I've spent last 3 months working on Zürich, so here I am going to share my experience as I did previously about Düsseldorf.
I moved in Zürich with my girlfriend after having found a job in a bank. Switzerland is famous to have a low unemployment rate, and Zurich is known to be an international city. Mercers Quality of Living surveys indicates Zürich as 2nd best place in the world. So we thought that moving from Düsseldorf to Zürich would be a good choice and we was expecting an internationals friendly living. It was NOT so. Definitely.
I have to precise that I was not living in Zürich center, but in a couple of near villages: Opfikon and Kloten. In this area in fact there are many international companies headquarters.
Zürich is a very beautiful city. I've visited a couple of time, and it was pleasant.
To visit the city you have to use public transportation, as finding a park is very difficult and expensive.
After 5:30pm all the shops and grocery shops are closed, and after 10:30pm it may be hard also to find a restaurant.
Once you cross the border of Switzerland, all the parking are private or for pay, even when you go to the supermarket, prepare to pay for the park.
If you need to use the car to go to work, you need a park place on your office (mine was costing 70 CHF/month) and a park under your home (60 CHF). The flats are usually rent with park place facility for additional money.
Public Transportation, Streets and Places to visit.
Streets in Switzerland are the most crazy I've ever seen: it looks like they have been designed by some psychomaniac that has in hate all the drivers. I've found myself in serious troubles all the times I've been driving from Italy to Germany and back, on the mountains, but also on the streets it's very easy to get lost or to get the wrong direction, even if you are using a navigator.
If you go out on the evening for an English movie (at Abaton for example), you may find yourself lost in some very bad looking streets. Every time I had to take a car to move somewhere I was feeling bad for the crazy roads. Nevertheless, there are nice places to visit near Zurich that worth the pain to take the car and face the crazy streets. I recommend a visit in Rhine Falls, Rapperswil and Küssnacht.
Switzerland is full of nature and beautiful places to visit. But be aware that, especially in winter time, with the snow, you may find yourself in difficult places with your car, or you may get lost while traveling because of the strange roads you'll find. What I was doing, when lost, is to select some nearest touristic place listed in my tomtom point of interest, and proceeding to an alternative adventure.
Regarding the traveling, in the mountain regions, I suggest to avoid the night, as some roads and tunnels get closed and there will be no alternative directions indicated on the signs. Then, you can easily get lost in some mountain streets away from the civilization. In the dark those streets may be dangerous to drive, unless you know your directions very well. Navigators might not be very helpful in those scenarios, as the tend to drive you in some lost and unsafe streets.
Trains and bus are quite good, but not always clean. And expensive. But they are the best way to move to Zürich, and possibly in the near areas.
If you are thinking to get a flat before moving to Zürich using internet and phone, forget about it. It is impossible.
In Zürich and in the near villages, you have to look for an apartment for months before succeeding. I've been sending about 30 application to agencies in order to obtain a flat. It took only 3 months, for only 1500 CHF. And it was unfurnished and in a little village called Opfikon. Believe me, it was a very good deal compared to the average flats there!
In the meantime I've been living in a hotel, then in a residence, and finally in temporary flat. When I finally managed to get an unfurnished flat, it was time to leave Switzerland (the reason at the end of this article).
In Switzerland I've been always asked to pay hotels and residences in advance. And when I left the places early, they always rejected to refund the unspent days. So, be aware that you will never get the money back if you leave early.
The hotel I've been living in is Glattbrugg Bahnhof Hotel. It is the cheapest hotel in the area, with internet for free, if you are lucky to receive the signal in your room, and was very close to my workplace. The restaurant is good, but the rooms are quite pathetic. I don't recommend to you, but for short period, if you don't have high expectations, or you like the rustic style, it may be ok for sometime.
Swiss Star Apartments was the residence where I've been living for a month. It is quite expensive, but the rooms are nice and comfortable, there is good internet connection in all the rooms, laundry facility for free, and you can reserve your room with a phone call and get the key when you reach the place. Again, if you leave early, forget about getting the money back... I lost there a lot of money as I left some weeks in advance when I found a another temporary accommodation.
There are a couple of web sites where to search for flat for rent; the most common are homegate and immoscout24. Here you can find many flats, but don't think it's an easy task!
First: to apply for an unfurnished flat, be prepared to pay minimum 1500 CHF with 3 months caution in advance, and to sign a contract chaining you to leave after long periods and in specific months of the year.
Second: when you visit the apartment it's not uncommon to find a queue of 10-20 or more person in queue. You will obtain an application form where you have to fill your own details, including references from the previous landlords, your pets, the instruments you like to play, and sometimes your income.
Third: be prepared to provide additional documents to prove you are a good guy: crime record, solvency statement, work contract, residence permit, bank balance, etc. For all the documents you will need to pay and they will not be cheap.
Then you just need to pray that somebody is willing to rent the apartment to a foreigner, which is not always the case. Swiss citizens are, of course, preferred over foreigners, as agencies believe that they are willing to stay longer in their apartments.
Oh yes: to obtain a super expensive unfurnished flat for rent, it's quite an adventure. Good luck...
Grüezi! German is the official language in Zürich, even if it's different from the German spoken in Germany. It sounds different, and the words they use are also different. It's quite easy to find people speaking Italian, and sometimes French. English is also quite widely spoken in Zürich city, but not always welcome in the little villages in the near.
Around the borders and in Zürich the Euro currency is welcome, but be prepared to be charged A LOT for the change.
Restaurants and breakfasts are very expensive. In Opfikon I can recommend you a Mexican restaurant called Casa Alegria and a Chinese restaurant called Peking Garden. For the pizza, the Banhof Hotel Restaurant has been the best.
I've been using a Sunrise prepaid SIM. Mobile internet is expensive, and also mobile calls are not cheap. During my stay in a temporary flat, I've used Swisscom Internet connection: quite slow, and they throttle down the speed when you try to download torrents, it becomes totally unusable.
There are many international companies in Zürich, banks, and a technical headquarter by Google.
If you are not an EU citizen, it may be very hard to get a job in Switzerland. Even if there are many IT positions, the immigration policy is very strict for non-EU citizens. I and my girlfriend registered in the Opfikon offices for a residence permit. I got my permit after a week or so as I am Italian. My girlfriend got a rejection from the immigration authorities asking to leave the country at the end of the 3rd month. Even if she was having many companies interested to hire her, they couldn't do anything without a work permit issued by the immigration authority.
I've been talking to the immigration employees and several lawyers specialized in the field, but there was nothing to do.
Companies willing to hire an non-EU citizen are subject to a law that mandates them to demonstrate to the government that they cannot find any person fitting the position in the whole Europe. And this is as difficult as it sounds, as this is seriously applied.
I don't agree very much with the mentioned survey that is placing Zürich on the 2nd place for quality of living. For me, the life in Zürich has been quite hard and difficult.
And this is why we decided to go back to Düsseldorf. And we are happy to be back.
Dear Zürich: so long and thanks for all the fish.
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