Paradise (Apparently): Budgeting for fines

Paradise (Apparently): Budgeting for fines

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When moving to Switzerland, budget for fines! Sage advice from Flo Regina, whose first year in the country cost a pretty penny.

In a short time we realised that the cost of living in Switzerland was really high. One of the accounting entries that negatively influenced our family budget was, undoubtedly, fines. Probably because of my undisciplined Barese behaviour, or Harold’s improvised parking, we were persecuted by fines. They were always pecking at us, and I mean always!

And they were certainly well organised. It seemed as though the traffic police were following us day and night realising that we were an easy target. We were already aware of the efficiency of the police, but this seemed exaggerated to us.

My muse is called Felix: my dearest friend from Malaga. It was he who had introduced me to my husband in Brussels ten years before. Felix, after a long period of living in Brussels, had been transferred to Geneva a year before us.

I remembered that shortly before our move, Felix explained to us: ‘In your first year in Switzerland you should plan for a budget of at least CHF 1,500 for the fines. In your second year it will get better, you will know how things work and then you’ll pay more attention.’

Parking ticket under windscreen wiper

My husband laughed and replied: ‘Go on, maybe because you come from the south of Spain! But you have to realise that I am Dutch and so I’m used to driving very carefully. In Holland the traffic police are very serious, and I know exactly how to behave.’

In our first year living in Geneva we had to pay CHF 2,000 just in fines. Felix’s calculation had been optimistic!

I think we live in the country with the highest number of fines per head. On the other hand, perhaps the Swiss orderliness that borders on perfection must exact some sacrifices on the part of the community. Just imagine in Bari I used to double-park outside a shop while I chatted with the shopkeeper. The police would arrive and the shopkeeper would tell the police that I was in his shop, and I wouldn’t get a fine. Two different planets.

The civic sense of the citizens of the Helvetic territory is very distinct. This characteristic has its good sides but sometimes it has some very bad ones. For those who come from a country in which the civic sense is not so strong it’s not easy to adjust… You need a settling-in period. A very expensive settling-in period.


Read more from Flo on the multitude of Swiss fines and life as an expat in Switzerland, in Welcome to Switzerland! Paradise (Apparently), available in bookshops and online.

Whether you’re new in town, have lived here for years or are simply curious to discover more about this country with its remarkable people and customs, you'll find yourself chuckling at this southern Italian woman’s attempts to adapt to life in Switzerland.

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