All posts by Zurich Expats

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”).

Family Event – 30% Discount at Kids Design Thalwil

Our good friends at Kids Design & Snuggles Shoes are hosting a fantastic Family Day in Thalwil on Saturday 29th November. For Clarks kids shoes, Lelli Kelly, Tip Toey Joey and Startrite kids shoes, Zurich Expats know the place to go is the Snuggles concession at Kids Design for the latest range.  The Kids Design store features beautiful children’s furniture & interior accessories, as well as latest fashions and designer children’s clothing, everything from Babies through Toddlers to Juniors. This Saturday (29th November) browse the Christmas & Winter range and enjoy a 30% discount on goods throughout the Kids Design store including the Snuggles range of children’s shoes. Activities for the children include; arts & craft table, Photo Booth with on-site hair stylists, visit from Santa in the afternoon and many more surprises. Special guests include Micro scooters, Kids Delights, Personal Trainer Cindy, QuickieBox Fotobox with on site kids hairstylists, plus, Celebrity Bachelor Rafael Beutl will be handing out red roses to you all. Pop along for a great 30% discount on your Christmas shopping and enjoy a pre Christmas Apero with Celebrity Bachelor Rafael Beutl. KidsDesign AlteLandstrasse 156, Thalwil 8800

Get Healthy Recipes And Ingredients Delivered To Your Home!

At Zurich Expats, we love ideas and services that save time. We were recently contacted by Marko and Isabella Vidmar who run such a service and it is called Vidis Kochtüte. The idea is this. Every week, they publish on their website a list of meals for the following two weeks. You can then order the ingredients for the meals to be delivered direct to your door, along with the recipes (including their own step by step photos) to make them.Ingredients are organic, locally sourced and portioned so you do not have to deal with waste and the recipes cover a range of cuisines.We asked Marko a few questions about the service.Tell our audence about yourself, what is your background?I’m 32 years old, married (expecting our first baby) and I live with my wife Isabella in Zürich. I worked for 7 years as a sales manager in the health industry (orthopaedics/surgery). We distributed mobility-aids to hospitals and doctors. After this job I went to the real estate business, which I didn’t like. Within this job I had the idea with Vidis Kochtüte.What is the concept behind the Food Service?The business model was founded in sweden and became very popular and successful since 2007. The idea was born because moms & dads in sweden work almost full-time and didn’t have much time (were not motivated) to do grocery shopping after a hard day, beside taking over the kids from the crib. So they ended up cooking the same easy things over and over and didn’t follow a healthy nutrition.vidis1With our food service we create varied recipes every week and deliver them together with organic ingredients (packed to the size needed) to our customers home or Zurich city offices. The bags are delivered on each monday and are available for 2 or 4 servings with 3 or 5 recipes for the weekly dinners, except some basics like salt, pepper, oil etc. The meals must be easy to prepare and finished within 20-35 min. The nutritional value will not exceed 550 kcal per person. At the end of august 2014 we will offer a new bag with „paleo lifestyle recipes“. This way of eating conviced us, because it’s based on natural ingredients, is healthy for body & soul, prevents diseases and is 100% gluten- and lactose-free.How do you think the service specifically helps our Expat audience?My experience is that most of the expats traditionally cook for dinner. After a certain time people start to cook things over and over. That’s the point where you want to have more variety on your plate. On the other hand expats come to Switzerland to work and must be very busy. So they don’t have much time to think about new recipes and where to buy the best ingredients. As an ex-busy-manager I know how it is when you stand in front of an empty fridge, but you actually wanna eat healthy. So this is where I like to help people by introducing my cooking revolution. Our recipes are all written in german and english, so it’s also a kind of language school *smile“.vidis2How do you source your foods? Do you have a particular ethos such as supporting local producers, preferring organic foods, etc?This is a subject I REALLY care about. I think our community is starting to care more and more about food which makes me confident. With our service we use almost everything in organic quality. Because using local and seasonal foods which are grown naturally without using pesticides, have so much influence on our health and environment. We grant the best for our body, support the local economy/farming, prevent diseases and reduce the CO2 emission. I know it’s always a matter of price, but BIO is not too expensive, the conventional products are too cheap. So we need to rethink! I found a very nice quote on that recently:

The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.

What are your plans for the next year or so?I don’t like to make fixed plans, because then we are getting to unflexible. We are still at a stage where it’s difficult to tell where our journey goes. We optimize a lot and I’m always opened to new sustainable food trends. Eating is a very individual subject and we always listen to our customers needs and try to help wherever we can. I’m very excited how our company is developing.Finally, can you give us something that you consider a secret Zürich tip? Hmmm, as I’m a passionate entrepreneur I spend a lot of time for my business. I don’t remember any secret things I’ve done here and I’m not from Zurich. I know something in Schwyz (where I was raised) which will blow you away. Start hiking with flash lights or head lights in the morning at 4 o’clock from Ibergeregg to the large Mythen (1900m height), to watch the sunrise and drink a “kafi-schnaps” in the small restaurant afterwards. It’s about a 1.5 hour walk, so check the sunrise-time so you don’t miss. Choose a sunny day and don’t forget to take warm clothes and power-snacks with you. Many thanks to Marko for his answers. You can find out more at Vidis Kochtüte.

British Products In Switzerland From Jim!

Expats always miss products “from home”. We spoke to the good people at Jim’s British Market who help solve this problem for those originally from the UK who are looking for British products in Switzerland.mihaelaandkim Jim’s British Mini-Market in St Genis-Pouilly (France), close to CERN, has traded successfully since the day Jim and Margaret Anderson opened their family business in 1996.During the early years, Jim would regularly return to the UK to collect a range of British products, bringing a sense of nostalgia and comfort to those relocating to this area of France and across the border in Geneva.Following the opening of their traditional tearoom in 1997, Jim’s became the first in the vicinity to introduce British Fish ‘n’ Chips to the menu, with customers flocking from miles around for the unique taste of battered fish, chipped potatoes and mushy peas with a sprinkle of salt ‘n’ vinegar!How long have you been in Switzerland?Jim’s British Market opened its doors at Gland, Switzerland on 20 January 2012; with the sales graph line trending ever high each year.The prospect of finding and supplying new business partners, in densely populated expat regions of Switzerland is exciting (prime locations include Zug, Zurich and Vevey). The bigger volume, the cheaper Jim’s prices.What prompted you to start Jim’s British Market?With the huge influx of British expats migrating to the Geneva area, a limited choice of British brands and stable product lines, Jim recognised the opportunity to offer the Brits, duty paid food goods at fair value prices.The initial range was quite modest but has since grown to over 1,500 lines in store. The range includes frozen and fresh lines, many of which are selected from Marks & Spencer (go online for your M&S Order Form at is also focused upon delivering more goods to customers and mini-markets located in the more remote areas of the country this winter e.g. Verbier and other Alpine ski resorts How do you decide what products to carry? Jim’s shop managers and food buyers are British; an essential and integral part of the business, as they can relate to the products and understand the British consumers’ trends and choices. Our customers, also have a huge input in to which lines and brands to source and supply. jimandmargaret280newJim’s philosophy is to offer goods at competitive, fair value prices. Therefore, with import restrictions and the influence of Swiss import duties and tax being added to the base cost, managers need to define exactly what the market can substantiate with certain stock lines, e.g. high import duty charges are imposed by Swiss customs, on dairy, potato and fresh meat products (to protect their own Swiss farming market). Also one needs to buy weight “quota” from the Swiss Government and keep a constant eye on the ever fluctuating currency exchange rate. Add this with the daunting prospect by buying stock with a limited shelf life or that simply changes with seasonal appeal, then stock-purchasing can be a challenge, especially with fresh food stock, as refrigerated transportation costs are not cheap. What are your top selling lines? Jim’s Marks and Spencer selected range of fresh food creates huge interest; the M&S Gastropub range, M&S Scotch Eggs, M&S Aromatic Crispy Duck, M&S Back Bacon, M&S Fish n Chips, M&S Pork Sausages and Chipolatas, M&S Beef & Chilli Sausages, M&S Steak & Kidney pies, Chicken pies, Steak ‘n Ale pies, Melton Mowbray pork pies, Warburtons Crumpets, Cornish Pasties (and seasonal products e.g. Haggis, Mince Pies, Christmas Cakes, Puddings and Xmas Crackers). From the ambient section: Self-raising flour, jelly, mint sauce, golden syrup, soft dark brown sugar, Ella’s Kitchen baby food, pickles and chutneys, Cadbury’s chocolate, oatcakes, PG Tips, Shreddies, Hellman’s mayonnaise and Jim’s gluten free range. From the drinks section: Ginger Beer (alcoholic and non-alcoholic), Magners Cider, Stones Ginger Wine, Ribena, Robinson’s, Belvoir and Roses cordials. Jim’s also offers fresh food from local British and South African suppliers: Meat Point (, our South African butchers produce fresh Boerewors, Biltong, T-Bone Steaks, Hamburger Patties, Loin of Pork (with crackling). Le Pie ( Chicken ’n’ Tarragon, Beef ’n’ Guinness, Spicy Pork ’n’ Paprika (delicious) How does one go about ordering from Jim’s British Market? To order from Jim’s online: Go to and register as a “New Customer” and start adding selections to “Your Basket”. Registered customers receive “Loyalty Points” (one Point for every CHF30 increment spent); accumulate 15-Points to receive CHF20 reward Plus, if your order value is over CHF 100, your order is delivered (next day) FREE OF CHARGE. For secure payment, register with PayPal to complete your order What is your number one tip for expats in Switzerland? KEEP CALM AND HAVE A CUP O’ TEA (preferably from Jim’s) Expats Rule Of Thumb:Year 1: Exciting, stressful and unsettling (can feel like you’re on holiday at times, surreal)…..have yet to discover Jim’s, so keep buying Tesco favourites to bring back to Switzerland Year 2: Unsure if you really want to be out here…start to reminisce, miss the pub and Sunday roast, yearn for spells at home with the family, download Skype, may of heard of Jim’s Year 3: Start to integrate, feeling more settled, can say “Bonjour, ca va?” with confidence and get a reply in French (that you don’t understand, so just reply “et-vous?”)! Found Jim’s, now feel at home, everything’s fine…