Moving house is a pain. There must be very good reasons to do it, to uproot one's life and start again. There's so much effort and time involved, before, during and after the move.
We have been looking for a new flat for about a year now. Finding one isn't easy in Switzerland. The real estate market is rather tight. Not being Swiss probably doesn't help. And my standards are high, one of the perks of living here. I've seen a few nice flats but not a single one where I was devastated when I didn't get it.
I like our current flat a lot. There's not much wrong with it. It's large enough for the four of us, relatively new and in good shape, close to the train station and the childcare right next to it, and halfway between my and Flucha's places of work. It has a large garden that the children love. It doesn't get much direct sun but is very bright nevertheless because it has more windows than surface area.
The things I don't like about the flat are the relatively small and impractical kitchen with insufficient counter space, the lack of a separate freezer compartment, the sad balcony that has never invited us to spend much time there and the single curtain rails. If this sounds like nit-picking, it's because it is. Were it for the flat only, I would not seriously consider moving.
A bigger problem is that the flat is in Dietikon. Dietikon is a town without attractions, at least in my eyes. Besides a lovely little library, there's nothing that makes me want to spend time there. The neighborhood where we live, north of the train station, is even worse.
It's a new development that has grown over the past ten years to cover a former industrial site with rectangular buildings of concrete and glass, in the style of international tedium, with no obvious flaws but no charm either, disconnected from the place, entirely without identity. There's no decent café, the bakery is closed on weekends, and the few restaurants are pathetic. With two thousand people living here, our neighborhood should be thriving but it just doesn't take off. The main square epitomizes all that's wrong. A gravelly expanse of nothing, it seems abandoned, though it's more likely that no town planner was involved in the design of the neighborhood in the first place. None of this matters much to us. We're a happy family and we'd happily stay.
The real problem, the issue that will drive us from this place in the end, is the lack of a school. How you can build an entirely new neighborhood and not think of a school is beyond me. (There's word of one for 2026, but don't hold your breath.) School children as young as six currently have to walk to and then through the train station and then a fair bit on the other side, across the busiest street in town to reach the city center schoolhouse. It's not something I'd like my children to do every morning. A kindergarten – more relevant for the next two years - is only a few steps from our flat, but it's a depressing, sterile place in a lifeless courtyard, surrounded by concrete, artificial.
Here's the deal. After months of looking for a flat, we've finally got a yes. It's in a thriving small town a few miles downriver, so close to work that I could ride my bicycle no matter how poor the weather, and right next to a nice kindergarten and school. I should be jumping up in the air but I can't.
The flat is by far the worst I've seen in Switzerland. The kitchen is so old I keep joking it would be like moving back to the UK. The kitchen is obviously much better than that. Maybe it's what a Swiss person – ignorant of the true extent of the misery – would imagine a kitchen in an English rental to be.
The flat isn't bigger than ours but 10% more expensive. No big deal, but it doesn't feel right. There are fewer windows than we're used to, though there's direct sunlight in the mornings. We wouldn't be on the ground floor and the children couldn't just run outside when the sun's shining. No more garden.
The basement is a frightening little dungeon – with washer and drier for our personal use but not inviting to store anything delicate. I'd have to find some place else for the wine. Bicycles were scattered all over the parking garage when we viewed the flat. There was no dedicated space for them.
The floor of the living room is stone tiles, the floor in the bedrooms some sort of worn out plastic. This might require carpets. And while I'm traditionally a fan of carpets, I must admit that I've grown rather fond of the hardwood floor in our current flat.
I wouldn't think the flat worth a second look, but here I am considering signing a lease. The flat is the least of the arguments pushing me in that direction. School and kindergarten in close proximity, and the center of an enjoyable, happening little town within walking distance weigh much heavier. Will I say yes tomorrow?
Saying yes would send us down a mad scramble of a few weeks to pack up our possessions, disassemble our furniture – not much, but not much for four people is still a lot – and deep-clean the flat. We'd need to have the appliances checked, a job that I'd think in the responsibility of the landlord if I didn't know better, and find new childcare places. Then we'd need to find replacement tenants or risk paying twice the rent for several months. This is probably easier than it sounds because our flat is nice, but it will take effort. Lastly, we'd need to organize the move itself, which I can't see as a walk in the park with two small children.
I'd much rather just sit on my sofa and update my blog, but this is not getting the children the education they deserve. Strange how even big decisions aren't my own anymore.