Written by: Wil Davis
My first week in Switzerland was a real learning experience. I was introduced to different aspects of both business and private European culture. The first thing to always remember is bring a map or directions. After sitting on a plane for 8 hours I had to haul my luggage 5 blocks (which turned into 8 after I made 2 complete circles). Fortunately the hotel was really nice, but alas, I had to throw my bags down and get right to work.
Our offices are about 15 minutes from my (first) hotel by train. In Switzerland (and most of Europe, from what I have been told) nearly all local transportation is done by train/tram. The main reason is the very high cost of living. For example, gas costs nearly 4 times as much in Switzerland as it does in the U.S. Everything in Switzerland is expensive. Breakfast at the hotel is fr. 26.- per person, and coffee is about fr. 5.- for a shot glass full (At last check, fr.1 = $1.14). One of my Swiss colleagues lives in a 1 bedroom apartment that’s costs over fr. 5,000.- per month in rent! It was not until 3 or 4 days of being here that someone finally told me that salaries are cost-of-living adjusted, meaning that people here get paid much more than people in the U.S. because everything is more expensive.
Once the sticker-shock wears off, Switzerland is a really nice place, especially to work in. The desks (see picture) are the kind that move up and down, so you can work standing up too. A lot of people do this for a few minutes every hour or so just to stretch their legs out. I tried, but it felt too odd for me to be able to concentrate. I am used to a certain posture for reading, writing, typing, etc., and standing up felt too out of place. There is also a lot of foliage in the office, as can be seen in the picture. The last bit of casual ambience can be observed through the individuals wearing shorts in the office. Similar to with the desks, although wearing shorts to the office would have been nice, I would have felt uncomfortable dressed like that in a professional environment. It’s funny that many of us feel more comfortable in shorts than dress slacks, but given the opportunity to wear shorts to work we would feel even more uncomfortable mentally than physically.
As my acclimation week wrapped up, I started turning my focus towards the next week, when the work starts.