Before we moved here, one of our biggest questions was money. Besides knowing that Zürich is one of the top five most expensive cities in the world, we wondered how we were going to transfer our US Dollars to Switzerland. We knew that it is very difficult, if not impossible for an American to open a bank account here lately.
Enter, Die Post. The Swiss Postal Service is more than a place to stand in line to ship packages. (While you stand in line you can also shop for office supplies, books, umbrellas, candy and other assorted goodies.) You can run your finances through a Postal Account (Postkonto). We have already paid one bill through this account. You get a slip of paper (a bill) and take it to Die Post (La Poste in the French part of Switzerland and La Posta in the Italian part) and hand over cash. the routing numbers are on the bill and Die Post takes care of it. The ETH is a slightly different matter. Fortunately for us, they take a credit card for paying our rent. Otherwise we would have to go to the ATM on consecutive days for almost a week to withdraw cash (and incur transfer fees) to pay our monthly rent.
Six and a half weeks ago we applied for a Postkonto. We knew it would take a little while. We heard 4-6 weeks. We faithfully checked our mailbox for our account information and cards. We had told our health insurance that we could pay them as soon as we got our Postkonto. The health insurance said okay. Yesterday we got a letter in the post, and I knew it was our account! And yet, it wasn’t. After six and a half weeks, Die Post thought they might want a little more information from us. Since we are US citizens, they want us to be on the up and up with the US Government, so they kindly attached several more documents for us to fill out. One is an American W-9. One says that we have to let the IRS know about our financial dealings here. I am wondering to myself why they didn’t give us these forms on the first day. Maybe we had to go through some kind of scrutiny before they thought about giving us an account, and now that we have passed the first test, here comes the second.
Anyway, we are sending in those forms today, and hopefully soon we can pay our health insurance bill. So far we have been able to pay for things here with our chip and pin credit card, regular credit card, and cash. We have made a few withdrawals from the ATM. The money that will go into our Postkonto is the honorarium that H gets from the ETH. He is still paid a salary from HMC which is directly deposited at home and which is now easy to access online (remember when banking was all done at the bank?). When we do get our account, we will be able to handle other payments online. For example, I will want to pay the orchestra I am playing with. It’s a club with dues. They have to pay the conductor, the concertmaster, for music and for the room in which we rehearse.