 total for 7-nights. An apartment also means you’ll have a kitchen so you can cook your own food and forgo the restaurants where a “good deal” for a meal for two is CHF 60. Some apartments are also available with free Internet, which means no fees at Internet cafés, and many also have washing facilities so you can vacation longer but pack lighter.

Another hint: don’t pay full price for your train/lift tickets. Find deals through local tourism offices, Rail Away offers, and if you live in Switzerland, make sure you at least have the ½ price card.

How do you save money when traveling in Switzerland?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad. She’s also the co-founder of the Zurich Writers Workshop.

Vacation like a European

Chantal Panozzo
  • By Chantal Panozzo
  • July 21st, 2010

By Chantal Panozzo

Sitting in one spot can be tough for an American

Staying in one spot can be tough for an American

My husband and I have been in Switzerland for four years now so it’s time to try something a little scary: to vacation like a European. In other words, go to one place (and one place only!) for an entire week with nothing on the agenda but to relax.

Relax? We’re Americans. Do we know how to do this?

I admit, I have gotten a little better at relaxing since moving abroad. I no longer have the urge to say, “I’m so busy!” just to make myself feel worthy. But still. A whole week of vacation in one location? One? This will be a big experiment. This will tell us if we really are becoming Swiss.

Americans are notorious for their checklist vacations. One glance at the Big Ben and they’ve moved on to the Eiffel Tower. But years of hearing Swiss and German colleagues insult my vacation plans—“You’re only going to Spain for 10 days and visiting THREE whole cities”—has taken its toll.  So here’s my next vacation plan: there is none.

We’re renting an apartment in the Alps for a week. That’s all I know. Maybe we’ll hike, bike, rent a paddleboat, read, cook…I’ll stop myself now before I turn into a full-blown American and plan the whole thing.

In Switzerland, where hotels are the most expensive in Europe, it pays to stay in a place for a week. In many cases, it’s cheaper to go for a week than a long weekend. For example, in the resort town of Bettmeralp, 2 people can get an apartment for an entire week for CHF 500. But one night at a hotel will cost this same couple CHF 200. Another reason, perhaps, that the Europeans choose the vacation style that they do.

Have you ever gone on a vacation and stayed in one place for an entire week?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer in Switzerland. She’s the author of One Big Yodel, a blog about life in Switzerland and moving abroad, and also discusses living abroad as a freelancer at Writer Abroad.

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