The one where we’re moving to Switzerland, part 1 – What did we need

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So now we’re here. The next 4-5 posts will contain our conclusions about moving to Switzerland after three months; I didn’t have time to write more often and also things didn’t happen all at the same time, so I couldn’t provide any context.

The bank adventure

As I said here, we have applied for the work permit early, about two weeks before arriving here. We also had a piece of paper that was supposed to prove we were allowed to work and that our permits were just being printed, but we were scared after a month with no answer about our permits. We got them after around a month and a half from the application, so things don’t work very fast here either.

In the meantime, we wanted to open bank accounts to not feel so exposed, since we only had money in cash. We were lucky enough to find a nice lady at the bank that looked into our situation and managed to handle this while waiting for our final permits to arrive. All of these things we handled during the normal business hours, so we had to skip work from time to time, but everyone was understanding with this situation.

We finally managed to have bank accounts and cards we could use. We got by mail, across at least a month, the cards, the PINs for the cards, the tokens for Internet banking and then the codes we needed for the tokens. After around two weeks we received some sort of a credit card we ordered at the same time with the debit ones, and a week later we also had the PIN code for it. This happened in Switzerland, the land of banks. Well, it kind of makes sense, since they don’t create an account for everyone and they feel the need to do a serious check-up before allowing you to put your money in their banks.

And I hope no one is expecting huge interest rates for deposit bank accounts, because that will be a huge disappointment. The commissions and fees are everywhere and the interest rate is around 0.05% per year. I’m sure people here do not make money out of keeping their deposits untouched, but we didn’t find out yet which method is that. A few years ago there was a negative interest rate to keep your money in Swiss banks, so basically, the client was paying the bank rent for the deposit, not the other way around.

A credit card can be granted only after 6 months of financial history is available, so they could predict your expense habits. We made a prepaid credit card for ourselves, and the only difference between this and a debit card is that we can use it for payments outside of the country. And nope, it’s not even embossed, so it cannot be used to rent a car on vacation, for example. There are fees even when charging this card with an amount of money, which is an internal payment, there are also really big fees for international payments, something around 100 francs for some plane tickets.

I miss my card and app from ING, where I could transfer money in 10 seconds and without any fees. The Internet banking app is also extremely different. It has lots of security systems, on multiple tiers, and it took me at least half an hour to log in for the first time. Meanwhile, in the Romanian Internet banking, I’m logging in from my phone using only my fingerprint; it is a little different, right? Still, Swiss banks do not play around when it comes to security, and I have to appreciate that.

The network provider

The SIM cards for our phone were bought after we got lost the first time on our way to the supermarket – will get to that later. Of course, the Internet here is limited and expensive. Goodbye, tens of Gb with 4G speed for 5-6 euros a month. And even if we make extensive use of the home and work Internet, we also wanted to have our own, since we’re in a foreign country where we don’t speak the language, and you never know when you’re going to find it hard to get back home. Still, we keep the video calls with our parents only on Wi-fi and we don’t use Instagram all day with the mobile data connection. Around the same time when we bought our SIM cards, we also received our social security numbers, and we don’t know what to do with it yet, but we think we will need to provide it for the different forms we’ll have to file.

Paying taxes

The taxation system depends a lot on where you live. There are three types of taxes: national, cantonal and municipal, apart from the income taxes.

For example, we live just 10 meters outside of Basel, in a different town and canton. For this reason, our taxes are with 2-300 francs lower than the people in Basel. Also, our health insurance was cheaper than if we would have lived in Basel. Some people live 2-3 cantons further away from the place where they work, to make use of smaller taxes and rents, and commute daily for 30-60 minutes by train.

Basically, as one of our colleagues said, Switzerland gives you options: do you want to invest your time to gain some money, or do you rather invest that time in doing something else?

Another notable aspect of the taxation system is that a married couple pays more taxes than an unmarried couple that lives together, since the tax is based on the family income, and there are thresholds which you can easily pass when counting two salaries. So there are lots of couples in Switzerland that never get married, but they live together, have children and keep their life the same as if they were.

Also, the taxes are higher if both family members work, but not too high that it would be cheaper to only have one working family member. There are also some tax deductions when the family also has children, but not big enough to cover the childcare costs. On the other hand, childcare is calculated based on the income, like they also calculate any fines you may have.

We found this out from our colleagues, we didn’t have to personally experience it, but traffic fines are represented by a percentage of your income. I find this interesting. If we take an example of 100 euros for a fine, this amount of money means something very different for each of us. For a person that earns 1000 euros a month, this is probably the food for one week, but for a person that earns 10.000 euros this means almost nothing, so he may be tempted to break the law again because the punishment was not that bad. But if the fine is 10% of your income, both of them will feel it the same way, and probably both of them will think twice before breaking the law again. On the other hand, the punishment should be corresponding to the harm done, and this is the same no matter who does it.

The health system

The health insurance system is on a different level. They only have private health insurance, and you choose for yourself which company you want. Starting with the first day here, you have three months to decide on a company and when you have it, you have to go to the Gemeinde – the place where we registered when we signed the rent contract – and to prove you have done it.

We waited for two months and a have before deciding, while we asked for opinions from our colleagues, and we saved some money too. So we thought, at least. When we registered though, we received a bill where it was stated that it starts from our first day inside the country. The law clearly states that the insured status begins either at birth, either when you enter the country or when your previous insurance policy expired if you have changed companies. So our money save was just for the moment, but at least we didn’t pay for it until we had Swiss salaries, so the burden was not as big as it would have been if we would have paid it with our Romanian salaries.

Anyway, this system is pretty similar to the one for the car, so you have a base and a franchise. You can basically play around with the amounts, but if you increase the monthly payment you are decreasing your franchise, and the other way around applies too. Either way, there are a few things included in the mandatory health insurance, and I heard the hospitals are well organized.

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