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Living in Switzerland ruined me for America and its lousy work culture (2016) (getpocket.com)
184 points by hourislate 13 days ago | hide | past | web | 203 comments | favorite

I have worked a lot in international teams with many different cultures, but predominantly US. Being born in NL and based in DE currently, it has always amazed me what a low standard of living my american colleagues had compared to us. The elections provided me some more insight into the debate surrounding Bernie Sanders' plans and I just can't understand the seeming lack of understanding of how nice it is to have true (imho) quality of life. Free time, insurance, working roughly 35 hours a week, fresh air, exercise, good food, etc . etc. I don't want to engage any political discussion, and I see similar mindset with some europeans. It somehow just baffles the crap out of me to see people want to, and be proud of, overworking / sitting in a car 2-3 hours a day / breathing polluted air / eating prefab sandwiches or other junkfood. Meanwhile labelling any alternative as 'communism' Had a bit of that for the first few years of my working life. Never again.

You can spot the Americans who are responding to you. They are the ones who say it's not every job like this. Or that some areas of the country are different. You'll notice that the concept of having worker protections like mandatory paid time off etc. mandated by law and enforced by the government doesn't figure prominently into their thinking. It provides insight into the politics of the country. Looking to government for protection from exploitation by employers, polluters, etc. is not what a large percent of Americans do.

"You can spot the Americans who are responding to you."

American here (although I own a swiss business and travel there frequently).

The reason that americans do not embrace these things is that, for the most part, the United States still has a very, very flat social hierarchy.

If you put Joe-6-Pack and Larry Ellison into a room together, J6P will still hold his head high and demand equal treatment and respect - from both Ellison and other third parties.

But J6P intuitively knows something else: asking for favors alters that relationship and establishes an explicit power balance (as opposed to the implicit one which was obviously there to some degree).

On the other hand, if you come from Europe, the idea of a "better class" isn't so foreign - even if you disagree with it. That power balance is quite a bit more explicit and there is a fairly well established (sometimes in blood) "contract" between the people who work for a living and the people who own things.

Personally, I like the American arrangement but I think it's days are numbered - eventually the sorting will complete itself and workers will have more days off ... but "gentlemen" will have certain privileges like english lords do in 2016.[1]

[1] Exemption from jury service, immunity from arrest for civil cases, "access to the sovereign".

> The reason that americans do not embrace these things is that, for the most part, the United States still has a very, very flat social hierarchy.

No, its because they bought the red scare and everything that was said about Socialism and then continued to parrot that bullshit since then, which then collided with the Protestant work ethic that poisoned peoples minds into equating work and pay with personal worth.

Worker protection laws are something evil that only dirty commies spout to bring good, hard working Americans down. If you were a good, hard working American you wouldn't need protection.

"No, its because they bought the red scare and everything that was said about Socialism and then continued to parrot that bullshit since then, which then collided with the Protestant work ethic that poisoned peoples minds into equating work and pay with personal worth."

Yes, agreed - but that (the red scare) is just another symptom of the underlying still-evolving class system in the US.

I don't disagree with what you're saying at all - I'm saying you should consider why those ideas resonated in the US while they did not resonate everywhere else.

The standard conclusion among 21st century progressives "they do it because they're stupid" is inaccurate (and destructive).

Looking into the culture from afar, it does appear to be more than just the repercussions of 'red scare' tactics.

The impression I get is that in some parts of the country there's a general distrust in government, alongside a trust in entrepreneurship. Neither of which seems stupid to me.

I'd also say that government spending is an easier sell in metropolitan areas as public investments in cities make a bigger impact on quality of life. Public transport is a good example of this, if I was in a rural setting I wouldn't expect much in the way of public transport spending, but I'd expect it in a city.

However, whilst it's healthy not to trust in government too much, the same is true of trusting big business to act in your interest. Government should act to keep companies in line with public interest. Whether that involves big government or not is debatable, but I don't think it'd be a good idea to have any one single company that had larger influence on the general population than the government does.

>Looking into the culture from afar, it does appear to be more than just the repercussions of 'red scare' tactics.

Then again, the US had one of the most progressive and vibrant worker rights and union movements in the world (fighting for child labor, the 8 hour week, women's work, immigrant rights, etc) -- until about the 2nd World War and the Red Scare.

>The reason that americans do not embrace these things is that, for the most part, the United States still has a very, very flat social hierarchy. If you put Joe-6-Pack and Larry Ellison into a room together, J6P will still hold his head high and demand equal treatment and respect - from both Ellison and other third parties.

And that -- the mere demand for equal treatment and respect -- is the only kind of "flat hierarchy" in the US. In every other way, that is, in any way that actually counts, Larry Ellison and Joe 6pack are so different in assets, life prospects for them and their kids, influence, power, etc, that Larry might as well be Louis XIV. Heck, there are European nobles that are more approachable than US businessmen or third rate Hollywood stars in pragmatic terms. So, this flat thing is mostly a founding myth of the US, than any kind of reality.

>But J6P intuitively knows something else: asking for favors alters that relationship and establishes an explicit power balance (as opposed to the implicit one which was obviously there to some degree).

Good wages, sane work culture, vacation days, etc are not "favors". Those are rights. Nobody handed them down to the Swiss people, much less the rich.

That people would think of them as favors to be asked from the rich, as if those are Kings, once again shows how little flat the US system is.

What would be actually flat(ter) would be to have the people enjoy more of the freedom, security, etc that the rich do.

"And that -- the mere demand for equal treatment and respect -- is the only kind of "flat hierarchy" in the US. In every other way, that is, in any way that actually counts, Larry Ellison and Joe 6pack are so different in assets, life prospects for them and their kids, influence, power, etc, that Larry might as well be Louis XIV."

I think your language, above, is very indicative of the inability to understand this set of choices. Why is the demand for equal treatment and respect "mere" ? Why is it not something that "actually counts" ?

Don't misunderstand me - I find myself confounded by a lot of these aspects of US culture and politics, but I think it's worth trying to see something deeper at work than simply "they're dummies".

I would also like to take issue with the comparison between Larry Ellison and Louis XIV. Yes, LE is very rich and probably has a lot of hidden political levers that are meaningful but there is absolutely no comparison whatsoever and I really am taken aback by the confusion that people in this thread have between wealth and social class.

On the other hand, my entire thesis here is that given enough time, that distinction will blur - so perhaps your confusion doesn't matter.

> Don't misunderstand me - I find myself confounded by a lot of these aspects of US culture and politics, but I think it's worth trying to see something deeper at work than simply "they're dummies".

I'm sure you have, but if you have not you should read Alexis de Tocqueville's "Democracy in America". The ideas you're presenting here may as well have been quoted from it.

>I think your language, above, is very indicative of the inability to understand this set of choices. Why is the demand for equal treatment and respect "mere" ? Why is it not something that "actually counts" ?

Because "demanding" equal treatment and actually getting equal treatment is not the same thing at all. From their doctors, to their "local congressman", to the law, to the restaurants they go to, they'll get entirely different treatment.

Of course the point is moot because those working class american wont be able to afford the same doctors, lawyers or restaurants in the first place, much less make an appointment with their congressman.

>but I think it's worth trying to see something deeper at work than simply "they're dummies".

There is something deeper at work. Several decades of actively making the American public less independent and vocal about their rights (except token rights, like the right to bear guns and ideological issues related to religion etc.), and convincing them either that they are inconvenienced millionaires or that food stamps are the pinnacle of progressive policy.

> Good wages, sane work culture, vacation days, etc are not "favors". Those are rights.

No. Rights may not, by definition, require taking from someone else.

> Rights may not, by definition, require taking from someone else.

That's a limited and by no means universally accepted definition of rights, often employed by libertarians, which conveniently aligns with the objectives of the ruling class in the US.

Funny, also, how in your mind "good wages" implies taking from someone (the "job creator"?), while lower wages don't take anything from anyone?

Actually rights are totally fine by "taking from someone else" in the general sense.

Your wage (which you have a right to, as an employee) is already "taking from someone else".

The "right to work" (part of the universal declaration of human rights) includes taking a job that somebody else could take in your place.

And of course the whole idea that "sane work culture", "good wages" and "vacation days" are stolen from other people is inane. Who do you think the Swiss collectively stole them from?

You're making his argument for him. Clearly there is no general "right to work", however nice that may sound, just like there is no "right to marry and have children".

While I'm hesitant to start an argument with you, the issue is not that simple. There are "natural right" strands of thought which would deny existence of a right to work, or similar ones ("2nd generation human rights"). But other schools of thought, possibly most, would affirm their existence.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which the US voted for, while the USSR, Saudi Arabia and others abstained) does contain the rights to work, leisure, education, among others.

And the European Court of Human Rights, and other legal institutions, make these rights enforceable, too.

So, just saying "there is no such right" falls short.

Countries like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are very flat societies as well but have employee protection and comprehensive social systems. In every company I've worked in the CEO has had a cubicle with the rest of us, including a large multinational. I can approach a minister on the street and talk to them, even the prime minister (who I frequently see jogging around the neighborhood and even saw in a supermarket).

So I don't think a class system has anything to do with it.

In the large New Zealand companies I worked at, the CEO wouldn't make eye contact or even talk with you. Why would he? He worked hard to get his position and you're just a lazy minion. He also had his own office on another floor, .

Labour laws are for small companies, but even then they don't obey them. My first job out of university, at a small company, told me I was paid both a salary and a wage. A salary because then I didn't get paid for overtime (nor did it get recorded), and a wage because then they didn't need to pay me that much. Take it or be unemployed. True, I could have just turned it down, but by being registered with the Work and Income people, I had a contract requiring that I took the first "reasonable" job offered, without a definition of reasonable. That particular one owes me about $20k in unpaid wages.

The next one, a multimillionaire with the Prime Minister's office on speed dial, owes me about $10k. Complaints (multiple complaints, at that) about them to the ministry have a habit of just disappearing. Personal safety threats, basic rights violations, serious health and safety issues, public funding fraud, inaccurate time sheets, and less-than-minimum-wage pay, but not one visit from the ministry.

There's no doubt that a class system is in play there.

Your experience is completely at odds with my own, I've always found senior management, politicians, and the wealthy to be very approachable and friendly, this even includes my teenage job at a rural Waikato abattoir stuffing pig colons into bags in the offal room. I guess your experience shows that there are elitist pricks everywhere, but to be honest if I had a boss that didn't treat me as an equal then I wouldn't work for or with them.

> In every company I've worked in the CEO has had a cubicle with the rest of us

Hehe, still, I'm sure he was near the corner and was close to the window right ? :)

You'd be right, but oddly when they did they layout the staff areas were the ones with the sea view, the CEO just looked at another building across the road.

I am also an American. While I realize that Hacker News strives for a tone that embraces the ideal of "assume goodwill", I must break with that ethos to respond to you. What you've written is the silliest comment I've seen on Hacker News in many months. In the USA wealth has been concentrating since the 1970s. We now have the most uneven distribution of wealth of any of the developed nations.

Look at the chart "Wealth shares of top percentiles of the net wealth distribution in selected OECD countries":


The elections in the USA are increasingly heated exactly because the USA is increasingly torn apart by divisions of class, and the divisions of class are growing exactly because wealth is concentrating into the hands of the 1%, and even within that 1%, wealth is concentrating into the top 1%, which is the top .0001 of the USA.

"In the USA wealth has been concentrating since the 1970s. We now have the most uneven distribution of wealth of any of the developed nations."

I agree with everything you wrote.

However, I wasn't talking about wealth - I was talking about social class.

The inability to recognize the difference between wealth and social class is probably a good indicator of a relatively flat social hierarchy. In times and places with deep social class division you wouldn't be prone to making that mistake.

You would know exactly which rich person to call "m'lord" and which not to.

You're talking actual statistics; he's talking social psychology. Americans do think/act much in the way he described compared to how Europeans think/act. You are also right that the numbers show us Americans are getting screwed by our system. But we don't shape our culture by the facts/statistics. I wish we did.

Note: I'm an American by birth, and the Western European societies I've interacted with have, except Scandinavian, been enthusiastically classist.

> the United States still has a very, very flat social hierarchy.

Disagree somewhat. In northern Europe, public transport is used by pretty much everyone (broad sample of society from all strata). Most everyone goes to comparable public schools. University quality has much smaller variance than in the USA (there's not exactly MIT, but also not exactly Trump U.) In other words, there's a fairly broad common life. The CEO of a company certainly has a good life, but the janitor will have a decent life, too, with 4 weeks mandatory vacation and enough money to fly to Spain for vacation, and health insurance and unemployment insurance etc.

In the US, different strata of society interact far less. There are different schools, different super markets, gated communities - even the humiliating TSA experience is avoided by the rich using General Aviation terminals.

Inequality in the US is much larger than in northern Europe, notwithstanding Zuckerberg's wearing jeans.

TL;DR: In the US, you have superficial equality hiding tremendous inequality, while in Europe you have visible inequality on top of substantial equality.

I'm also American and have no idea what you're talking about. American culture is very much so divided by class and even race.

Were you not watching this latest election cycle?

> ... and even race.

I think this is an important point. Switzerland, and most of Europe, is predominantly white. I feel like there is something to say about homogeneity.

Doesn't this sound problematic? It's almost a form of political correctness. Joe-6-Pack may demand (and receive) respect, but lives under the consequences of crippling income inequality and corporate welfare.

"Doesn't this sound problematic?"

In some cases, absolutely - which is why we're discussing it.

But like everything, there are costs and benefits involved in everything (yes, everything). The idea that longer vacations or 35 hour work weeks have no trade-offs is a mistaken one.

The related idea: that american workers make the decisions they make just because they are stupid is also a mistaken one.

An interesting comment I read once from someone in the US said people in the US who aren't rich expect to be rich some day and being poor is just a temporary situation.

In the EU or any European country the goal seems to be to assist everyone not just the poor. In the US it seems like people berate the poor for not working hard enough or call them communist for asking for social assistance (ACA/"Obama care" etc.).

As a Canadian I used to have a good bead on people in the US now I don't know what's going on there. These days it seems like freedom in the US means freedom to hate or punish others rather than freedom for a person to live a healthy safe life.

Recently Nassim Taleb said mostly the same thing. That while your average citizen is probably better off in EU versus US, at the same time the average citizen is mostly locked into his "class" in Europe, versus US.


Which doesn't seem to mean much as people in the US are in effect locked into class: http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21595437-america...

In 1971 a child from the poorest fifth had an 8.4% chance of making it to the top quintile. For a child born in 1986 the odds were 9%. The study confirms previous findings that America’s social mobility is low compared with many European countries. (In Denmark, a poor child has twice as much chance of making it to the top quintile as in America.) But it challenges several smaller recent studies that concluded that America had become less socially mobile.

(Since he was mentioned earlier as being more powerful than a French Monarch)

for reference see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larry_Ellison

(edited): it seems very old fashioned. Maybe it's like that in Switzerland? But I assume for example the nordic countries are much more egalitarian than USA.

Uh? I really doubt that this English oddity will spread: I'm French and our nobles have no privilege..

J6P can demand equal treatment. Ultimately politicians have finite time and will listen/comply to wishes of the people that can help the politicians the most. 20% of a politicians time is spent raising money for their next campaign.

That means wealthy people reap the benefits.

let's not forget that switzerland is basically just rich white people. racial tension in the US contributes a LOT to the dislike of anything even remotely resembling 'socialism'.

but you make a good point. i think the american aristocracy is currently in the end stages of forming and will be completely established within a few more years. once it gets bad enough, there will be a new relationship model between workers and owners, but until then, it's a free for all.

i say this as a business owner who does fine for himself and the other stakeholders but the level of wealth that the top echelons have is mind boggling.

like, i don't actually see a path to amassing that much wealth no matter how hard i work. to achieve that seems to be some voodoo mix of circumstances like birth, connections, and straight up luck.


It seems ridiculous to have to say this, but this is not a civil and substantive comment. Please don't post like this on Hacker News.


Reminds me of this quote by Ronald Wright (often misattributed to Steinbeck):

"Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires."

That would be true if there were enough social mobility, and that's I think the American dream: that your wealth is directly related to your tenacity / hard work. Unfortunately that's not really the case, as money is hard to gain for those without opportunities and easy to keep for those born into it.

You just need to fix the educational system.

Then you end up with a lot of well educated janitors and tomato pickers. Not everyone can be upwardly mobile and become a millionaire with no one left to fill the void of low level poorly paid jobs needed to support them.

> Then you end up with a lot of well educated janitors and tomato pickers.

So you are saying that instead of a fair competition, you would prefer that people's lives are defined by the conditions they were born into and educated in? Wut?

> Not everyone can be upwardly mobile and become a millionaire with no one left to fill the void of low level poorly paid jobs needed to support them.

You realize that those jobs are going away in somewhat near future right? Just like e.g. truck drivers?

No, that's not what he's saying. Assume that through education you can randomize which people end up as the hedge fund managing directors and which people are the janitors. Still, there will be many janitors, and still, there will be very few hedge fund MDs.

Something I've noticed during this election cycle, is that the poor see multiple classes within the poor, with "white working class males" as a sort of minor aristocracy.

> Looking to government for protection from exploitation by employers, polluters, etc. is not what a large percent of Americans do.

I think some of the reasons for this is due to the immigrant history of the U.S. When my grandparents immigrated to America their only desire was to be free from government persecution and harassment. They left Europe with a wary eye for government, and rightly so.

I think many in the U.S share a similar experience whether or not they are 1st or 10th generation Americans. Unfortunately, that attitude has manifested itself in some negative values and policies.

> It somehow just baffles the crap out of me to see people want to, and be proud of, overworking / sitting in a car 2-3 hours a day / breathing polluted air / eating prefab sandwiches or other junkfood. Meanwhile labelling any alternative as 'communism' Had a bit of that for the first few years of my working life. Never again

Wtf lol. America isn't necessarily like this. You just had a shit job.

I don't know. I've met tons of software engineers in the US that never work less than 45 hours a week in spite of having only 3 or 4 weeks of vacation a year. It seems kinda ridiculous to me

Yes, but they make 2x of what most engineers in Europe make (excluding Switzerland/London).

Blue-collar workers are screwed, though.

From what I've seen, if it's not 2x London, it's close.

Junior dev here, but 3-4 weeks of vacation would be an improvement over my current 15 days...

People are reacting rather violently to 15 days is three weeks, although it isn't. Its the standard two weeks plus 5 holidays, Memorial Day, 4th Jul, Labor, Thanksgiving, Christmas. That's 15 days.

In my youth I worked for a place that advertised 15 days very proudly as meaning two weeks salaried vacation plus a personal day (usually Friday after thanksgiving). After all if you're salaries at a 24x7 operational company, if you want a Saturday off with guaranteed no phone calls, you need to take vacation.

> After all if you're salaries at a 24x7 operational company, if you want a Saturday off with guaranteed no phone calls, you need to take vacation.

And people put up with this?

> People are reacting rather violently to 15 days is three weeks, although it isn't

That depends on how it's counted, it may be counted the way you are but it also might not be. For instance, the standard holidays that you list do not come out of my PTO pool, which is the number of days that I was told it was when I was hired. The result being I have those days plus those five, plus the day after Thanksgiving, as time off, I just don't get to pick when those last six days are used.

15 days is 3 weeks.

Isn't 15 days 3 weeks?

Not necessarily. In my current industry if you don't work for maximum weekly work hours, saturday will be count as a work day if you literally work or not. So a week vacation is counted 6 days. Ps. Non-US

I formerly worked for an American subsidiary of a French company. When I told my friends that they gave every employee a minimum of 20 days off, their jaws dropped.

Plus holidays?

15 days is 3 weeks of vacation...

15 days is 3 weeks.

All this talk of 35 vs 45 hours a week makes me sad that medical residents are clocking 80 hours.

that's just the theoretical max. residents in almost every program except family and maybe radiology are 100+

It's much easier to say "portions of America aren't necessarily like this" while also saying "portions of America very much are like this." I know because I used to live in one of the latter parts and now I live in one of the former. Just because your experience doesn't match the experience of the person to whom you are replying doesn't mean that person's perception is wrong.

America in aggregate most certainly is like that. There are cases where some or all of these things don't apply, but these aren't representative of a typical American worker's experience.

that's the culture of most of the country once you get out of Cali and northeast.

also, why should good living standards only apply to those with "elite jobs?" it's a rich country.

Yeah, "America" is really a loose union of 50 states with diverse cultures and standards of living.

San Francisco is not like Indianapolis, which is not like Fargo.

You're right that the USA are more diverse than often acknowledged. However, they are still sufficiently clustered and distinct from, say, northern Europe (also comprising multiple states with diverse cultures etc.) that the discussion here is meaningful.

you're really stretching the definition of the word diverse, there.

Describes the upper middle class DC suburb where I grew up to a T.

Seriously not all jobs are like these. Even part time jobs, it's up to you to find the right place to work.

Your comment reinforces the point mvdwoord made. It ought not be up to a person to find the right job. It is up to society to enforce basic worker protections. Failure to do so leads to exploitation. The U.S. is not as nice a place to live as other rich nations.

The U.S. is not as nice a place to live as other rich nations.

Funny that the waiting list to immigrate to the US can be decades long. I guess those people are just too stupid to know how bad it is in the US?

Also, I immigrated to the US from one of those other rich countries and I think quality of life is better in the US (but it's all a personal preference).

There are lots of countries in the world that are less well off than the U.S. I have not made any claims about living conditions in those countries being worse or better than the U.S. I've not made any claims about people coming from poorer countries being dumb or even people coming from richer countries to the U.S. being dumb.

I made the claim that the U.S. is not as nice a place to live as many other rich countries. Objectively speaking this is a true statement. The U.S. ranks lower on many measurements of living standards. Of course there are counterexamples in that some people have a better standard of living in the U.S. than they did in another country but we need to be mindful that the plural of anecdote is not data.

Nope - nothing objective about it. I moved to the US from a European country with a supposedly higher standard of living. I worked longer hours here, experienced workplace bullying, and a whole host of things that would be illegal in my original country.

However I also experienced more freedom and diversity and was able to find a much more heterogenous community, as well as do things that were simply not allowed in my home country.

My life is much richer here and so the US is much nicer for me to live in.

The US has one major thing going for it when it comes to immigration. Being a melting pot, it is much easier for someone to come in and find a community of people from their own country to make the transition much easier. That, and English is more common as a second language.

> I guess those people are just too stupid to know how bad it is in the US?

US marketing is the best in the world, no doubt; maybe "mistaken" or "deceived" is more accurate than "stupid".

A few observations:

- people trying to immigrate to the USA come predominantly from desperately poor countries that are, indeed, not as nice a place to live. (People from those countries are also frequently denied tourist visa to the USA, btw.)

- among my fellow students at a good university in California that came from first world countries, only about a quarter decided to stay for longer than a few years.

- among Chinese that go to study in the USA, increasing numbers apparently choose to return to China.

> it's all a personal preference

To a large part it is.

Among expats that have options and have seen different continents, the US is more of middling choice, I'd think, but for some people it just clicks and they love it. (And NY is in a different category, anyway.)

Is the waiting list of people wanting to immigrate from other rich countries really decades long?

It's not. Immigrants from first-world nations get fast tracked through their green card and naturalization process because the quotas aren't exhausted as rapidly as those for poorer nations.

Yes, they should all switch their applications to Switzerland and reach for the swiss dream.

Out of curiosity, what are these other "rich nations" you are referring to? Always open to new places to look at besides the U.S.

Japan, Canada, Sweden, Norway, France, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Lichtenstein, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Iceland, Findland.

I know several people who have emigrated from some of the above countries to the USA, because running a small business is extremely painful (see for example France).

If you think about companies as "us versus them", where "us" is workers and "them" is giant faceless monolithic corporations, then your idea that enforcing worker protections is a high priority might make sense.

But most companies are small. I run a software company ... I am just a guy trying to get by, who now in addition to the normal-person's burden of making my life go, has to also make a company go, and that company provides jobs for 10-12 people.

If you make my situation much harder than it is, the company would cease to exist or would downscale to 2-4 people, shedding the majority of the jobs. I am not a faceless corporation, I am just a guy who wants to get interesting things built. My little company is certainly not set up to "exploit workers", especially not on an industrial scale.

Now, paraxoically, if you add a lot more friction to what needs to happen to run a business (regulation around hiring, firing, invoicing, etc), then people like me drop out, and then what you mostly have left is the larger companies who do want to exploit workers because that is just kind of how larger companies work. Plus then you lose all the innovation / energy / economic activity that comes from smaller companies. It maybe seems like not the best idea. (If it is, how come Silicon Valley is not in France?)

As an investor, I fund a small French company and I have seen some of the crap they have to deal with just because they have a handful of employees. It makes me very glad I don't live in France.

I don't see things in terms of workers vs. employers. I see things in terms of what is morally right and what is good for society. People should not feel forced to come to work when sick. People should not be forced to work while on vacation or pressured to not use their vacation. People should not have their access to healthcare dependent on their employer.

Go to reddit/r/personalfinance and you'll read lots of stories of people in shit jobs being taken advantage of by their employer. A society that allows people without money/education to be exploited is not a good one. In the U.S., from my perspective, we have a "I've got mine, fuck you" society. I'm not exploited at my job and I have a very comfortable existence. However, many of my fellow countrymen are not so fortunate.

What about the other burdens you don't have to worry about in these countries like healthcare for employees?

Also, those restrictions on firing may be giving you a lot more potential employees. Changing jobs is a risk and if you were able to fire them after a week then that would be a major financial setback for them.

One thing I think a lot of people in business agree about is that we should adopt a more European approach (the Swiss approach is particularly good) to healthcare. You're right: the American approach to health care is a disaster for small employers.

I agree ... it doesn't make any sense to me that an employer should have anything to do with supplying healthcare to employees. It just makes the system more complicated. I'd be happy with simplifying that out.

But this doesn't seem to be nearly enough to tip the balance in terms of operating a business overall ... I consistently hear from people how much it sucks to operate a small business in Europe. I don't see what's wrong in principle with having worker protections kick in at a certain company size, but that doesn't seem to be popular.

Most worker protection laws in Germany only kick in when you've got a certain number of employees. I'm too lazy to look up the number, but it's small, single-digit I think.

Which, in tech industry terms, means "almost immediately".

In IT, Canada is pretty good, too, and scores higher than the US on some business indicators. There is probably more paperwork involved since there are no LLCs so you'd need a corp, but it's very manageable with an accountant's help. I also haven't heard of patent trolls or lawsuits being a problem, which is something that would scare me if I lived in the US.

Of course, if your business is in maple syrup or something else with heavy government intervention, then your experience will likely be quite different. :)

You are right - people should not choose their own jobs - the government should determine people's needs and assigned a job to them.

A lot of people have shit jobs in America. That's their point.


From NJ, US - the reason Bernie's plans were seen as nuts by the mainstream media is because the US has an extremely conservative bent compared to many European countries. Our left-wing, I imagine, would be right-wing in Europe, and our right-wing would be decried as extreme-right fascists.

Anything that helps the average American is Communism, and we can't have that, can we?

You'd be surprised. I'm not sure if you've ever spent significant time in Europe, but it's not a fairy-tale land. You would also be surprised at how insular and "right-wing" they can be.

As a non-American, what I see is that many Americans, especially those commenting here, suffer from a particularly virulent form of "the grass is greener over there" syndrome. Europe is a beautiful place, but behind the beauty lies ugliness of a different kind. The US has many problems, but there's also a reason why Silicon Valley and people like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are in the States.

If you value knowing your place in the social hierarchy and having less and paying more for it, then by all means, adopt the European model. However, as jblow said above, there are so many bright spots in the US, too, so maybe it's better to just work on the rough spots instead of always looking over the fence.

jeff bezos was born in new mexico?

Elon musk was born in South Africa, and spent time in Canada before moving to the US. My point was more about it being possible for these people to achieve their heights in the US, while their place of birth is less important. Jeff was lucky in that he didn't have to immigrate. :)

Much of the rancor from the right about government programs is actually veiled/transmuted bigotry against any form of assistance going to non-whites.

Yeah, and even the extreme right in other countries would likely be to the left in the US, but only on some policies.

I'm not particularly lit up by the creeping threat of American Communism and the word "socialist" doesn't scare me; I'm a centrist-liberal Democrat small firm owner. And I didn't vote for Bernie. In fact, I actively voted against him.

Why? Because I thought his policies were a combination of marginally impactful, dumb, and/or unrealistic. Eliminating free trade agreements isn't going to bring secure jobs back to the Rust Belt. Massive expenditures to get everyone to college is a terrible plan --- and one the people hit hardest by the decline of manufacturing do not want. Single-payer health care is unrealistic and nationalizes something close to 20% of our entire economy.

The problem with these policies isn't "socialism". It's that they won't work.

Switzerland isn't a socialist country (look how the Swiss health care system works). The issue here isn't a crazy problem Americans have with "Socialism" (although using that term to describe a policy isn't a great way to win support for it).

The categorising (and dismissal) of ideals that you don't agree with under a blanket statement and refusing to see them as anything other than binary is the most destructive thing in our society IMO.

It means you can group public healthcare with the forced redistribution of wealth and call them communism and equally bad.

The war of drugs is the same, it means you can group (relatively) harmless drugs like Marijuana with harmful drugs like Heroin and dismiss both as equally nasty when they are anything but.

The world is seldom binary, but categorising things makes it such.

Unfortunately the word "green" is the new "communism".

If you'd constantly be told (in the media, the movies, TV shows, by the government, and thus society in general) that you live in the Greatest Country on Earth, wouldn't you end up believing it, too? Yes, you would.

The big problem with America is the lack of public transportation infrastructure, including high speed train service in convenient locations.

I currently work in central Virginia a bit more rural. Good pay and great cost and quality of living. 3 of the more senior engineers work 60% and 80%. But HR has told me that no one wants to come here. It has been a great place for starting a family, the only risk is there is not very many software engineering options.

I lived in Switzerland and now America. I take long, relaxing lunches - it's a good time, midday, to reset. I also take ample "vacation" (in quotes because I'm reachable within an hour or two by phone and email but still out having fun). These parts, I keep, albeit with adaptation.

I remember Switzerland's "nothing changes so do your duty" attitude. That is caustic when the powerful feel they can reputationally and thus permanently destroy the less powerful. The churn and disruption of American culture is healthier. And, for what it's worth, I prefer New York's mix of old and new architecture to Zürich's centuries-old skyline.

My takeaway from growing up multiculturally is that while there are some cultures that are better at most modern tasks than others, there are multiple cultures differently enabled--each competently, in its own right--for the modern world. These multiple optima perform certain facets, e.g. teamwork or nonlinear social disruption, differently and differently ably. Humanity benefits from this diversity of approaches.

Same here. Grew up and started working in Germany, moved to the US (First Cambridge, now Menlo Park).

I feel the same.

To me it seems like this:

- If you want to mainly enjoy things outside of work and just see it as a way to finance those other things, the US might not be the best place.

- If you enjoy the work you're doing and want to work with other motivated people that are great at what they do: the US makes it a LOT easier.

Especially as an Engineer, the recognition and possibilities are vastly higher. I haven't seen a company in Germany that does a successful dual ladder system. I also haven't seen one that isn't riddled with MBA grads that mainly push Jira tickets around. Even smaller companies seems to think that's a necessity. I'm sure there are some examples that make it work, but it's seemingly a lot harder to find them.

Given the population of Zurich, I've always comparing it to Boston to be fair. In that context Zurich is the mix with modern architecture. Boston has done nothing and then a big nothing for my entire life, only in the last 5 years does the seaport look like a part of Zurich, with actual cranes and construction workers.

Best comment in this thread

Is there any reason we can't demand worker benefits and continue to keep blackballing illegal?

The "American Dream" is a has-been. I'm not old enough to have lived through this myself, but what I've understood the US was probably the best country to live in after the WWII. Some +30 years of industrial growth, start of consumerism without climate change and ecological or economical worries (and don't forget rock 'n roll!). The average joe could work a factory job and afford a house and a family. Crime rates were relatively low, income distribution was more even and generally every class of people were getting more prosperous, except perhaps the blacks and latinos who still were being discriminated against (and still are).

That being said since the -70's and -80's Nixon's and Reagan's administration saw the collapse of the american dream, stagnating minimum salaries, the explosion of crime, war on drugs (that has cost billions), unprecedented bias in income distribution. The Soviet Union and communism was the new evil, US liberated it's economy. Capitalism and freedom was the answer. What could possibly go wrong when industries (such as banking) self regulate...

Now US has regressed to a country where the owning class is super rich, meanwhile there's a 3rd world country juxtaposed onto itself. Enormous poverty, crime, drug abuse, social problems, racial problems and a new president whose road to power is paved with dreams like cutting back on the minimum wage etc. stupidity.

On top of that you have a goverment that spies on its citizens.

Event in the poorest countries the elite are always doing well. You don't judge a country based on how well the elite are doing but on how well the poor are doing.

But there's something that can be done about it. The labor rights people do have today in the USA were won by taking action, not given.

Yes but labor rights is a poor substitute for a system that allows and encourages small business. I'm not talking about "Entrepreneurs" in the new sense of the term, I'm talking about the sense that the first 200 years of America fostered, where basically after apprenticeship any tradesman started their own firm and became their own boss.

Labor rights are a bad consolation prize for a system that should be encouraging self determination.

Lots of companies in the US treat their employees well, but plenty don't - and there is very little in the way of employee protection in "at will" states.

In other western countries employees can't be fired without being given multiple written warnings and given opportunities to improve their performance. They get a higher minimum wage (with no distinction on what industry they work in, so no need to rely on tips if you're in hospitality), and they get at minimum 30 days holiday when you include public holidays.

On the other hand the wages in the US are higher than most western countries, and the cost of living lower (interestingly the taxes aren't despite the central government providing fewer services).

People don't realise the trade off that exists for the American dream and there is a trade off for all but the luckiest few. I know I didn't when I worked in the Bay Area for a bit.

It's a system that seems to prioritise business over employees and you can't argue with the success of American companies, so depending on your mindset it works.

The trade off is worth it for some, not for others.

72% of Americans support paid leave programs: http://www.apnorc.org/news-media/Pages/News+Media/Poll-shows...

58% support universal health care: http://www.gallup.com/poll/191504/majority-support-idea-fed-...

62% support debt-free college: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-01/majority-...

92% would prefer wealth distribution to look like Sweden: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/08/american...

What some believe Americans want or will accept is still odds with the reality. The actual problem in this country is that our representatives do not represent most Americans; they represent the interests of the wealthy. We live in a plutocratic oligarchy with only the trappings of representative democracy:



This story is all too predictable and the ensuing debate is the same as always. Americans will point to the small size of European country X, compared to the US. The problem with that reasoning is that it is pretty much like this all over Europe with just variations. Some places have lower salaries, some have longer vacations or maternity leave. Still there are about 500 million people living in systems offering better work-life balance than what 300 million Americans are experiencing.

The American reaction seems to be summed up as different variations of denial. Either one accept that America is like that but one denies the possibility of America changing. Or one simply denies that things really are that bad.

What a multitude of European countries are doing isn't magic, nor is it humongously expensive. America is much richer than Europe as a whole, yet Americans are completely convinced it is impossible for America to afford any sort of work-life balance.

Or the retort is that, if this is so great then why don't everybody do it? Well lots of European countries do for that reason. It isn't impossible in America either, but Americans keep voting against their own interests. They keep voting in favor of people who will hand their money over to the 1%. Since the 70s America has grown its wealth tremendously but regular people's income has changed rather little since all the wealth has gone to the 1%.

People are sold the myth that all this wealth is going to innovative founders like Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk or whatever. Not it isn't. Most money in the US is not made from creating new products. It is made in finance. The US economy has been financialized. People who push papers around are taking most of the money not the innovators. The very same people who brought the American economy to its knees in 2008 is taking most of the money.

You don't have to believe me, you can just research the finacialization of the American economy yourself. You can read about the rising inequality and the 1% yourself. You can read about how policies in the US tend to favor the will of the rich minority rather than the average majority.

And these people can keep screwing over Americans because they keep making Americans believe that their real problem is poor Mexican illegals stealing all the benefits, jobs and money. They can laugh while the poor fight among themselves for the crumbs, while they eat their fat steaks.

I'm not sure that poor Americans expressing interest in Latino mass deportation policies really all that irrational.

If I were an employer of de-skilled labor, I'd also like mass immigration. I'd want the immigrants to exert downward pressure on worker demands. I'd want to make sure that worker strikes are meaningless, and that union demands don't have teeth.

As for why this has happened, there has been a systematic propaganda effort by corporations who own most of the media and it's been quite successful.

As a southerner, I am surrounded by "conservative" people who are collecting several checks from the government, who paid nowhere near what they are taking back out, who endlessly bitch about Obama and Democrats, who rag on some poor girl who works at WalMart 39 hours a week using a WIC card as an example of communism.

I don't believe there is a system of government or economics that will tolerate that level of self-delusion for long. Our fundamental problem is that the postwar period was so provident for us that we have lost all touch with reality.

That post-war period was based on the expropriation of every single bit of German patent IP as a spoil of WWII (Russia also did this, so the U.S. may have been following suit - but Britain didn't.)

Make no mistake. Switzerland is not comparable to say France, Germany or Italy. The fabric and demographics of western european societies are changing rapidly and wages in France, Germany, Italy are low compared to the US. And it is only going to continue to go downwards from here. As a rule of thumb: yes, the poorest 25% are better of in Europe, everyone else is probably better of in the US.

Disclosure: grew up in Germany and over the past 20 years, i have lived in NYC, Boston, Munich, Geneva, Bucharest.

I don't think there would be much difference to her story had she lived in e.g. Stockholm instead of Zurich.

I make a normal software dev salary, after 13 years in Stockholm I make around $90k, and pay around $30k in (income) taxes. For that I get healthcare, 480 days paid leave per child (to share between parents), free education for the kids (including daycare from age 1). I don't worry about retiring.

I could probably make more money in (parts of) the US, even after paying for healthcare, daycare, college, pensions, parental leave, 6 weeks a year off etc. But still I wouldn't say that would make me better off - mostly because of culture - it would be career suicide to take a year off with each child in the US, even if I could afford it. It would also seem weird that I had to drop the kids off at 8 and leave to pick them up at 4pm, for 7 years...

The key difference is that in most western European countries you are forced to participate in that socialist system, in America you are definitely more free and probably have the best opportunities in the world. I don't need more! Thank you :)

The gap between the wealthy and poor in the US and the opportunities provided are so extreme that even though you theoretically have more opportunities the reality is you have less.

In more left leaning countries you are guaranteed a high quality education and to be healthy, you can't make that guaranty in parts of the US unfortunately.

But, you shouldn't make the mistake of viewing Europe as one whole, just like others shouldn't make the same mistake about the US. As in the US there are some states which are more socialist and others which are less, in Europe there are some countries which are more right wing than others. People in Europe are free to move if their ideology doesn't reflect their home, or they can vote for change as their governments tend to be proportional.

I think That's simply not true: every country has taxes and in every democracy there will be around as many people who would like lower taxes as there are people who would prefer higher taxes. Whether the income tax is 15, 20 or 30% doesn't change that.

If you want low taxes, the US really isn't the place to be either. The caricature of Western European countries as socialist dystopia is usually only based in ignorance or disinformation.

Define 'you'. A black kid that grew up in the projects? Or a middle class white kid in the suburbs?

I grew up in the US and Brazil, and over the past 20 years have lived in Minneapolis, Santa Fe, San Francisco, Brasilia and London.

I know where you're coming from, the US has by far the highest wage to cost of living ratio, and it seems to have the cheapest consumer and luxury goods by far. An aspirational materialistic lifestyle is far more accessible to the middle class in America than anywhere else.

That said, does this equate to happiness? For instance when I lived in London, I was paid less and my money didn't go as far, but I was able to live without a car, enjoy tons of free museums and a lot more accessible culture in general, and as a family man had a lot less stress about health care with the NHS.

I realize that if you have no economic opportunity that easily trumps lifestyle considerations, and Europe, especially southern Europe is facing some major challenges, but I still think Europe has a lot of qualities that the US could learn from.

Money in the US only seems to go far when you look at consumer products. And of course housing is cheap as there is lots of cheap land. The problem for any highly automated society is that while consumer goods fall in price, services go the opposite direction.

This is were the big problem is in the US. Lawyers, doctors, dentists, university, medical care, medication, child care etc all those things are typically a lot more expensive in the US.

What does it matter if you can afford twice as many iPhones or flat screens in the US, if you are economically ruined once you get a serious disease like cancer or you can't afford to send your kids to a decent university?

I've contemplated the wealth difference between the US and my home country Norway many times, and I've always found it very hard to compare because you don't live the same way.

I could afford a bigger house and car in the US, given the price level of those things there. Yet concluding that I am richer is hard. American houses tend to be more cheaply built, with poorer insulation. So it is always an apple and pear comparison. I can buy more stuff in the US, but my money would not go as far when abroad. Stuff is more expensive in Norway, but salaries are also higher so you have more purchase power when you travel. And Norwegian spend more time enjoying vacations than Americans. So it depends on what you want. Do you want stuff or leisure?

Also how do you put a price on the feeling of safety and and stress free environment. You got an extensive welfare system that will be there for you if anything should happen to you or your family. In the US you never know. You don't have to worry about crime. I noticed an American policeman visiting Scandinavia to learn about various Scandinavian policing methods. The first odd statement I noticed him say was "people don't look over their shoulders here. It looks like they don't worry anything bad is going to happen."

If this is the way people live in the US, I got to say, thanks but no thanks.

I just don't get what's the point of having people working 50-60 hours a week. The productivity level obviously doesn't improve once you get that much overworked.

It starts to look like a control mechanism, by simply not allowing people the time to relax and think about what's going on.

I think in a future with high unemployment due to automation European countries, the former soviet block countries, and countries like New Zealand and Australia could fair better. A history of socialism means they will be more receptive of concepts like UBI.

I also disagree that the poor parts of Europe are better off than the poor parts of the US, although I haven't been to the poor parts of the US. The poorest parts of the Baltic countries are very poor, with some older neighborhoods lacking facilities like running water and sewerage, very high unemployment and very low wages.

There are many good points in the article. I worked in Switzerland for a couple of years and there are also some inaccuracies to keep in mind.

1. Yes, the average Swiss makes more than the average American, but the cost of living there is also much higher. So much higher that on a purchasing power parity computation, the average Swiss makes $58,600 compared to $56,000 for the average American (source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28PP...). That's a long way from the stated $91,000.

4. Wealth-based taxes. Yes, the Swiss Federal taxes are very low. That is entirely offset by cantonal taxes. This isn't a good thing or a bad thing depending on your perspective. The Swiss cantons are very independent compared to U.S. states and provide most services locally. But, as a tax-payer, you'll be paying an equivalent amount to both levels of government as you would in the U.S. Only the ratio is going to be different.

While I can vouch for the amazing unemployment benefits, I will also point out that for the many HN readers who are software developers, you would find that your profession doesn't have nearly the status in Switzerland as it does in the U.S. Anecdotally, when I lost my job, my unemployment benefits were great, but the jobs I could find were pathetic compared to what I could find back in the U.S. which is where I ended up despite my regret in missing many of the benefits of Swiss life the article discusses.

From the comments: > Another article that shows that American exceptionalism is a myth. We can be so much better and we have so much to learn from the rest of the world.

America probably was exceptional at some time in the past. Now, among modern western countries, we are merely an exception.

America was exceptional in that it had tons of 'free' land to grab.

That is of course no longer the case.

That land also held most of the gold that the world hadn't already mined yet, on that land. Quite seriously, this was an immense economic advantage almost into modern times.

The exception that just happens to start wars whenever we feel like it?

The description is similar in most of western Europe, while SF/NY wages sure seem tempting, i could never give up all the benefits of Europe for it.. 5-6 weeks vacation beeing a minimum (5 is the law, 6 is the norm) and a 37 hour work week. (Denmark)

How many paid holiday's are there in Denmark or Switzerland? Or what is the total number of paid days off including vacation and holidays? I'd say the average number of holidays for white collar workers in the U.S. is about 10 days.

Thats a good question. I just counted the days for 2017, its 8 and a half. May 1st is half a day off (not for everyone). So 5-6 weeks + 8 days. (Sidenote, most jobs you have to use 3 weeks vacation during summer)

I almost forgot, if you work in the public sector, you also get 2 days of per child under 7 years, for each parent. You can also negotiate to take part of your maternity leave at a later date, some of our friends are now on a 3 month vacation in Australia, using the maternity leave and savings for funding. ( this needs to be negotiated with employer, but its not unusual)

About the same according to a quick Google search.

"It usually adds up to five weeks of vacation plus around nine public holidays (plus other possible company paid holidays or additional vacation time)."

Source: http://www.thelocal.dk/20150407/working-in-denmark-vacation-...

Switzerland is great, but should we be using it as an example for other countries to follow? Most other countries can't expect a substantial portion of their tax base to come from banks holding trillions of dollars of dictators' assets, physical commodity trading, and multinational pharma conglomerates (not to mention the impact on the local economy of the spending of the very well-paid employees of said institutions).

I'm not trying to hate on Switzerland by saying this....my grandfather emigrated from there, I have many cousins still there, it's an amazing place, virtually everyone is super healthy and multilingual, they have forward-thinking socially liberal laws, etc.....but let's call a spade a spade when it comes to how they are able to afford everything.

Banking is less than 5% of Switzerland's GDP (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banking_in_Switzerland).

The top 10 companies by revenue are all in pharmaceuticals or commodity trading: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Swiss_companies_by_rev....

Chocolate, cheese and mountains is just there to entertain tourists but even if you would kill tourism and banking, Switzerland still would be superstrong due to the megacorps (e.g., Glencore is located here and trades with 80% of all coal in the world) who decided to pay taxes in Switzerland.

(You can read more about Switzerland in my blogpost "8 reasons why I moved to Switzerland to work in tech": https://medium.com/@iwaninzurich/eight-reasons-why-i-moved-t... - I am well-connected tech-recruiter in Zurich and if you're thinking of moving here and getting a coding job, feel free to contact me - you find my email address in my HN profile.)

I had lunch recently with a VP of human resources who worked for one of the largest tech employers here in Seattle (that is known for routinely working people 50 to 60+ hours a week) why they didn't provide more vacation and greater worklife balance. She replied that the young tech talent that they recruit doesn't demand it they only look at the top line salary and don't calculate the amount that they are earning per hour.

This may be a rational strategy. How much they're earning per hour only matters economically if they're paid by the hour, or have a chance to earn money in a second job, side business, etc.

Meanwhile, their top line salary is a starting point for calculating the bottom line, which is how quickly they can build up their own financial safety net for contingencies such as getting laid off, old, sick, raising kids, etc. Or, for starting their own business.

Granted, I'm probably guilty as charged. I keep tabs on my total wealth, as I inch towards retirement and my kids race towards college. Also, I haven't gone to the extreme of working 80 hours per week, as I've managed to maintain my career progress while guarding my work hours and living in a fairly pleasant -- dare I say more European-like -- city. I also have a second job and a side business.

Perhaps in Europe, having a mandatory safety net (health care, etc.) means that workers don't have to be as aggressive about building their own safety net, and tend to negotiate differently.

  She replied that the young tech talent that they recruit 
  doesn't demand it they only look at the top line salary and 
  don't calculate the amount that they are earning per hour.
The explanation doesn't make sense.

1. At the "large tech employers," the young talent couldn't demand it as they have limited power. There's plenty of substitutes at the margins. Both parties know this.

2. Employees surely calculate $/hour. It's cute to derive a minimum wage salary when you spread wages across more hours, but earnings/career comparison stops there.

At the "large tech employers" the young talent largely drives the compensation structure. To be large you need to hire a lot of people. If you want to hire a lot of people, then the easiest way is to attract new graduates (the only two times there is a large pool of talented engineers is at graduation time and when a large company shuts down).

Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook (and probably others) are competing for that same pool, and if they could increase their acceptance rate of offers by 10% by offering better work-life balance they would do it in a heartbeat.

In my experience, the two main things that 22 year old tech graduates are looking for are money and future career potential. I doubt more than a few percent of the young interviewees at those companies even ask about vacation time. I have a fairly small data-set, but not one of several dozen right-out-of-college interviewees have asked me about how many hours they would be expected to work.

Do they job ads state that they will be expected to work 50 to 60+ hours a week?

Considering that Swiss politics (especially immigration) makes Donald Trump's policies look downright liberal. I will pass. Switzerland is a tiny (population smaller than NYC) paradise for those privileged to be born there (err scratch that "hold citizenship" Swiss actually don't believe in birthright citizenship) funded by tourism and tax-evasion. Sure they might have a great "work culture" but I would rather take chance on American dream and belief in hard work.

If you actually read the most up voted comment the last time this was discussed, it says the same thing.


"Driving Bentleys ruined me for BMWs and their poor make quality" Switzerland is one of... three maybe (Luxemburg, Norway) countries with higher standard of living than the US. Not even Switzerland's neighbours (Italy, France, Germany) with people coming from the same populations can reproduce it. All these great states are tiny (8M people) outliers. There are more people enjoying work-life balance in America than alive in Switzerland. You could carve out multiple Switzerlands of the US if you broke it up and tightened immigration (as the Swiss are doing right now).

""" Source: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9988048

If you were to carve out Silicon Valley to LA into a new country and with similar xenophobic immigration policies you will have a nation far far superior than any other on earth. Such comparisons are meaningless.

All the social benefits she describes are the norm all over the EU.

like Greece, Portugal, Italy and Spain?


Well, I live in Spain, so: yes.

The popular initiative against mass immigration (2014) was essentially rejected by parliament recently: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/16/switzerland-u-...

The SVP were furious, but hey that's how a coalition government works and that's a good thing. Compare that to a republican presidency, Senate, House? Hoho, good luck with that one.

If rejecting an effort to make an already extremely racist system even more racist somehow counts as an achievement in your opinion. Then there is no point in having a debate.

Why don't you talk about lack of birthright citizenship even to children of permanent residents or that each individual has to be voted on by reidents of that canton to determine eligibility to become citizen.

Switzerland is essentially a white wonderland (World War II implicit support of Nazi and looking the other way while Jews were being persecuted) it gets away from moral scrutiny by pretending about false neutrality and marketing its beautiful mountains.

Why is it racist? Can you give some facts?

In 2007, the Swiss introduced a law meaning that all members of your local community would have to vote on your citizenship application before you could win a passport. Since they did so, Muslims, Jews, Balkans, Africans, and Asians have been disproportionately rejected. In 2008, a disabled man from Kosovo was rejected on the grounds that, a) he was disabled and this would cost his community money and b) he was a Muslim. In other words, the system works well.


This discussion is flawed as it assumes Switzerland is like the rest of Europe. The buying power here is at least two times the buying power of people in UK, Germany or anywhere else in Europe. It did not take part in both world wars and did many strategic things right in the last 200 years.

You can read more about Switzerland in my blogpost "8 reasons why I moved to Switzerland to work in tech": https://medium.com/@iwaninzurich/eight-reasons-why-i-moved-t...

Full disclosure: I am well-connected tech-recruiter in Zurich and if you're thinking of moving here and getting a coding job, feel free to contact me - you find my email address in my HN profile.

> This article is two years old but most of the things are valid still today.

Would you say the salary levels are still accurate? Just making a back-of-the-envelope calculation using your numbers for food, immoscout24 for rent (used a 2.5 room in Oerlikon) and lohncomputer.ch (http://imgur.com/iWXaJSC) makes (junior) dev salaries in Germany look ridiculous low.

Yes, even after the Swiss unpegged the franc from the Euro (http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/01/ec...), salaries are stable.

Ah, I remember Chantal, I used to devour her blog [0] documenting her transition to Swiss culture/etc. I used to be crazy about Zurich and wanted to move there, but 2 years of Germany convinced me I will never get used to the German culture. Still an utterly beautiful country, and I would probably still move to Switzerland for a while if I didn't have children.

0: http://www.onebigyodel.com/

Germany != Switzerland. There are lots of cultural similarities, but also vast differences. I wouldn't recommend making that statement in a group of Swiss and German people.

(For the record I'm Swiss, but I think most Germans would agree with me on this.)

BTW coming here with children isn't too much of a problem. You don't necessarily have to put them in Swiss schools, there are also international schools where the curriculum is oriented towards expats (SATs etc) and the language is English.

I'm an American of Swiss extraction who studied in Germany, and Germans would even say that different parts of their own country have different cultures and that Switzerland is most definitely not the same as Germany.

Can you please elaborate in a few sentences that about the German culture?

Swiss and Germans are similar. They are perfectionists, hard workers and appreciate timeliness. They aren't as flexible, innovative and jovial as the Americans. Compared to the Germans Swiss are more polite and don't say what they think. Germans tend to shout if they are angry about something, while it's typical for the Swiss to start a complaint with «Sorry». The language (Swiss German) is also different. Germans don't understand the Swiss if they talk Swiss German. They find the Swiss accent in the Standard German cute.

The French and Italian speaking Swiss yet are another story.

Source: I am half Swiss and half German and have family in both countries. I live in Switzerland.

As a German I would say some of the negative aspects are:

  * Always afraid of innovation
    * Contactless credit cards are regarded as very dangerous
    * Even debit card payments are bad because they cost the seller money and the government might see where you bought stuff
    * McDonalds EasyOrder kiosks are mostly empty and people prefer to queue for ages to order "the normal way"

  * "Only my lifestyle is the right one and others are just wrong"-mindset
    * Restricting opening hours because you could just shop earlier or on a Saturday just like they do

I regard the bullet points you listed under "Always afraid of innovation" as features, not bugs. If it matters am Romanian, but I never really fully understood why people would willingly make public their most personal details, which is what happens when you purchase everything by CC: someone, somewhere, knows if you're a man or a woman, if you eat kosher food or not, if you're in a stable relationship, if you're depressed, if you're an alcoholic, if you have eating disorders etc etc.

The funny thing is Germans love loyalty programs tracking their exact purchases but don't want their bank to know the purchase amount.

> * "Only my lifestyle is the right one and others are just wrong"-mindset

This is surprisingly common. A few years ago, I was working "night" shift (mid-afternoon through to 11pm), and I had a number of people get quite crappy with me because I wasn't getting up at 6am. I had a job, I should be up at the same time as everybody else who works a (day) job.

OK, I'll try to come up with an overview, since you asked nicely. As a point of reference I'm Romanian and have lived in the UK, the Netherlands, and Israel (and traveled to many more places).

Things I didn't like about Germany:

* they seem to like dogs more than they like children e.g.: random old man screamed at my wife on the street because my 2yo son was crying; the neighbours below us harassed us for a year until we moved, because of the noise my old son made walking around the house (never outside 8am-7pm, mind you); at most 10% of the people will smile at a baby on the street or interact with kids

* closed-mindedness; I can't describe very well what I mean by this, sorry, but it seems like there is this weird underlying mentality, that I haven't seen before yet I could consistently identify; in old people it's somewhat evident, but I was surprised to find this even in younger friends after I got to know them better

* generally, mean people – this is subjective, but I've never seen as many random acts of passive or outright aggression as I did in Germany; my short trip to (German) Switzerland sort of confirmed the rumours I heard, that Swiss people can be even meaner; looking back I realise this can be correlated to social status – most of my bad experiences happened in posh neighbourhoods

* companies will fuck you over at any chance they get – in Germany nobody seems to realise that 2 year contracts that you can't get out of are not normal; also I've been overcharged or plainly scammed by reputable utility companies; as an expat you have to be extremely careful not to get into a bad contract, and not to be taken advantage of; even my first landlord scammed me out of my deposit money

Things I did like in Germany:

* social system – each year we got a couple of thousand euros in tax refunds; I received a substantial amount of assistance when my startup failed; we had a baby in Germany, everything was covered by my insurance, and there was plenty of financial support for the new mum; setting up as a freelancer was extremely easy, and the taxes much lower – additionally it's easy to deduct a lot of the costs; public kindergartens are very good and very cheap; TL;DR "socialism" is awesome

* roads – hands down best road system, highways, and drivers I've seen

* parks, many of them with animals, farms where kids can interact with the animals, indoor playgrounds etc. – overall endless options for children, and either free or very accessible; additionally, the two areas I've been mainly in, NRW and Bavaria, were insanely beautiful with perhaps hundreds of places to visit and explore

* people follow the rules religiously a majority of the time – huge relief for someone who hates chaos

* there is a genuine care about social issues like privacy, refugees, ecology, etc. – I find this funny in contrast to the pettiness I've observed; in Munich people were welcoming refugees at the airport (as opposed to weird-ass stuff like this https://goo.gl/OEAkDW )

* good public transport, good infrastructure, hospitals, etc.

* the public healthcare is much better than the NHS and very cheap – contributions scale with your income and top out at about €700 (your employer pays half)

* great police – several instances where they were tremendously helpful, and overall very nice and trustworthy

* living costs – my conclusion is that Germany is one of the cheapest countries to have a decent standard of living; for reference I'm now back in Romania and overall things are much more expensive (example – huge markups on electronics, baby diapers, etc.)

I understand that I can't have an accurate picture of the whole 80+ million nation in my 2.5 years in Germany, and I might've been particularly unlucky. But overall my conclusion is that Germany is a great country, but it's not for me – and that's what I meant by my original comment.

I agree about the closed-mindedness. I see that also a lot in the German-speaking parts of Switzerland. One cause is being afraid of getting overwhelmed by things they don't know. This happens everywhere but German speaking countries seem to be more affected by it.

How easy or hard is it to move to EU (vs the US), from an Asian country? And which would be the top countries to move to, in EU?

It's not very hard, if you have money or skills that are in demand. Top countries depend on what you are looking for.

okay, for programming skills? which would you recommend?

when you say money, do you mean investing? what if I don't want to invest or start a company or employ local people?

If you do not want to invest or start a company, then your only option is to find a job. With solid programming skills, you should be able to find a company to sponsor you.

I know nothing about you, so I really can't recommend anything.

> At my former American job, I received 10 days of paid vacation per year, and each of those days came with a sizable portion of guilt if actually used.

ELI5: are employees sometimes (often?) expected to work on their vacation? Or take those days out as extra pay instead? Or is it just that it's never "a good time" to take that holiday?

In my case (at least this year), with major investment projects in progress, timelines demanded by customers with no tolerance for alternative dates (and those demands agreed upon by PMs and managers), I had no real opportunity to take days off without being held accountable for work expected of me during those days.

That said, I used my full two weeks to get out of the office from mid-December through the end of the year, and ended up working through part of it anyway due to more tight deadlines I was committed to without any significant input from me.

Had I not taken the days, they would have disappeared on January first without anything in exchange. In my case, it seems to just be a lose-lose.

It usually works out in one of two ways:

- You respond normally to emails and Slack, but don't show up to meetings or other work in the office. This counts as a legitimate vacation.

- You simply don't schedule the time off, and nobody says anything. Some companies will pay this out in cash equivalent (giving you an extra week or 2 of pay), but usually it just "expires" at the end of the year.

Wow. And people ever look at a european salary and think "whoa that's not a lot". Well...

I do 8-10 weeks off every year (the proper no-email kind) now that we have the 480 parent days. Together with the 6w holiday you can just slowly take those parent days and make longer paid holidays.

I'm not sure how many more percent pay I'd want to accept 0 to 3 of weeks of not-quite-off, and no parental leave. 50%? In any case, it puts my measly european software salary in a different perspective.

You respond normally to emails and Slack, but don't show up to meetings or other work in the office. This counts as a legitimate vacation.

That is not at all normal.

I am baffled why anybody would either do or accept any of the above.

First of all, most low-skill jobs just don't come with PTO (paid time off, i.e. vacation). As an example, when I was working retail, if I wanted to take time off, I could, but got no pay for the time I was gone. The same was true if I was sick.

When we are talking about "guilt" for time off, it depends largely on the company. At the very highest levels, usually they don't like having everyone store up a lot of vacation, because that's a liability on the books (if you lay someone off with vacation time stored up, you usually have to pay them for it).

Therefore most of the guilt comes from lower level management or peers. When you are in a team of 6 and everyone is overworked, you feel guilty if you leave for two weeks, knowing that everyone remaining will be working 20% harder. For the same reason you will see people checking their work e-mail hourly while on vacation.

It's a cultural problem. This is why you may have seen some US tech companies advertising "minimum required vacation days:" if you are required to take the vacation, then you can't feel guilty for it.

I worked retail in the states and was lucky enough to get vacation time - I worked up to 3 weeks before moving to Norway.

We had times they said we weren't allowed to take vacation - mostly around Christmas, but sometimes different. I had trouble getting 2 weeks off in a chunk when my soon-to-be spouse visited, and had to find someone to work my scheduled weekend to do so. Usually they only let you take a week at a time.Some stores would do a payout for vacation time at the end of the year. It was a pharmacy, and we worked holidays and weekends.

Some places are much more strict than this, however. And some places don't offer vacation time at all, though a few offer more.

I just took 4 days off work. I got a text from my boss saying some of our ETL jobs failed and I had to take a look at them.

That's some serious WTF, unless you were the only person in the company able to do that and it was an extinction event for the company if nobody dealt with it.

>unless you were the only person in the company able...

As someone who is also in a position like the OP, it's always "life or death".

Makes me think of the Foo Fighters song.

Wouldn't the rational thing be to turn off your phone when you take a vacation or even leave it at the office?

Why should an employee change their lifestyle while on vacation because their employer has no sense of fair and reasonable boundaries?

Why indeed? Given the pathological situation, I would however take steps to protect my free time, if changing jobs was not an option.

Wasn't Venezuela socialized too?

Switzerland sounds awesome; make tons more money there and work fewer hours...why isn't that the norm everywhere if it's so great and works out so well?

Their population is 8 million vs 318 million here in the U.S......

Venezuela has nothing to do with what we do in Europe. I am kind of tired of this kind of ignorance. Please educate yourself about the differences. And Europe is a lot of different countries with different systems. Switzerland is among the most capitalistic in Europe. Definitely not socialist as you imagine.

You imagine anything that doesn't sound brutal and exploitative must be a socialist dream?


"plz tell me the differences"

Seriously? The only common thing between Switzerland and Venezuela is that they are on the same planet. If you ask for examples for difference you just prove that you are rather uneducated.

Please don't engage in personal attacks like this, no matter other users have said (which looks suspiciously troll-ish, anyway).

Not quiet sure conclusions can be taken about an alternative model (socialism) based on a single implementation (Venezuela), which, by the way, probably got a little bit of foreign help to fail, if you look at history..

No rather technology is making me very lazy as I just asked my Google Home AI speaker and she didn't know. I then asked Alexa, Siri and Cortana but nope they didn't know either....

Sure but most of the EU have the benefits this article talks about. Not the high salary, but all the rest.

At a recent lunch with a VP of human resources for the largest tech employer here in Seattle I asked why their company was so parsimonious with providing paid vacation and work life balance.

And what did they say?

Much money goes around in Switzerland. Let's wait and see what happens now that the bank secret is no more.

Switzerland isn't just a Banking paradise, it's a widely spread misconception that the economic miracle of this country is only related to its bank and tax code. Very obvious by just looking at its balance of trade.

Besides, the Swiss secret has been kinda taken care of by the IRS a few years ago.

One thing tho, is that while wages are extremely high there, the cost of living is extreme too!

Most of the article's way of life/work balance is common across European countries.

Even those that are much worse than Switzerland, still treat their workers better than in US.

The bank secret has defacto been dead for a few years now. There seems to be little impact on the economy or quality of living.

Following you logic Delaware should have the best social system of the world.

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