Moving to Switzerland? Enjoy These Insider Tips

A while ago* I asked if local internationals/expats in Switzerland would be keen to answer a few questions on life in Confoederatio Helvetica (aka Switzerland).  Switzerland is an impressively quiet country that people often wish to visit/relocate to but it find it difficult to obtain information on. Thus, I present to you, Q&A with people already living in Switzerland. I tried not to edit the responses so some answers may be formatted or phrased differently than others but this is an honest glimpse inside the lives of those that have already made the jump to Switzerland.

DKGL3163.jpg
Amazing Lucerne/Luzern by photographer Dominik Gehl

Where are/were you located in Switzerland and, if you wish to share, for how long:
Morges(VD) – 3.5 years
Basel (BS)
Lausanne (VD) – 2 years
Zurich (ZH) – 9 months
Lausanne (VD) – 4 years
Morges(VD) – 2 years
Geneva (GE)

Where are you from originally:
Germany
England
France
Scotland
Canada
USA
Chile

IMG_2213
View of Lac Léman/Lake Geneva from Morges by Jennifer Hart

Have you lived in other foreign countries before moving to Switzerland:
Yes – 5 votes
No – 2 vote

 

What Swiss languages do you use for daily life:
Swiss German
French
Mix of French and Swiss German
Sometimes Italian when I travel to Lugano for work
English tends to be a working language most places, as well

 

What is your native language:
English – 4 votes
French – 2 vote
German – 1 vote
I’m bilingual
Spanish -1 vote
Italian – 1 vote

DKGL2837
Zermatt by photographer Dominik Gehl

Important things (s) people should know when they relocate to Switzerland:
-Cost of living is very high
Shops are closed on Sundays and there are a lot of laws surrounding quiet hours (e.g. no placing glass in recycling bins at noon, no mowing the lawn on a Sunday). Life will be much easier if you try to follow the rules and embrace whatever comes your way without comparing it (unfavourably) to back home.
-Cost. Switzerland is very expensive. Housing, insurances and and food will consume the majority of your budget
-Salaries are higher here than elsewhere in Europe
-Weekends in Switzerland are for enjoyment, not work. There are rules around what you can/can’t do on a Sunday
-It is just as beautiful as you imagine
-Language, cost of living, culture regarding respect towards others, commercial business hours, necessary documentation, legal requirements e.g. driving, permits, communal living regulations
-Public schools are excellent

Favourite place in Switzerland:
-Have not been here long enough to see everything but for now I’ll say Lucerne/Luzern area
-Anywhere along Lake Geneva/Lac Léman
-Gruyères
-Montreux
-Lausanne (awesome restaurants)
-THE ALPS
-Ticino/Lake Lugano Italian area
-Zermatt
-Morges
Lausanne for the street food festival 

IMG_0820
Tulip at the Morges Tulip Festival by an anonymous friend 🙂

Favourite Swiss food:
Raclette (5 votes)
Fondue (4 votes)
Rösti (2 votes)
Gruyères meringues with local cream (Swiss dairy in general)

IMG_5786
Crans-Montana, Swiss Alps photograph by Jennifer Hart

Are/were you happy in Switzerland (these are direct copy and paste answers – extra exclamation points and all):
Absolutely
Very
YES!!
Yes!
Oh yes!! Even with the cost and rules. Wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!
Yes. I am homesick for English food sometimes but otherwise, Switzerland is now home.
YES. Geneva is a bit boring but the rest of Switzerland makes up for it.

Yes or No-you have gone to a Swiss mountain and sang The Hills Are Alive:
LOL not yet
Actually, yes I have. Even took a video
Not an Austrian nun so, no, I haven’t
Ummmm not yet but I kind of want to now
HAHA how’d you know?
No
Hadn’t occurred to me, but I now want to buy an edelweiss shirt and learn how to blow a swiss horn, while riding a cow…
Maybe…

Profession:
Software engineer
CMO
Translator
Writer
Software developer
Mom
Stay at home pet wrangler, occasional mother, professional eye roller and eccentric socially awkward recluse
Nanny
Thank you to all of my contributors. If you’d like to see more photography from Dominik Gehl, check out his Instagram account here You won’t be disappointed!!!

*This, and many other writing projects, were sidelined due to my computer crash swiftly followed by a fairly intense recovery from a brain trauma but here I am, back on track and ready to read, research and write!

Photo credits: Jennifer Hart, Dominik Gehl, anonymous (with permission) and banner image from Fotolia

Lausanne 2020 – Youth Olympic Games

We are so excited that the Youth Olympic Games 2020 will be happening in our neighbourhood!  Children are the future of sports and athletics. Some of them will  continue on to become the best in the world but many will take their experiences and grow to become informed sports scientists, doctors, engineers, etc.

Will you be here in 2020 to help cheer on the future of sports?

My own children are hoping to be part of the host nation ski team. Cross your fingers for them!!!

 

Photo and video credit: Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympic Games

 

 

From Audrey Hepburn to Chocolate: A Tour Through Morges

I am, without a doubt, a very visual person. I need to see things to understand them and make stories I’ve been told make sense. So, when I came across this video that shows what life in Morges, Switzerland is like, I knew I had to share it.

With vivid imagery from the local market to remembering Audrey Hepburn, this little video demonstrates the richness of our new home. Morges may be little, but she is definitely mighty!! Enjoy…and don’t blame me if you crave chocolate by the end of it!! 😉

Video Credit: D3 Studio
Photo Credit: Jennifer Hart

Winter Wonderland in Morges

The Canadian in me cringes a bit to admit that a “snow day” has now become something I get excited over .  Growing up in Thunder Bay, we had more than snow days, we had snow months!  However, I’ve been away for so long that I will admit that I have now become someone that gets giddy when fresh snow falls!

It should come as no surprise then how excited I was when I looked outside and saw that it snowed today in Morges. It was so pretty that I decided to take a little walk around town to take pictures and soak it all in. I’ve learned that many people think it snows everywhere in Switzerland all the time but those of us living by the lake benefit from a more temperate climate than what happens a few short minutes away in the Alps. Enjoy this short and sweet post dedicated to a very pretty snow day in my new hometown!

IMG_5694
Casino Restaurant by the lake
IMG_5703
Centre ville
IMG_5689
Alleyway snow
IMG_5687
Centre ville Morges
IMG_5697
Snowy sailboats

Photos: Jennifer Hart

Things I’ve learned about living in Switzerland thus far…

I’m going to go out on a limb and say I cannot be the only person who really didn’t know much about Switzerland when I moved here. I mean, I knew about Rolex, Cartier, the Alps, Heidi, The Sound of Music and cheese but apart from that, what did I REALLY know about this place? Embarrassingly, very little.

No clichés here!
No clichés here!

To the Swiss, I am sorry. To everyone else, feel free to ask questions if there is something you’d like to know.

So, I decided to compile an early list of things I have learned thus far.

1) This country is GORGEOUS! I mean, I knew that coming in but to be here daily with Mont Blanc standing in all her majesty across the lake, I feel like Switzerland never fails to take my breath away. In addition, the rolling hills of vineyards, the lake, the cities…it is all so beautiful. However, I encourage that you don’t just take my word for it, you should visit it. For more information on travel here, check out the MySwitzerland website. It is amazing portal of information.

View from our bedroom window...Lac Léman with Mont Blanc across the way
View from our bedroom window. Lac Léman with Mont Blanc across the way

2) Switzerland is expensive. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You think you’ve heard that before but aren’t a lot of places expensive? Yes, they are but not like this. The price of things here set my brain on fire the first month and I was coming from Paris where a box of Kraft Dinner/Mac and Cheese would set you back about $10CDN($7US) but there are two things here that help with that. Salaries here often more than make up for the price and the price adjustments that started this summer to combat the Swiss Franc inflation cap disappearing is making a big difference. So, when you DO come here, remember it is just going to be expensive and the Swiss really don’t care that ‘back home’ things cost a lot less. It’s not endearing to hear that over and over!

3) To combat number 2, I have discovered some amazing places to shop and ways to work the system. My favourite on the top of the list is Aligro. Aliwhat??? Aligro. This is Switzerland’s answer to places like Sam’s Club and Costco. The membership is free, the benefits are amazing. If you live here or are planning on a move here anytime soon, bookmark Aligro and check it out. You can thank me later (and a big thank you to my running buddy for pointing me in the Aligro-direction).

4) Cow bells are EVERYWHERE! So, we live in a pretty happening mini-city but you can imagine my surprise on a recent run when I heard all this clanging and chiming up ahead. It sounded like a group of people practicing how to ring a church bell. What was it? Oh, it was the local cattle hanging out that had recently returned from their summer grazing period in the mountains to the warmer and less harsh environment near the lake. So, the dog and I are learning to run to the sound of cow bells now and I really like it. It is almost hypnotic. Also, I have learned the reason for the bells coincides with the liberty the cows have to roam. Since they are not cooped up in factories or confined to small spaces, the cows often wander off on their own and can get lost. The bells act two-fold at this point. 1) it helps the farmer to possibly hear what direction the cow walked off in and 2) it helps hikers, VTT/mountain bikers and joggers hear if a cow is potentially going to cross their path. Cows rule here, us humans just have to go around. No one wants surprise face-to-face with a lost cow! The bells are an appreciated warning.

Well, hello there!
Well, hello there!

5) I knew this one before but I just wanted to reiterate it here: there is no such thing as Swiss Cheese (i.e. the stuff you see in cartoons where the cat is trying to catch the mouse). It is called Emmental after the amazing area it is from. There is, however, an abundance of amazing cheeses here which I am happily testing out.

6) Efficiency is really, truly not just a stereotype, it is a way of life. My biggest complaint of our 10 years in Paris was the inconsistency and absolute disorderly conduct in which everything was apparently run. Ask any expat in Paris how they feel about a trip to the local préfecture and watch their body language change and their eyes roll. It’s a make-work project at its finest. Here, I could cry with how efficient it is and maybe, just maybe, I have once or twice already. I doubt I would appreciate it as much if I had moved from somewhere else that handled things with a degree of effectiveness but I did not and for that I say I even MORE grateful when I go the local commune with a problem and leave 20 mins later with the problem solved and a ‘bonne journée’ from the person serving me. It’s the little things, y’all!

7) The people are NICE. Before moving here I was warned by people and by countless hours of research online that the Swiss are guarded and unfriendly. I am happy to report I haven’t seen that. They have their way of doing things and it is very very much governed by the need for this to be succinct and controlled but that works for me. I’d rather know where I’m standing than not. We moved in and received flowers, cupcakes and a box of apricots (because they are very Swiss and were very ‘in season’ at the time of our arrival) from our neighbours. My children have been thanked by our neighbours for being helpful with carrying back the communal compost bins and I have been thanked for keeping our garden/lawn looking nice. Our elderly neighbour, a Swiss German now living in Suisse Romande, even asked if I needed help with learning how to plant in extremely rocky soil. She actually also asked if I needed to borrow anything like pots or pans before we had fully unpacked. So, maybe the unfriendly Swiss are coming but they haven’t come my way yet and this post IS about what I have learned so far…

8) The wine is great. I don’t need to go too deep on this one as I have already posted about it here but it is something I have learned so it is worth the mention again.

9) There is a LOT to do here. I mean a crazy amount. I was a bit worried at first that we would have to buy heaps of expensive gear to get our lives established here since were are on of THOSE families that likes to do a lot of adventurous things together. However, they have it sorted out, folks!! Since kids grow every single day I was really worried about buying ski gear every year. No need. We went to Francois Sport in Bremblens and got on the rental scheme. You can rent skis/poles/boots for both downhill and cross-country (as well as other sports like snowshoeing, sledding, etc) for an ENTIRE SEASON and just return them at the end of the year. If your kid grows mid-season? No problem, bring the gear in and exchange it for free. Everything the juniors got was brand new, never been used and is costing us a whopping 100CHF per kid for the season. They also do the same with adult stuff so you can either rent for a season if you can’t afford to buy, don’t want to buy or like being someone with brand new kit every single year. They have it sorted.

Juniors and their rental gear!
Juniors and their rental gear!

10) This one is personal but so is this blog so I will post it. I have learned that after countless years of moving, soul-searching, trying out different lives and trends, I have found ‘home’. I don’t know what it is but the very first day we arrived I felt a weight off my shoulders I didn’t know I was carrying. I have the mountains, the lake, the beaches, the city and a happy family. We are all so happy here that it kind of stings when people say ‘make the most if it while you are there’ or ‘Let’s hope Mr H keeps his job’. Moving here wasn’t a lark. It wasn’t a rash decision. We chose this and had chosen it years before it happened. Mr H negotiated his permit to be one that was not attached to his job and allowed us to stay no matter what. We chose this and we continue to choose it every day. I choose it when I get up and head out to get muddy with the dog on a run along the lake. I choose it when I put on heels and head out with Mr H for dinner. I choose it when I pick up my kids from school looking the happiest they have ever looked. We are allowed to choose this so I hope people accept that means there will be no ‘going back’ to someone else’s idea of what home should be for us. It’s a hard thing for some to accept and we’ve already faced ‘commentary’ on this but we are here and we plan to stay. It wasn’t an accident that brought us here. It wasn’t ‘just a job’. It was a choice to live the life we wanted to live.

Rosé by the lake on a hot summer day.
Rosé by the lake on a hot summer day (Mont Blanc in the background).

So, there you have it.  I can’t wait to see what else I learn along the way but for now I am a very happy student on Swiss life.

Photo credits: Jennifer Hart, Fotolia

“A Table!” Lessons in Expat Cooking – La Domaine de la Ville de Morges: Part I

Ever wonder why the classic Swiss Army Knives such as this Victorinox model have a wine corkscrew on them? You might think, “It’s Switzerland, right? A fondue fork or a cowbell make more sense than a corkscrew!!” Well my friends, before moving here I would have agreed with you. Then we became locals and learned: The Swiss Make Amazing Wine.

Read that again and let it sink in.

Swiss wine? Is that a joke? No, it isn’t and not only is it not a joke, it is one of their best-kept secrets! Swiss wines are ‘out of this world’ good. So good, in fact, that they have been trumping my other classic favourites from France, Italy and Spain as of late when choosing what to buy or drink with dinner. I have a newfound love and respect for what makes Swiss wines so great and why you should go straight to your local wine shop and ask if they have any Swiss wines for you to try, too. To be clear, this will not be a typical A Table! post where I recipe share for all of you. I have decided to celebrate the local award-winning wines and share what I have learned since moving here: never underestimate a Swiss wine!

First, I must admit that finding information on Swiss wines to share with an English audience has been difficult and somewhat limited. These local award-winning wines are promoted and celebrated locally, which means international press and articles are difficult to come by. Also, and let’s be honest, the Swiss are modest people. So modest, in fact, that we didn’t know that by moving to Morges we were relocating to one of the biggest powerhouses in Swiss wine production: the region known as La Côte. The area where we live has been producing wine since the 1200s and in 1547, the township of Morges became the proprietors of Domaine de la Ville de Morges. That’s right, our community owns a vineyard that it is seriously worth taking notice of!

With a space of over 50ha, the Domaine de la Ville produces 13 different wines including red, white and rosé varietals. Included on this list:
La Grand’Rue Chasselas Reserve
-2015 World Champion Chasselas
-Médaille D’Argent au Grand Prix du Vin Suisse 2015
-Lauriers d’Or Terravin 2015
vignette.aspx-2

Also produced by the Domaine de la Ville: Les Guérites with the Millésime 2013 recently winning the Médaille D’Or au Grand Prix du Vin Suisse 2015. The Millésime 2013 will be available for sale in December this year and also received the distinction of being nominated in the category of meilleur vin d’assemblage rouge.

vignette.aspx-3

A shout out of congratulations must also be given to Domaine de la Ville de Morges for recently winning 5 medals at the 2015 Swiss Wine Grand Prix (3 silver and two gold). Not bad for a local vineyard!

So it only stands to reason that I must now follow this post with a second one in the coming weeks including a visit to the vineyard, samplings and suggested food pairings. I suffer for my writing but it is worth it for the sake of education 😉 !
Any takers on paying a visit to the Domaine with me?

For now I will continue to enjoy my glass of Le Protagoniste at night!

To the winemakers at Domaine de la Ville, I hope to see you soon. Continue to strive for excellence and just know that your fan base is growing!

Photo credits: Fotolia, Domaine de la Ville de Morges