Let’s just start by saying what a year it has been as expats in Switzerland! We can’t believe that 1 whole year has passed since we were driving 1600km from the Netherlands to Switzerland with our documents, boxes filled with personal belongings and our adventurous kitty cat.
When we think back of how our 1st year in Switzerland has been, all we can think is wow. We have squeezed so many activities, adventures and fun that the year has whizzed by at full speed. Which inspired this post to write about the wins, learnings and of course a few fails from experience!
We know from online forums and social media that many make the same choice to move to Switzerland, so we hope in a way that this post helps those looking into making the move to see what you may also have as a win, fail or learning!
The Wins As Expats In Switzerland
This is a big win, since we became expats in Switzerland and did everything all on our own with the packing, a rental van, all the required documents, and then of course the journey. Twice. Since we first drove with the rental van with our belongings and back, and then a second time with our car and kitty.
We started as Swiss Expats in Locarno for 2 months in an airbnb, which allowed us to register, start work and live in Ticino while we found our bearings and understanding of everything. We made a 3 month in Switzerland summary post for how it was all going, as well as our personal experience with customs at the German-Swiss border. Now that was an experience!!
After our 2 months were up, we moved to the village of Cadro in Lugano. It’s a lovely little village about 20 minutes from the city centre. This stay was at Cadro Panoramica with a rustic furnished apartment and only temporary as well, until we could actually find a home to call our own. This second stay was of course beneficial since it was a lot cheaper than the airbnb and also closer to Lugano where we wanted to find a home.
Finding Our Home Sweet Home
Once we passed the 5 month mark of living in Switzerland, it has just passed our first Christmas in Switzerland and our goal was to find that specific apartment that we would want to call home. Our stay at Cadro was extendable on a monthly rental basis. So we could take our time and look for a place we liked in Lugano without a strict deadline.
By January we had already a few appointments lined up to view some local rentals. It happened super quick, with our 1st rental appointment actually being perfect for us as the next step for housing. It has a stunning view looking down to the lake, city of Lugano and the mountains in the distance.
By February we had moved in with all our belongings and it’s been amazing. We have been making it more homely every month with our furniture, decorations and new cat toys ever since!
I’ve put this in the wins section, but for Dawid this has been a much bigger win than for myself! The first few months was not a time I was learning, except for the basics of course. It felt like we were here on holiday after all, enjoying the summer months with other tourists who were visiting.
I also didn’t see the urgency to learn, since I was then also learning how everything else worked in Switzerland instead (like health insurance, housing, bank and permit stuff). And then we ended up moving house and time just whizzed by, so before I knew it, its been 1 year and my Italian is still not really that good!
Though I’m not giving up, send me motivation! I will be joining new classes soon!
For other Expats In Switzerland, it’s good to be aware that Italian is the primary language in two cantons but the others have either French or German. So check this for your possible expat experience!
Explorations In Ticino
The first few months of moving to Ticino really felt like holiday, exploring all the time and discovering local gems all in the Ticino canton. From a simple walk by the lake to hiking 1962m to the peak of a local mountain. We have swam in the crystal clear rivers and waterfalls, eaten all the local pizza and pasta dishes as well as drank a few too many aperol spritz.
There is so much to see here that the we could talk about our experiences in Ticino for ages, but if interested you can find all our activities and discoveries on our site.
Ticino is definitely a place we feel like home and we cannot believe its already been 1 whole year since we moved here!
Explorations In Switzerland
We’ve also explored a many other cantons too, such as a wintery weekend Zermatt, a day trip to Zurich, explorations in Interlaken, a week in Basel and a few times to Luzern. We have also seen much more with special events, such as watching the Swiss Military Jet Fighters and an amazing Hot Air Balloon Festival.
It’s hard to pick a favourite destination we have visited, with each unique and special. But Zermatt does stand out simply for the most beautiful mountains in the snow, whereas Zurich and Interlakken having more of an international vibe (and restaurants we love!).
All our canton explorations can be found all here.
The country has so much to see by car too, where we have also visited many of the beautiful scenic mountain passes in rain, cloud and shine.
If you are also one us as Expats In Switzerland and want to hear more from us, check first our expat posts and reach out if you have any questions!
Explorations In Italy
We have done many trips and enjoyable drives around for exploration. Since Italy only 20 minutes away, it is a place we visit at least once a month! We really love exploring Lake Como with it’s pretty destinations of Menaggio, Varenna and Bellagio. We have also driven around Lake Maggiore for explorations on that area of Italy.
Let’s be honest, it’s also beneficial to head over to Italy when in need of something cheaper than in Switzerland, providing that we don’t spent over the import duties and regulations.
Joined Local Events
There has been some lovely local events we have spent time at as well. For example;
- Watching Swiss Military jets race past us at the Axalp Air Show in Brienz
- Getting mesmerized at the light show of Lilu Light Festival in Luzern
- Drinking too much gluhwein at a few Christmas markets in Zurich and Lugano.
- Enjoying a summers evening watching a film at the Locarno Film Festival
- Attended a Race day event at Monza Italy track
- Partied with the Swiss National Holiday on 1st August with fireworks!
- Visited the Porsche 75 year anniversary in Glarus
- Watching a Swiss jet, helicopter and fireworks at Luci-e-Ombre (Lights and Shadows) event in Locarno
- Danced at Moon&Stars festival in Locarno
- ZigAirMeet Military Air Show at Mollis Airport
Getting TWO New Swiss Cars
Since we have to sell our Dutch car and took it back to the Netherlands end of 2022, it wasn’t long until we actually got a new car in Switzerland early 2023. This was not urgent, but the first car we were interested in was advertised at the right time and it was just perfect. A cute little red Abarth with white wheels, my dream. It fits us perfectly for a little get around vehicle in Ticino.
We have also used it to explore around Switzerland, as well as to Monaco and Northern Italy!
Then, a few months later we decided that actually we wanted a second car. More of a suitable, still badass, more roadworthy car for longer road trips and explorations. So by March 2023, we actually invested in a 2nd car – this time a BMW M3!
Adopting a 2nd kitty!
We had relocated with our lovely kitty Szila from the Netherlands, but by March 2023 it was time for her to have a brother or sister. This is definitely one of our fav ‘wins’ from 2023, where we adopted a kitty from a local organisation in Ticino. And she has fit right into the family!
She is called Medea (name chosen by the people when the passport was made), who is now a 1 year kitty, since we adopted her at 8 months. She originally came from Bosnia, where she was rescued as a street cat. We believe she’s a Persian breed and extremely soft, fluffy, chatty and sweet.
She has completed our family beautifully!
The Learnings As Expats In Switzerland
Starting from Scratch
When living in the Netherlands, we simply knew everything, such as for how it all worked with the health insurance, banking, housing, the DigID governmental online login processes and also things like how to save money via supermarket discounts and finding good deals for a bargin.
For Switzerland, this was definitely completely unknown. We had of course done our research many months in advance to what we could expect, but what to expect and relativity is always a bit different!
Now that it’s been a year, we know which weather apps, supermarkets, and how things generally work around here. So a lot less stressful and no more ‘lost feeling’ mode.
Understanding Import Taxes
This is something we have had to get used to and understand in general. Since Switzerland is part of the EU but have their own rules and regulations in place for importation and exportation. Such as when we buy something from abroad now. There are import taxes based on what is coming into the country from certain stores, as we have seen that it also depends on what is being sent, the value of the goods and from who
Also sending items back or to relatives is a learning point for us. Since you need to pay additionally for customs again based on the item and value. Also for example, we ordered a few things from Amazon, but we had to send one item back, which costed us less than 40 EUR. But to send it back it would actually cost us also 40 CHF to return to Amazon. So in this case we decided to sell the item 2nd hand locally instead.
Finding A Good Local Deal
Switzerland as everyone knows is not the cheapest location for travels, living or shopping. All expats in Switzerland will struggle with this point at first. But a learning for us is that after a while, probably around the 6 month mark of living here, that we understood best where to find a good deal. This is in regards to supermarket food, such as where the best quality (but not so expensive) meat can be bought. It also includes what websites we can use for finding second hand items, good technology deals and which pet shops have the best food on offer for our kitties.
I’m also a big fan of second hand shopping, and after a while learnt the Italian words to finding some local stores with vintage and second hand items. My favourite thing to do for a rainy day!
Cost Of Living In Switzerland
As a learning point we have added this paragraph about the costs of everything!
As you may expect, Switzerland is expensive, but it’s relative since you would also have a local Swiss contract. So we already knew before moving that our salary would be higher at the same time as bills being higher. For example, my Dutch mandatory health insurance was around 110 EUR per month whereas in Switzerland this is 360 CHF. This could be cheaper, but this could also be more expensive, since it depends on your choices of health insurance options.
This was not a shock or a fail in our expat process, however it is a learning point. In our experience it has made us learn to appreciate the little things more, such as hiking for free in the beautiful Swiss mountains. But we did not stop spending quality time out and about spending money on things like local activities, events mentioned above and restaurants. So pretty balanced and pretty much the same as what we did when living in the Netherlands.
For curiosity, here’s our post about cost of living in Lugano Ticino!
The Fails As Expats In Switzerland
Had to sell our Dutch car
As the Netherlands is a lot less strict with self-modifications on cars, our car was perfectly approved for Dutch driving standards. However Switzerland is a lot more strict with modifications, they are allowed, but only with certificates and professional proof.
Since Dawid is a workshop garage wizard and did all his own modifications, our car had simply no certificates for the changes. So even though we did bring it to Switzerland (while we were classed as tourists so no broken rules) we knew it would not be possible to import it within 1 year of living in Switzerland.
It has all been cleaned up and ready for selling now, so if you are interested in a beautifully modified E46 – let us know!
Documents Delays From Abroad
Due to some status checks and the standard criminal checks that took a lot longer from our original countries to Switzerland, there was a bit of a fail of delays for Dawid’s permit. This is not really related to Switzerland administration since they have been helpful, but it did take longer than expected to get all documents prepared for Dawid for his Swiss permit. So that was a little bit of a fail that we possibly could have avoided.
The issue linked to this is that when we did get the original status checks and standard criminal check form (which everyone needs to do for Permit B in Switzerland), we also had to get this translated to Italian for Ticino. So the delays was simply in this process of first getting the documents and then the certified translations done.
As an extra, my own permit back 1 year ago was also delayed, as my company had signed the permit application form digitally (which we thought would be fine as it wasn’t specified anywhere!), which of course was not accepted. So I had to redo the form with original signatures via the post. I further had more delays when I had to renew my permit a second time and they wanted original documents sent to them, but they already had them from the first time.
Got A Parking Fine In Italy
Exactly as this title shares, we got a parking fine when visiting Lake Como. We wanted to stop for a bite to eat and drink on our way home from a racetrack event at Monza Italy. It was a beautiful hot day, and like most beautiful days around Lake Como, that also means lack of parking.
We had decided to park just at the end of the parking area along a one way street. It was a small risk in getting a fine that we knew already, but we took our chance. After a nice walk, delicious pasta and an Aperol spritz, we headed back to the car to spot the fine on our window.
We didn’t know what to expect the amount to be, but turned out as only 29.40 EUR. So we sort of joked about it and simply paid the next day easily via the IBAN number to the local government.
Had An Italian Scooter Driver Crash Into Us
So driving in Ticino is a bit like driving in Italy. There are scooters, but just not as many and definitely not beeping their horns that much. Even so, one busy day we had driven into the city for signing our housing contract and ended up in a small accident. All part of the expats in Switzerland experience right!?
Unfortunately, we ended up being a little late for that appointment since a local scooter driver had decided to undertake us, causing him to drive right into the front left side of our car as we wanted to turn left onto a side street. There was hardly any damage, but we were at the time using a rental car, which is being sorted easily. So at least our own car didn’t get damaged! And of course stupid for the scooter driver to undertake us on the incorrect side.
Summary As Expats In Switzerland
We as you may read have had fun with the wins, fails and learnings of our 1 year journey as expats in Switzerland. We look forward to exploring more of Switzerland with activities and day trips, as well as visiting more of Italy nearby.
We also really look forward to staying longer as residents in the Ticino canton, including meeting more locals and trying new things like a local gym, learning better Italian and discovering new restaurants.
If you stick around with our expat posts and Swiss inspired travel posts, you’ll get to see our 2nd year update!