Ruined by Switzerland?

IMG_4749My regular followers might remember that I follow the blog One Big Yodel by Chantal Panozzo, an American expat from Chicago who recently returned to the Windy City after eight years in Switzerland.

Her most recent article, How Switzerland Ruined Me for America and Its Lousy Work Culture, has the expat community all abuzz. Panzanno writes about differences between Swiss (and really, European) Work-Life balance and what many Americans experience. For example, Swiss companies must give their employees at least 4 weeks of paid vacation a year, and we all know that maternity leave is better in many countries than here in the US.

Her points are well-taken, but, of course, she paints only a partial picture of life in Switzerland. Yes, the Swiss make better salaries, on the average, than Americans, but the prices in that country are extremely (and I mean it) high. From rents (very few people own real estate) to food, and that fabulous public transportation will run you a pretty Franc.

Another issue is that it is extremely difficult for foreigners to find work in Switzerland. An employer must prove that they cannot find a citizen for the job, and one must usually speak the language at a pretty decent level (this is no small effort as it takes at least several years to become somewhat fluent). If you work for an American country that moves you to Switzerland, that helps, but you generally do not know how long your contract there will be. I know people who have been there longer than they anticipated, and people whose contracts have been shortened.

It is not culturally easy to be an Ausländer in Switzerland, either. It can take years to feel as though you fit in. If you are not willing to live within the Swiss parameters and follow rules, and you like your freedom to be who you are and do whatever it is you please, it can be a tough adjustment.

Not all American jobs are as horrible as the one Panzanno was applying for in her article. Some are, but others are much better. I know that H and I are among the fortunate who have flexible time and enjoy our work, especially when it allowed us to spend a great year living in Zürich.

There’s always a trade-off.

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