Monthly Archives: April 2021

As a Swiss resident, have you ever pondered over your social status living in Switzerland? 

Whether the minor details that portray status such as the level of luxury you adhere to while commuting on the train? The transport system in Switzerland is very well laid out and fully planned, so much so that the railway system is the primary commute system for most. Trains have two categories or classes, aptly named as the first and second class. The first class is geared more towards “business people” and professionals on their daily commute to work, whereas the second class or lower class is reserved for the “normal” or median people of society. The question arises that, the system set in place is very clean and safe, with emphasis put into an effective schedule and overall experience, so why is there any need to travel in first class other than seeking out a higher status in society.

I am a second-class commuter and by choice. The train gets me from point A to B without lacking anything in-between. I’ve travelled in first class on a few business trips, and I proclaim to not be aware or ignore my status however that isn’t true. After meeting many expats and foreign personnel, most come from a high and elaborate social lifestyle from their respective homelands, pouring their wealth into extravagant luxuries to portray their accumulation of wealth. 

Many of them have informed me of their housemaids, cooks and sometimes even drivers, as they aren’t accustomed to housework and chores let alone looking after their children. Their perception of Switzerland is that they will fit seamlessly and thrive in a land of milk and honey (or cheese and chocolate in our case!).

But then again! The Swiss lifestyle and reality is far different. When we discuss privilege and being in the “Circle of Trust”, we must understand what status means in an egalitarian society and how it might be different from a more hierarchical society or a society where you are born into a status.

The “Classic” Family Model

Life, although simple, is beautiful in Switzerland for the “natives”, that is, women are more likely to uphold the household and carry out the associated burdens of home economics. Running the home and grooming their kids is all part of the routine, yet if the women are professionals they’ll take a step back after their first child to accommodate the family. Women only received voting rights in Switzerland in 1971 and there is still a lot of catching up to do when it comes to gender balance and equal rights for women in the workplace.

You must not forget that the Swiss also often have their parents and in-laws nearby, so they have support options for childcare and emergencies that you might not (yet) have as a newcomer to this country.

Childcare is very expensive, gross childcare costs were equal to 69 percent of the average wage in Switzerland, the highest proportion among OECD countries in 2018, based on a double-income, average-wage-earning couple with two children! 

That is more than half of the mean income a household generates. Switzerland also lacks in qualified educators, but fees for private kindergartens are quite high, with an indicative day cost of CHF 60 to CHF 150 for cities like Bern and Zurich. (If you are interested in working in childcare, I highly recommend a consultation with my friend Monica Shah at Children First.)

So many women decide to stay home or not work 100% and if you are a female expat with children (or even without) it might be expected that you do the same. 

Other Support Options I Have Tested

Opting for a cleaning person was a trial-and-error story for me. I was very used to having a cleaner, even in my early career but even those who may afford it are often not satisfied by the quality of work given the steep price you may have to pay. I tried several agencies for cleaning and finally came to the conclusion that I’d rather do it myself (together with my partner). This is not great, because I’m not very good at cleaning and ironing but I have gotten better over the last 10 years. To be honest, now I often feel that it even helps my brain digest all that has been going on during the week. If you are planning to hire a cleaner make sure that they are insured either through an agency such as Batmaid or you run your own payroll with SVA.

Egalitarian Cultures value Modest Behavior

Culture clashes here are evident due to the difference in “status” as compared elsewhere in the world. High ranking professionals such as CEO’s are often seen taking the bus and train to work. Their appearance isn’t necessarily associated with designer suits, expensive cars and watches. The Swiss tend to live a modest life, with small houses they do not like to show off. They define their status and luxury by travelling the world, bearing children and enjoying a vacation in a nice cottage in the mountains. 

Luxury is a longer period of time taken off work to follow a dream, being able to volunteer, support an NGO or support the commune by being in the fire brigade or in an association. Being able financially to work part-time or have your spouse stay at home are signs of luxury in the world today.

I often hear “The Swiss don’t like to work hard.” And I would like to add “The Swiss don’t have to work hard, but they still show up for work, because they have a strong work ethic and believe in delivering high quality at work.” Your perception of what comes across as being slow or not interested in service delivery might be influenced strongly by your home culture and expectations created by how things are in your home turf.

Go through the Pain to Follow Your Dream

Although most steps may feel common when moving to a new country, it often takes a while to truly get settled in. Time and real integration play a vital role in my opinion especially after two to three years. 

You start to enhance your social circle outside the reserved expat or foreign community, the sooner you embrace the country in its entirety  is when you really feel “at home”. I used to have status in Germany. I was an Executive, a “Leitende Angestellte”. I had an apartment, a nice company car, and a team. I also had a cleaning person, a tailor and enough money for several holidays and trips. Then I moved to Switzerland and suddenly my status changed. You probably wonder how I could let that happen as a Global Mobility professional. 

I should have made a net-to-net comparison and request a better package. I should have insisted on coming to Switzerland with an appropriate corporate title AND I should have known that there will be social security risks when I transfer on a local contract. And yes, despite the fact that I am a Global Mobility Expert I made a few miscalculations. I did not get the deal I deserved and I suffered a few years from this mistake. I accepted the terms of the contract because I followed my dream. I wanted to live in Zurich no matter what. And when you are emotional about a goal in life, you easily forget the pain. 

Learn Budgeting and Cash Flow

What does this mean for the “second-class commuter” in Switzerland? It means learning and following more frugal habits, planning finances not just for the future but also for recurring expenses and lifestyle quirks. Based on my experiences and those of people who have lived in similar circumstances, here are the nine budgeting tips that will be helpful especially for the startups and entrepreneurs:

1) Carry very little money with you when you go to town. Leave your credit card at home. Use your credit card only for emergencies or online bargains. Have enough money to buy a cup of coffee (max 10 CHF).

2) Call a friend for coffee instead of dinner and hope that they will ask you to come to their house. Invite friends to your house for a glass of wine.

3) If you reach a milestone such as two years in the business, celebrate yourself at home. Cook a nice meal and buy healthy food.

4) Pay small amounts at the grocery store with your bankcard so you see exactly what you spent your money for. When you go out for drinks or fun only carry cash and when you are out of cash return home. That’s especially important when you tend to buy expensive drinks at 15 CHF. (Imagine how long you work for one drink!)

5) Budget all your spending especially your holidays or how much money you spend on clothes, makeup, sunglasses and shoes.

6) Strictly separate business from private spending but try to optimize your private spending by using legal options to deduct costs for a home office, laptops, phone, Internet connection and cleaning services.

7) Avoid television and exposure to advertising. You feel a lot less like spending money on crap that you don’t need.

8) Avoid impulse buying decisions by adding all potential buys (books, seminars, travels) to wish lists. I even have a wish book. A lot of my wishes do not appear so important after a few weeks. Others just materialize themselves.

9) Love your business plan. Add anything you will earn right when you have the confirmation. Stay on the careful side but motivate yourself by adding all future turnover and checking the total annual turnover regularly.

If you need more advice on how to secure your old-age pension or budget your life in Switzerland without the hassle of watching every Franc, I highly recommend Keren-Jo Thomas, Financial Planning for Women.

How you show Status in Switzerland

A big luxury in Switzerland is being able to have one half of a couple stay at home to oversee the children, oftentimes the woman fills in the role while the husband earns the bread. What will happen if you move to Switzerland, unpacked your luggage and barely just settled in to realize you’ll have to live life like a “second-class citizen”? Feelings of struggle and working too hard at the office may arise with thoughts of not visiting the mountains as often you’d have hoped for. 

Learn Swiss German or French

Expats, migrants and international hires often underestimate the need to learn the local language Swiss German (or French), and in this phase doubt whether the move to Switzerland was the right choice. However, learning (at least understanding) the local dialect and language(s) will help you integrate and get access to what I refer to as the “Circle of Trust”.

With a more realistic idea of what to expect, detailed planning and the right support in the face of challenges, you can offset the “valley of tears” associated with your move to Switzerland and achieve the financial and mental stability that every “second-class citizen” would like to achieve. If you need our support we are happy to connect you with the right resources. Ideally, you join our HireMeExpress program or the RockMeRetreat in November.

Have an inspired week ahead

Angie

References:

https://www.expat.com/en/guide/europe/switzerland/10476-child-care-in-switzerland.html

https://medium.com/gokong/how-to-budget-for-childcare-costs-in-switzerland-31e4f024214a 


Guest Post

Due to the high demand for tech workers, organizations are providing exceptional salaries and perks. Although getting a new job has become more challenging, tech professionals now have better jobs with a better work-life balance. During the coronavirus lockdown, many people have begun to learn new tech skills to increase their chances of getting a new job. 

Nowadays, coding schools are popular because they provide students with the right skills to help organizations reshape the market. Their graduates have the right knowledge to meet employers’ needs and land their dream job. So, if you’re wondering what skills you need to get employed and land a six-figure job during COVID-19, this list will allow you to achieve your goal.

Python

Python is a must-have programming tool for every tech worker these days. In 2020, Python is gaining ground because it’s great for analyzing, visualizing, and interpreting data. Python is also an excellent tool for implementing machine learning algorithms. It’s been used by many companies to automate processes and provide more personalized services. In the data science field, Python helps data scientists and data analysts create better insights. Consequently, organizations can make better data-driven decisions and develop better products.

Python is very easy to learn, and it’s a great option for those looking to start a new career. Today, a Python developer earns, on average, $116,161 per year at Bank of America. Many coding bootcamps offer Python courses. But, if you have a busy schedule and you’re looking to learn from home, you should enroll in Springboard’s coding bootcamp.

At Springboard, students learn at their own pace and can get job-ready in only six months. Springboard’s data science course is designed to provide students with core data science concepts. They learn statistics, data wrangling, machine learning, and storytelling skills vital to meet employers’ needs. And by working on real projects, they build an interview-ready portfolio.

Java

Java has become very popular lately because it is the perfect match for creating IoT software. In 2020, companies are using data to identify what customers want and how they want it. Given that, they gather information from multiple devices and platforms. Java is an object-oriented programming tool that can be used for creating cross-platform solutions. And it’s also a must-have for Android development. Nowadays, Android has about 85% of the smartphone market. So, becoming an Android mobile developer will indeed increase your job opportunities.

In the US, a Google Android developer earns, on average, $125,989 per year, according to Indeed. These professionals also enjoy great perks like on-site spa sessions, gym classes, and free food. Google’s workers not only love their jobs because of the salary but because of the perks and work environment. For that reason, they’re always willing to work harder to achieve the company’s goals.

Learning Android development skills is easy with the help of General Assembly’s courses. General Assembly provides students with instructors that teach them how to build exceptional and interactive Android apps. At General Assembly, students learn through hands-on projects. Students build real apps to develop their coding skills.

JavaScript

Learning JavaScript is among the best options to land a six-figure job. It allows developers to create front-end and back-end code. In other words, it’s an essential tool for full-stack developers. Also, many companies—like Paypal, Netflix, and Microsoft—use JavaScript on their sites. In other words, learning JavaScript will allow you to land the job of your dreams.

JavaScript full-stack developers are in-demand, and at Microsoft, they have outstanding salaries. In fact, they earn, on average, $55.84 per hour in the US. Flatiron School is among the best coding schools in the US, and it offers a software engineering course that allows you to learn full-stack development skills. During the course, students will learn how to think and build like professionals. And they will get equipped with the tools to create any web app. The program mainly covers Ruby and JavaScript. The company also designed the course to allow students to launch software engineering careers, independent of any specific programming language.

Digital Marketing

Today, people are spending more time online, digital marketers are in-demand, and companies are offering outstanding salaries to meet their expectations. They are responsible for creating marketing campaigns and use digital channels to increase companies’ brand recognition. They also use their SEO skills to help organizations rank in search engines. To become a digital marketer, you need a lot of patience and discipline. This is because they regularly deal with customers, and they must be on their best behavior. They also use social networks and email to provide better customer service.

At PayPal, digital marketers make, on average, $149,655 per year, according to Glassdoor. And for example, companies like Netflix provide them with six-figure salaries and excellent perks like paid parental leave and paid vacation leave. So, becoming a digital marketer will allow you to land a six-figure job and even improve your well-being.

To learn digital marketing skills, you should enroll in Thinkful’s coding bootcamp. Their digital marketing course is designed to give you the right skills to join any marketing team. And by developing skills like SEO/SEM, email marketing, content marketing, and marketing analytics, you’ll be able to stand out from the competition. Also, since tuition costs can make students feel stressed, Thinkful offers several financing options to help them deal with the expenses. 

Conclusion

Getting employed and earning a six-figure salary won’t be just a dream if you get equipped with these tech skills. They will help you to become an attractive worker and meet companies’ requirements. The learning process can be tough, but I can guarantee that you’ll have no regrets. Also, you have to remember that the tech market is growing fast, and it’s disrupting every industry around the globe. If you want to be ready for future challenges and get the job you have always wanted, learning in-demand tech skills is necessary.

About Author: Artur Meyster is the CTO of Career Karma (YC W19), an online marketplace that matches career switchers with coding bootcamps. He is also the host of the Breaking Into Startups podcast, which features people with non-traditional backgrounds who broke into tech.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/meyster

Twitter: @arturmeyster

Mountain View

As I mentioned in this post during the early days of the pandemic my mother could not find yeast. Her village in Southern Germany had a yeast shortage. We don’t have a shortage of anything here in Zurich, neither toilet paper, nor yeast, even though demand for both was higher than in “normal” times. My mother likes to bake in normal times but I felt she needed to bake even more in these times. 

I went to SPAR and bought five packs of dry yeast. The man at the post office laughed when I told him what was in the small parcel. My second delivery since the beginning of our lockdown. The price for the package was higher than the value of the goods but hey, this was the only thing I could do for my family from here. I was so happy that I could help them with a small gesture. This year for Easter I did not order anything online: I used my social media skills to locate the flower shop in my mother’s village and we actually talked on the phone (I know bizarre…). Once she understood my relationship with the village’s eldest woman (my grandma), I think she totally trusted me and I trusted her. We agreed to her delivering flowers that I would pay via bank transfer. No credit card, no contract, just trust and five minutes of small talk. She understood that this gesture was important to me. I only live about two hours away from my family but I might as well live in Cochin or Costa Rica.

I’m an accidental “expat”. I did not really think of myself as an expat since I’ve been living the closest to “home” for the last 11 years. Coronavirus “expatriated” me. I’ve been working with expats most of my professional life, I’ve lived abroad and been on international assignments. I’m an expert in Global Mobility but it took a virus to make it hard for me to return to my passport-country. 

I feel your pain. 

Maybe you got stuck somewhere. Maybe your family and elderly relatives live in another country. You used to go there every summer and every winter. You used to spend your home leave with loved ones, caught up with all your close friends and now you are looking forward to this chance again. I hear from colleagues and friends that they are starting to plan their “home leaves”. I’m planning to spend three weeks in Germany in the summer to catch up with my relatives and loved ones. 

We have learned to be resilient, we have survived previous crises and we have managed to turn life around in the oddest situations. But now, we are not so sure anymore. When will this pandemic end? And how will we live when we get out of it? Which part of the world will feel safe? Will our children ever be able to catch up on the school lessons they have missed? 

I want to be optimistic but it is hard to say something without a caveat or with inverted commas or a thought bubble saying “assuming that the pandemic will be over by then…”.

So, today I’m announcing that we will offer the RockMeRetreat from 18 to 25 November 2021 under the assumption that we will have enough people vaccinated and that the virus doesn’t fool us again. I wish for all of us to support each other in communities and I’m convinced that despite the wonders of technology an OFFLINE RETREAT will almost certainly create miracles. Because of the travel situation and insecurities around the world I have decided to offer the RockMeRetreat in Switzerland at this monastery in Ilanz. I had been on a retreat there before and it’s a very simple place but the sisters are extremely warm and welcoming and the mountain view is just amazing.

https://www.klosterilanz.ch/de/

I hope you will join us and I would be happy to set up a meeting with you to discuss your participation. Hopefully, once you come back from this week you’ll feel refreshed and inspired again and ready to tackle the next challenge in your expat or nomadic lifestyle. 

I miss having offline workshops and what I love about this retreat is that we can be offline most of the time and connect with our inner creators again. We can work on our relationships with people that are important to us and we can build a community of people who help each other (irrespective of their cultural or religious background but based on shared values and deep love for people).

Like we need yeast to bake bread, we need energy and love to work and live with people around us. We might think that we can just stay at home and send our avatars to work but who are we then? 

We need to get dressed in nice clothes, have a commute to work and a distance between “work” and “leisure”. Otherwise, we lose our fire, our inspiration and we lose touch with our inner creator. I look forward to hearing from you.

Resources and further reading

NewInZurich

https://newinzurich.com/2020/06/expats-and-covid-19-five-steps-to-avoid-burn-out/

Ana Margarida Forte Interview

https://anchor.fm/agora-podcast–radio/episodes/PODCAST-INTERNATIONAL-Serie-2-5-WorldWild-Ana-Margarida-Forte-with–Angie-Weinberger-talking-about-mental-health-eoi3uf

Looking at the whole family in the expatriation process …

https://bridgek12.org/the-importance-of-looking-at-the-whole-family-in-the-expatriation-process-will-raise-global-mobility-to-the-next-level/

Our epic blog posts

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/getting-out-of-the-november-blues-six-quick-tips-to-deal-with-negative-emotions-this-season/

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/the-rise-of-weinberger-building-up-strength-during-the-pandemic-part-4/

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/the-passion-games-playing-yourself-through-the-pandemic-part-3/

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/sleepless-in-switzerland-getting-through-the-pandemic-part-2/

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/angie-alone-at-home-managing-yourself-through-the-pandemic-part-1/

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/assignment-failure-on-the-rise-the-solution-is-to-prevent-family-separation-part-1/

https://globalpeopletransitions.com/avoiding-assignment-failure-through-family-issues-seven-key-provisions-for-your-global-mobility-guidelines-part-2/

 

Weinberger, A. (2020) Recordings on “Expat Health” – 

https://studio.youtube.com/video/J_0tvWF7nrY/edit

https://studio.youtube.com/video/h6kKIqoTCG4/edit

 

Global TV Talk Show with Ed Cohen:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A__8MmVCRD0&feature=emb_title

Interview with Ed Cohen on Minority Expats

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udn5keryiZQ&ab_channel=EdwinCohen