Now before you get ahead of me, I am NOT moving to Switzerland. However, from mid-May to mid-June this is all I was thinking about. Someone I used to work with approached me about a job there; I went ahead with the interviews; I was made an offer. I turned it down. You may think I’m crazy for doing so especially given my love of travel, but in the end as much as we wanted to go we had to say no. It’s not just about me anymore but about my family.
So what did I learn? I learned that visiting Switzerland and living in Switzerland are two very different things. We can probably say this about most countries but I had never thought twice about Switzerland falling into this bucket. When I think of Switzerland, I think of the Swiss Alps, the beautiful countryside, the outdoor adventure to be had.
I’ve been to this lovely country more times than I can count, both for work and fun. I’ve experienced the Swiss French, Swiss German and even the Italian part of the country and for such a small country, it is so diverse and lovely.
The Actual Move
Moving to Switzerland would have taken an army to clean out our house. This was not our reason for turning down the offer by the way, but it was something we felt totally overwhelmed by. We live in a 4 bedroom, 2 story house with a finished basement – living a typical American lifestyle. If we moved to Switzerland we would probably live in a small 2 bedroom apartment. Talk about change! We were actually excited about this!
I think the only thing we were sad about is that my husband would have to get rid of all his power tools and big TV, and I would be parting with my crockpot and food processor. Silly, yes, but think about it – none of our electronics could come with us. It would not make sense with the different voltage and plugs. These things are replaceable but it was something we had not thought about.
So this last weekend, although we are not moving to Switzerland, we had our first garage sale. We will have another one in May next year. We are downsizing. We are not moving or anything (for now!) but we realized we are not near as mobile as we would like to be and somehow we fell into the trap of accumulating more stuff than we need. So between now and May I will continue to sell on eBay and Craigslist too.
The Visas for Switzerland
Some EU countries have what is called a partner visa where if one partner is sponsored by a company to work there then their partner will automatically get some sort of visa. This is not the case in Switzerland. It is not part of the EU (European Union for those of you that don’t know the lingo). Because I have worked in a very specific niche, as a non-EU person I could most likely have gotten a work visa sponsored by the company trying to hire me. However, my husband and child would only have a resident visa and unless my husband also had a niche and a company to sponsor him, he would not qualify to get a work visa for 5 years. Also, their resident visa would have to be renewed annually.
Lucky for me, I have a very supporting husband and he was willing to play stay-at-home-dad for at least 2-3 years and then we would re-examine our situation. If we liked Switzerland and my job was as great as I expected it to be, we would stay. If he was anxious to get back to work, we would move back to the United States.
Living in Switzerland
As you probably have guessed, living in Switzerland is VERY expensive. The good thing to note is that salaries are higher, or at least you can hope so. The average Swiss person makes just over $5000 per month. I think that’s pretty good for the “average.”
Housing is also expensive so most people rent. We were actually excited about this. Taking care of a home is a lot of work and something I have discovered is totally overwhelming for me. I understand the investment etc but I do miss the days when I could just call my landlord and he would take care of everything. There was no lawn to be mowed, work to be done, etc.
The people in Switzerland “keep to themselves.” This is what I was told and read over and over. What does that mean? It means we would want to join the expat community right away in Switzerland so that we could establish those friends that you need to make a place a home. Part of why we love Ohio is because of the people we call our friends here. We would need that right away to be successful in moving to Switzerland.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am a big believer in learning the language and trying to integrate oneself into a culture, but in Switzerland 1 in 5 persons are expatriates. 20% of the people! Also, the language is something that would be a huge barrier. We would have lived in the Swiss German area with this move, and I would have tried to learn German. Note that German and Swiss German when spoken are very different. It would take me many years to even understand a bit of Swiss German. The good news is that most people speak English, but still, I would have made the effort.
So although Swiss people “keep to themselves,” it could have been a hard transition for my outgoing, loud personality at times. Still not a reason to not go, but something to consider.
The Taxes as an American
This was the killer for us. Did you know that no matter where you live or earn income in the world, if you are American you must pay US taxes? Yep, it’s true. Now I’m not sure how I feel about this as a political issue so I’d like to avoid that discussion – but, and a very big BUT, what a pain!
The worst part is that I still would have had to pay taxes in Switzerland. Almost 32%. Because of that our US taxes could have been mitigated and much lower but we still would have had to pay an US expatriate tax specialist to do our US taxes, in addition to what we would have to do in Switzerland.
And you are taxed on your gross income. Now if you make under a certain amount ($97,600 in 2013) then you can get an exclusion if you qualify for residency in the other country (another long complication that I could barely understand) but either way, you still have to pay taxes on the amount above that. With salaries being much higher in Switzerland due to the cost of living, we would have fallen in that bucket of having to pay US taxes. How much, you ask? “It’s very complicated” is what many tax specialists had told me.
Maybe I Will Live in Switzerland One Day
In the end, there were other things to consider and we had to turn it down. I won’t go into the details because honestly, I am hoping that one day this comes back around and the offer is the right one. 8 years ago, before my husband and I had started dating, I was offered a chance to move to Switzerland with a former employer. I said YES! Then 4 months passed, and not a word about it. I thought it was not going to happen. I met my husband (well, technically I had met him 2 years before but we were friends). We started dating. We got pretty serious and fast.
In the middle of this, my employer re-approached me and asked about moving to Switzerland. My situation had changed. I thought I had met “the one.” Now my friends know that I would NEVER change anything for a guy, but this was just plain bad-timing. I told my employer I could not go. I could not explain why of course but that was it.
2 months later, we got engaged. 2 years later we got married. 2 years after that we had our daughter. Now I have a beautiful 3-year-old. Our family is not done yet but for this opportunity to come back around, with a different company, almost 8 years later was amazing to me. I felt it was a sign. We were ready to pack our bags, bikes and skis and move!
What I Learned
We want to downsize our stuff.
We are willing to relocate whether to another state or country.
We want to continue to travel (that’s a given!).
I want to go back to work/office job.
The last one was a surprise for me. I’ve worked on and off the last 3 years since having my daughter but for the right opportunity, I had a real desire to go back to work and be successful. Don’t get me wrong, I love being home with Jolie. She is so cute. But I imagine when she is 5, 8 or 10 I will still be saying that. And I want to get back to what I know I’m really good at. I’m a great mom, don’t get me wrong, but I realized I might have given up just a little more of myself than I meant to. Not a big deal, but a good lesson.
Now it doesn’t mean I’m going to go out and get a job today. It is SUMMER after all! It does mean that we will continue our journey in trying to have another baby (a story for another time), we will see how that goes, and then I will go back to work when the time is right or when the opportunity is right.
What do you think? Have you ever had an opportunity that you turned down even if it seemed fantastic? Or maybe worse, took the opportunity and regretted it later?