A Swiss in the UK

Thinking about moving abroad? I was born in Switzerland and settled down in UK nearly three years ago. I got my first job and moved in my first flat within just over a year. There have been quite a few steps for me to take in order to achieve this; this is my experience as an expat, share yours with us here!

23 January 2007

Getting to know a new culture - Part I

I strongly believe that when one settles down abroad, one has to do their best to integrate in the country they have moved to, and get to know its culture. Failing to do so appears to me - as it does to many people - as an insult.

This is the first post I am dedicating to this topic, and will eventually write more about it. There are indeed many ways to take part in a culture; and perhaps I can only speak for myself, but it is easy enough to at least show some good will.

To give a few examples beforehand, here are the subjects I am planning to approach:
- learning a new language
- mixing up with the local population
- taking part in local activities
- reading

My next post on this topic will be on "tips on learning a new language".

22 January 2007

Flat hunting

It has been a dreadfully long time since I last posted. I can only half forgive myself for one reason: I have been flat hunting. I still am, as a matter of fact, looking to move on. But it takes a lot of time and patience to do so, and many times I have been feeling discouraged.

Flat hunting seems to me like a huge rat race in the UK. I know that I cannot even dream of buying a property, let alone rent one. So this is how it has worked for me in the past, and the method I am trying to use now - which has been pretty fruitless so far, but hopefully it is only a matter of time. Remember: be quick, efficient and ruthless.

1) Make sure you register your details with as many letting agencies as possible, within the area you want to move to.

2) Check property websites as often as possible - I do it once a day, even if it sounds slightly frantic. See below for some helpful links.

3) Ring up the agencies that advertise the properties you've spotted; straight away. Do not send them emails, hoping they will come back to you: they pretty much never do.

4) Jump - I mean jump - on every occasion you find, even if you think the flat is not exactly what you are looking for. Your aim is to view as many as possible.

5) During the viewing tell the agent you are interested and you plan to contact him/her the following day, even if you are only half interested; or you will not see that property again.

A couple of useful websites:

28 June 2006

National Insurance Number interview

Another big thing to get out of the way once you are in the UK, if you already have a job or are about to start working, is to apply for a National Insurance Number. Some money is taken away every month from your gross salary to be paid towards National Insurance, and for the money to be allocated to you, you need as National Insurance Number.

A NI Number can be obtained through any Job Centre Plus, Job Centre or social security office; but before being allocated one, you need to go for an interview, which lasts about an hour, and at which you will need to provide your interviewer with proof of your address in the UK (bank statement, bill, etc), proof of employment (payslip) and proof of identity (visa, ID card).

For more information about applying for a National Insurance Number, have a look at this link:

-> Applying for a National Insurance Number on