Jessica Cartwright on living in Zurich

Jessica Cartwright on living in Zurich

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Continuing our Expat Voices series, Jessica of Swisstory blog discusses Switzerland’s fresh food and high prices.

Name: Jessica Cartwright
Nationality: American
City of residence: Zurich
Civil status: Married
Date of birth: 13/7
Occupation: Online Project Manager
Reason for moving to Switzerland: My husband applied for a job in Switzerland on a whim… and he got it! Six months later we were off to Zurich, within a few months I found a job, and we haven’t looked back since.
Lived in Switzerland for: Will be one year in March 2009.

What was your first impression of Switzerland?

I was immediately impressed by Switzerland. Even within minutes of getting here you realise that the country has its act together. Things just run so smoothly, it is so clean, and the countryside is just beautiful. Having moved from Boston to Zurich we were ready for the snow and the cold, so we really just embraced living in a new place and Zurich, being one of the biggest cities in Switzerland, but small in comparison with other major cities in Europe, made it easy to settle in.

Jessica Cartwright

What do you think of the food?
A life filled with cheese and chocolate...I can’t really complain! There are so many varieties of both that I could probably live here for a lifetime and never experience them all. While eating out is quiet expensive and keeps us from going out as much as we did in the States, the quality of food is just stellar. I do not think I have had a bad meal at all in Switzerland. They really take pride in their food – both the quality and freshness.  Some of my favourites include schnitzel, fondue, raclette and Geschnetzeltes Zuricher Art, the latter being a pork dish with a creamy mushroom sauce served with Rosti – fried potato pancakes. I also love all the fresh fruits and vegetables available at the markets come spring.

What do you think of the shopping in Switzerland?

Everything in Switzerland is so expensive compared to the States. Once you get over it, if you ever do, it makes it easier to part with your dough. There is not nearly the array of stores here, but that somehow makes shopping easier, too. Some of my favorites are stores that are now available in the larger cities in the US – Zara and H&M. I also like strolling down Bahnhofstrasse and checking out all the top end stores - window shopping that is!

What do you appreciate about living in Switzerland?
Mostly, I appreciate that I am right smack dab in the middle of Europe. It doesn’t get much closer than this – within 2 hours you can get to all the hubs of Europe by air and within a few more hours by rail. I also appreciate that things are so well organised and straight and narrow. I know that some of the rules – like no laundry on Sunday and no flushing your toilet after 10 pm – are sometimes outrageous, but the rigid way of life makes for orderly living… who knew I was lacking such structure and would enjoy that?!

Jessica CartwrightWhat do you find most frustrating about living in Switzerland?
Swiss German. After studying ‘hoch Deutsch’ for years and years I thought I would have an edge up on the situation, but alas, it is a completely different language and I am constantly in social and business situations in which I am the only person in the room that does not understand Swiss German. It is frustrating to have to ask people to speak in high German so that I can understand them and partake in the discussion – both for them, probably more so actually, and for me.

What puzzles you about Switzerland and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
After much thought, I think it would have to be the Swiss’ preoccupation with time. They are the premier makers of watches and clocks, the rail and bus networks runs like ‘clockwork’ and there are hundreds of old clocks on the streets of Zurich – yet, whenever I call a meeting at work, everyone arrives 5-10 minutes late. Perhaps I should take it personally?! Then again, everyone says that the Swiss might be punctual when it comes to the public services, but that doesn’t mean they are a punctual people. Very puzzling.

Aside from the obvious - friends, family and York Peppermint Patties - I miss consumerism. I like going to the store and knowing that I will get things out of season and in 15 different varieties and flavors. It is America at its worst and best – and I miss a bit of that. I also miss stretching USD 20 as far as it will go, movies without intermissions, and chicken wings.

How does the quality of life in Switzerland compare to the quality of life in other countries that you’ve lived in?
Switzerland has an excellent quality of life – superb public transportation, available health care, it’s clean, it’s safe, and it is the perfect picture of neutrality. And well Switzerland has only won the Quality of Living Survey done by Mercer Human Resource Consulting Worldwide the last seven consecutive times! I would say I agree with the survey and it doesn’t get much better than Switzerland…then again, there’s no place like home.

Jessica CartwrightIf you could change anything about Switzerland, what would it be?
I wish it were not so expensive to live here. I guess you learn to give up a bit of your income for the excellent standard of living, but still… it is not cheap. I just wish the prices would come down a bit and then Switzerland would be the perfect place for a cheap Charlie like me!

What advice would you give to a newcomer?

1) Try to learn some German and some Swiss German if you have the patience.
2) Get out and enjoy nature. Some of the most beautiful natural landscapes and hiking trails are in Switzerland. The whole country is set up to take advantage of nature, whether rain, shine, or snow – and snow is the most fun!
3) Get a GA train pass, it is an investment but it is something I would recommend, and just travel around Switzerland as much as possible. Soak in this great country.
4) Have you read my blog? Smile

Expat VoicesIf you would like to share your perspective about life in Switzerland and contribute to Expat Voices, send an email to with 'Please send me an Expat Voices questionnaire' in the subject line.


Photo credits: Jessica Cartwright / Expatica 2009

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1 Comment To This Article

  • firouzeh posted:

    on 29th July 2009, 20:46:20 - Reply

    I truly enjoyed reading your article, I just moved to Switzerland from Canada, and I can completely relate to what you are reffering to.

    Especially stretching 20 bill:)