My Swiss Life: All you need to know to move to Switzerland + Setting Up Home


First things first, I hope you’re enjoying the posts in the “My Swiss Life” series. It’s close to my heart and is definitely more than a peak into my new life.

Moving changes life more than one can imagine. While I did my planning, one can never really be a 100% prepared. It is the “unknown” which is exciting and difficult at the same time. How can you separate emotions out of a topic like this – like the saying goes – Home is where the heart is.

Moving to a new country – Switching off the lights for the final time in our Bangalore apartment was hard. I didn’t know I would shed so many tears – but one does get attached to the home you built so many memories in. With us, moved at least 50% of our belongings . That’s the thing about expat moves, you relocate.

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Here are a couple of tips for people who move countries:

  • Plan, plan and plan more – Cuz how much ever you plan it is never going to be enough. Do an extensive online research to increase preparedness and chalk out a plan accordingly. If you’re moving to Basel – there are a ton of resources available like – Life in Basel, Kanton Basel-Stadt etc.
  • Make lists . When it came to items, I made 3 list:things to sell, things to donate and things to take. This in itself, took months, a lot of apps and coordination. Now make another list for all the pending tasks: paperwork to move to a new country, bank accounts, lockers, loans, rentals and agreements. The idea is to make sure you cover all things important.
  • Find a school for the kids. If you’re parents and you are clear about the kind of education you want your child to go into – it’s important to shortlist schools. In our case, we wanted to make the transition easy for our daughter so we went with an international school with the same kind of curriculum which was also bilingual in nature. Make telephonic appointments and have your top 2 choices ready before you land.
  • Find an apartment. In case you are planning to go from the airport to your new house, I suggest you shortlist and discuss houses beforehand. However, my advise is to always have some lead time between when you land to your permanent address. In my case we took up a service apartment in a central yet beautiful area(Schützenmattstrasse) and then looked for apartments online. We were fortunate to have a relocation expert by our side who guided us through the process.
  • Think of Insurance. Medical, car insurance and a few others made it to my list. A lot of agencies(in Basel/Switzerland) help you make up your mind by providing the right amount of options and this is usually free of cost.
  • Bank accounts :I have heard new residents(in Switzerland) are offered a total of 3 bank accounts for free – individual and joint. But this is something that might depend on the work permit, and can differ from person to person.
  • Registration in Basel/Switzerland. This is fairly easy yet one of the most essential processes. We are based in Basel – Stadt and the process was particularly breezy with some added perks. The added perks include tickets to museums, zoo, ferry rides, events and festivals. It also includes a German language learning course which is tied to majority of the language schools. I was extremely pleased and felt welcome to the new city once I was registered.
  • Amenities like cellphone connections, internet and TV . All necessities are easily available and comparable in Basel/Switzerland. You are never charged when you subscribe, the trust people in still in you has blown my mind!
  • Paying bills in Switzerland – Till your bank accounts are being set up – use post offices to pay the issued invoices. The usual decorum in a post office is to collect a coupon and wait for your turn. Almost everyone in Basel understands English hence getting your job done is not really an issue.
  • Tram/Bus/Train card . Public transport is a way of life in Switzerland, it is probably the most important piece in your survival guide. Buy the TNW pass, do not for a day waste money of daily passes and short distance journeys. 
  • How to shop? I have not seen malls in Basel. The mall culture didn’t take off well is what I would assume. You can shop, shop to your heart’s content but then forget about eating. Or the other way is to visit the borders of Germany and France to buy grocery and furniture at slashed rates with 19% moneyback. I haven’t mastered this art too well.
  • Miscellaneous – Of course there is more when you move and there is a lot that you forget. But things are quite structured and process driven. For any specific questions, feel free to comment below.

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Turning a house into a home
: Look up many houses, do a good research on the rates and do not settle easily. It’s not easy moving houses either and the lease typically is at least a year. Everyone has different parameters when they look for a house, for us it was:

  • Close Proximity to the tram stations/bus stops
  • Close Proximity to school
  • Close Proximity to grocery stores
  • 3 bedrooms and 2 restrooms
  • A fully equipped kitchen
  • A washing machine and drier set up inside the house
  • Internet and Garbage included
  • Pretty as well as spacious

Sounds like a wish list?  I got 6 out of 8, I compromised a little bit for Pretty.  

So what’s our house like? We have a duplex house:  the lower floor is where the bedrooms are whereas the upper part consists of the living room, a small bedroom and the kitchen area. This is the opposite of how houses in India are.

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Unpacking your furniture and life’s earnings

We actually timed our moving in date to match with the date of the arrival of our Indian furniture/stuff.  Stuff arrived and we didn’t know where to keep it.

I took charge and did what I have always done. I set up the kitchen. So I did that, it broke my back and my heels but the house was now running. This is a must do for couples with children and little ones.

Meanwhile, my husband started arranging and assembling IKEA furniture.

It took us almost a month to make the house comfortable and another two to make it comfortably pretty. I have to admit a lot of the stuff around my house is either from Ikea or from India. The house style can be termed as traditional meets contemporary.

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Things that I have done around the house:-

  • Chests – In India, chests are not used too regularly and I now understand why. They might be space savers but what good are they if you can’t find what you need. I organised the chests with the IKEA boxes and dividers. Another thing I did was to change the orientation of the way we keep clothes. I am not completely satisfied but I am sure I made the best out of what I had.
  • Book Organisation – I used the book holders at the edges of a rounded window and converted it into a mini library. Since I donated most of our books in India, we don’t have too many at the moment and this solution worked perfectly.
  • Jewellery and Cosmetics – I used a simple white ladder which was a decor item in India and converted it into a cosmetic/artificial accessory holder. I used different steps to stock similar items – hence it created easy access.
  • Puja/Mandir – I made this a DIY project by converting my old mandir (place of worship) by painting it. I changed it from dark brown to white – it was a successful project and a great activity for my daughter.
  • Things from India which were life saviours – Converters and electrical boards that I bought at the last minute from Amazon. Ironing board, cooler and table fan, printer, vacuum cleaner saved my life.
  • Things that you should not get from India : Leave cooking utensils since we are not raised in the induction environment, food processor and winter clothing. The winter clothes from India cannot and will not beat the European winters.
  • Toys: I used the Ikea shelves with cloth boxes and used them to organise everything – art & craft supplies, stationery, new unopened gifts, books and paperwork. These 4X4 shelves are spacious, and the baskets make them look really pretty.
  • Miscellaneous  – I did the usual kitchen organisation and used a open tall cabinet for all my fancy glassware. I bought some extra drawers to create storage space under the bed. I have a seller which is full of cardboards and I figured out processes.

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Hope you guys found this post informative and value adding. Have you moved to Switzerland? Have you moved out of your comfort zone? Share your experience in the comments’ section.

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Picture Credits :- Stock Images and Zarina Yaya

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