Welcoming New Expats!

IMG_2654Most people have arrived back from their summer holidays. School has started again. It's that time of the year where many expats arrive in Zurich. For some, the move has been a long awaited one. Other newbies would have never thought they'd be in Zurich for the second half of 2013. Assuming that housing and schooling for the children has already been arranged, what's next now that you're here!?Most newly-arrived expats enter the phase of exploration right at the beginning. Go local! Check out the shops, the restaurants, the surroundings. Travel to the places you read about within Switzerland - after all, is there anywhere in Switzerland that will take you more than five hours to get to by train?After realising that the train ride has cost you a small fortune - unless one already has an SBB half-fare card - most people enter the phase of getting organised. This happens fairly quickly. But what comes first and is there anything you should be aware of?Register with your local council: The first thing you should do is register with your local 'Gemeinde' - or city council if you live directly in town. You will receive a welcome packet with all the vital information like the opening hours of the council, when the recycling is collected and where to dispose of certain goods. You may also want to ask questions relating to your pension scheme (AHV). Although the local councils do not manage this sector they will be able to provide you with fundamental information and refer you to the appropriate councils for more in-depth inquiries. Each 'Gemeinde' has a website. Similar to the information pack this is generally only available in German. If you're lucky you will even get a complementary calendar and a sticker featuring your local council's emblem. But don't get used to the generosity... Money matters: Whether you are in Zurich because of them, or whether other professional opportunities have drawn you to Switzerland's financial capital, everyone has heard of those famous - and sometimes controversially portrayed -

Swiss banks. Setting up a private current account seems to be one of the fundamental things to do whenever moving to a new place. What bank you decide to trust is of course up to you. The big international two - UBS and Credit Suisse - may be the right option for you if you are looking for international banking solutions. Naturally, all documents are available in English. The Zurich Cantonal Bank (ZKB) is the bank of the canton of Zurich. Each canton in Switzerland has a bank - it wouldn't be Switzerland otherwise! The Zurich Cantonal Bank is the largest cantonal bank within Switzerland and is also the country's fourth largest. Retailers Migros and Coop also offer banking solutions. For people who prefer more local banks that are smaller in size, check out Raiffeisen and Clientis - although you may not find a lot of English around when interacting.There is an ample amount of private banks specialising in wealth management, asset management as well as offering other financial solutions. Julius Bär, Bank Vontobel, Bank Sarasin and HSBC being a couple worth mentioning. Insure your health: While everybody living in Switzerland is required to purchase health insurance by law, there are numerous companies offering such services. So... which one do you choose? Well... that would depend on what you are looking for. Basic health insurance will cover expenses related to essential health care. Premiums vary depending on company and the deductible ('franchise') that is selected. With a high deductible (by Swiss law a maximum of CHF 2,500.-) premiums are generally lower, with a low deductible (by Swiss law a minimum CHF 300.-) the monthly premiums are higher. Experts often recommend to select either a very high deductible - and save premium rates if medical services are scarcely used - or a very high deductible - and have the certainty that most medical expenses beyond your deductible amount will be covered. Alongside basic health insurance additional cover is also offered by all health insurance companies. While premium rates are higher when insured privately, it might make sense to look into theseservices as they often offer attractive additional cover - like paying for the gym membership - as part of their schemes to promote a healthy lifestyle. SWICA is one of a handful of health insurance companies that offers all correspondence in English. They are known to be one of the most established health insurance companies in Switzerland offering quality services and have done so to 598,587 clients in 2012. Most health insurance companies will require you to state your GP practice. An English-speaking GP is located in Zurich-Stadelhofen (www.drangelacaddick.com). Check out the following links to find out more about some of the more established health insurance companies in the country... www.swica.ch   www.helsana.ch   www.sanitas.ch   www.css.ch  www.mutuel.ch You can't avoid those telecommunication companies: Some people decide they want a landline as well as a mobile phone contract. Others may just opt for one of the above. Aren't you lucky that Swisscom offers both!? As the leading provider in telecommunications within Switzerland, Swisscom is a safe bet. Despite charging slightly higher tariffs than its competitors Orange and Sunrise, having used Swisscom for the past 13 years seems to have been the right choice. A reliable network, all documents available in English, including the customer service unit on a free hotline any day between 06:00 and midnight. Swisscom - as well as most of its competitors - offer internet as well as digital TV solutions (the most diverse selection of English channels is on Swisscom TV, in case you wanted to avoid setting up a digital satellite by Sky). Whatever provider and plan you decide to go with, the advice is to compare and avoid long-term contracts that tie you down. Especially at the beginning of your time here... www.swisscom.ch  www.orange.ch  www.sunrise.ch  If you need.....to rent or purchase real-estate - www.homegate.ch  ...to purchase a car - www.autoscout.ch ..to buy a train ticket online - www.sbb.ch ...to buy a ticket for public transport within the Zurich region online - www.zvv.ch ...to compare prices in a given sector - www.comparis.ch 

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