Expat Stories: Karen Herzog on life in Switzerland

Expat Stories: Karen Herzog on life in Switzerland

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After 19 years of living in Switzerland, Karen Herzog shares some insight into what she would change about life in Switzerland.

Name: Karen Herzog

Nationality: USA/ Swiss

Country of residence: Switzerland

How long have you lived here? 18 years

City/town of residence: Tagelswangen ( ZH)

Civil status: Married

Occupation: Compliance Officer


Reason for moving to your new country of residence.

Originally for work, but stayed because I married a Swiss.

What was your first impression of your new country of residence?

Very clean, organised. Everything ran on time, or most of it. The people, on the other hand can be a bit reserved and I have the feeling that in the smaller towns they do not like foreigners moving into Switzerland. Tourists are fine, though, if they will spend money here.

What do you think of the food?

In Switzerland you can find many specialties from all over Europe, so there is a large choice. The selection in the grocery stores has improved tremendously in the past 15 years as well. Eating out is very expensive, though!

What do you think of the shopping?

There is limited selection in comparison to some neighbouring countries – Germany, Italy, France. The Zürich Bahnhofstrasse has Prada, Gucci, Chanel, etc. at one end and the other end 25, H&M, Zara, Chicoree, C&A, and many other shops with cheaply manufactured clothing.

Other than two to three large department stores, there is not much in the middle. Other countries in Europe tend to have many more middle range shops and then 10 percent exclusive designer shops and 10 percent low end. Not sure why – H&M certainly has had no trouble expanding here, but other shop chains are often everywhere else but not in Switzerland. As well on the internet, a lot of European websites will not ship to Switzerland.

What do you appreciate about living in your new country of residence?

Generally things run on time, are relatively clean and so far, safe. Burglaries have increased a lot since I have lived here, though. Other crimes are not reported like in other countries.

What do you find most frustrating about living in your new country of residence?

Violent crimes are not reported like in other countries: I lived in a ski resort one season and there were reports of about 10 women who were walking alone who were attacked and raped. It was in late autumn and the authorities kept it quiet so that they would not have tourist cancellations for the Christmas / NY time. No kidding, true story!

What puzzles you the most and what do you miss the most since you've moved here?

Having most stores and businesses closed on Sundays. The train stations and mini-marts are packed. Let the businesses decide when they want to open, not a labour union!

How does the quality of life here compare to the quality of life in other countries that you've lived in?

Difficult to say, the education system is a bit odd and very different from English-speaking countries. Kids are not finished with the school here, but there seems to be a lack of desire to have kids attend university. Even the farmers make a decent living, so education is not that important to many.

If you could change anything about your new country of residence, what would it be?

Not dividing kids into different groups at age 12 for further education. Keep the education the same for all until at least 16, even 18, then see who would be able to study. Before puberty it is too hard to judge who has the capacity for certain types of jobs.

What advice would you give to a newcomer?

If you learn the language (at least Hoch Deutsch for those in the German-speaking area) it will open many more doors.



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