Category Archives: Zurich Living

The pitfalls of hiring international staff

For over 6 months, the HR manager of an internationally active company was looking for a suitable candidate for a vacancy. She finally found a candidate abroad and Mr. Mayer was hired after hard negotiations. He moved to Switzerland along with his family. The company bears the costs of transporting furniture and renting temporary accommodation. After a short time, Mr. Mayer leaves the company and travels back home with his family. What went wrong?

Relocation to Zurich






Weather conditions and legal risks – you do not leave your foreign staff to fate. Graphic: Schmid Relocation GmbH/Urs Freitag 

Unfortunately, the constructed story is far too often a reality: Companies often spend enormous sums on the search and hiring of foreign workers. The fact that such an employment requires special measures to achieve success is obvious. This is why the social expression of the HR process plays an important role for international employees, taking into account the different cultures, living and working habits as well as the integration of the accompanying family.

In addition to adhering to the necessary deployment guidelines, it is important to have the employment process examined by an experienced Global Mobility Manager or a relocation agency. Individual employment should be closely monitored and particular attention paid to the social aspects, because these often determine the successful integration of the new worker and his family.

The following “checklist”, which is certainly not conclusive, can be used as a first guideline for the successful recruitment of foreign workers for HR managers.

Selection of the candidate

According to the Swiss legal system, companies have to fill their vacancies whenever possible by nationals. A foreign employee may only be employed due to lack of specialist personnel on the local labour market.

Orientation tour

A guided orientation tour should be organized prior to the negotiation of the employment conditions. The investment required for this can prevent the hiring process from being performed hastily and an employee leaves the country just before or immediately after the start of work. A successful orientation tour sensitizes the employee to additional details, which he incorporates into the overall package of the job offer. It enlightens the employee about unknown customs and circumstances and prepares him/her for a possible life in Switzerland.

Temporary accommodation

Once the employee is hired, he will first live mostly in a temporary apartment at the begening until a fixed solution can be found for him and if necessary, the accompanying family. He will gain further impressions of life and work in Switzerland especially during this phase (probationary period). It is therefore important that he feels well at this stage and has a competent contact person and even a small network at his disposal which gives him the feeling of being welcome in Switzerland.

Furniture transport

The transport procedure is a separate process, which should be carried out by specialists. Companies rarely talk about the budget that is available to the employee. The organization of transportation is thus often the responsibility of the worker.

Legal issues

With the move to a new country, the employee faces many legal challenges. It is important that he gets to know the laws and customs of his country of destination and is given support on access to offices, in the conclusion of insurance and independent contracts, which protect him against unpleasant stumbling blocks in handling contracts and overcome language barriers. With professional support, the employee can focus much more on the major challenges of his new position.

Documents and checklists

The employer should initiate the effective relocation process as early as possible because the challenges are high. The early preparation of checklists as well as any possible contact between the local relocation partner and the employee provide room for planning security. For example, the problem of missing documents often occurs! The early and professional application of residence visas, Swiss drivers licenses, birth and marriage certificates, employment contracts etc. significantly facilitate the first days of the new employee after his arrival because the mere filing of an official application is impossible without certain documents. Bank accounts cannot be opened and insurance cannot be concluded.

Apartment search and integration of the family

The search for accommodation as well as the selection of international schools is certainly one of the most time-consuming aspect of the transfer. In order to solve this task efficiently, the planning and implementation is done by experts who perfectly master the interaction between the individual tasks. The search for accommodation should be accompanied at all times, since the impression of the administration is often a factor in the inspection of an apartment whereby, Swiss-German communication can be valuable.

Signing of the lease agreement and takeover

If a suitable apartment has been found and the submitted application accepted, it is important to clarify and understand many details in the lease agreement. A guided apartment acquisition and the translation of the contracts and acceptance reports protects the interests of the tenant who is not familiar with local conditions and regulations.


The transfer of an employee into a new working and living environment as in our example of the Mayer family, has some hurdles and risks for the company as well as for the individual employee and his family. Therefore, the investment in a good planning and implementation of the relocation is in any case worth it.

The detailed checklist for HR’s and employees can be found at the following link:

Relocation Agent Zurich






Text: Katharina Kägi

Katharina Kägi runs the company Schmid Relocation GmbH ( and with her team, she manages the HR departments of international companies and especially their international staff in the successful immigration to Switzerland. Thanks to the focus on the social aspects of relocation, she wins the employees for Switzerland as well as for the company.

Watch TV And Movies From Back Home

This might turn out to be our most popular post! Of course, we all have things that we miss from back home and with the explosion of Internet TV and Movie services, it can sometimes feel like we are missing out on these as they cannot be accessed from outside of our home nations. Well, now they can. In the past I have had a set up that routed certain traffic through a personal proxy machine in the UK in order to use the likes of BBC iPlayer from Zurich. It worked fine but was more of a tech challenge than a robust solution that I could recommend to someone else.For the past year, we have used one service that took about 15 minutes to set up and has been running rock solid ever since. We can watch BBC iPlayer and other UK TV catch up services, Amazon Prime Audio and Video, Netflix (from any country) as if we were based in that country. And yes, I did say, Netflix from any country.The service we use is called UnoTelly.You change one setting on your Internet Router and you are done. After that, you use their online console to select your apparent location for different services, so you could choose to use the UK for BBC iPlayer, The USA for Hulu and Netflix and

Watch Films In Their Original Language In Zurich

As a child, one of my fondest memories were trips to what was then the Disney Cinema in St Martins Lane, London, to see classic Disney movies on the big screen.The Jungle Book was the first movie I saw in a real theatre, but for kids today, the choice is a bit more limited.For kids in Zürich whose native language is not German, the option to watch movies in a real cinema is even more remote.But a new initiative from the Filmpodium in Zurich seeks to change this, by showing kids’ movies in their native languages, with German subtitles.The first screening, on Sunday, April 4th at 15:00, will be Shrek at Filmpodium, Zürich: I spoke to Laura Walde, in charge of social media, to find out more about the screenings.How did this initiative, to show kids’ movies in the original language, begin? Filmpodium, a cinema run by the Mayor of Zurich’s Office of Cultural Affairs, is a major contributor to this city’s fantastic range of cultural activities. We show around 350 films per year – all in their original language. Of course, our whole team shares a passion for movies, and for all of us it began at a tender age. It is one of our main concerns to foster and nurture the cinema experience, and this experience should be open to everybody. It is with increasing concern that we have watched the gradual shift in Switzerland – even in such an international city as Zurich – towards dubbed versions of English or American movies. It isn’t just that dubbed versions lose some of the films’ funniest jokes and most moving moments, as well as the voices of the original actors. It also means that many people living in our city cannot share this wonderful experience of watching a film together in a theater with their children. We feel that it’s part of our job to keep cinema alive for everybody.What are the plans for this initiative? Do you expect it to be ongoing?Filmpodium screens children’s films regularly every Saturday at 3 pm. For our Swiss audience, we have to show a dubbed version, as young children cannot be expected to read subtitles. In April, we will be screening the classic DreamWorks animated film Shrek, and as we all admire Mike Myers’ and Eddie Murphy’s work in this movie, we got the idea to schedule an additional screening in the original language. And that got us thinking: Why not make it a regular feature? We will henceforth try to offer at least one screening of the original version of a kids’ film whenever it makes sense (with a Swedish film, for example, there won’t be enough interest in an original version with German subtitles). So it’s meant to be ongoing and it’s supposed to become a regular feature – but this, of course, will depend on how these screenings are received by the audience. How can we buy tickets for the screenings?That’s easy: just go to Filmpodium website (, click on the tab “Kinderkino”, select the movie, and click on “TICKET” to make a booking. Or call us on 044 211 66 66, our whole staff is fluent in English and happy to help.For children under the age of 12, admission is 9 francs. For adults it’s 18 francs (but if you’re a film buff, consider treating yourself to one of our passes that allow you to buy tickets at half price – or even to get in “for free”).

Can You Claim A Tax Rebate?

Foreign employees resident in Switzerland are generally subject to tax at source on their Swiss employment income. In other words, the employer deducts the applicable source tax rate directly from the monthly gross income and forwards it to the tax authority. Annual employment income > CHF 120’000 If the annual gross income is above the threshold of CHF 120’000 the tax authority asks the foreign employee to complete a tax return based on the world-wide income and net wealth (so called retrospective ordinary tax assessment). The tax levied at source will then be credited against the ultimate tax liability. Annual employment income < CHF 120’000 Foreign employees with an annual employment income below the threshold of CHF 120’000 only need to file a tax return if their annual income – other than Swiss employment income – such as dividend income, rental income, etc. amounts to at least CHF 2’500 and/or if the world-wide net wealth equals or is higher than CHF 200’000. Foreign employees reaching these thresholds will not be asked to file a tax return. They will need to be proactive in order not to evade Swiss taxes on this particular income and or net wealth respectively. Swiss employment income will remain subject to source tax. However, there is a possibility to apply for reassessment of source tax. The applicable source tax rate considers deductions for occupational expenses, insurance premiums and family allowances on a flat rate basis. Hence, if you incurred costs in 2014 that are not covered by the flat rate basis deduction – such as debit interest, pension fund payments, contributions to the so-called pillar 3a, alimony payments, childcare costs or higher effective occupational expenses – you may possibly claim refund. Furthermore, if you qualify as an expat according to Swiss tax law you may possibly ask for a deduction of further occupational expenses such as fees for a foreign-language private school for your children. Such application for reassessment of source tax has to be filed no later than 31 March, following the tax year. In other words, applications to amend the 2014 source tax rate need to be filed by 31 March 2015 at the latest. An extension of the deadline is not granted. Individual analysis required InThe above is a general outline of the source tax regime, which however does not apply with regard to some specific situations. For example if your family lives abroad you might not be subject to a retrospective ordinary tax assessment despite an annual income of more than CHF 120’000. For employees with a very high income this may be beneficial as the source tax rate is lower in the highest tax bracket than the ordinary tax rate. Furthermore, once a foreign employee acquires a permanent resident permit (so called C-permit), Swiss citizenship or marries a Swiss national or a C-permit holder, source tax no longer applies. Thus, each case needs to be analysed on an individual basis in order to determine what tax regime will be applicable and whether a refund of source tax may possibly be claimed. Severine Vogel, Staiger, Schwald & Partner Attorney-at-Law, MLaw, LL.M., Certified Tax Expert Telephone +41 58 387 80 00 Staiger, Schwald & Partner is a full-service law firm based in Zurich and Berne. The tax team advises private clients on all tax matters. We have great expertise with regard to international clients living and working in Switzerland. We prepare tax returns, advise private clients relocating to Switzerland with regard to tax, social security and residence permit issues, obtain rulings from the tax authorities as well as analyse, design and implement tax efficient structures. Furthermore, we have great expertise in the taxation of trusts and foundations and also advise private clients regarding estate and succession planning. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us. Legal note: This article was prepared with due care. However, it does not constitute legal advice. As such, you may not rely on it for any purpose and any liability for the accuracy, correctness or fairness of the contents is explicitly excluded.

Iroquois – Lively, Casual And Something for Everyone

When people think of Seefeld, Iroquois is one of the restaurants that will come to mind. It is an ideal place for lunch, dinner or a relaxed after work drink. Designed in the style of an American country-house, Iroquois has become prominent through its Californian inspired Tex-Mex cuisine as well as the classic burgers. Offering a wide selection, patrons can order Zurich’s largest burger here – either to share or… not. Seating 66 inside and 110 outside, this place is hiving year round – though especially during summer. Its proximity to Lake Zurich makes it popular for weekend chillers enjoying a cocktail outside. Indoor seating – especially in winter – can get a bit scarce; so make sure to book a table ahead of time. The booking made for a table on a weekday lunch was easy. It all happened online by filling out the necessary details and entering a code, which Iroquois sent to my mobile number. Following that a booking confirmation was sent out stating all the details. I could have just called of course…. Upon arrival the restaurant is almost full. Quickly I am seated at the booked table and asked whether I’d like a drink. I decide to check out the menu first and end up ordering a house special Ginger Apple Yootea (5 dl CHF 5.50) – the Jasmine Green Yootea is out. My friend makes do with a Coke (2.5 dl CHF 4.20). While some patrons are settling up, more enter the establishment and at the same time our food order is taken – a pretty casual and friendly affair. The lunch menus smoked salmon wrap or couscous (both at around CHF 20.-) sound interesting but I opt for the Galloway Beef Burger with Chips (CHF 26.00) nevertheless. My friend orders the Goat Cheese Burger with Chips (CHF 28.50). Both burgers are available with a choice of three different buns, the meat cooked to specification. Despite the restaurant being fairly busy, the food arrives within 20 minutes – this is great as it makes popping out for a quick lunch possible. So… The food looks good, served on a rustic wooden board and the chips neatly kept in a metal bucket. The fresh mince paddy is cooked medium as specified and the garnishes – lettuce, onions and tomato – are served on the side. The sesame bun deserves a special mention! Toasted perfectly and definitely not spongy – just the way a burger bun should be. The chips – chunky with a bit of skin left on the sides – taste good although we decide to add some more salt. A selection of homemade Bohemia sauces – including tomato ketchup and BBQ – are available on the table. By the time we’re done with our meal and hour has passed. It’s about 13:30 and the restaurant is clearing out a bit. Settling up the bill totals to CHF 64.20 for both – not too bad for a hearty lunch in the centre of Zurich.

Moving Again? 10 Golden Rules On Doing Your Own Interior Design

As expats we are used to moving. From country, city or just to another place in the same location. And although new beginnings are exciting it is still a hassle!We have to plan for movers, pack everything, clean the new and old apartment and maybe even plan for new furniture for the new place because the previous one doesn’t fit or it’s simply its time to go! But moving is also a great opportunity!

    • It’s a chance to organize all your paperwork and finally find those “misplaced” documents or precious objects you thought were lost forever
    • And especially it’s a chance to plan the interior design of your dreams!

Planning your new home interiors includes both the functional and the aesthetical aspects of it. Both are equally important.Here are 10 Golden Rules on how to achieve an efficient and harmonious interior without having to hire a professional for a large project:

    1. Select carefully the old furniture: select all the furniture, lighting and objects you would like to take with you. Make sure they work well together and don’t give too much thought at this point to where they could go. Verify their condition and measure all of them.
    1. Measure your new place in detail. You should know all the measures of the walls (width and height) and also what fixed units are in each one (radiators, cabinets, pipes, plugs, etc…)
    1. Get inspired! Take a step back and try to imagine what your ideal home would look like. You can draw inspiration from a nice hotel where you may have been, friends homes, a interior magazine, etc… can also be a great tool when looking for inspiration. Put together a couple of key images that make you happy and are compatible with the style of the pieces of furniture you absolutely need to keep.
    1. Define colors, materials and overall mood. Decide what the color pallet, materials & textures and mood of your new home will be. Make a list.
    1. Plan the space layout: plan your new home furniture arrangement on paper or computer. You can easily make a paper floor plan and draw the furniture or even place little pieces of furniture cardboard on the floor plan and play with the multiple combinations ( Or you can use a simple free program like com (
    1. Think of everything in advance: your new plan should accommodate first all the pieces that you are bringing from the old house and should be complemented with any missing furniture, lighting and decoration. Don’t forget the rugs, side tables, curtains, and placement of suspensions and specially allow for an efficient space flow.
    1. Be strong…and edit! If some of your old pieces don’t seem to fit either the new style of the space then don’t force them in. They will probably compromise the harmony of your home. Store them for a while until you feel the space properly and then you can make a decision on keeping it or sell it, for example.
    2. Make elevations: drawing some elevations could be very useful to plan key walls and compositions that you may wish to create. (
    1. Put all the pieces of the puzzle together! Now you know what you would like to achieve, how your current pieces fit in your new vision and what other items you will have to create or get to complete your design. Make sure you plan your new pieces using as reference your inspirational images (point 3) and also the right colors and materials (point 4). Do the same for your decoration pieces.
    1. Enroll in an interior design workshop! If all these steps feel overwhelming and/or you would like to learn more about these techniques then a short interior design course could be the thing for you. There are a few English-speaking workshops that cover the full methodology and give you a good insight on the professional’s secrets of the trade! At under workshops you will find intense 2–days workshops in Zurich with very good feedback by all participants in the last 5 years. In this workshop you can also get a lot of lessons learned directly from the instructor and avoid the most common mistakes people usually make, example: a good lighting plan for the right mood and energy savings.

If you follow these steps you will surely create an interior that is as close as possible to your initial dream. Just make sure you stay consistent and faithful to your vision beginning to end. Good luck and happy move!!