As I am sitting here waiting for COOP to make a delivery I decided to write a little. It has been another quiet week here in Der Schweiz. Fall has arrived, but considering the way most people dress here you would think we are in the middle of January. The temperature was 3 degrees (C) this morning. When it hits 4 I wear a long sleeve shirt while jogging. When it hits – 1 I add long pants to the mix. I realized about half way through my 5 miles that it is obvious I am not a native. With one exception everyone I saw was wearing a winter coat and hat. Even the people jogging where wearing more clothes than I wear when the temperature is -5 or -6. Switzerland does not have “The Farmer’s Almanac”, but all the indicators are for a cold winter. I have not been able to determine if it is cold to Wisconsin standards but outside of the mountains I really doubt if it is going to be THAT cold.
I think I have mentioned in earlier posts that Julie and I have made some new friends. This is another US couple that has lived here about a year longer than we have. Anyway, we went out to dinner last Saturday. I have not decided, yet, if the bar was an Irish Bar that served American Food, or an American Bar that served Irish Beer and Whisky. It was a great night. Julie had a big ole juicy cheeseburger, and I had chicken wings. I have not had wings in over two years, and they really hit the spot! It was also the first place we have found over here, that really knows how to make onion rings.
This week actually felt like home. We have been having cable problems. Just like in the US, it is actually cheaper to get TV, Internet, and Phones all bundled together, than to get any one separately. Because of that we have cable TV, but it is only turned on for about 30 minutes every morning. That way we can get some BBC news while we are eating breakfast. The rest of the time we watch either HULU or Netflix. Anyway, the cable box has been acting up for about a week. Every morning at 7:10 the box reboots. Most mornings it only reboots once, but Wednesday it rebooted 5 or 6 times. I have tried updating it, resetting it.. You know the drill. Everything that you have to do with any kind of computer device. I finally gave up and psyched myself up for the dreaded Swiss German phone call that would have me curled up in a fetal position within 90 seconds of talking to someone. The call went just like it would have gone in the US. The only difference is that you have to listen to the introduction in German, French, and then Italian before you can start pushing buttons to get to the write department. I spent 45 minutes on hold waiting to talk to someone, of course, this was after I got hung up on twice. I got the first level technician, and he told me to reboot the box two times. Still was glitching out. He passed me on to the second level tech. He told me to “hard” reset the box. All of these things of course having been done multiple times over the last week. Finally after spending another 30 minutes on the phone with the 2nd level tech, he agreed to send out a new cable box. This is exactly what I tried asking for when I was on with the the first level technician.
I had to take a break to accept the delivery. I think grocery delivery is something I will miss when we move back to the US. I do not use the delivery for fruits and vegetables, but I really like using the service for the bulky and heavy things. The delivery service gets everything right to the door, and I only have to move the stuff one time. It is so much nicer than having to load everything in the car or use the shopping trolley and move things two or three times. I guess I am more lazy than I thought!
So for all my other Gen X and Boomer friends, have you heard the new Mellencamp song? If you have not; do yourself a favor and give it a listen. The collaboration between Mellencamp and Springsteen is really good, I think they should do more together.
The job search is still not going anywhere. I am really thankful we were able to negotiate a deal where I do not HAVE to work. The thing that frustrates me is seeing the same advertisement for a job come up time after time. I have a spreadsheet going of all the jobs I have applied for. I have seen multiple jobs still up 6 or 7 months AFTER I got my rejection notice without ever getting an interview. I am coming to the conclusion that the employment market in Switzerland is NOT as good as people claim. Though I do keep finding people online that talk about looking for jobs for years before finally finding a company that will hire someone outside the EU. It also makes me wonder why the government even bothers giving out work visas to people that do not have an employment contract, yet. Oh well, all I can do is keep going.
Last thought for the day comes back to taxes. You have all heard me rant multiple times that it stinks having to pay US and Swiss taxes. I understand why the US doesn’t want to change the tax rules. The number of people living outside the US is so small, that there is no lobbying group making it worth the politicians time to even discuss it. I do think the US needs to do something to make filing taxes less onerous. Another US citizen talked to Julie about something his accountant in the US discovered. The company that has been doing our taxes has not been taking advantage of all the tax loopholes. Apparently there is something called the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion and Foreign Housing Exclusion that allow you to “exclude” part of your income and write off part of the cost of housing. It is designed for countries that have tax levels below the US and I guess is a benefit of still having to pay US taxes even though we get nothing from them. The catch to this is that it is not an automatic thing. You have to file specifically to take advantage of them. You would think a company that has a special department of US citizens that live in Switzerland would know about this but apparently not. We have not been happy with the company doing our taxes anyway. If they missed this exclusion it will make sense to forgo the company benefit of someone doing our taxes and finding someone ourselves. The fix to this would be so easy. Just have the US go to a flat tax over all work income and investment income. Then allow you to deduct any foreign tax paid. Of course that solution is way to simple so it will never be implemented.
Honestly, the Swiss system is so much easier. Income tax is graduated based on income. I believe that all income is taxed the same no matter where it comes from. You get charitable deductions, and some kind of deduction for owning a home. Everyone also gets hit with a wealth tax which is figured from all Non-Retirement assets you have. The tax form is like 1040 EZ form. One page long. The only downfall I see to the Swiss method is that if you have a permanent visa or are a citizen there is no withholding. The individual is expected to simply save the money to pay one time per year. I know a lot of people in the US that would never be able to handle that. I think the tax rates are able to be so much smaller than the US and other European countries, because the military industrial complex does not have the same control as the US, and health care is mandatory but the responsibility of the individual. That being said, I pay a lot more in fees and other hidden taxes than I would in a lot of other countries.
I think that about covers it for today. I need to get my German studying in, and still have to get to the store so I can make dinner! Talk to you next week.