Mixed feelings about Switzerland: from initial enthusiasm to disappointment: Two and a half years of living in the land of cheese, alps, bankers and high standards!
Not! This is not typical Balkan whining and complaining, but only a personal experience of a country, 4th in the world in terms of quality of life (it depends on which portal you look at), various emotional phases that I experienced during my life in that country, and at the end of the day, a conclusion that will be very probably, to change some more times because I still live there.
And so the excitement began, the bureaucracy – fantastic. the next day I submitted the work permit form, attached the contract and passport, it took 5 minutes and I did it….in the village! At first I thought it was a more important village, but I was wrong. Every village has a municipality, if the village is smaller, the municipality works only a few hours a day and it is a part-time job for the employees. I will never forget the employee’s reaction when I asked how I could find out that I was properly registered. She asked me with amazement: what do you mean! Just to know that everything is legal and orderly. She answered like out of the blue: if you suspect anything, come to us immediately, don’t wait even a second!!! Ok, ok, just asking. Her reaction made me feel safe. Opening a bank account: on the website of the bank, you click on opening an account: it tells you to prepare your passport and click “Contact me”. In 3 minutes you receive a video call, give your information, show your passport from all sides and it’s done in 5 minutes. The account opening confirmation and card PINs arrive the next day, and the cards the day after. Verbatim! Because of such situations, the country impressed me. The Swiss didn’t ask where I was from, they are very kind, ready to help or direct me to the right address. Parents don’t take their children to school, no matter how small they are, I don’t see police patrols, video surveillance only in the bank, everyone greets them on the street…with a smile. Hmmmm! Utopia!
Job? For one chef – a real surprise. 9-14 17.30-21.30, sometimes from 12-21.30, 2 days a week free. It is not allowed to come to work too early, it is mandatory to take a 30-minute break, there is little overtime, and they are compensated very quickly on a day off, check-in and check-out with a fingerprint, the salary must be paid by the 4th of the month.
Salary benefits are around 15% but do not include health insurance. It is divided into franchises in the amounts of 2,500, 300, etc. francs. The amount of the deductible tells you how much medical expenses you have to bear annually (if you use health services) If the deductible is 2500 fr. you pay up to that amount yourself, and after that 90% of the costs are taken over by the insurance company, but that’s why the monthly installment is around 210 fr. Franchise code 3oo fr. up to that amount per year you bear the costs yourself, after that the insurance company pays 90% of the amount, but that’s why the monthly installment is 330 fr. No matter how you turn it, even if you exceed the deductible amount, you still pay 10% of each service, ambulance transport is not included (except in the case of an accident and serious injuries). So, healthcare is expensive, I think it’s even the most expensive in Europe, but the service is excellent. Every village has a general practitioner, who also has his own small laboratory and pharmacy. If you need an MRI, the doctor of general medicine writes a request to the hospital of your choice, they call you the same day from that hospital and offer appointments within a few days, of your choice. How much it costs, and it must be up to par.
Pension. The right is acquired after 5 years of full-time employment and amounts to approx. 500 francs The basic pension cannot be withdrawn and is paid monthly when the retirement age is reached. The first, second and third (voluntary) pension column can be withdrawn in full or monthly, distributed as you wish. It can also be withdrawn early for 4 reasons: buying real estate, investing in education, investing or leaving the country.
Rents are high. In the villages, they start from 800 fr per month for a small studio with utilities included and a parking space and beyond. That’s how much a room costs in Zurich. If utilities are not included, only electricity is paid and the amount is 50-100 fr. per month, if the apartment has electric heating, approx. during the winter it rises to approx. 250 fr. per month. Each municipality has its own municipal company responsible for garbage collection, and branded bags can be purchased at the local supermarket or municipality, and the price depends on the municipality. For example, in Bonaduz, 1 bag of 35L costs 2.8 fr. and a single person needs approximately 3 bags per month. For the sake of comparison, in the municipality of Selva, the same 35L bag costs 1.65 fr. Why? I do not know. I heard it depends on how much the municipality subsidizes waste disposal. The subscription to Radio Television is mandatory, it is paid per apartment and amounts to 328 fr per year, the payment slip comes once a year and you get nothing for that amount. Which means, if you connect the antenna to the TV, you will still not have programs, you simply have to buy the TV program service from a provider. Every man, if he cannot be a member of the volunteer fire department, receives a payment slip of 440 fr. And you can’t be a member if you don’t speak Swiss German fluently or if you live in the canton of Graubunden, additionally speak retro-Romance fluently (an authentic Swiss language spoken only in Graubunden, compulsory in schools and spoken by about 400,000 inhabitants). Unlimited mobile phone contract within Switzerland with 4G network from 25 francs. monthly up to 80 fr. per month for the 5G network and unlimited in Switzerland and the entire EU.
Prices? Like the standard – high. I read a study that said the Swiss pay 2.7 times more for meat than the rest of the EU. Chicken drumstick and drumstick in Lidl and Aldi 7.5 fr./kg, chicken breast 26 fr./kg onwards frozen, pork 13 fr./kg onwards, ground beef 15 fr./kg onwards, cubed beef 30 fr. /kg onwards. Imports are heavily controlled and they only fill needs that cannot be produced. The quality of meat and food is high, very high! Quality is what the Swiss demand and are ready to pay for. A single person needs about 400-500 fr per month. monthly for food if you eat 2 times a day, mostly chicken and once a week a piece of beef or pork. A pack of cigarettes costs 7 fr. furthermore, Marlboro 9 fr. and the price is not the same everywhere, even some supermarkets have weekly promotions on a certain brand of cigarettes and give a discount of 10-15% until the stock runs out. I’ve also heard stories that some Swiss live on yogurt and muesli most of the time, because that’s how they get by with 200 fr. per month for food.
Saving is something they are obsessed with. They rarely leave a tip, and when they do it’s rarely 5%, regardless of the amount. They use cash a lot. They like expensive and sports cars, they often have at least 2 per family, they are not interested in fashion, so you can’t find the same collections in H&M, C&A, Tally Weijl and similar stores as in the rest of Europe. Even more, you have the feeling that you are in a store for old people.
Security and trust. As well as the slogan of the MUP of the Republic of Croatia. The crime rate is extremely low, and it is most prevalent in the larger cities, while it is almost non-existent in the villages. You order something online, the delivery person leaves it outside the door and it sits there until you pick it up and nobody touches it. I remember a situation when a colleague ordered a laptop and received an email that it had been delivered, but there was no package. She contacted the post office, the post office instructed her to notify the store. After 2 hours, she gets a call from the post office that a man brought her package because he accidentally took it and that the laptop is waiting for her at the post office! I ordered a package with cycling equipment, the delivery man left it at the wrong entrance, after 2 days I met a neighbor who told me that my package had been sitting in their warehouse for 2 days. When I was buying tires for my car, I ordered them from a local service center, changed them on my old Skoda with Croatian plates, when I wanted to pay, the employee told me that they would send me an invoice to the address I gave them. They didn’t even ask for an identity card or proof of residence and information, the bill arrived in 3 weeks with a one month delay in payment. I know it’s not like that in all of Switzerland, but it is in the majority, and that’s there… Normal.
And then why do I write there at the beginning about disappointment? The first employer was really a hysterical and neurotic lady who squeezed the employees to the last. Very often she shouted at the employees and it was mostly the mood in which she woke up. We parted ways when I asked for a raise or a bonus because I was a chef and I worked in the kitchen with one helper, while normally the team consisted of 4 people: 3 cooks + helper. The explanation was that there is none. OK, no problem, I believe you, so I found another job as a chef and left. The new employer was initially a very pleasant person, calm and honest. Over time, he also turned out to be a character obsessed with savings, especially on people, investments in the exterior of hotels and restaurants, and an old and dysfunctional kitchen inside. A man looking to save 25 fr. on the purchase of tools for the kitchen or the bar, and on the other hand, he takes you to a restaurant for dinner, where a minimum of 200 fr. is spent per person. If there were any bitter discussions, they were about money. I lived in his studio that he built for his staff. The price of the studio was 630 fr. until I told him that the girl was going to move in with me. He increased my rent by 220 fr. monthly under the explanation that the price of electricity will rise and that the apartment is being used more. OK. That’s your price, we found another, bigger apartment and when I canceled his apartment, he got offended! How much am I worth to you as your chef? An increase of 220 fr. x 12 months is 2640 fr. per year. Aren’t I worth that much to you?
Mentality. The more time I spent with them, the better I got to know them. From people who greet you with a smile when you meet them on the street, and return the package they took by mistake to people who are extremely cold deep down, do not know how to have fun and enjoy themselves, see everything through money, consider themselves extremely superior and have very little respect towards other nations although they will not say so publicly because they are aware of the sensitivity of such a statement. Sometimes it seemed to me, as if they blindly follow the system that was set for them from birth: when they have sports holidays, everyone goes skiing, they pay for expensive packages in hotels and terribly expensive annual ski passes, they get up at 7, breakfast, skiing, lunch in between 12-13, skiing, dinner between 18-20 and sleep. There is no singing, parties, music, going out, i.e. few people engage in it. During those vacations, they rarely laugh, rarely deviate from that schedule, and almost nothing in their lives is spontaneous. Everything must be planned, life as well, several years in advance, and even vacations. I was impressed by the comment of a colleague, a 54-year-old divorced Swiss, single: “I have to find someone to live with to pay less tax”. Well, dude, why shouldn’t the reason be because you’re lonely? It’s incredible how many Swiss people I met who immediately had a vasectomy after a divorce or a certain number of children. Don’t risk it. They report the neighbor if he doesn’t do a technical test for the engine, and he only drives around the yard. That! A fellow farmer was using a quad to drive from the house to the barn (not on a public road) and the first neighbor, house to, with whom he grew up, warned him not to do that or they would report him!!! And they are good! I couldn’t believe it, there are countless such examples. If you are sitting in the parking lot with your car on, a passer-by will approach you and ask you to turn it off. I also heard about a character who couldn’t find his apartment keys late at night, so he decided to sleep in the car. The neighbor reported him, the police knocked on the window, and he had to move out of that apartment because he “damaged the image of the community”. Unfortunately, I have also heard of a lot of people who ended up in psychiatry. Individuals because it’s a good pension even if you prove you’re crazy, but also the rest who are really mentally broken. I don’t know, maybe it’s because they talk more about it, and our team, which should be in psychiatry, is not. Or they are really “bursting” from systematically planned lives, scheming, false beliefs in happiness and satisfaction.
Conclusion. I still have 2.5 years to go until I am entitled to the minimum pension. If I have already sacrificed my life in separation from family, children, home, country, at least to see why. I think about Croatia non-stop, I miss our energy, warmth, spontaneity, joy, emotion for the person, the sea, cafes and endless sitting on the terrace, coffee at the beginning of working hours, barbecue with family and friends, a 50% discount on the fine if you pay within 3 days (just kidding, although no one believed me in Switzerland that it exists). We are all different and have different priorities in life. Whatever I have acquired, I earned with my own hands, but I leave the “perfect” system and perspective to those who are happy with it. Thank you Switzerland!