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Teaching in Switzerland

Discussion in 'Teaching overseas' started by jmorris68, May 8, 2011.

  1. Hi, I really need some advice. I am thinking of considering a teaching position in a boarding school in the Montreux region. I have been told it is a French speaking area. My french is very basic and am worried I will be isolating myself and struggle to fully settle. Is this a non starter? Also am I right in saying that this area is very expensive to live? I would not get housing included in my pay so am worried a large proportion of my salary would be going on rent. Your thoughts? What about utilities and tax etc? Are there areas in Switerland that have a large expat population. I have heard the area around Zug and Luzern might? Any advice would be much appreciated. Cheers.
  2. Hi,

    Haven't been on TES for ages, went on tonight on a whim and saw your post...

    I live in Vaud, near(ish) Montreux. I moved here in 2009. You're quite right, the language is French. However, there is a large(ish) expat population. You have Nestlé HQ in Vevey, which is a big international employer, to start with... and then the Montreux region is one of the limited regions in Vaud where expats can purchase property. So there are a few of us around!

    As far as the language is concerned, I know expats with all levels of French - from beginner to fairly fluent. I'd say the key is finding a community, be that at work, in social life, or in your local area. I know people who have been here 8 years who still struggle to make themselves understood... but they have their own community.

    As far as the cost of living is concerned... it is higher, but taxes are lower. http://en.comparis.ch/ is an excellent site for working out how much you might pay on all sorts of things, e.g. insurance, property, tax...

    Some major differences I've noticed between CH and the UK

    *Housing - The Swiss tend to rent, not buy, at least until later in life. If you buy, you have to pay property tax and then a tax on the potential rental income of your property... even if it is your sole residence. The rental market is a landlord's market - they can generally pick from a long list of applicants. The general rule of thumb is that you spend up to 1/3 of your monthly salary on rent - if you go for anything higher you may be rejected as not having enough cash. You will need to put together a 'dossier' with various documents, e.g. a promise of employment or contract, a document declaring you have no debts in CH, bank statements, household insurance and, for expats, a residence permit. It's quite tricky to persuade a landlord to take you on without that last item. But possibly the school might be able to help you out if they've encountered that situation in the past. Then you will have to pay a deposit equal to generally 3 months rent. This is put in a special account and returned to you (minus deductions for any damage) when you leave.

    *Pension - The Swiss pension comes in 3 parts, or pillars. The first two relate to old age and sickness pension, and will be deducted from your salary. The third is a dedicated bank account, which you make payments into, up to a certain amount per year. This can then be either taken on retirement or used to make a down payment on a property.

    *Health Insurance - The biggest (possibly) difference. Health insurance is mandatory. The size of the premiums vary hugely depending on the franchise amount chosen. Lower the franchise, higher the premium. The smallest franchise (that I know of) is 300fr. On average, a doctor's visit costs around 100fr. An ambulance is very expensive - minimum call out something like 400fr, and the insurance won't pay it all. After you've paid all your franchise, you only pay 10% of all the bills. However if you are VERY ill in one year, and spend over a certain amount in your 10% contributions (mine is 700fr), you don't pay anything. So if (like me) you spend 4 months in hospital... it doesn't spell bankruptcy. Dental treatment, glasses and birth control pills are not covered by health insurance (among other things), although you can buy complementary insurance for some dental treatment - worth it in case of an accident. Health insurers cannot discriminate on the grounds of previous medical conditions. The only discrimination is that woman of child bearing age pay slightly more.

    On the plus side, the health care here beats the NHS hollow. There is a lot more specialisation - for example, all woman have to have yearly check ups with a gynaecologist (and birth control is only prescribed by them). Most towns have at least one doctor who can speak English, but their receptionists may not. In hospitals, the doctors (again) often speak English but the nurses can't. In the Riviera area (where Montreux is), there are several hospitals and they cater for different needs.

    Umm... utilities. Electricity is often covered in your rent, you may get a rebate at the end of the year. Water is 'free' (I think - certainly never had a bill for it). My internet and telephone costs me 150fr for 2 months. Afraid I don't have a TV. Billag (TV and radio license) is a bit of a pain... you have to pay for the radio if you have internet, even if you don't have a radio - 170fr per year. You also have to have ECA - fire and natural disaster insurance. Can't find out how much that is. And also personal liability insurance - very important. Your employer should pay your accident insurance.

    Other little things... laundry rooms. Most apartments don't have a washing machine, instead there will be a laundry room with allocated slots. Last person in the building gets to choose from the vacant slots. Some buildings are stricter than others. My parents have 12 hours to hang their clothes up to dry, then they have to clear for the next person. My neighbours just put my washing in a pile on the table if I forget to take it down. Does take a bit of getting used to.

    24 hour supermarkets are unknown here. I miss Tescos.

    People don't tend to use debit or credit cards, but to pay with cash. In a similar vein, direct debits are not very common, instead you receive a bill that can either be paid at the Post Office (which also has bank accounts), or online, within 30 days of receipt (except for rent which has to be paid by the 5th of the month).

    Public transport is much better, and cheaper, than the UK. I have a general abonnement, which gives me unlimited travel on all trains, buses, trams, boats and most cable cars throughout Switzerland. It costs less than my dad's (admittedly 1st class) season ticket between Colchester and London. There is also a half fare card, which entitles you to reduced fares. The services are all linked up, and in Vaud you can buy a ticket at, in theory, any machine (bus stop, train station etc) to go anywhere else in Vaud, even if you're transferring between services. Oh yes, it's all 'auto control' here, which means no barriers at stations and on the bus you don't have to show the driver your ticket. But if you get caught...

    On the whole, I really like it here, I wouldn't go back to the UK for worlds... the scenery's lovely, the health care is brilliant, the public transport is great, the people are at one and the same time reserved and friendly, the food's good (especially fondue and raclette)... great place.

    Some useful sites:
    www.englishforum.ch (Community of English speakers in Switzerland.).
    www.glocals.com (Another expat site... don't use it so much as seems to be more Zurich orientated)
    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Expats-in-Switzerland/ (Yahoo mailing group)
    http://www.knowitall.ch/ (Website with information on Geneva and Vaud, also has a weekly events mailing)
    www.homegate.ch (Properties to rent)
    http://www.lausanne-english-church.com/ (My church's website... just in case you're interested)


    That book is the best purchase I ever made before I came here. Tells you about (nearly) everything you need to know... except how to rent a flat!

    Oh, and if you do want to work on your French, I recommend www.learnfrenchathome.com for individual lessons via Skype with native speakers. I wish I'd found them before I moved here... and no, they don't pay me!
  3. I know you posted this ages ago, but I have just stumbled upon your most informative message. Thanks for taking the time to explain so much about life and living in Switzerland. I am currently looking for my next steps in international teaching, Europe in particular...Zug today!
  4. Thanks for all this info! I wonder if anyone could tell me what a fair wage would be nowadays along Lake Geneva? And regarding health insurance: if one is already taking regular medication on moving out there, is this covered?

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