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ZHAW Employees

4 questions for Xinying Liu

“The atmosphere in our office is very good – we communicate well with each other, and the others helped me find my feet. It was easy to get to know them.”

What brought you to Switzerland?

I’m originally from China. I went to university in Germany and then did an internship and worked there. In all, I spent seven years in Germany, most recently in Stuttgart. I wanted to find a job in a German-speaking country – and I wanted to experience something new – so I decided to come to Switzerland. The position at the ZHAW really appealed to me so I applied for it. I didn’t know anyone here. I just thought I’d try it, and now I’ve been here since March 2016.

What do you particularly like about Switzerland?

Switzerland is a small country, and it’s easy to go wherever you want on public transport. I really appreciate that. The atmosphere in our office is very good – we communicate well with each other, and the others helped me find my feet at the beginning. It was easy to get to know them. I don’t know many Swiss people outside the ZHAW, though. The mix of research and teaching is what I expected, and I have enough time and space to develop my specialist skills and knowledge.

One of the things I like most about living in Switzerland is that there are so many festivals and events: Zürifest, Albanifest, Musikfestwochen in Winterthur, open air concerts… there’s always something going on!

What challenges did you have to overcome when you came to Switzerland?

The culture in Switzerland – especially the language and the mentality – is very different from in Germany. It’s strange for me that each of the 26 cantons has its own regulations and laws. The difference between Europe and China, though, is far more extreme: the way people work and think, the way they behave, the rules of behaviour, and, of course, the food. I go back to China on holiday once or twice a year.

I found information about how to open a bank account and things like that on the Internet. I made a plan of everything I had to do, and it wasn’t difficult to get these things done. The only problem I had was with the Residents’ Registration Office (Einwohnerkontrolle). They told me I needed an entry permit for Switzerland, but I didn’t have one because I’d simply driven over the border from Germany. So I had to go back to Stuttgart to get the right document.

What tips would you give somebody from abroad who’d like to work in Switzerland?

Moving to Switzerland isn’t easy, and you need to be well prepared. On the one hand, you have to make sure you’ve got all the right documents. I found good information about this on a forum for foreigners. And on the other hand, you have to be ready to adjust, to be aware that this move means a complete change: you’re going to a new country, you’ll hear a new language spoken, you’ll meet new people, etc. I had to learn a lot of new rules – that’s something you only become really aware of once you’re here.

4 questions for Helene Eller

“I was able to choose the country I wanted to live in. I really like what Switzerland has to offer.”

What brought you to Switzerland?

I’m originally from Innsbruck, in the Tirol, but I have an aunt who’s lived near Zurich for 50 years and I’ve often visited her. So Switzerland has always been kind of a second home for me.

I always knew I wanted to teach, and I had heard that universities in Switzerland have a good reputation and status. In addition, the tertiary sector here offers good prospects with regard to research opportunities and in terms of salary.

When I saw a job advertisement for a position at the ZHAW, I contacted HR to find out whether I could still apply and was told I could. So it was a case of my being able to choose the country I wanted to live in. I really like what Switzerland has to offer.

What do you particularly like about Switzerland?

I find the people here very friendly. This impression began with the person I contacted to find out whether I could still apply for the job at the ZHAW. The people at the public offices were also very nice. I really appreciate the helpfulness I’ve encountered in everyday situations: at the railway station when I went to buy my half fare card, in shops, etc. People are very courteous and obliging. This was also the case when I was looking for a flat – which proved to be quite easy.

From the start, I felt welcome in the office too. There’s a positive, friendly atmosphere, people exchange ideas and communicate well with each other. On my very first day, my colleagues invited me to join them for lunch. I felt very accepted.

Switzerland has a high quality of life, with beautiful landscapes, mountains and a lot of culture too. All this really appeals to me.

What challenges did you have to overcome when you came to Switzerland?

My relatives helped me to open a bank account, they advised me on taking out insurance and things like that. And there’s not such a big difference between Switzerland and Austria, anyway. For me, the most difficult thing to sort out was health insurance. In Austria, we have compulsory health cover: your employer registers you and the premium is deducted directly from your salary. Still, it’s interesting to find out how things work here.

I think it’s been easier for me to integrate because I actually chose to come and live here. I like the Swiss German dialect and I’m trying to learn it. I want to feel at ease with the language. I’m taking singing lessons and sing in a choir. And I love going to the mountains. All in all, the challenges I’ve faced have been very limited.

What tips would you give somebody from abroad who’d like to work in Switzerland?

I’ve been in Switzerland since June 2016. I’m currently living in Winterthur in a furnished flat, so I didn’t have to buy any furniture. I found the flat on Homegate – a colleague gave me this tip and it worked well.

For me, it was ideal to be able to move in stages. In January, I decided to take the job. In April, I came here on a visit and found out about opening a bank account, taking out insurance and things like that. So in June, I was able to deal with all these administrative tasks within half a day. Classes don’t start until September, so I had enough time during the summer to prepare well and to find my feet.

I haven’t cut off all my ties with home. I go to Innsbruck for the weekend now and then. But the time between my visits is getting longer.

4 questions for Morgan Kavanagh

“I work in a multicultural environment – so many of my colleagues are from other countries, particularly from Britain and the States. But in my private life, my friends are more likely to be Swiss.”

What brought you to Switzerland?

I’m originally from New Castle, Australia. I came to Switzerland in 2012, but I’d actually worked here before. My wife is Swiss. We lived in Australia at first, but we always thought about coming to Europe and about maybe living in Switzerland.

We ended up moving to Winterthur. I already knew about the ZHAW, and I was sure I wanted to work here, so I started looking actively for a job. In August 2012, I found a suitable position – but it was in Wädenswil. Commuting from Winterthur to Wädenswil wasn’t ideal, but in the end, I was lucky: in August 2015, I was able to change jobs within the ZHAW, and I now work in Winterthur. Not having such a long commute every day gives me more free time, and I really appreciate that.

What do you particularly like about Switzerland?

I like the fact that towns and cities in Switzerland are a manageable size. You can go almost everywhere by bike, whatever the weather. In Australia, that’s not an option. The towns cover such a wide area - my home town, for example, is as big as Canton Zurich!

Before we moved here, I could already speak (Swiss) German, and I didn’t really have any difficulty adjusting. As I’d lived in Switzerland before, I knew what to expect. The transition was easy because I’d already adapted my expectations. I’m also used to finding my feet in a different culture quickly. I’ve lived and worked in South Korea, England, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland, and I’ve always travelled a lot. I can feel at home in many different places.

Wherever you go, it’s always a bit difficult to get to know the locals. People who’ve lived here for a while already have their family, friends, job, etc., so they don’t have the need to make new friends. As a newcomer, you have to be patient and open-minded. But actually, I found some good colleagues and friends pretty quickly. Many of my work colleagues are from Britain or the States, in other words, from a culture similar to mine. That was certainly a help. In my private life, I have more Swiss friends. It seems to me that many Swiss people don’t mix their private lives with their professional lives in terms of who they associate with. And the way people here establish friendships is different too: in Australia, people are relatively quick to make new friends, but these friendships may not be so close. In Switzerland, it takes a bit longer to become friends with someone, but the relationship is closer and lasts longer. Here, many people have friendships that go right back to kindergarten. There are advantages and disadvantages to both ways.

What challenges did you have to overcome when you came to Switzerland?

When we moved here, I had some things shipped over in boxes, which took three months. In retrospect, it wasn’t worth the effort and expense. Another time, I’d sell everything before I left and then buy anything I needed second-hand when I reached my new destination – that would be quicker and easier.

Moving is always a big undertaking: you have to cancel all your utility contracts and deregister in your old home and then register and apply for new contracts in the new place. It’s more or less the same everywhere. Sometimes, it’s almost Kafkaesque the way you sometimes have to be registered with one public office or utility company in order to register with another, but when you try to do this, you find that you have to be registered with the second one in order to register with the first. That was the biggest challenge I had to deal with.

I received very useful help and information from a local government office in Winterthur.


What tips would you give somebody from abroad who’d like to work in Switzerland?

I’d tell them to try to focus on the things that are special and good about living here, the positive aspects of the new environment, the new culture, the new country. Maybe the things they get to like here will be different from at home. If you can do that, you won’t feel disappointed and you can enjoy the positive things.

To give you an example, we have a lot of sunshine in Australia, and we spend a lot of time at the beach. I love surfing – but obviously, I can’t do that here. Instead, I can go to the mountains, which I like a lot as well.