A few years ago, people who married a Swiss national, moved to the German part of Switzerland and did not speak German very naturally ended up teaching English, even if they came from a very different career background and had no previous teaching experience. But now that the high Swiss salaries attract thousands of English-speaking expats and international marriages are common, the market is flooded, and even teachers with many year of experience may find it hard to get enough work, especially since full-time contracts are almost unheard of.
Swiss expat forums are filled with foreigners desperately seeking work which does not require German fluency and reporting back on their lack of success, even after several months of searching. I was one of such foreigners for around a year. Even if I was an experienced ESL teacher who had moved to Zurich to be with her Swiss partner, I could not get more than 7 hours of work per week, and after 12 months of struggling financially, I decided I needed to look into other work possibilities. I became a nanny.
Through my research, I discovered that the large number of expats working and living in Switzerland has created a high demand for English-speaking nannies, and ads seem to pop up daily on the more popular expat forums.
There are a few things which you need to keep in mind if you’re interested in becoming a nanny in the German part of Switzerland:
- Becoming a live-out nanny is a great option for those people who would not be comfortable being an Au Pair and living with their employer. It also does not have any age restrictions as in the case of Au Pair work.
- Since the job opportunities are provided by families rather than companies, you won’t usually get support when applying for your residence permit. In fact, most families will look for people who have already got one. For this reason, this kind of job is suited for E.U nationals or spouses of Swiss nationals who are allowed to work legally in Switzerland without sponsorship, and who can go about getting a residence and work permit independently. Applications for permits need to be made at your local commune. Forms are almost always in German and government workers do not necessarily have a good level of English if you reside outside of Zurich city, so you might want to get a Swiss friend to help you out.
- Depending on the age of the children, working time can be from about 7:30/8:00 am until 6/7 pm, or on a half day basis from around 12/1 pm if the children go to Kindergarten or school. Sometimes you can also find 4-day week jobs if one of the parents does not work 100%. The rate per hour starts at about 20 CHF, which is little when compared to the 50 CHF base rate which you get from English teaching. However, you need to remember that due to the guaranteed long hours, a nanny job will result in a proper salary which will be enough to make you live a reasonably comfortable life in Switzerland. The same can not always be said about irregular English teaching.
- Find a family who is willing to offer you a contract. This will not only save you the trouble of having to apply for self-employed status and navigate the complex Swiss tax system on your own, but it will also guarantee that your family will give you adequate advanced notice should they decide they do not need your services any longer.
- While the demand for nannies is still high, preference is given to applicants who have some experience with children, and you will struggle to find someone who is willing to take you up without references. You can solve this issue by doing some babysitting back in your home country prior to moving. Years of experience are not necessary, but additional qualifications such as a first aid certificate are appreciated. Applicants who have their own children are usually considered to be qualified for the job.
- The bulk of the families will be located in and around Zurich city, so base yourself here for more opportunities.
- Jobs at bilingual day care centres are also sometimes available, but these often require you to work long hours for a ‘trainee’ salary, so you’re much better off working for a family.
Working as a nanny will not make you rich, but at the moment, it is one of the few options for non-German speakers without business or IT qualifications, and it can be your gateway to making your dream of living in Switzerland come true.
www.englishforum.ch – a popular expat forum with almost daily ads for nannies, mostly in the German part of Switzerland. You can also advertise yourself in the ‘Jobs wanted’ section.
www.stadt-zuerich.ch – the official website for Zurich city, and one of the few online resources available in English.
-Text and Photography by Denise Pulis @ www.theartofslowtravel.com