Posted by: expaticainhelvetica | May 6, 2010

Part of the Process

I’ve been thinking what I want this blog to be, thinking out my objectives and goals.  After much, err, deep thinking, I decided I want this to be part travelogue, part handy helper for other expats making the move to der Schweiz.  With that, I’ve decided to add posts that I think might be helpful in the relo process. 

My first post I’ve been itching to add is about my experience with a dreadful company Expatco based in Zug.  Expatco is a relocation agent, meaning they are supposed to help you get settled into your new surroundings.  Needless to say, my settling process was made more difficult because of them and at no time did I feel the services they provided were of great benefit.  In my opinion, and the opinion of nearly every other people I’ve spoken with who has worked with them, they are glorified translators who do not attend to nor listen to their clients needs.  Their one goal is to begin and end the relationship as quickly as possible so they can move on to the next “client”.

On their website, they provide a list of services offered to their clients.  Let’s go down and see if Expatico and I benefited from any of these: 
Dealing with applications for residence permits – Not so much.  When you move to der Schweiz, you have to register in your town of residence to get your permit.  Did they tell me this?  Nope.  My company handled the process when I was in my temporary abode.  When we moved to our permanent haunts in another town, we had to handle it all ourselves, meaning FOUR trips to the gemeindehaus (Town Hall) until we brought the right forms, applications, photos, etc to get our new registration settled.
Assistance with a large number of formalities such as customs, communities, schools, vehicles etc. – Nope again!  We got no help with any of the above.  They didn’t even explain the complicated trash system here (you have to separate everything – more to come on that in another post), which would have been nice.  If they couldn’t explain the basics, how the hell were they going to explain to me the ins and outs of the community?
Accompaniment on visits to local authorities and assistance with banking matters – Nope, nope and nope.  I had to go to the bank alone.  Over the summer, rules on Swiss banking got much more strict for US expats due to a demand from the US government to change disclosures to prevent tax evaders.  I had to handle this alone at the only banking chain in the entire country that was taking new US clients.  Fun times and so entertaining to do ALONE.
– German language courses in tune with your personal time schedule at your offices or in our teaching centre. – Nope.  I am lucky, though, to be taking lessons from the fabulous folks at Berlitz.  And by teaching center, they mean the meeting room in their office.  And as for the individual, partner or family part of the sentence – they forgot the Expatico was my husband just because we have different last names.   
Assistance with organisational or personal matters such as appointments with workmen, doctors, information about shopping areas and leisure centres. – No way, no how.  They did tell me, though, about Le Shop and, two Swiss stores/online ventures where I could buy good meat.  Would have been nice to know about doctors and shopping info and even details about workmen, but alas, we got nothing.
Support with finding housing – This they did, but poorly.  They didn’t listen to a thing we said about size, location and price.  I kept telling our lead agent where we wanted to live (Zürich area) and where we didn’t want to live (Zug area).  Needless to say, she didn’t listen to any of our feedback, but instead showed us a bunch of apartments in Zug and Baar, perfectly good areas, but not the areas we wanted to live.  She has no relationships outside of the Zug canton, and would only find apartments listed in Zürich by going to Homegate, which we were doing on our own.  Going to Homegate is useless because the housing market here is so competitive, by the time it’s on-line, it’s as good as gone. 
Removal arrangements – Again, another no.  When I was being moved from my temporary apartment to our permanent place, we had a moving company that was set up by a company in the US.  The moving company was fabulous.  When I asked Expatco to help me move the little bit of stuff I had to my new place (two suitcases, a box of items collected in two months, and my two cats) they said no.  Of course, they didn’t say no to me directly – instead, they contacted my HR department who had to inform me that for moving these items, I was on my own.  Glad to see the exorbitant fee my company pays them is well spent and that they were willing to go the extra mile to help a gal, all alone, settle in to her new home 3,500 miles away from where her journey started.

Word is that if you are an executive-level person, you get the white-glove treatment.  I’d be curious to hear more about the experience of VIPs vs. our experience. 

What is the benefit of me posting this all now?  As said, this blog should move beyond being self-serving.  One of the most important parts of moving half way around the world is to have strong help on the other end.  Alas, I wasn’t so lucky in this regard, but I did benefit from fabulous co-workers who helped at every turn.  And that help was free.



  1. Sorry to hear about some of your moving challenges. What a beautiful country. I have wonderful childhood memories of visiting Switzerland, climbing at Rochers de Nez and hearing cowbells on the distant hillsides. Good luck to you in settling into your new home.

  2. Thanks so much, Chris. This was honestly one of the few things that could have gone better – overall, it’s been an awesome experience and I shouldn’t complain much, but alas, it just kinda happens :-). Oh – and the cowbells are one of my favorite parts :-).

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