My 2015

We had visitors over New Year who left on 2nd January, but now things are sloooowly starting to get back to normal (for a few days at least!) and I’ve found time to catch up on a little bit of my blog reading. I also have a number of posts still to write before I can start looking forward to what’s to come in 2016. For now, though, here’s my traditional recap of the year that’s just been…

January

We already knew that we were moving to Switzerland (although hardly anybody else did), so after our original plan to spend New Year in Iceland fell through due to the flights being so expensive, we decided to start the year in our new country. Midnight found us clinking mini sparking wine bottles on the banks of the Zürisee (Lake Zurich) before the offficial fireworks were set off at quarter past the hour.

Zürich fireworks show

I then returned to work, where I informed my boss that I would be moving to Switzerland. Thankfully, I ended up not having to quit because I was offered a telecommuting contract instead. Phew! I was then able to tell my colleagues, and finally announce the news on my blog. The rest of January was fairly uneventful, although we did begin the process of preparing for the move – responding to a few ads for flats in Basel and writing a cancellation letter for my Bahncard 100.

February

This month was mainly taking up with flat hunting – reading ads, emailing people, phoning people and travelling down to Basel to look at flats. It was a very busy and frustrating time! We did manage to have a look round Basel zoo on one of those trips though.

Basel zoo

March

In March, we finally actually found a flat! It was the 24th one we had looked at (out of 25) and was also the one with the most expensive rent, but it was also our favourite and to be honest by that time we’d given up being concerned about money. We just wanted somewhere to live! We signed the contract on Friday the 13th… not so unlucky for some! We then began the process of packing our entire lives into boxes ready for the removal men to pick up.

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At the end of the month, we had a leaving party, for which I made Toblerone cheesecake (yay, something crossed off my 35 before 35 list!), the removal men took away all the boxes and most of our furniture – leaving me to spend a month in a flat that contained a bed, a coffee table and two folding chairs – and Jan moved to Basel ready to start work.

April

Jan started his new job on 1 April and also got Internet set up in the new place so I could actually start working from home once I moved. In the meantime, I sorted out the remaining things that still needed doing back in Karlsruhe, including cancelling the Internet there and cleaning all the things! For Easter, I took a trip down to Basel to help Jan with some of the unpacking and furniture arranging. We also took a walk in the woods near our new home, where we spotted what I think was a mouse.

Mouse?

On the 26 April, I finally moved to Switzerland, but before that we did a beer tour of Karlsruhe with some friends. A fitting way to say goodbye to the place I had lived in for longer than any other!

May

This month saw me exploring my new home, in between unpacking more boxes and getting used to working from home every day! I also started the process of applying for my Swiss residency permit (including multiple trips to the Gemeindeverwaltung!) and joined in with Foodie Penpals for the first time.

June

June saw us exploring Basel some more, as well as taking part in a traditional walk around the boundary of our own small town. We also took a trip to Fribourg (also called Freiburg, but not the one in Germany) and I actually received my residence permit (Aufenthaltsbewilligung). Yay! I then wrote a post on how to move to Switzerland with a partner you’re not married to (just thought I’d throw that in there in case it’s useful to anyone). June always seems to be the month with all the long weekends, and 2015 was no exception, so we took advantage of that fact and went to Luzern and Mount Pilatus for the day. The top was mostly in the clouds, but it was still pretty great (but cold!).

Pilatus
View from Mount Pilatus

We also hiked from Sissach to Liestal on one weekend and on another visited a street food festival in Olten. Phew! A busy month.

July

In July, we took a walk to Mariastein Abbey, visited the beautiful church there and then walked to Landskron Castle. We saw bees there, which made me very happy!

Bee
Bzzz!

Jan’s mum and her partner came to see us for a day since they were on holiday close by. It turned out to be the hottest day of the year and it was waaay to warm to walk around much, but we showed them a bit of Basel. At the end of the month, I flew to England alone to attend my cousin’s wedding. It was a very brief visit, but it was lovely to see so many family members in one place!

August

Long term readers may remember that August is my birthday month. It turns out it’s also Switzerland’s – they celebrate their national holiday (Bundesfeiertag) on 1st August. So this month started with fireworks and Swiss flags.

Bundesfeier
Moo!

I spent my own birthday working, but we did go out for delicious Thai food in the evening. Later in the month, we took a trip to a butterfly house (where we saw real live toucans!) and some friends came down from Karlsruhe to belatedly celebrate my birthday with me. The day they were here, all of Basel’s towers had an open day so we went up the one that’s closest to where we live, Spalentor.

September

A friend came all the way from Luxembourg at the beginning of the month to watch the Lion King musical with us, and we also visited the Tinguely Museum with her. We finally managed to buy a proper ceiling light for my “office” – useful as the days were starting to get shorter! And I started my Christmas stitching to make sure it would get done in time. We also visited Karlsruhe to see Jan’s former choir perform at an annual festival.

Tinguely museum

October

Finally, a holiday! My first since I took a week off to move in April. We flew to England on 1st October so we could go out for a meal with my brother on the 2nd for his 25th birthday! We also attended three World Cup rugby matches, saw the “Wave” sculpture in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, visited Manchester and Alnwick (which I haven’t actually posted about yet!) and met up with many friends and family – all over the course of a mere 10 days! Having returned to Switzerland, we briefly relaxed before taking a trip to Germany on Halloween for the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival.

The Wave

November

A lot of cross stitching happened this month! Apart from that, we went to Engelberg-Titlis for a day (blog post to follow!), took a trip to Karlsruhe for my friend’s flat warming party and, at the end of the month, went to Colmar for the day to visit the Christmas markets.

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December

I barely managed to blog in December thanks to all the Christmas card stitching I was doing! We also briefly went to Karlsruhe to watch Jan’s former choir perform, returning immediately after the concert because Jan was also singing with a choir that evening! The next day, two of my colleague’s came down to Basel to visit the Christmas market and the following weekend we went to Bern where we visited the Christmas markets and looked around the town (blog post to follow). This means I’ve now completed the “visit 5 Christmas markets” item from my 35 before 35 challenge!

Bern town hall

Christmas was spent with Jan’s dad and his partner, before we headed up to his mum’s for a few days on the 26th. While we were there, we spent an afternoon in Göttingen and for the first time I actually managed to take photos there! (That’s another post that will follow). We returned to Switzerland on the evening of the 28th, leaving us two days to get everything sorted ready for our friends arriving on the 31st. We all ate raclette together (when in Switzerland…) before heading into town to watch the fireworks over the Rhine… and thus, for the first time since we’ve been together, Jan and I actually finished the year in the same country that we started it in!

Basel New Year's fireworks

Overall, 2015 was a year of big changes and we spent most of it getting used to our new home and, in my case, a new way of working. We also managed to see quite a bit of our new country, which was nice. Tomorrow, we leave for England for a few days, where we will be helping my sister celebrate her 30th birthday, and after that I’m looking forward to relaxing for a bit and getting back into a routine before we start thinking about what 2016 might bring!

 

How to move to Switzerland with a partner you’re not married to and no (Swiss) employment

Phew, that was a ridiculously long title! Every word of it was necessary for completeness though. Anyway…

While I was doing research on the move to Switzerland, I found it almost impossible to figure out whether I would even be allowed to live here without a job. There are forms to download if you want to bring your family members to Switzerland, which point out in practically every sentence that they are talking about a marriage partner – emphasis on the married – and dependent children, but no website seemed to want to tell me whether it was possible to move to Switzerland with a partner who is not your spouse without having a job waiting for you in Switzerland. So now I actually have my residence permit (which is called a Bewilligung in Swiss German, as opposed to an Aufenthaltserlaubnis in every other German-speaking country (except possibly Lichtenstein)), I thought I’d do my tiny little bit to remedy the situation.

Here, before we start have a picture of Switzerland to break up the text and remind you of why you even want to go through the procedure I'm about to describe
Here, before we start have a picture of Switzerland to break up the text and remind you of why you even want to go through the procedure I’m about to describe

Disclaimer: this is what worked for me, as an EU national living in Basellandschaft. I cannot speak for the French or Italian-speaking areas of Switzerland (I’m assuming the German bits are roughly the same).

The first thing you have to do on arriving in Switzerland is go and register with your Gemeinde (=municipality, or the local authority thereof). In the French part that would be you Commune. You will need to take with you: your passport, 2 passport photos, your rental contract for your home in Switzerland and (if you previously lived in a country where you had to register) your deregistration certificate (deregistration is a word, right?). If you are still in employment outside of Switzerland, you should also bring your employment contract (or a copy) with you at this point. The person at the Gemeinde will ask you some questions, including your date of birth, place of birth, nationality and parent’s names then print out a registration form for you. You should keep hold of this – you might need it in the future. You should also tell them that you’re here to be with your partner (or, ideally, you and said partner will be registering together anyway – I came a month later than Jan for various reasons). The Gemeinde will then contact the Amt für Migration (migration office) on your behalf. Then you wait.

A few days or a week later, you will receive a letter in the post along with a Verpflichtungserklärung (declaration of commitment – I don’t know what it’s called in French or Italian, but it’s a Swiss-wide thing so you’ll definitely need it in the other parts). Your partner needs to fill this in – basically he or she agrees to act as guarantor for you and to pay any costs that should become necessary, including for health insurance, accident insurance and also to cover your costs to leave the country again if necessary. You then need to take the filled in and signed Verpflichtungserklärung to your Gemeinde/Commune or to the Amt für Migration, depending on which canton you live in. For Basellandschaft, it’s the Gemeinde. Basel-Stadt is the Migrationsamt, but your letter will tell you that. What the letter doesn’t tell you is that you also need to bring proof that your partner is capable of meeting the obligations he/she has committed to. This is because what constitutes proof differs from place to place. We had to provide proof that Jan had 30,000 francs in his bank account. Needless to say, he does not! Some places also want a Betreibungsauszug (an extract from the debt collection register). If your partner is Swiss, this won’t be a problem. If they’re German, the equivalent is the SCHUFA-Auskunft. Any other nationality I have no idea whether an equivalent exists. If you’re rich, your tasks end here. You take your Verpflichtungserklärung and your proof to the responsible place, they tick the box saying “yes, the guarantor can support this person”, you retrieve your now stamped form, pay a fee (mine was 10 francs, but that may differ by Gemeinde), send the form back to the Amt für Migration and soon you’ll receive a “welcome to Switzerland” letter informing you about what kind of Bewilligung you’re getting. Congratulations, rich person! You can stop reading now.

More Switzerland... it really is worth the effort!
More Switzerland… it really is worth the effort!

If, like us, you’re not rich and therefore do not have 30,000 francs lying around, you may be in trouble. However, if you’re still employed in another country (and intend to continue working there, either by crossing the border or by telecommuting) you may be in luck! Along with my Verpflichtungserklärung, where the lady from the Gemeinde had oh-so-kindly ticked no, I had to send the Migrationsamt 1) a letter from my employer confirming that I am working there full time and have a permanent contract that neither side has terminated and 2) copies of my last 12 wage slips. I then waited for 2 weeks then, just as I was about to phone them, a letter arrived informing me that my permit had been approved and I was invited to a welcome meeting where I could pick it up (the “invitation” is more of an order though – although it can be rearranged if you have a really good reason. Having to work probably doesn’t count by the way – they actually include a letter for your employer telling them why they should let you go to the appointment). And voilà, you are officially, legally a resident of Switzerland.

Foreigner's ID - the residence permit is inside
Foreigner’s ID – the residence permit is inside

If you’re self-employed/freelance, providing evidence of a regular income from freelancing would probably work, provided the authorities decide it’s enough to live on If you are neither rich nor employed I’m afraid I can’t help you. But as an EU citizen you are allowed to stay in Switzerland for 3 months with neither a job nor a guarantor, so that should buy you some time to go job hunting. And hey, this is already more information than I was able to find before I moved!

Friday letters: officially legal

Wow, Friday has rolled around quickly again this week! I can’t believe we’re already 5 days into June! Although if you ask the weather it seems more like the end of July/beginning of August. It’s supposed to get up to 33°C today! Apart from my cold, which is still lingering annoyingly, this has been a good week. Yesterday was a holiday in Baden-Württemberg (where I work) but not in Basel, so I was able to go shopping. Then I got to laze around for the rest of the day. And on Wednesday I received an invitation from the Amt für Migration for my “welcome to Switzerland” meeting. It also contained a temporary copy of my residence permit – the real one will be handed out to me at the meeting. So as long as I remain employed in Germany, I’m allowed to stay. Hurrah! (The title of this post is slightly misleading – I wasn’t actually illegal before – as an EU citizen I can be in Switzerland without a residence permit for 3 months). And now letters.

Mail boxDear scales. I know I’ve been indulging way too often since I moved (Swiss cheese why must you be so tasty?), but I wasn’t expecting to see that number when I stepped on the scales! Time to start watching what I eat again!

Dear Swiss migration people. Thanks for letting me stay with my boyfriend! (Anyone who’s planning on moving to Switzerland with a partner, I’ll be writing a guide on how to do it soon).

Dear Switzerland. How can one country contain so much beauty? I am in awe! (The only thing you’re missing is the sea. Switzerland on the coast would be the best thing ever!)

Dear cold. I’m sick of you now. Please just go away!

I actually can’t think of anything else right now – it’s been a fairly uneventful week. Storms are forecast for tomorrow so we probably won’t be going anywhere, but there’s a flea market in the Markthalle on Sunday that I’m hoping to go to. I hope you all have a great weekend. Happy Friday, everyone.

Ten things I’ll miss about Karlsruhe

I’m not including people on this list, because I think it goes without saying that I’ll miss my friends! Also, people can move so theoretically it would be possible for the people I like to also come to Basel 😉 But even ignoring the people, I will miss some things about the place that’s been my home for the past eight and a half years!

  1. My “local” Irish pub… and of course the quiz. (My team came 3rd last week, by the way, which was a nice way to say goodbye).
  2. The trams. I know, it seems like an odd thing to miss, but they’re bright yellow and whenever I spied one from a train window I knew I was nearly home.
    S-Bahn
  3. The Schlosspark (castle grounds). I don’t even think I spent any time there last year with the weather in the summer being so bad, but it’s the perfect place to sit when the sun’s out. I hope we’ll find somewhere just as good in Basel.
  4. The red pandas, of course! I’ll miss seeing them hanging out in their trees on my way to and from work. (I will also miss living literally oppostie the zoo! We’re fairly close in Basel but it’s still a ten-minute walk. At the weekend, we took a last trip to Karlsruhe zoo, so look out for those photos on the blog once I can upload again – the ones in this post were all already uploaded for previous posts)

    I promise there's a red panda in that tree...
    I promise there’s a red panda in that tree…
  5. Soul bar, not just because of the very tasty cocktails, but also because the owners are so lovely. They greeted us like old friends every time we came in – even if it had been months since our last visit – and did an excellent job for my 30th birthday party.
  6. Sukie’s Cake Shop. I’ve only actually been there three times, but I will miss knowing I can go to a place where I can eat scones and clotted cream to my heart’s content and won’t get funny looks for asking for milk with my tea. Also, they sell cans of Dandelion & Burdock and Irn Bru!

    A strawberry scone from Sukie's
    A strawberry scone from Sukie’s
  7. Knowing my way around. Okay, this is something that I’m sure will come with time in Basel, but nothing could be quite as easy as Karlsruhe’s layout. All streets either lead to the castle or away from it (or, in the case of cross streets, parallel to it), so if you can’t see the castle turn around and walk the other way until you do! (Only applies for the twon centre, obviously)
  8. Hoepfner Burgfest. Beer, live music and good food. What’s not to love? And even if we do find a beer festival in Basel, the Karlsruhe one will win on price!

    Hoepfner beer at Burgfest 2014
    Hoepfner beer at Burgfest 2014
  9. The excellent connections. It sounds odd, but one of the things I love about Karlsruhe is how easy it is to get away from. By train, you can be in Paris, Munich or Lucerne in three hours, Zurich in two and a half, Frankfurt in just over an hour and Strasbourg or Heidelberg in roughly half an hour. There’s even a direct connection to Marseilles (although it admittedly takes 6 and a half hours) and a few years ago, Jan and I took a night train to Amsterdam, arriving at our final destination (Delft) refreshed and ready for the day.
  10. Our flat. It was the first place Jan and I ever lived together (unless you count the student residence, which I don’t!) and it really is a lovely flat. Of course, after two weeks of listening to the empty rooms echo I’m looking forward to living in a place with furniture again, and our new flat is also lovely, but this place will always hold a special place in my heart.
    Where my books used to live...
    Where my books used to live…

    With all that said, I am looking forward to being in Basel full time and find new places that I love just as much as my favourites in Karlsruhe. And the cheese… I’m definitely looking forward to the cheese!

Friday letters (need more time!)

It’s Friday again! I can’t believe how time is flying. Only one more week of work after today, then I move that weekend, have a week off to sort myself out and as of may I’m officially a telecommuter (and resident of Switzerland). Phew. I feel like a week is far too little time to get myself sorted out, though – especially while working. I think I need Bernard’s watch (anyone remember that?)!

Eye'm watching you...Dear Rossmann employee. There’s really no use asking me for my postcard at 8 am… I can barely remember my own name then!

Dear bookshop. I spent way too long in you yesterday looking for a book with an alliterative title and didn’t find a single one. Not even Angela’s Ashes – which most people seem to be using for the challenge – or Rob Roy, which is supposedly a classic. I didn’t even spot Gone Girl (which would have been useless to me anyway since I’ve already read it, but given its popularity you’d think you’d at least stock it!). Now I’m going to have to order it, and as Switzerland has no Amazon of its own, it will come from another country and go through customs. If I fail to complete the challenge in time due to books arriving late I’m blaming you!

Dear Switzerland. Why you no has Amazon?

Dear to-do list. Why aren’t you getting any shorter? I have so much to do and so little time before the big move!

Dear Basel. See you again soon!

Happy Friday everyone! I hope the sun shines for you this weekend (and for us – we’re going to a wedding!).

Friday letters

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, what with packing and everything. Today seems like good day for some letters, though!

Friday letters

Dear Grandpa. Wednesday would have been your 81st birthday. If there is a heaven, I hope you were partying in it!

Dear sunshine. It’s been lovely seeing you in the evenings after work this week. Now, could you please stick around for another day so we don’t get rained on while out and about tomorrow?

Dear new shoes. I love you so much, and I don’t even care that you’re from Primark and therefore promoting evilness!

Dear boyfriend. Thank you for doing so much furniture arranging and unpacking before I even made it to Switzerland. It was nice that it already looked somewhat homely when I arrived last weekend.

Dear German banks and administrative offices. Why are your opening hours so crap? Don’t you realise that most of us have to work full time and can’t deal with all our bureaucratic stuff before 4 p.m. on a week day?!

That’s all for now. Just 15 days til I move, then hopefully I’ll be back to regular blogging again!

All those hours spent putting things in boxes only to remove them again

This weekend I’ve mainly been in Basel, unpacking and sorting out the new flat. Then, today – as those of you who follow my blog on Facebook may have already seen – I came back to Karlsruhe and, instead of sitting outside in the gorgeous sunshine, spent the afternoon cleaning windows. I hadn’t actually done them since we moved in here (5 years ago for the nosey curious – I’m such a terrible housewife!), so I’m sure you can imagine the state they were in…

Anyway, while I was in Switzerland, I managed to grab a few shots of the unpacking process, so I thought I’d share them here. I’m sure you’re all thrilled 😉 All photos were taken using a tablet with a terrible camera, so apologies for quality…

It seems the Swiss like to take their lights with them too, so Jan’s set up a few temporary lighting solutions:

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A lonely lantern on the balcony – we don’t have any other furniture to go out there yet.

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Almost all the books are unpacked, and we’re probably going to need another book case (three are pictured here and there’s a fourth just around the corner).

20150403_162837The desk is in position, just waiting for the computer to be set up.

20150403_162935Empty boxes (YAY!)

20150404_142641Full boxes (BOO!)

20150404_142702That’s all I took. Maybe I’ll share some proper pictures of the new flat once I’m moved in. Right now it’s time for food and a well-deserved glass of wine!