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A Job in Switzerland

Discussion in 'Teaching abroad' started by the hippo, Jan 20, 2019.

  1. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    This is part of an e-mail I recently wrote to some who has been offered a teaching post in Switzerland.

    As I have written on the TES Teaching Overseas forum, many times, your salary is just one factor (and quite a small factor) in the overall equation. Yes, it is nice to have lots of dosh coming in at the end of each month, but you also need to think much more seriously about your outgoings.

    What about accommodation? Is it really "free"? This word "free" seems to mean different things to different people. When I was teaching in Bucharest, my wife and I were supposed to have a "free" apartment provided by the school, but every month there would be more and more charges and expenses. Yes, the actual rent was covered by the school, but there always seemed to be more payments for the apartment, deductions for maintenance, charges for garbage disposal and fees for this and for that and for something else as well. And each month it was more and more!

    When I was teaching in Doha, I used to have a charming female colleague who had been teaching at a British school in Brussels. She said that she was paid a HUGE salary. There was, however, one little problem. The school did not provide her with an apartment and therefore she had to pay for it out of her own pocket. Renting an apartment in Brussels is very, very expensive. So how much money did she save out of her salary each month? Almost nothing at all.

    A "free" apartment does not necessarily mean a fully equipped apartment. You may find yourself paying for things like cutlery, bedding, furniture and electrical appliances. We certainly had to buy quite a few things for our apartment in Shenzhen.

    What about food? There are some shocking stories about the high cost of food in Switzerland. Eating properly is important for your psychological well being, as well as for your health. In China, there was plenty of cheap food (maybe some of it was a bit yucky), but I had to pay for my school lunch each day. Here in Bulgaria, the school lunches are meaty and substantial and free for the teaching staff, except when we have salmon on Thursdays. Then I have to pay one or two leva extra.

    What about utilities? In the UK, you can spend quite a lot each month on electricity, water and Council Tax. What is the situation in Switzerland? Here in Bulgaria, we do not pay for any of these things for our apartment in Sofia because the school pays for them.

    What about transport? When Mrs Hippo and I were in Qatar, we had to run TWO cars and this was a massive hole in the pocket. When we were in China, we never needed a car and I could walk to school each day. Incidentally, when I was in Qatar I knew a lady teacher who was given a transport allowance each month, in addition to her salary. This allowance was enough for her to buy a very nice new sports car! In Kenya, second-hand cars were very expensive and the roads were terrible, so you were always spending money on car repairs and using a lot more petrol.

    What about taxes? Are there any in Switzerland? Which ones? And how much? In Qatar, we did not have to pay any National Insurance or Income Tax and it was the same when we were in Saudi Arabia.

    What about medical care? If you were ill and you needed hospital treatment, would the school's medical insurance cover the full cost? When my wife and I were in the UAE, we were told that the school was providing "comprehensive" medical insurance, when in reality it was nothing of the kind. There was an exclusion clause for this and a get out clause for that. Lots of things were simply not covered at all and for some things the insurance company would only partly reimburse you after the treatment was over.

    When I was teaching in China, the gratuity or end-of-contract bonus was certainly worth having. It was the equivalent of a month's salary! And what about flights and your freight allowance at the beginning and the end of your contract? Do you get paid a "settling in" allowance? Some schools do this.

    What about the costs associated with your Swiss visa and / or work permit? Are there any costs or expenses and who is going to pay them? Getting those documents attested and having those apostilles stuck onto them can cost a small fortune.

    Therefore you are making a VERY big mistake if you are just focussing on the salary and only on the salary. As I have been teaching overseas for more than twenty years, I am advising you to look at the whole picture, not just a small part of it. Some costs can be relatively small and they are "one off". Some of your expenses could be very significant and ongoing.
    spanboy, Leonardo1983 and 2mature like this.
  2. spanboy

    spanboy Occasional commenter

    Too true! I was looking at a job in Bermuda a few years ago...98,000 USD tax-free a year...wow, I thought. But when I sat down with pen and paper and looked into it further I would have been no better off than I was working in Europe...it WASN'T tax free...and even the simplest things like a loaf of bread/tin of beans were all heavily taxed upon importation. Rent was going to be about 2500 a month, as it wasn't a package as such. I'd probably have needed to get a car etc. It all adds up and comes off the salary!
  3. lateralligator

    lateralligator New commenter

    While you've made lots of good points in this I just wanted to share a different perspective.

    I have recently been looking for a move closer to home without actually going home and for me, this means looking at Western Europe. Everything you have said is exactly what I know and am prepared for. I will pay my own rent, I will be paying taxes and suffering the daily prices for transport, food etc.

    But for me, I am looking forward to being surrounded to the culture and history of Europe. I am looking forward to being a hop, skip and a jump from several major European cities. I am looking forward to popping home for the weekend if needs be (at a raction of the cost of what I have been paying). I am looking forward to feeling safer (in comparison to the developed nation I currently live in). I will not have to drive but I will have access to a wide selection of transport options daily. Also, I am looking forward to throwing myself into an established school that hopefully lives up to its reputation.

    Luckily, I am far from thinking about retirement and I have a modest overflow fund for emergencies so for the moment I am going to enjoy the perks of Europe and not focus on money, money, money. Money is just one aspect of life and yes while we all need money to survive I always think about but that old saying 'money doesn't necessarily buy happiness'.
  4. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Yes, lateralligator, I absolutely agree that there are some things that you cannot put a price tag on. Friends and family should come at the top of the list, but there are many other advantages to living in Europe. This smelly old hippo loves to wander around bookshops with lots of English books. You will not find many of those in Qatar or in China or even in Bulgaria.

    Yes, perhaps I did write quite a lot about money. If you trawl through the posts on this forum, you will find that quite a lot of teachers seem to be preoccupied with this, so that is why I said so much about it.
  5. dumbbells66

    dumbbells66 Lead commenter

    why does it mean western europe? you can get the usual "international package" in eastern europe, and this would cover everything on your wish list. avoiding countries in the Euro will offer the similar lifestyle, but a FAR better package.
  6. lateralligator

    lateralligator New commenter

    The hippo I must admit I've witnessed and been part of the preoccupation of the monetary part of international teaching packages. Even this year, despite knowing what I want it is sometimes hard to not consider the schools in Asia that reach out with amazing packages, but I have.

    Dumbbells66, I made a list of my top countries around Europe as a whole and applied out. This included one or two in Eastern Europe which resulted in rejections, thus Western Europe.
  7. bead

    bead New commenter

    Hi Hippo. Very true. even medical cover for a couple over 55 would cost a fortune. I was quoted 6000 usd and it didnt cover many things. I would definitely insist on medical cover in Bulgaria which included medical evacuation.
  8. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    I am very happy with medical care in Bulgaria, as I have it on good authority that it is usually better than in the UK! Yes, the Bulgarian hospitals look shabby and a bit neglected, but the doctors and the nurses know their stuff. Maybe the Bulgarian hospitals do not have all of the latest and most expensive whizzo gadgetry, but the medical professionals do a good job. That is what I have heard. Unlike the UK, you do not have to wait months for treatment because there are no beds! Medical insurance in Bulgaria is not expensive.
  9. bead

    bead New commenter

    I agree, not expensive, but appalling attitudes and Doctors and nurses who would leave you lying there if you dont give them a bung. The Bulgarians have a saying. Da ne si bolen v Bulgaria.
    Do not be sick in Bulgaria.
  10. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Well, I have yet to experience the full delights of Bulgarian medical care. I did, however, speak to a doctor (a sweet Indian lady cardiologist) and she had worked in the UK and in Bulgaria. In her opinion, the care you would receive in Bulgaria would often be better.

    A few years ago I was chatting with our GP in Dragoman, not far away from our villa in Kalotina, and she told me what most doctors are paid in Bulgaria. I am surprised that they have any left at all.
  11. tigi

    tigi Occasional commenter

    I don't know about bulgaria but here in Romania the state health care as I've experienced it seems adequate, like Hippo says, shabby looking hospitals especially in the countryside but caring doctors and fast service. Fairly inexpensive health insurance gets you access to swanky hospitals and excellent thorough treatment.
  12. tigi

    tigi Occasional commenter

    Just to add: I'm not knocking the fabulous NHS which I believe is a wonderful thing that I'd like to see get stronger.
  13. the hippo

    the hippo Lead commenter Community helper

    Yes, I had an operation on my knee while Mrs Hippopotamus and her overweight husband were in Bucharest. That was twelve years ago and I have had no problems since then.
  14. migratingbird

    migratingbird Occasional commenter

    Going back to the hippos opening post...does anybody know the answers to those questions about Switzerland? I've recently interviewed for a job there and would love some advice as to expenses in general (I've looked on Numbeo but would love the perspective of somebody with first hand experience). We are a family of four with a strong chance my spouse would have his own employment, so it's more the monthly outgoings I would like to know about. Thanks.
  15. SecondPlace

    SecondPlace Occasional commenter

    Rent - you pay what you need to pay, varies from city to city but would suggest that you're looking at 1400 to 2200 CHF per month. The further out of centres you go the further your money will go.

    Health insurance is compulsory and you're looking at about 3000 CHF per adult.

    Shopping - expensive, but look for items on 'Aktion' and you can make savings. Quality is good though.

    Public transport is great - city passes are the way to go if you're commuting. The whole Switzerland GA card is expensive but opens up the whole country to you.

    https://en.comparis.ch/ will give you answers to most questions

  16. migratingbird

    migratingbird Occasional commenter

    This is really helpful, thank you. If it becomes more definite we are moving there, would you mind me asking more questions through the messaging system?
  17. SecondPlace

    SecondPlace Occasional commenter

    Yes, no problem.
    migratingbird likes this.
  18. Treesa

    Treesa New commenter

    If you are a family of 4, rent will be much more than 1400 a month. You will easily be looking at 2500chf if you are in one of the cities. I was paying 1700 for a 2 bedroomed place 5 years ago.
  19. SecondPlace

    SecondPlace Occasional commenter

    It does vary a lot from city to city, and where in that city. Regards prices - there is basically zero inflation, which I think applies to rents also.
  20. aliali5208

    aliali5208 New commenter

    @the hippo please can you send me a tes conversation. Wanted to ask a question about something I'm sure you're aware of.

    Thanks in advance.

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