Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

I am based in Bulgaria and I recently had my first experience with a potential Swiss employer. It was rather unpleasant. After I went through 5 interviews we discussed my rates (as a remote consultant). I received a low ball counter offer which was about the half of what I usually charge. This quickly became a racist rant and a senior manager at the company tried to persuade me by saying that with the money they offered I'll "live like a king" in Bulgaria. Needless to say I politely declined because I would much rather work with people that value my work. I was really surprised that such unprofessional attitude came from Swiss company, but apparently it's not so uncommon judging by the blog post.

As a developer in Switzerland, I'm unfortunately not surprised.

Maybe Swiss firms have a real arrogance problem (not all, but many). If it makes you feel any "better", your country of origin is not the reason (I get comments like that while living in Switerland too).

They are mostly just clueless. Large Swiss firms even more so (Swisscom being the main offender).

EDIT: To clarify, I got lowball offers with some other bullshit reason like "but it'll help bootstrap your career". As if my multiple years (15+) of career in international companies doing a good job (as developer/architect/senior) was not enough for their position, somehow.

Precarity at CERN, aka cheap disposable temp labour w/o healthcare:


And a warning to non-western members:

"The cost [...] has been evaluated, taking into account realistic labor prices in different countries. The total cost is X (with a western equivalent value of Y) [where Y>X]

source: LHCb calorimeters : Technical Design Report

ISBN: 9290831693 cdsweb.cern.ch/record/494264

On top of the above, the usual package for prospective employees:

Resolution of the CERN Staff Council

- the Management does not propose to align the level of basic CERN salaries with those chosen as the basis for comparison;

- in the new career system a large fraction of the staff will have their advancement prospects, and consequently the level of their pension, reduced with respect to the current MARS system;

- the overall reduction of the advancement budget will have a negative impact on the contributions to the CERN Health Insurance System (CHIS);


Pensions which will be applicable to new recruits as of 1 January 2012; the Management and CERN Council adopted without any concertation and decided in June 2011 to adopt very unfavourable mesures for new recruits. http://www.gac-epa.org/History/Bulletins/42-2012-04/Bulletin...

Given that cheap and disposable trainees — PhD students and postdocs — fuel the entire scientific research enterprise, it is not surprising that few inside the system seem interested in change. A system complicit in this sort of exploitation is at best indifferent and at worst cruel.

While I understand the point you are trying to make (CERN is partially on Swiss territory), it is not a Swiss employer by any stretch of imagination: they have extra-territorial status, like the UN.

Swiss laws and wages don't apply to CERN (workers there also don't pay taxes, or contribute to Swiss social welfare).

Its annual budget is about 1 billion _swiss francs_.

La Suisse pourrait contribuer à améliorer les conditions sociales des travailleurs détachés du CERN. Le Conseil fédéral est prêt à évoquer la question avec l'organisation.

Staffs and Permanents are very well paid, even Fellows considering you pay no taxes and you get free UNICA healthcare which is insanely good compared to what you get in Switzerland (it's worth 1.2k CHF monthly, can cover your whole family).

It often does sucks if you work at CERN for some university, the salary then depends on their rates, and often you don't know where you will be in 2 years, but you still get UNICA + no taxes...

Then the problem is that getting a staff or permanent position is very hard, then again CERN cannot hire half the world, it's a matter of needs, From what I witnessed most people just take CERN as a stepping stone and move on, unless you're one of the lucky few to get a staff (and you're ok with gambling 5 years to get a permanent).

Staffs and Permanents, even Fellows are by and large from Western Europe. In particular senior staff positions (ie. decision making). Just look at any orgchart in any division.

Which makes sense given that these countries contribute the most to the funding of CERN.


Then we both agree, that jobs are not awarded accorging to the matter of needs, neither merit for that matter. It is about the most funding, which is self-selecting in the long tradition of Western European capital concentration: the first among equals. Makes sense, but contradictory to any publicly stated charter (be it CERN or EU).

It's not what I said. They are pretty explicit about how the selection is done btw https://jobs.web.cern.ch/content/recruitment-policy


The Swiss also have a real ageism issue. When I worked there, I had a good friend who was Swiss that got fired. He was in his 50s at the time and the attitude was that nobody that age should be coding. He was a very good developer, but couldn't get hired because of his age. He started a web development company. The key to his success was that when he met with clients he presented himself as "the boss" with his crew of young developers. Back at the office, he was that crew of young developers. He told me that if his clients thought he was the one developing the code, they'd never have hired him.

As an American I've heard this is a major issue in our software industry as well. But I'm young and I don't know any significantly older developers so I can't really verify.


I think you are verifying it.

My point is that I'm only passing on hearsay.

as you get older, looking for a job isn't called "looking for a job", it's called "sales". and you can "look for a job" for other people, too.

Yeah, that's supposed to be good business sense: you pay less money for the same amount of work. In truth though, you get what you pay for, always. Software works the same regardless of who writes it, where they live, or how much you pay them, so if you pay less for a piece of software you'll just get a piece of software that's worth less money.

It's exactly for this reason that big corporate software is generally shite: because they try to get it at a discount by paying low wages to consultants whom they think they can afford to underpay because they live in a poor part of the world (hint: India). Then they end up with horrible messes of software that nobody wants to work with, at which point they have to pay more money anyway to convince anyone to fix the mess.

It's just people thinking they're so smart when in fact they're short-termist and dumb.

If what you were saying was true, you'd be getting better quality developers if you only hired guys that were born in your high-wage country. Thats not how it works.

I've met a lot of very bad german developers that command a decent wage, simply because there is a scarcity of talent, and I've seen lots of eastern european guys do a fantastic job earning much less, because thats how their local market is like.

I agree that it is never a good idea to pay less than the local average, though.

except for the most part the market for talent is an international one and the good engineers wil move to the high paying jobs.

you find exceptions and cost of living in different places creates some disparity but as a rule "you get what you pay for" still holds water

"t the market for talent is an international one and the good engineers wil move to the high paying jobs."

you assume that getting a visa is easy. Often impossible or insanely difficult.

Since this thread starts with a Bulgarian developer applying for remote work with a Swiss firm, I think it's fair to say we're not talking about moving or visas. We're talking about an international market for talent in remote development.

The device you used to type in your opinion was likely produced in Asia. This enabled you to pay less without getting less.

You can in fact get a Bulgarian developer which is just as good or even better than many Western European or American developers (I have hired a few) and for a fraction of the price.

Meanwhile they may still be paid very decent amount of money that allows for them to have a standard of living exceeding the one they would have had if they had been employed in Switzerland with Swiss salary, and Swiss living cost.

You don't always get what you pay for with developers or any other services or products. Sometimes, but not always.

From my traveling experience the cost of food in large cities in Bulgaria and Romania is about the same as the cost of food in Canada. Yes, they have (much) lower wages there and they will accept your low offer because they have no better choice to make more money. Please don't delude yourself in believing you pay them a fair/decent price. You just pay them better than what they could make locally.

Oh, please. From my experience living in the US and now living in the capital of Bulgaria I know that the price of food, housing etc. is way lower here than in the valley or NYC. Easily 3 times cheaper. And the tax is lower too.

But don't take my word for it: https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/comparison/sofia/s...?

A decent full stack developer in his early 20s with no or little college education and 2-4 years of working experience is paid out 25,000 dollars yearly after all taxes and social contributions are paid.

Adjusting for living expenses that's like being paid out some $70-80,000 in the valley.

Developers here don't have debt, easily save up money, live in nice apartments, drive German luxury cars, enjoy 5-6 weeks of vacation where they travel to foreign countries. They meet in at 10 AM and leave at 6 PM sharp. We eat lunch together at restaurants every day and take plenty of breaks. From what I have experienced living 5 years here, life as a developer in Sofia (the most expensive city in Bulgaria) is more comfortable than in the Valley or New York.

Professional opportunities in the US are probably better, no doubt about that, but that's another story.

So many Americans simply don't understand what you're saying. Having lived outside of the US myself for almost 10 years and planning to do so again, it's a world of difference.

I'm in love with the entire Iberian peninsula, particularly the southernmost bits. It's poor(er), beautiful in people and in landscape, the weather is nice most of the time, and things are affordable, even by the local sheep farmers. I won't be getting rich, but I'll be living and working on my own terms. Best part is, the wife is amenable to this after the children are out on their own. My wife is in the medical field. She can likely transfer her license and skills over. Heritage-wise, she's from the area, so this is a bonus as well.

>>now living in the capital of Bulgaria I know that the price of food, housing etc. is way lower here than in the valley or NYC. Easily 3 times cheaper

You're comparing two of the most expensive places in the world to Bulgaria, it's likely that your statement is true of many parts of the US.

But also two of the places in the world that pays developers best. I bet developers in Oklahoma City are paid much less than in SF or NYC in average. So the main point stands.

I was talking about the average cost of life in North America, I think Montreal and Toronto can be considered about average. The cost of living in the Valley is not representative for medium to large cities of USA or Canada.

That only weakens the argument. Cost of living in Toronto is nearly 2.5 times higher than Sofia: https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/comparison/sofia/t...

But median salary in Toronto is merely around USD 50,000 before tax according to payscale: http://www.payscale.com/research/CA/Job=Software_Developer/S...

That leaves Toronto developers with significantly less than Sofia developers when you adjust for taxes and purchasing power.

So, do you sell your product(s) in Bulgaria, or in the US?

Denmark, mainly

I assume that means you get a Denmark sort of price for your software. Yet you pay your developers a Bulgarian sort of wage.

I don't want to moralise, but in this case I don't see how I can avoid the conclusion that you're basically ripping them off. So I'll just stop here 'cause I don't like to moralise- but I'll just say that I'd never work under such conditions.

I thought it was the nature of business to sell at higher prices than you buy.

Feel free to moralise but try to live up to it yourself: Don't buy anything produced in parts of the world where people make less than you. Buying employees or services or products are the same, you know.

With virtually zero percent unemployment for developers in Sofia, need for programmers everywhere in Europe, no visa-requirement preventing anyone from leaving Bulgaria, and some 10-15 percent of the population already having left, I think it's fair to assume that nobody is getting ripped off.

The thing is that I don't have much choice when it comes to, say, electronics or the clothes I wear and so on, but I'm not the person who employs the people who make those things directly and I don't profit from their work. In fact, if you think of it this way, if I pay £15 for a cardigan made in Bangladesh by a woman who gets paid £5 a week for her work, I'm getting ripped off also. Why am I not paying pennies for it, if that's what her work is worth to whomever is selling it to me?

Your position, however is different than mine. In your case there's noone forcing you to not share a bigger part of your profits with the people you employ. The choice is all yours.

You maximise your profit. Fair enough. But that brings us back to my original comment. In a free market economy, everybody is maximising their profits. For low-wage workers that means minimising the quality of their work, and I don't see any way out of it, if you agree that everyone is a rational player.

The alternative is that you're hiring complete idiots, which also works to your detriment, considering they're expected to work with their brains.

You can always go the extra effort to locate the factory workers who make your clothes and start sending them money directly. You have that choice too.

But back to your original point, do you believe that a shirt made in England that you would pay twice the amount of money for, would be 2 times higher quality than a shirt made in Bangladesh?

>> You have that choice too.

So I end up paying twice for each item I buy? Nice.

>> do you believe that a shirt made in England that you would pay twice the amount of money for, would be 2 times higher quality than a shirt made in Bangladesh?

My experience is that clothes and particularly shoes that I buy which were manufactured in Europe and are noticeably more expensive than the cheaper varieties made in SE Asia, are generally better quality and tend to last longer.

>> So I end up paying twice for each item I buy? Nice.

Not if you believe that you underpaid for it in the first place.

>> My experience is that clothes and particularly shoes that I buy which were manufactured in Europe

I was under impression that those were not available to you from your earlier posts. In that case, you can simply choose to pay more for European clothes of higher quality, so not sure what the problem is.

>> You don't always get what you pay for with developers or any other services or products. Sometimes, but not always.

If you paid people a lot more money you'd get a lot better software.

You get what you pay for alright, regardless of whether you recognise it as such or not.

> In truth though, you get what you pay for, always

This is completely wrong, but it sounds nice.

Do not be surprised, I've interacted with hundreds of companies, many are run incompetently by people unqualified for the position and who have no integrity or morals. Maintain your composure and move on, if you're not being turned down now and again for being too expensive, you're too cheap...

Saying 'you will live like a king' is not the smartest thing. He should have said:

'Please consider that your local living costs are much lower than in Switzerland. We incorporate those differences in our offered rate like every other company does. Thanks for your understanding.'

So the tone was—yes—unprofessional, the attitude not. And even if this attitude is debatable, you have to allow the other party to express reasons for a lower offer in a negotiation.

Both phrases are quite presumptuous. As if I don't know what my cost of living is.

This is how much I charge. Thanks for your offer, it's way below of what I think I deserve for my services. Nah, I don't need a lecture from you on why I should find this generous. Nope, I don't care why you make me such a low offer. What does it matter if I can actually find people who pay the rates I charge?

The market will balance this out. Thanks for your time, have a nice day.

You just gave yourself the counter-argument:

> The market will balance this out.

The employer can also and usually choose between different candidates and maybe there are some or many equally skilled professionals in country x offering their work for much less (because they can because of lower living costs). So, it's reasonable to ask for a lower price in such a context. It's not about disdain.

EDIT: why the downvote?

How's that a counter-argument?

My argument is that "offer me whatever you want; I'll accept whatever I want".

I don't need a justification or a lecture on why I should consider your offer as a generous one. That's how much you can give for my services at a certain point in time. Even if I consider your offer low, I won't find it insulting. But I will find it insulting if you think that I should accept your offer because based on your opinion this is how much I should make because of where I live.

No thank you, I'll be the judge of that.

Both arguments are the same, by rejecting the offer, you, as part of the market, are deciding and affecting the market itself.

I find it quite bizarre that remote workers living in a country with lower cost of living are expected to take lower pay than locals while doing the same work and offering the same value.

Otherwise yes, people are allowed to express silly things and one shouldn't prevent them from doing so, especially when they show their true colors.

Looks to me like they dodged a bullet.

It's essentially about power differentials and narcissism, not money.

When you call out someone trying to lowball you and they start ranting, they're really ranting about a narcissistic injury to their self-image.

Someone who does that will be a terrible client, because they're operating from a position of contempt for the people they employ. They do not see you as an equal, but as an inferior.

If the "inferior" challenges their default entitled one-up world view by expecting to be treated like a competent and well-compensated professional, they're absolutely going to have issues with that.

An apt description of disturbingly many workplaces. This type of "superior" person can hide themselves quite well and have a decent working relationship with their "inferiors", but when challenged will show their cards.

The difference here was that OP had the power to say no, and wasn't trapped by obligations.

I have the impression that some commenters resent them for having that level of self-determination and make excuses for the behavior of the employer.

But why would there be a "differential"?

If you can low one employee, why not lowball them all, and and up with only lowballed employees?

Yeah, like the UK universities I attended offered me a discount for being Bulgarian ...

EDIT: funny as it is, my rates were probably a third less than what a local consultant would have charged them.

I can understand paying remote workers somewhat less, regardless of what country they live in. I would expect productivity to be lower for remote workers and communication with them to be more difficult, hence the lower value.

But I agree that basing salaries on costs of living in the worker's country is wrong. Salaries should be based on what your labor is worth, not what your perceived economic need is. It's exploitative, and it's also not fair to local workers who would get priced out by foreign workers willing to settle for less.

> with lower cost of living are expected to take lower pay than locals while doing the same work and offering the same value

DO you also think it is weird that people who live in incredibly expensive cities like NY or SF should get paid more money then?

I don't think the customer of a remote contractor should care much what costs the contractor has. It's the contractor's job to deliver enough value so that they can charge enough to cover their cost of living and make a profit.

Yes, which is why I can't support the idea of a living wage in general, because a living wage in some areas would equate a nice wage elsewhere.

There are multiple advantages in taking someone local. Mostly in requirements gathering - it's easier to do this face-to-face, but there can also be cultural differences, knowledge of local business practices. Additionally, if it all goes wrong, it's easiest to take legal action when you're both in the same country.

No, that would be just as bad. You pay for results, not for where the person lives.

I don't understand the downvotes here. Results are results. I can understand paying a person more if you are worried about providing a living wage, but really you are paying them to do a service for the company.

If you are looking at two remote candidates offering to do the same work, the fact that one lives in India and the other in Paris should not make a difference in what you pay them (well, timezone difficulties aside). You should pay well for good work, and if it's not going to be good work you shouldn't pay at all. 'Pay well' is not relative to where a person lives, it's relative to the market value of that work.

No, you pay the minimum amount you can to get the job done to a satisfactory standard.

That's the same thing. But we are apparently only capitalists when it means keeping the minimum wage down.

It wouldn't have been smart either. What one should charge is what one can charge. And it's unrelated to what the cost of living is in a given country.

Sad as it may be your being based on a low income country was probably one of the main reasons they approached you. And it is quite universal so I wouldn't attribute it to unprofessionalism. From company's point of view it makes perfect sense to outsource to the best quality/price ratio.

Actually, this wasn't the reason. I already knew the guy who approached me. They were developing a data analytics solution quite similar to others I have worked on/built in the past. They needed a developer with a real-world product experience in their domain. Unfortunately, it wasn't my acquaintance who was responsible for the hiring.

Luckily, the software development market is global and there are some really sane people out there.

Maybe at double the price he would still be the best quality /price ratio.

And still, I was probably 30% cheaper than a local consultant. Anyway, if a relationship starts in this way I cannot image what working with the client would be, so I did myself a favor.

The manager's rant part aside, the reason to outsource to the Eastern Europe, Ukraine and Russia is and has always been the rates.

That's very much untrue. EDIT: I stand corrected - this misses the point.

Sure, wages are lower than elsewhere (especially Switzerland), but the quality of engineers in eastern europe is very high.

Case in point: Google Switzerland employs lots of eastern europeans with Swiss-level wages. That wouldn't make any sense if the only reason was money.

EDIT: My math and electronics teachers (both women, data point) in my Swiss engineering school were Russian and Romanian. Their shared theory was that during communism teaching material was not written by teachers, but was written by topic experts (expert mathematicians were forced to write teaching books). It sucked for the experts (they were forced), but was great for students to have a book written by a master to study. Their point, not mine.

I think there are several other reasons why hard sciences developed more than soft sciences in former Communist states:

1.You can't really use ideology to fight them. If a researches comes and says that 2 + 2 = 4, even the most fervent apparatchik (Communist party member) would have had a hard time spinning it into 2 + 2 = -1. While in other fields such as sociology or history... things are a bit more malleable.

2. They're practical and quite far removed from anything that might stir up anti-establishment actions.

3. The "1984" factor: if you need highly skilled mathematicians and physicists for your weapons, you really need them. You wouldn't want to issue your army 7.5mm rounds for their 7.62mm rifles because someone was bad at engineering :)

    That wouldn't make any sense if 
    the only reason was money.
Yes, it does.

Fewer Swiss would work for tech wages, because they can more easily get jobs in banking, finance, law, medical that pay better and/or are easier. Or hail from old money, and are artists, musicians, run galleries ... A similar phenomenon is at play in tech in the US, which is full of foreigners from EE, India etc.

> Google Switzerland employs


No. On-site, in Zurich.

They have arrangements with authorities to get work permits more easily (it made a lot of debate in the press). They "import" qualified workers, paid Swiss salaries. If price was the only matter, that wouldn't happen - Google would open a development office there instead (they have smaller ones, but the Zurich office is the largest that is not in Mountain View).

> No. On-site, in Zurich.

Yeah, so I assumed.

Your "very much untrue" remark is very much off the GP's point then, which was that those considering remote outsourcing to Eastern countries do that mainly for the cost reasons. Not that these countries lack the talent worth paying for when onsite.

Ah, good point.

Thanks for showing me the problem with my argument.

I think in contrast to the Uk and US - work relationships in a lot of European countries are much more rigid and hierarchical.

This very much depends on the countries. For instance Swedish companies typically have very flat hierarchies, much more so than US companies. In fact when a US company buys a Swedish company often several layers of managerial hierarchy is added.

That's one part of the equation the other is availability of qualified people.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact