Thursday, May 15, 2008

Top 10 things to do before moving into your new apartment in Switzerland

Now that we've arrived at our new and permanent apartment, I thought I would put together a list of helpful tips of the "Top 10 things to do before you move" - please add a comment if I missed something:

#10 - This is an obvious one. Make sure you pay the deposit for your rent and your first month's rent. In Switzerland it is typical to pay a 1 - 3 months deposit. You, too, might think three months is a lot - and it is - but this is what we had to pay. So be prepared. This leads me to number 9.

#9 - Figure out how to do bill pay with your ebanking program (online) or through the bank or post office. Ebaking is easiest, but if you don't want to do that, going through the bank is actually pretty easy too. Those machines that look like ATMs at the bank but aren't are used to pay the pink and blue slips that you get via post - those are bills! Ask the bank staff to show you how to pay using the machines. UBS was nice enough to tell me when I went to the counter to pay that it costs 30 francs if they pay the bill for me or I could use the machine for 30 cents. Thank you UBS lady! They might be losing billions of francs because of the US housing crisis, but they still have excellent customer service. (They even called me yesterday to make sure I didn't have any questions about our account - how nice!)

#8 - Sign up for your cablecom or swisscom products in advance. If you want TV, internet or phone, or a package to save on all three, sign up as far in advance as possible. As soon as you know your address, do it! We were told it could take up to 6 weeks to get our cablecom account (thank goodness it only took 1 week!). There is no installation service like in the States, so you sign up in advance and get the connection boxes in the mail for self-installation. Just check with your new apartment about whether there is a mandatory provider (eg. we had to have cablecom TV) and if there are cable jacks for cable services. (If you get cablecom, let me refer you and we'll share the referral bonus! Comment this post.) You can compare service providers on

#7 - Ask for recommendations for a good electrician and buy some lights. The Swiss generally take their lighting fixtures with them when they move, so when you move in there are likely to be a few wires here and there for you to install your own lights. This HAS to be done by a registered electrician. Don't even think about it... Then off to IKEA for the lights!
(Ps. I used Markus Leutenegger - he is great, does cleaning and handyman work and is a certified electirian ... and speaks English! Call him! )

#6 - De-register and re-register in your new canton. If you have been living somewhere temporarily and you already registered, don't forget to de-register within 8 days of moving from that municipality/kreis. Naturally, you then have to re-register within those 8 days at your new canton. Don't forget your registration papers and your passport (Jace!). They also asked to see our marriage license when we re-registered and there is talk about some asking for a police clearance... but we didn't have to show these.

#5 - Figure out how you're going to get to work/IKEA/the city/where ever in advance. As you might not have internet for a few days (weeks!), go to the SBB site and plot any upcoming journeys. They also have a great feature that you can use to send the instructions to your mobile phone if you already have one. Here is more information on the SBB sms timetable.

#4 - Find the recycling containers, get a schedule and buy some garbage bags (usually at the grocery store or Post)... This will save you time later and allow you to unpack and settle in with ease. You need to recycle. So just do it and do it regularly to make the load lighter. You can pick up a schedule for the recycling that you can't do in the bins from your local Gemeinde or Kreis Office. Also, regarding the garbage bags, garbage service is payed for when you buy the bags. For example, a roll of garbage bags here is 20 francs, because it includes the garbage removal fees.

#3- Speaking of grocery shopping, if you don't have a car, buy a roller cart or reusable bags. I just bought a shopping cart and yes I feel like a nanna, but it will save my back and allow me to buy more at once (a la American shopping and not the 'buy something everyday for dinner tonight' Swiss way.. who has the time?!). You can buy heavy drinks and washing powder easier this way. Or if you insist, at least buy some reusable shopping bags as it will costs you 20 -30 cents to buy a bag at the grocery store... they're not free here! I like Baggu bags. They come in a dozen colors and have little pouches so you can store them in your purse. I always have one with me these days...

#2 - Get the US to Swiss electrical adapter (in the US if you can!) in advance. This will make it easier for you to unpack and plug in your electronics (those that you could take with you that have the converter within from 100 to 240v.). We made the mistake of buying them all there and they're hard to find (you can get them at Interdiscount and Media Mart for sure. They're not well marked though - they just have US to Swiss in small print on the adapter. They're about 7 francs each here, but you can get them in the States (online) for less. You just need to know if you need a grounded adapter (three prong) or an ungrounded adapter (two prong) plug... see it's that easy. If there isn't a converter in the electric item you're plugging in, you'll need to buy a separate converter.

#1 - If you are buying new furniture, buy it WAY in advance and be prepared to wait for delivery. If you have a car, you're golden. But let's say you buy a new bed from IKEA and want it for your new apartment and you arrange delivery thinking it will be there within the two weeks they noted. THINK AGAIN. We are still waiting for our new furniture and when I called yesterday they said it wouldn't be here this week either. That's three weeks now. I should have know! It can take up the 4 or more weeks to get furniture delivered here. Not sure why... smallest country ever, it's not a delivery thing, it's a demand thing. Either way, this is frustrating. So order early and push back the delivery if you apartment isn't ready yet. More than likely you'll still have to wait a bit for it to arrive. Crazy. . . BUY FURNITURE EARLY!
  • Here are the places that I would recommend to go furniture shopping in Switzerland (Zurich area):
    • IKEA - I love this place, despite all it's faults. Two locations around Zürich, 8 in Switzerland total. The Spreitenbach and Dietlikon locations are closest to Zurich.
    • Interio -A tiny step up from IKEA in terms of quality, quite a bit pricer though. Very modern furniture and home goods.
    • TopTip - Quality is meh. But they do have a good selection and interesting products.
    • Moebel Pfister - High class, great quality, but you pay for it. A little ueber modern for me though.
    • Diga Mobel - only checked this out online - but they look interesting.
    • Shubiger Moebel - also online, looks promising but expensive.
    • Fly Moebel - Same as above, but I like their style more. Good luck finding antique or American style furniture anywhere!


Anonymous said...

Hi Jessica - I came to your blog from the Expats in Zurich. Just wanted to let you know that I am an interior decorator and have found other furniture places that might meet your US tastes, but they are smaller stores than those you mentioned. Plus, you can get some good finds at Brocki's if you keep looking!

mrsmac said...

great list! thanks! we leave in two weeks and i'm still trying to figure out if there is a way to order from IKEA before we leave and have it delivered when we get there. Guess I'm SOL?

Jessica Cartwright said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Hi Jessica, thanks for the comments on my blog! Perhaps we should do a interior design/web design swap. ;-) I will look into your suggestions. all the best. stacy

juanitatortilla said...

Hi there! I was surfing through the English Forum, and in some roundabout manner, I came to your blog.
I just moved here to Zürich with my husband and cat, this May, and we are looking forward to moving to a new apartment this August! (We are temporarily putting up in a studio apartment, you see.)
Your list definitely helps, so, thank you for that!

twostudents said...

Hi Jessica,

I too found your blog from searching Expats in Zurich - and I'm thoroughly enjoying myself!

Quick question re: #5...are you saying that there are no "hotspots" in Zurich? Now that would be an adjustment!!

Jessica said...

Hello two students! Thanks for reading.

There are not as many hotspots in Zurich as there are in the States, that is for sure. I do not think they even have internet at Starbucks!!! I know, CRAZY! But I am sure there are some...

When are you coming to Zurich or are you already here?

Mrs. Freerksen said...

Hi! My husband and I recently moved to the canton of St. Gallen. We were definitely irked by the loose wires hanging from our ceiling where light fixtures should be. When you say a certified electrician MUST install the lights, is that just hearsay?

Jessica said...

Hmm... good question, Mrs. Freerksen. I posted this list on the awhile back and everyone there said just do it yourself, connect blue to blue and black to black or whatever, and you are done... but I am not confortable with that and would rather not risk a fire or electrocution if I did something wrong. So... I believe you can do the electrical stuff at your own risk, no one will throw you in jail, but just be careful. Perhaps search for tips. All the best!

Jessica said...

By the way, here is the follow up to that original point about the electrical work:

Jessica said...

Link did not work, try this.

Link to follow up on electrical work

Mrs. Freerksen said...

Thanks Jessica! My husband did all the work himself and survived (thankfully - believe me, I was a bit worried and had suggested we hire someone). I was just worried that some random inspector person might fine us for doing the work ourselves. Really, you never know with these Swiss, right?

Anonymous said...

Hi Jessica,

Great effects on the blog and Thanks for the information.This blog would be of great help for me.!

Sapphire said...

Yay IKEA! (bringing out my Swedish colors)

Is it the law to recycle or a major social crime if you don't?

Up in Sweden, people recycle almost everything but I tend to skip composting.

Really great list for those moving to Switzerland. I suppose I should make one for Sweden. :)


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