Expat Life-Apartment Search

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The checklist created below would have been immensely helpful to us upon selecting our first apartment in Basel and ultimately might have saved us the hassle of moving again. If you do not have a relocation agency assisting you with securing your new apartment, homgate.ch, comparis.ch, immoscout24.ch, and immoStreet.ch will provide a comprehensive list of the current apartments/houses available based on location, size, and price.

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Often times when you call the agency to view the apartment, the current owner/renter will be the individual to show you around. This is the perfect opportunity to ask detailed questions about the apartment from the individual who knows exactly what it means to reside in the space on a day – to – day basis.

Apartment Checklist:

  1. Location: Get a feel for the neighborhood. Walk the streets during the day and the night. Take special note to what surrounds your building. Are there clubs, bars, cafés, and restaurants nearby? While these might be convenient, such establishments are often loud and carry a high level of noise throughout the evening and on weekends. Visit the local grocery store, talk to people and determine how you feel in the area. Walking the streets at night is especially important if you will be coming and going during the evening hours or spending a great deal of time alone due to a traveling partner/roommate or because you will be living alone. You need to feel safe in your neighborhood and secure in your building.
  2. Elevator: Does the building have an elevator and is that elevator big enough to fit furniture, a couple of people and/or a stroller? An elevator may not be necessary if you are childless and don’t mind walking up several flights of stairs, but if you are moving into a space with an established family or hoping to start a family in the near future, an elevator is essential. In addition, if you have elderly family members visiting and staying in your apartment, a trek up several flights of stairs may not be an option for them.
  3. Washer and Dryer: Does your apartment have a washer and dryer in the unit? If not, it is important to take a look at the communal space. Is the washing room well maintained, easy to access and a well-lit space? How does washing in the building work? Do tenants sign – up as they choose or are washing days selected for you? How many people share the washer and dryer? Having some flexibility in the schedule is invaluable, especially if you have children. Think sick children, dirty, wet clothes, spills, etc.
  4. Bathtub: Does your apartment have a bathtub? If you enjoy a good soak or have children, a bathtub is a must.
  5. Street Noise: Believe it or not, we never noticed the fact that we lived on a tramline until after we moved into our apartment. When selecting an apartment or house, consider the street noise from tramlines, buses, major roads, restaurants, cafés, bars, parks, churches, and/or stadiums.
  6. General Noise: Is the building well constructed, with solid windows and thick/well insulated flooring? This will determine the level of noise that carries from one neighbor to the next. Are there children in the building, musicians, etc?  These are great questions to ask the current tenant.
  7. Public Transportation: Does your new home have easy access to public transportation? Will you have a car or will you rely exclusively on public transportation? Is there a parking garage in your building with an available space for your vehicle(s) and what is the monthly cost?
  8. Convenience: Does your neighborhood provide easy access to: grocery stores, banks, drug stores, green space, playgrounds, pools, schools, daycares, a post office and other daily essentials without having to walk too far or get into your car? All of these factors will greatly impact your convenience levels and overall happiness.
  9. Size: The size of the building. If you are coming from a home and downsizing to an apartment, consider the size of the building and how many tenants occupy the complex. The more people, typically the more noise, more use of the washing machine and dryer, etc. The size of the individual apartment – will you have space to host guests, house a baby if you plan to start a family, or simply have a home office?
  10. Safety: Ask about the safety of your neighborhood. Has your building ever been broken into? If so, when and how many times? Also, has there ever been a fire in your building and what was the cause?
  11. Fire Alarms: Inquire about fire alarms when visiting apartments. It is not standard practice for Switzerland to have fire alarms installed in apartment units. If you would like them installed ask the agency their policy for this. For a nominal fee, fire alarms can be purchased at a local hardware store and personally installed for safety (if this is permissible). If you are interested in hiring a company that specializes in safety, consider contacting a company such as SAFEHOME. http://www.safehome.ch
  12. Rules: consider asking for the house rules to become better acquainted with how your potential apartment functions. In addition, Integration Basel publishes a list of general house rules in multiple languages, pertaining to laundry, cleaning, recycling, trash days and much more. To view this list in several languages, please visit: http://www.immobilien.bs.ch/nachbar_machbar_2015.pdf
  13. Pets: If you are bringing pets or have the intent of owning an animal, check the rules and regulations of your building to determine whether or not animals are allowed and those rules associated with having animals in the building.
  14. Storage: Does your apartment come with a basement storage locker? This is important if you plan to store wine, spare tires, large furniture or seasonal clothes. Ask to see the storage locker that is affiliated with your apartment unit before you rent the flat.
  15. Bike Storage: Consider the availability and security of the bike storage unity for the apartment you will be renting. Some buildings have designated areas specifically designed for storing bikes, inquire with the agent about this when viewing the apartment.
  16. General Cleanliness of the Building: Most apartments have a general caretaker who is responsible for cleaning and maintaining the public space. In addition, this person is often called when items in your home break or need repair. Ask about this individual, how often he or she is on premise and their general responsibilities.
  17. 220 volt:  Switzerland uses 220 volt, which means do not even bother bringing television sets, vacuum cleaners and most of the appliances that are now collecting dust in our storage locker with you on your move.
  18. Check – List: When you are given the keys to your apartment, you will also be given a spreadsheet asking you to note any damages, scrapes, marks, holes, or general issues with your apartment. Take the time to be as thorough as possible with this and as detailed as process. You will be grateful for your diligence, which should save you money and hassles upon departure.
  19. Smoking: Finally, check to see whether or not your apartment building permits smoking or if there are rules regarding this for tenants.  As a non-smoker, there is nothing worse than being surrounded by smokers, which will ruin your balcony experience in a flash!  Bummer!

Welcome home!

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Ruined

A funny thing happens when you love where you live…you compare the world to your new home.

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It is not to say that we have become immune to natural wonders of this world or have become cavalier to all that still awaits. We are still eager to get out there; to see what this world has to offer and appreciate each new experience, but Switzerland, oh damn you Switzerland for all the pleasures you have bestowed upon us.

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Your impressive peaks, translucent streams, endless opportunities to ramble through gorgeous meadows, over mountains, through snow on your meticulously marked trails.  Your cabins that have been built in the most remote of locations and your sunsets that leave tears in our eyes. Yeah your natural beauty has spoiled us and left us to wonder what on earth could ever compare to you?

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Your visions linger and we are left to unwillingly compare you to every new country, each new glacier, mountain and lake we visit. Truth be told, many often pale in comparison.

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For you are chock full of gorgeous mountains, serene landscapes, crystal clear lakes, hidden valleys, remarkable passes, incredible transportation that never leaves us stranded and all so close to home. No need to wait in security lines, no planes to board, we simply walk to the train station to be whisked away to one more of your stunning locations, while our hearts pound with anticipation.

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We ventured into your world unknowing, only to leave changed, humbled and deeply content. We love to call you home, we are eager to send our children into your schools, to sleep under your stars and to dance in your rains.

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Switzerland, you have dished out more than we can possibly chew and you have left us with no other choice but to fall deeply in love with you. We always longed to find that one place in this world that fills us so deeply, so truly that we adore uttering the words “home” whenever we speak your name.

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But before we part ways, please don’t think that Switzerland is the only country in this world that has run its fingers through our hair, tousled us around and left us speechless…there is still one other country that gets us every time we utter its name. Stayed tuned for that game changer.

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More2Explore – 2014 Top Posts

In case you missed them, here are the best posts of 2014.  Many Thanks to all our followers, social media connections, viewers, and WordPress readers for stopping by, and making More2Explore all that it is!

#1 Best Play Grounds in Basel – If you need something to do with your kids in Basel, this is a great resource for most, if not all of the playgrounds and what they have to offer.

 

 

#2 Hiking in Switzerland – Map Your Options – You want to hike Switzerland, but are unsure of the navigation side of things. Check out this post, it is a valuable resource with options and important links to online tools for Swiss trails. Why? Because we did the work for you!

 

#3 Keflavik – We Have a Problem – This is our own story about the Plane Wreck in Iceland. It is a Black and White photo compilation of our visit to the crash site as well as the history behind one of the most intriguing places we’ve ever been. This is perhaps my favorite post.

 

#4 Our Dilemma with Iceland – This Robert’s pre-story of Iceland. It reminds us to Get Out & Go, remove the excuses, inhibitions, and see the world you want to see regardless of what others think. Life is Short and sometimes you need to do your own thing.

 

#5 The Kids and the Plane – We cannot say enough about Iceland, and from all the traffic on our site, it is also of interest to many others. This post reflects upon the fun we have had, and encourages us all to find the inner child. We’re never too old to play and have fun!

 

#6 Teaching Children to Break the Rules – For all you parents out there, here is a topic about the balance between discipline, order, chaos, and letting go. Kids will be kids, and sometimes, it’s ok to break the rules.

 

#7 Basel Goes Botanical – Basel is a wonderful city, the Spring only accentuates it. This post lists many parks in Basel, and is a must use resource when visiting, especially in the spring.

 

 

#8 Black and White Iceland – After thousands of photos of Iceland, we show you our favorites in a special Black and White post. Use caution while viewing, it might make you want to book a trip!

 

 

#9 Hiking the Jura Crest Trail – A day trip from Basel, the Jura Crest Trail offers a nice segment from Balsthal to Weissenstein. On clear days, this hike offers views of the alps.  Here is a little info for those who might enjoy a different hike.

 

 

2011-05-11_Ednbg_310#10 Expat Life – Taking Risks – As opportunities present themselves, or if you are paving your own way, this post is a personal story on taking a risk to live abroad. Taking in all that the journey has to offer, and making most of the adventure.

 

Thanks again for all your views in 2014!!!

Our Dilemma with Iceland

Ok, so we’ve kept this trip a bit of a secret.  Perhaps for the following reason: we receive comments like, “WTF?” “So, what are you doing with the kids?” “Why would you go there?” “No, really, are you serious?” and “That place scares me.”  Since Walter Mitty, people think we’re going to get Eyjafjallajökull‘ed, fall down a lava tube, or wind up lost.  Which, by the way, would totally suck. Correction, getting lost from the rest of the world in Iceland would be kind of awesome; lost in a lava tube in Iceland would completely suck.  By now my sister is making jokes about Austin Power’s and the Liquid Hot Magma.

2011-04-20_Umbra_03In planning this trip, I’ve come to learn that as a non-native Icelander, don’t even try to pronounce anything.  As expats, we’ve learned to do this quite frequently, but Icelandic is another level.  My keyboard doesn’t even make those letters; I have to cut and paste Google searches, seriously.  I make maps too, so I can understand where I think we will be going.

 

I fear being told to ask directions and being confronted when I ask…

“Excuse me, how can I get to Thorsmork?”

“Hæ”

“What?”

“Ha?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Fyrirgefðu?”

“Um, where is Thorsmork?”

“Ókei, yu want Þórsmörk, Já?”

“Sure, I think so?”

“Go straight. Past Þe hill. Þen you see it.”

“How far is it?”

“Is what?”

“Thorsmork?”

“Nei, Nei. I wanted to hear you say Þat again, it’s sooo funny. It is 90 minutes from here.  Bless bless.”

I also don’t want to get told how to spend my travel money.  Everyone makes choices about how they spend their currency; we value experiences.  I guess if someone questions our travel decisions they can blame my geology teacher in college.  Yes, I took geology.  At one point I considered becoming a Civil Engineer, but who wants to build targets anyway? (ok, bad engineer humor, I know).  That course was where much discussion found its way to Iceland.  Having been raised on the ring of fire (practically on the San Andres Fault), this somehow related to Iceland, a lot. So much, it left me longing to go to Iceland, much too long after any interest in andesitic volcanism and quartzfeldspar.

Fast-forward twenty years (yes, it has really been that long), and we found ourselves on one end of a direct flight to Reykjavík. So we said, “Fuck it!” (I think this was a direct quote).

If you have looked at our blog, we like photography (and traveling), and we try to only post our own content.*  Any Flickr or Pinterest search for Iceland will beckon you to its shores, and mountains, and volcanoes, and glaciers, and caves, and so much more.  This place looks sick.  As in, I threw up in my mouth with excitement thinking about going there.  Perhaps too many people are going these days; enough already!  Twenty years is too damn long and now we are gearing up for a family adventure.  Sweet!  (So don’t be a buzz-kill).  We’re probably not going caving with our five-year old, or whale watching on a dingy with our two-year old.  But the sights are crazy beautiful, and we’ll see (as well as our blog followers), how this trip goes.

My advice to you all, don’t put off going somewhere for any reason.  Life will find a way to push other shit into focus.  You need to say, “I’m going!”  You’ll probably get crap from various people, but at least, in this case, I can blame my Geology teacher.  Go find your “geology teacher” and get out and go!

* With the exception of endorsements with pictorial links representing the likes of SBB.ch, hiking apps, and badges on the side bar.