ERM in Switzerland

Say hello!!
Post Reply
dabble
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Oct 02, 2010 8:53 pm

Post by dabble » Sat Oct 02, 2010 9:26 pm

Hi from Switzerland,
I came across this blog a few weeks ago (following a link from The Idler) and since then I’ve visited almost daily, bought a pressure cooker (Kuhn Rikon on sale, what a lovely thing) and ordered the ERE book. I’m definitely not ready to follow an extreme path (wrong "starsign" namely INTP) but there are lots of ideas here that resonate with things I’ve been thinking about, like eating lentils more, and not buying an iPad. I have spent a lot of my life around physicists (not really one myself, but I would say I am fluent in physics culture) and to me this blog is steeped in a physicist’s way of looking at life -- on the whole a good thing, I think! Are there many physicists around here?
I quite like my job on the whole but would more happily do it just 3 days a week, or with the option to chuck it in for a year or so at a time -- so for me financial (quasi-)independence would be the ability to do either of these (*). My partner and I started saving for more or less the first time in our lives when we moved here to Switzerland, and while F(Q)I is far off, it is striking how even having modest reserves changes the way we look at our jobs and possibilities for the future.
(*) Earlier in my life I lived in Denmark for a while, and it’s funny to think that if I still lived there with the same job I could have achieved either of those goals, more or less, while on a full-time permanent contract. If only the weather was better!
Looking forward to more reading, more ideas, more savings.
Dabble
(pursuing Early Retirement Moderate)


jacob
Site Admin
Posts: 10827
Joined: Fri Jun 28, 2013 8:38 pm
Location: USA, Zone 5b, Koppen Dfa, Elev. 620ft, Walkscore 73
Contact:

Post by jacob » Sun Oct 03, 2010 12:57 am

I lived in Switzerland for 4 years while I was in grad school. I would definitely recommend getting a Kuhn Rikon for anyone visiting. I think I paid 180CHF for mine and I bought two others as gifts :)
As far as I've noticed/can remember, there's only one other physicist here who has actually admitted to being one (Hi A_).
I think people would enjoy their jobs a lot more if they had that option. I'd go for a 2-1-2 model with Wednesdays and weekends off. I think that would make a huge difference and that most people would be just as productive as long as they weren't doing repetitive Taylor-like work. Some companies, like Google, have compromised a bit and now let their employees work on their own projects one day each week (I believe)---this is where all the innovative work comes from. Maybe regular work schedules quench innovation; in a way that's hardly surprising since work is organized by managers who by default are anti-visionaries in terms of trying new things.


ktn
Posts: 115
Joined: Wed Jul 21, 2010 10:33 pm

Post by ktn » Sun Oct 03, 2010 2:39 pm

@dabble: Welcome onboard! You are living in a country I aspire to move to too - for the better weather and monies. ;-) ERM, eh? Sure, why not. Not all of us on here are extremists. I had never heard of Kuhn Rikon before. So thanks for the tip. I have a pressure cooker too and agree it is great for fast cooking all sorts of things. I am curious to hear why you think you'd have achieved your FI goals if you had continued living in Denmark. I find it difficult to increase savings thanks to high marginal taxes here in Finland. As far as I have heard, Denmark is worse on taxes but the salaries are better though not as good as in Switzerland?
@jacob: I don't consider the Googles of this world ideal places to work. As a techie myself, I try to stay away from companies that have turned living, breathing, eating and sleeping work into an attractive way to burn your life away. With food, laundries, doctors, banks, dog/baby sitters and most such errands being offered right on campus, these companies have fostered a culture of work, work and more work. Thanks to the likes of Google, my employer too now offers all night code-a-thons fueled by free pizza and energy drinks. To me, the Google lifestyle is opposite of the I in FI.


dabble
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Oct 02, 2010 8:53 pm

Post by dabble » Sun Oct 03, 2010 2:59 pm

@ktn I wasn't saving any money in Denmark at all (!) but if I'd stayed I could have negotiated low working hours due to a strong union, and also had good possibilities of sabbatical leave, especially if I acquired some children at some point. (There is one law, I think, that you can take a semi-paid year off at any time until your child is 9 years old.) In fact the initial impetus for us to start saving was so we could self-fund some of the benefits of the Scandinavian welfare state when we wanted them.
I never visited Finland so I can't make comparisons, but I think if you came here to work in IT you would have a good salary, and if you are disciplined about spending you could save quite a lot. There are a lot of expensive things to spend money on, and I think if you work in the banking world (I don't) some amount of social pressure to have some of those things. If you can avoid spending money on skiing, watches, eating out, and so on, then living on 2000CHF a month should be quite straightforward. If you go "extreme" you could maybe take it down to 1000 CHF but how much you need to spend on health insurance and transport will be significant.
(The weather is lovely here, and the increased availability of fresh fruit and vegetables is a treat as well.)


dabble
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Oct 02, 2010 8:53 pm

Post by dabble » Sun Oct 03, 2010 3:10 pm

@jacob Personally I'd go for 3 days on, 4 days off, so I could really shake off the cobwebs and get creative with other things on the off days ... but I can see how my employer might like my 3 days spread more evenly through the week.


ktn
Posts: 115
Joined: Wed Jul 21, 2010 10:33 pm

Post by ktn » Sun Oct 03, 2010 6:00 pm

@dabble: Thanks a lot for the encouragement. Yes, I am not averse to doing IT as long as the pay is good. I have quite a lot of IT experience in several countries and big companies plus a degree in finance as well (though I have never worked in the field). One issue I keep running into for jobs in CH is the language requirement. Despite being IT jobs, the job ad often requires German/French and English. Did you speak German/French before moving?
I have got over the urge to spend on things like watches, gadgets, skiing and fancy clothes. So that is not an issue. Do you think there would be social pressure to flaunt it even if I were working in the IT department of a bank? CH is doubly enticing because you have a very good rail network. If I could find a job there, I'd stay in a place close to a public transport line so I don't have to buy a car.


dabble
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Oct 02, 2010 8:53 pm

Post by dabble » Sun Oct 03, 2010 6:36 pm

@ktn: Luckily I only need English for my job, though my bit of German helps with everyday life. I don't really know anyone well who works in IT and/or banking but I seem to have met or heard of a fair few people who have come here to work with only English, no German or French. It notoriously takes a long time to find a job here though. If you haven't come across the website englishforum.ch

I recommend it; there's a lot of good information about life in Switzerland including employment. Now that I think about it "social pressure" and "IT" probably don't overlap that much. :) As long as you have some dark-coloured clothing and a Freitag messenger bag you will fit in wherever you go.


ktn
Posts: 115
Joined: Wed Jul 21, 2010 10:33 pm

Post by ktn » Sun Oct 03, 2010 8:22 pm

Thanks, dabble. Yes, I am familiar with that site. Very useful.
I tend to work with both business as well as IT people. So, I guess I'll need a couple of suits to go with that Freitag bag if I ever make it there. :)
May I ask if you are an EU citizen? Does that make a huge difference with permits and such? From what I read on a Swiss govt site it seems it does.. but I am not sure how much it matters to employers there.


jacob
Site Admin
Posts: 10827
Joined: Fri Jun 28, 2013 8:38 pm
Location: USA, Zone 5b, Koppen Dfa, Elev. 620ft, Walkscore 73
Contact:

Post by jacob » Sun Oct 03, 2010 9:38 pm

I always wondered why academia (most of theoretical research is coding) doesn't offer free coffee and cookies. I'd probably irrationally be happy about a $5000 pay cut in return for free coffee and cookies. I actually like work-places that revolve around work as a mission---being part of something greater.
I came to [the Swiss-German speaking part of] Switzerland with my school German (I spreche ein bisschen Deutsch, das heisst mein Wortervorrat reicht am meistens aus) and found very little opportunity to actually practice it because 1) The Swiss don't like speaking German-German (Hochdeutsch) and I couldn't understand Swiss-German (it tends to take Germans 2 months to understand it, it's a very strong dialect; it took me over a year). 2) They saw me as a great opportunity to practice their English (their third language). I think this highly depends on which environment you find yourself in and how extroverted you are. I mostly interacted with my colleagues. I spoke German with those who didn't like speaking English (not very many!). Eventually, I found myself speaking German around town, but I always spoke English at work.


dabble
Posts: 7
Joined: Sat Oct 02, 2010 8:53 pm

Post by dabble » Mon Oct 04, 2010 6:00 pm

I have free coffee at work, but I would rather have free apples.
Yes the situation with German here is very complicated. At one point I tried taking a Swiss German class and had a huge range of strong responses from locals, from those who were almost offended ("it's not even a language!") to those who were all for it. Generally, foreigners are supposed to learn Hochdeutsch, which seems to me like requiring people who move to Denmark to learn Swedish instead -- the languages are related and sort of mutually intelligible, but not really.
@ktn, I'm not from the EU, which does make it harder to get a permit. My employer had to apply for me and show that they couldn't get someone from Switzerland or the EU to fill the position. I guess employers would prefer to hire people from the EU if possible for less hassle, but especially in more specialised jobs it seems many do go through the procedure to hire non-EU folk. There do seem to be a fair few Americans/Antipodeans/Indians etc working here.


Pushing50
Posts: 9
Joined: Fri Nov 26, 2010 7:13 pm

Post by Pushing50 » Fri Nov 26, 2010 7:35 pm

This morning I discovered the ERE blog after following a link from oftwominds.com/blog which I've also only recently discovered. This forum thread caught my eye because during my last three years of high school, I lived outside of Geneva and attended an international school. After I returned to the states, I never felt like I belonged here, but I've since readjusted. The idea of creating financial independence by reducing expenses and increasing skills resonates strongly with me, although as a husband and father I often feel the need to greatly compromise my ideals. Anyway, I'm rambling, so I'll just sign off by saying thanks (to all of you) for being there and for sharing your ideas.

P50


Post Reply