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Living in Switzerland ruined me for America and its lousy work culture (2016) (vox.com)
128 points by deepaksurti 30 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 195 comments



I've experienced a lot of these things since leaving the bay area and moving to Australia. The thing that surprised me most was similar to point #3 - in Australia the less fortunate are taken care of. One big mental drain I had in America was when my friends were sick but could do nothing about it. I had a roommate in Seattle who had severe dental problems and chronic tooth pain, but could do nothing about it because he simply couldn't afford it. I had another friend who had an oblique fracture in their arm, but set it themselves and never went to the doctor. All because healthcare was not only expensive, but randomly expensive. You never knew if you'd be leaving the hospital with a $100 medical bill or a $10,000 medical bill. I had great healthcare for all of my working career, but my friends often didn't, and it ate at me mentally. In Australia that's never been a point of stress. If you have a cold, you go to the doctor, and you always knew it'd be less than $200ish. There were no orders of magnitude more expensive surprises.

The rest of the points resonated highly with me as well, as aside from the maternity leave I've experienced them all. I have to move back to the Bay soon and I'm not looking forward to it. Every time I visit there's more homeless who've been pushed to the streets because the system in place simply doesn't work - Nordic countries, Switzerland, and Australia are simply better in so many aspects. There's a reason why the USA has fallen to #13 in HDI[1] and continues to fall.

The people of the USA have too much pride to change - we've been on top for so long that we often think we can't learn from other countries, and that we have everything figured out. The intro speech Jeff Daniels did in Newsroom [2] resonates here. It's time we looked at what policies actually work for the best of the populous.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Human_Dev... [2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyzDRc34l2g


Same experience and background as you. I worked for Atlassian in Sydney from 2008-2013.

I found Australia to be a relative Utopia compared to the USA. After traveling around to other countries and living in Australia, then coming home, I realized that America is one of the most indoctrinated cultures I've experienced. We're indoctrinated with the idea of our own superiority. We can't see how much better other countries are doing modern life.


I currently live/work in the Bay Area, but am a Canadian ex-pat. Over the past year, I've had a series of health-related issues which have me chomping at the bit to either move back to Canada or another country which has a sane healthcare system. The issue with the states isn't just that you might go bankrupt over medical bills, I've found that there's also a huge disparity in quality of care. Back in Canada, you'd get the right care for your issue, cost be damned; however, in the states, the quality of care might also depend on who you have access to, per your insurance, which is royally fucked up. Its implicitly correlating the value of human life with earnings - better job? Better insurance.

There's more to life than base pay, stocks, and toys you can buy, and the Bay Area has proven to be one big trap and a lie, so over the next year or two, I'll be planning my escape to another country, be it back home, Australia, or somewhere in Europe.


Not saying your experience isn’t valid but I’ve had several Canadian friends tell stories the other direction. They were amazed at the level of care they got in the Bay Area as opposed to Canada saying that yes care is available to everybody but you often have to wait a long time and it’s generally mediocre. Grass is greener?


Unfortunately "high level of care" is a bit of an ambiguous term

It's easy to overdiagnose, push unnecessary procedures or exams or just prescribe the barely more efficient medication but that costs 10x more

So, higher level of care is good, sometimes the "base level" can leave you with issues, but most of the time, you just need that aspirine and off time


>One big mental drain I had in America was when my friends were sick but could do nothing about it

It would be nice to know whether a significant fraction of what you describe happened after 2014, which is approximately when the major provisions of Obama's health-care reforms kicked in.


Coming from Australia to the US I've had a similar experience, but have been tempted to discount it as just familiarity bias that I prefer Australia. But the more time goes on the more undeniable it seems that Australia is a better place to live regardless of any bias I have toward it. So I have begun to embrace that it's just true that Australia is a better place to live.

There's just less day to day friction in life. Taxes are lower (not in the top bracket perhaps, but for almost all people. Even then this sounds false, but add up all the taxes including local and FICA/med and you'll see), and easier to do. Sales taxes are included in prices, there isn't required tipping, speed limits are enforced meaning traffic is smoother and more predictable. Somehow the floor on the quality of goods and services is higher - not choosing exactly what you buy carefully is less likely to result in regret. Democracy is fairly functional. There is lower inequality. Lower crime.

Banking and payment systems are better - no cheques, widespread contactless payments, instant, free interbank transfers. Also, ordinary banks implementing these things instead of requiring outside disruption from tech companies, e.g. apple pay/google pay/paypal.

Healthcare, of course. Interest free student loans and heavily subsidised undergraduate education, such that someone from a poor background can get a good education (I have a PhD now, and my parents have not paid a cent for my education or living expenses during my education). I would prefer university to be free, but seeing undergrads here in the US, and hearing that practically everyone has support from their parents, it's still a big difference. Government payments for students. I would prefer they were higher, but if you live with enough roommates, it can be enough to pay rent.

High minimum wage. Compulsory retirement savings (9%). High salaries generally - if I go back to Australia for the same kind of job I'm in now, the salary will go up by about 30%. Perhaps software development is an exception that is relevant to many people here, but for most jobs salaries in Australia seem higher. Especially at the bottom end. I used to work in retail during undergrad for AU$21 an hour. (pretty much minimum wage plus 20% loading for not having a guaranteed minimum number of hours per week).

Lower cost of living generally. I know if you average over the whole US the cost of living is apparently lower than in Australia, but in the DC metro area where I am now it's not my experience. My weekly grocery bill here about 30% higher than in Australia - and the products of worse quality in my opinion (unless I shop at say, wholefoods, then it's twice the cost as in Australia). Notable exceptions: buying a house, beer, cigarettes, electrical bills, video games.

I don't mean to say Australia and Australians can necessarily take credit for most of these things, though they can for some. There's an argument that Australia is kind of defecting in a prisoners dilemma or sorts, by enjoying all the technological developments made elsewhere without having contributed that much to it. Or that the single-payer system for drugs pays drug companies so little that while they'll accept the price, they wouldn't have developed the drugs in the first place if Australia were their only buyer.

But at the end of it, it's a great place to live.


i think you're a little biased. Best case the tax rate is about the same. I found it to be higher. It's all situational. For example, you can't file a joint tax return in Australia. You can't deduct mortgage interest.

I found pay to be comparable to USA metros while the cost of living (in Sydney at least) is much higher than most metros. The exception being SF/Bay area

There is no tipping but you end up paying the same or more because the wait staff is making a living wage.

With regard to the quality of goods and services. I found the quality of things like whole foods to be much better. Australian produced consumer goods on the other hand we're usually complete crap and overpriced. As for services, it was pretty much the same. Some people care about doing a good job, some people don't. The one notable difference is restaurants. Service was usually much worse.


For what it's worth, not tipping is a plus due to the convenience of not having to think about it, I wasn't suggesting customers save money by not tipping.

The resteraunt service thing is often said, but I don't see it. There must be differences in preferences for how customers want to be treated. For example I find US servers kind of pretending to be my best friend. This is unappealing to me, it's fake and awkward. But if that is appealing to Americans, then yes I can see how you are not getting that treatment in Australia.


Again, I loved Australia but restaurant service is something USA does better.

It's not the difference in attitude even though I think you're exaggerating a little. In Australia, it's getting one serving of water and never seeing your server again until they bring you your food. It's waiting for someone to take your check or bring you the check in the first place when you're ready to leave. In America, it's a willingness to make sure you're happy with your food.

The last one is a big deal because in the USA, the server is essentially working for the customers because that is where she makes most of her money. In Australia, they work for the restaurant. The end result is a completely different attitude when it comes to making sure you get what you ordered and are happy with it.


Sure, but it's also really expensive to live in Switzerland. Not factoring in the cost of living over there is pretty disingenuous. And it's going to be a serious project to get residency there if you're not a Swiss citizen.

Edit: This is not an opinion, cost of living in Switzerland is highest in the world, twice as high as in the US. Even if you make twice as much money, you're basically making the same amount. And if food cost that much where I live, you're damn right I'm bringing a sandwich to the office. https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/rankings_by_country.js...


It's okay, you can sub most any country in Europe in, and still end up with a much more sane work culture than the US.


Many people (including myself), don't want a laid back work culture. I want to kill myself for the firm, and work as hard as humanly possible. I think I just derive the most happiness from working (though I do like drinking as well). I know a lot of other people like this. Maybe you can call us brainwashed or whatever, but this is how myself and most of my co-workers are.

I don't think it's an accident that America is the most rich and powerful country in the world. Or that American Tech dominant the world (except for China). It's because Americans have a protestant work ethic, they're willing to suffer and kill themselves for greatness.

This of course isn't for everyone. But as a highly ambitious person who wants to win no matter the cost, I couldn't imagine ever working in Europe.


This is fine if you own your own business; or if you’re taking a chance to strike gold through an IPO; or if a fat bonus is waiting for a killer performance; or the chance for highly paid advancement is real.

Then yeah, that makes sense. Except that this isn’t for everyone and these opportunities are not even common to begin with.

So for regular jobs demanding that the average worker put in 60+ hours a week, with no share of the profits, while senior members of the firm take in millions or more, with intrusive weekends and lack of friends&family time?

The correct response is an honest Glassdoor review and a go-fuck-yourself to management.


I and my closet colleagues have the same attitude and can’t exactly say where it comes from. I feel incredibly lucky that my work is capable of fascinating me, and I want to become as good at it as I’m capable of being.

A big part of that is the subject matter, and getting to work with (build software tools for) artists and sound designers. It probably helps that the work is a well rounded social-creative-technical experience much of the time. Once I stopped seeing myself as a repository of generic, commoditized skills for sale, and found an actual purpose, the sort of ‘employee mentality’ I used to have vanished and my relationship to work became simpler and more gratifying...and I work a lot harder. And yes, I also get paid a lot more, although that came later and I don’t regard that as a requirement - would much sooner give up the money than the passion. I’ve seen a similar transition happen in others.

To some of the downvoters: we all admire artists and musicians who have totally devoted themselves to their craft, and we don’t condescendingly pity their “unhealthy work life balance”. My hero growing up was Feynman, who was doing physics every waking hour (or so I’ve read). It’s not like his estate is going to reap the economic benefits of his work; so was Feynman a pitiful sucker, abused by his university employers? Why does someone else’s ambition anger you so much?


You do you, but be sure that once you do kill yourself, your company will have you replaced within a week. That kind of loyalty only goes one way.


> I don't think it's an accident that America is the most rich and powerful country in the world. Or that American Tech dominant the world (except for China)

You were the winners of a World War that left your competitors in scorched ruins, while you hadn't suffered much physical damage.

In the multi-stranded bundle of reasons for American dominance, this is the big one.


I think people also forget how must during and post WW2 a huge chunk of world talent moved to US and how that contributed to the technological superiority. If you take top 0.01% talent of the world in STEM, what percentage of them would be living/working in US right now?


And now the US is now excluding and even ejecting top researchers due to their nationalities, sending them elsewhere so some other country can grow instead.


I think a big reason America dominates is having a country with hundreds of millions of people speaking the same language on a massive, resource-rich continent.

If a competitor to Facebook started at the same time in Switzerland, Facebook would have spread dozens of times faster in the states, then given that the internet is global, the network effect would see it defeat competitors one by one.

(You could argue, also, that the immigration situation leads to the US' success, a big chunk of the world's best and brightest migrate to the US. From CNBC: Apple founder Steve Jobs is the son of a Syrian immigrant, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is a second generation Cuban immigrant, Google founder Sergey Brin was born in Russia, and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin is a Brazilian native.)

I think the VC situation is the other big reason American tech dominates. I don't know enough about how that all works too know why the US succeeds there, but I understand other countries don't have anywhere near the same amount of VC money


I agree that’s why the USA was dominant in the late 20th century, but how long until that reason expires? Are we going to be in 2070 still blaming WW2 for holding Europe back?

At some point it becomes less and less about WW2 and more about the USA’s relentless optimization for economic growth at all costs, often over other things that would make this country more civilized and humane.


I think as well there's a snowball effect when you're the world's only superpower - a rich get richer equivalent for countries.

For example, a brain drain to the states because it's seen as wealthy and powerful would only compound that wealth.

But also if you're starting with the best technology and a lot of money, you get ahead of others faster.


Which complements nicely with operation paperclip


Why did they win the war?


Because of the Russians?


I mean, it's not 100% true but the actions of Russia during WW2 make this pretty true, and the fact that it seems the US intentionally stayed out of the way to inflict as much damage on Soviet Russia as it could before we got involved. There is no situation where you look at the number of deaths in the war and judge their massive suffering of the Soviet people as anything other than key in the defeat of Nazi Germany.

I'm not about to say that the non aggression pact wasn't a problem, but WW2 finds lots of organizations in the same boat that we can attack in the same way. It was an old system where bodies and land meant power, a system that is really dying.


The Americans chose a master of logistics (Eisenhower) as the supreme commander in Europe, and indeed delayed invasion by a year to minimize casualties and retain control of territory once conquered. That it caused more privation for the Russians was considered a convenient side effect, not a primary aspect.

The US was hardly hurt by the war at all, suffering comparatively few casualties; as their states were never actually attacked their primary contribution in Europe was to ship material from their factories to Russia and the other allies. Factories which after the war switched back to making commercial goods.

The war in the Pacific was a different matter, but again, only some US colonies were attacked and civilian suffering even in those territories was nothing compared to what other countries had to deal with.


I'm not a history expert at all but I think this is a massive over simplification, that ignore context of the time. My understanding is that the US was woefully unprepared (particularly the Army) for WW2 due to its non interventionist stance in the years prior, and had to be reconstituted first. Moreover the U-boats were sinking large numbers of ships in the Atlantic that had to be dealt with.


In very large part thanks to geography


America supported Hitler until 1941.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2004/sep/25/usa.secondworl...

Wall Street also supported hitler until 1941. Hitler wanted to invade America mostly so that he would have to repay wall street.


How about taking over an entire continent from the natives, sharing a language and federal government that led to only ONE (count em) war on the continent in 300 years, and so on. Read Stratfor’s “inevitable empire” series on USA:

https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/geopolitics-united-st...


One war? Am I miscounting? There is the Spanish American war, the Mexican war, the war of 1812, the US Civil war (slave war), there were numerous Indian wars during the manifest destiny. Several wars in the Caribbean and Central America.

I’m sorry if this seems pedantic since it doesn’t affect your point, but I feel like it deserves some clarification.


I should have been clear - I meant a war between the states, analogous to the myriad wars between European countries in the meantime.

Empires and Federations are cool that way - the member states don’t waste resources fighting each other endlessly.


I see. You don’t even need a federation, a customs union usually suffice. E.g. there have been zero wars within the European Union for example. Although I’ll admit, looking at the internal struggle is an unfair simplification as European parties (as with the United States) have plenty of that external violence going on.


I agree with your comment and also recommend the linked pages, but I think you have to count the American revolutionary war as a war, too.


Though like so many it was not resolved on the battlefield but through lobbying and bribery in parliament. Unlike, say, the Viet Nam war in the USA, the American skirmishes had a negligible impact on the British purse.


America had the largest economy in the world after our civil war in 1860s.

WW2 left us as one of two superpowers, but we have been highly productive for a while, and a lot of that is due to our 'protestant work ethic' that keeps us wealthy but also overworked.


The way you feel isn’t unusual; many Americans feel this way. Then you get older, or sick, or both, and the system you loved so much and gave so much to will discard you like a piece of trash, without even a second thought. And at that point you may begin to feel differently. But enjoy the feeling while you can - it will not last forever.


as a highly ambitious person who wants to win no matter the cost

This seems at odds with "I want to kill myself for the firm, and work as hard as humanly possible". That is losing, not winning.


Just so you know usa is ranked 10 in GDP. I don't think being the richest means much, but USA is not the richest https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PP...


Nearly all of the ones ahead of the USA are clearly city-states or oil/gas sources. Both are unreasonable comparisons. The city-states could properly be compared with Manhattan. The oil/gas sources may have a high GDP, but the typical people tend to be in poverty. Ireland and Switzerland are the only clear exceptions, and both are rather small countries. Norway is an oil/gas source, but might also be an exception because things are run a bit better than they are in the typical oil/gas source.

fastball 30 days ago [flagged]

Pretty disingenuous to say GDP when you mean GDP PPP.

The US does have the highest GDP (by a large margin).


Fine by me, but it's meaningless since it's not adjusted. And anyway, still not the case

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(no...

fastball 30 days ago [flagged]

You're really not very good at this.

GDP per capita is not the same as GDP.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nomi...


You repeatedly crossed into personal attack and incivility in this thread. We ban accounts that do that. Would you mind reviewing the site guidelines and using HN as intended in the future? We'd appreciate it greatly.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


To remind you, it's a post about working in another country, the GDP makes even less sense in this context if you don't put it per capita.

fastball 30 days ago [flagged]

You were presumably responding to "America is the most rich and powerful country in the world", since that is the only relevant portion of the comment you replied to where interjecting a comment about GDP would make any sense at all.

The US, as a nation, has the highest GDP, and therefore is the wealthiest nation in the world. The individual wealth of Americans is lower than some other countries (but not many), but that is hardly relevant in a discussion about the wealthiest country. If OC had said "Americans are the richest people in the world", you would be right. But OC did not, and being deliberately obtuse does not change that.


I'm gonna stop answering because you're being misleading on purpose, but you can't say the USA is the richest because people in other countries are laid back worker when the GDP per capita is lower than the other mentionned country. It means that there's just more people but that they are quite "less productive" (i personnaly think that's it's a stupid way to judge people productivity though, i just responded to this comment because the author belief was wrong)


> you're being misleading on purpose

I realize you were provoked, but please don't break the site guidelines even when another account is doing so. That's the only way to prevent a downward spiral.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


" ... as a highly ambitious person who wants to win no matter the cost, I couldn't imagine ever working in Europe. "

You can be highly ambitious and work in a balanced culture and still be successful. The fact that you think ambition and work-life balance are mutually exclusive is pretty sad.


What does your company do, and how do you contribute to it?


I live and work in Africa structuring and programming derivatives for a bank. The bank tries to make money and I try to make the bank money.


>Many people (including myself), don't want a laid back work culture. I want to kill myself for the firm, and work as hard as humanly possible. I think I just derive the most happiness from working (though I do like drinking as well).

This was really sad to read.


> Many people (including myself), don't want a laid back work culture. I want to kill myself for the firm, and work as hard as humanly possible. I think I just derive the most happiness from working (though I do like drinking as well). I know a lot of other people like this. Maybe you can call us brainwashed or whatever, but this is how myself and most of my co-workers are.

You have confused your carefully selected sample (assorted by profession, employee preferences, and employer preferences) for the general population.

That is a mistake.


I think the downvotes (that's what gray means right?) are people's way of saying that the personal narrative that defines your life is so boring that your job is the only place you can achieve feelings like that. I feel bad for you so won't downvote. But I'd suggest finding something for that narrative that doesn't coincidentally mean handing your life over to the guy you work for.

He certainly won't complain that your sense of worth is defined by the firm. It's a lopsided semi-co-dependent relationship and kinda weird. I know people like yourself and respect the ethic but there's surely a way to direct that to your own life instead of defining the satisfaction by how well you make another guy money.

Also, the exceptionalism is needless, generalized and is talking down to foreigners as if they don't have similar work ethics. You're not making us look good as Americans by claiming that you'll bend over backwards for bossman and break your back doing so in order to spend an extra dollar at the company store.


Most of us admire artists and musicians who have totally devoted themselves to their craft, and we don’t condescendingly pity their “unhealthy work life balance”. My hero growing up was Feynman, who was doing physics every waking hour (or so I’ve read). It’s not like his estate is going to reap the economic benefits of his work; so was Feynman a pitiful sucker, abused by his university employers? Is it my responsibility not to become too passionate about my work so that I don’t somehow exacerbate the class tensions in our country?

I really don’t understand the logic of your comment and most of the others downvoters. He never said his ambition was to make another guy money; perhaps he’s making a lot of it himself, or regards the money as to some extent incidental. The comments about America aren’t in the best taste, but that doesn’t make it okay to put words in his mouth.


Here's one possible take on the difference of perspective.

There's a distinction to be made in the nature of the output. Feynman's physics work was investigating nature on behalf of humanity. What artists produce is spiritually/intellectually/emotionally edifying for other people. Contrast this with OP's [killing themselves to make a rich banker richer][0], or, say, working on the next addictive mobile game.

This is putting things in the strongest possible light, of course: Feynman also worked on the bomb. Artists can be navel-gazers. And some people break their backs working for a company that is "curing cancer". So it's not black and white.

[0]:https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20196385


To my mind that isn’t a meaningful distinction. If an artist is doing no harm, and is meanwhile enthralled by his work and his individual notions of beauty or truth or excellence, then I admire his vitality. I don’t know what OP does, but I similarly appreciate his passion.

I do believe that much of the heat he’s taking is from people projecting their own insecurity and lack of fulfillment, or some other form of jealousy. I suspect that, because I used to be ashamed to feel that sickly, condescending impulse in myself, before I had found a purpose (I.e. a domain of application) for my engineering work that I believe in. I used to have the usual bifurcation of work versus life, and y’know what? Turns out it can get a lot fking better! If OP isn’t hurting anyone, more power to him.


> I do believe that much of the heat he’s taking is from people projecting their own insecurity and lack of fulfillment, or some other form of jealousy.

Are you new here? A lot of us in this community have found fulfillment and happiness through the opposite mindset of OP. Compounded by his tone it’s not a surprise he’s taking heat.

> If OP isn’t hurting anyone, more power to him.

OP wants to “win”, which is usually a way to say he wants to be above others.


When athletes speak in a competitive tone and express a desire to win, does it offend you?


First I'm not offended. This is of course not comparable with athletes because athletes compete in a game with a clear defined goal. In real life there is no goal to win. And if you set your own personal goal to maximize your own wealth (which I have no problem with btw), then at least it's basic economy understanding that it's not a zero sum game, you don't win at the expense of others, that any trade is for the mutual benefit of the parties, and that your wealth also depend on the wealth of the society as a whole (otherwise obviously your money would just be a piece of paper). You earn money because you provide value to people.

But I can understand how working as a derivative trader with one big number to increase like in a video game can narrow your perspectives, to the point of having the pretention of being a winner on top of that.


I still don’t understand the derision. An athlete is indeed a useful analog. They speak of ‘winning,’ but we tend to assume they mean ‘be the best at the sport,’ not ‘be the most valuable human being’ or ‘dominate other people’, a sentiment I didn’t automatically project onto OP. Even in a real life arena where wealth isn’t conserved, you can still ‘win’ in the sense of increasing it faster than anyone else, and I didn’t automatically assume OP meant otherwise. Finally, I don’t understand why it’s wrong let alone distasteful for OP to form a psychological relationship to his labor similar to an athlete’s, even if his work isn’t a game, if that works for him; how is he beholden to anyone else’s idea of what ought to make him happy? Your point of view appears to me to boil down to “I specifically don’t like derivatives traders,” or some other gut-level attitude, which would be fair enough on its own and might find easy agreement with me were it not being rationalized in this way.


Well I'll say one thing about the "heat", I didn't expect this thread to get so noisy and thought my post was going to defuse it so now I regret that. I thought I was being nice.

Anyway, speaking of projection. I'm not the one that said a single thing about domain or work-life balance. You're making up stuff in your brain based on your just-stated tendency towards a false sense of superiority. Which is funny given the point of my damned original post.

Whatever. I give up. I'm only here because the site for and by hackers doesn't have an account delete button.


> “I think the downvotes (that's what gray means right?) are people's way of saying that the personal narrative that defines your life is so boring that your job is the only place you can achieve feelings like that. I feel bad for you so won't downvote.“

Okay... Maybe it came out not as intended, or maybe I misinterpreted it, but this statement shocked me with its (in my interpretation) condescension. “So boring”, ”I feel bad for you,” being I suppose the key phrases. What I had recalled was my own former inferiority complex, of which I believed I saw an echo in your post and many others’ responses. It no longer occurs to me to feel offense (as in many other comments) or pity (as in yours) when someone else speaks in a competitive tone of a singleminded desire to “win,” whatever winning happens to mean to them, and I now regard such reactions as irrational and egocentric, whatever internal mechanism they arise from. To illustrate, I’d predict many of the commenters would to varying degrees celebrate an athlete expressing himself in a similar manner (the most famous example I guess being Muhammad Ali, but there are many other such personalities in individual and team sports), and I believe that is primarily because athletes are in a profession they don’t identify with and therefore cannot locate any basis on which to feel either psychologically threatened or in any other way contrast with their own choices. But I may still be missing nuance in your individual comment.

Both the OC and your assumption that he is “handing [his] life over to the guy [he] works for” seem to me to be speaking pretty squarely of the popular notion of work-life balance. Perhaps I’m again missing some nuance there.

Anyhow, it’s not important. Hope you have a nice week.


I’ve said this before in another thread, that it baffles me how so many people in this community, who I presume are terribly rigorous about their degrees of certainty with various technical matters at work, nevertheless know exactly what everyone else should do in some barely specified life situation.


On the contrary, I'm the only one not judging this guy by his profession. As a result their mindset and platitudes look just as pitiable and silly to me than if he were to make a post saying that he works as a grocery clerk.

P.S. Sincere apologies to clerks, you deal with the shit and are respected. Just using as a point about perception and weird notions of what people wear as badges of honor.

Edit: I also don't believe Feynman or any other scientist would define his life by the uni he researched for just as I don't believe an artist would define himself by his job with coca-cola


Maybe OC doesn't care about "making us Americans look good"?

Talk about emphasizing your personal narrative.

esjeon 29 days ago [flagged]

I'm rolling on the floor, kiddo.

First of all, such aggressive attitude is certainly not sustainable. Once you break down, the firm will simply replace you with someone else. A professional is someone who functions reliably and efficiently, not some self-acclaimed rockstars who blindly charge into every random things. Such have never been a key factor in businesses. I would call you and your co-workers mere kids in that sense. facepalm

America became rich mainly because of its geopolitical advantages. Were you sleeping in your history class? America isn't tech dominant if you're talking outside IT. Protestant work ethic? Americans are lazy cockroaches compared to Asians. Greatness? Nazi was also after its own greatness.

Ambitious? People like you are merely covering up their own existential crisis with something fancy, like being rich, being a winner, being better, living up to others' expectation, etc. Ambition became such a low thing these days, eh?

You lack vision, kiddo. You don't have clear vision of your life. All you're saying is, if you try hard, you'll live a good life. That's the last thing you should believe.


Personal attacks and flamewar will get you banned here. Please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and don't post like this to HN.


Anecdote. I came to America from Iceland two years ago and I would say: “It’s complicated”. When I arrived I received much higher salary combined with a lower cost of living, more cultural variety, etc. But at the same time I left behind 4 weeks of paid vacation, 9 months of maternity/paternity leave, free education, a public health insurance, etc.


US and Canadian citizens can get Permit C (unconditional residency permit) after 5 years on Permit B (employment-bound permit). Citizenship is 5 more years after that. For EU citizens I think it's even simpler. For all other countries it's 10+10 years.


> US and Canadian citizens can get Permit C (unconditional residency permit) after 5 years on Permit B (employment-bound permit).

5 years satisfies the time requirement for American and Canadian citizens (and certain other countries) but they still have to satify the other requirements, the most burdensome of which is learning the local language. In Zürich, you have to learn A2 level German specifically (which actually isn't too hard) but this varies by canton.

> Citizenship is 5 more years after that.

Mostly, just note that in addition, you have to have been living in the canton and commune in which you want to obtain citizenship for a certain amount of time.

Also, integration is a requirement for citizenship. What this means varies by commune but the main thing is that you've learned an official language to a working level (B1 I think).

> For all other countries it's 10+10 years.

As a third country national you can obtain a residence permit (C) within 5 years by integration. Integration mainly means learning the local language to a particular level, which varies by canton (in Zürich it's B1 German).

I believe time spent living on a B permit counts towards citizenship so you can do it in 5+5 no matter where you're from, just like the US.


In theory. I looked into emigrating to Switzerland a few years ago and I was told that getting a work permit was nearly impossible as a US citizen. Swiss companies have to prove that they can't find an EU passport holder with the expertise necessary for the job before they can hire an American or any other non-EU passport holder.

Unless something has changed?


What that really means is that they need to have a job ad open for 3 months that they didn't hire someone else into before they can justify hiring a non-EU citizen. It helps if you're doing something specialized or have some intersection of skills for the justification, but it isn't insurmountable, just hard enough so that they only get the people who really want it.


Do you know an American or Canadian who was hired this way? Or is this speculation?


Me, twice (I changed jobs). However what I do is fairly specialized, so I'm not surprised they weren't able to find someone qualified in 3 months.

The other part of making it hard is so that the employer doesn't undertake the effort unless they really need the person and can't do with a local. I know the company made an exception for me, as they did for one other employee, but for the most part their policy is not to hire non-Swiss/EU citizens due to the administrative burden.


Thanks for setting me straight! I'll give it another shot after I've chosen a handle for my T-shape. I'm probably a bit too generalized to pull this off right now.


The cost of living in relative terms, compared to average salaries, is actually rather low. Rents, food is all really expensive judging from the numbers, but you get to keep a larger amount. Switzlerland is expensive for tourists - but for citizens not so much.


So the starting salary for software developers in Switzerland is higher than that in the US?


Reductionist question.

If you're goal is to get someone to "admit" that a software engineer can get paid more in San Francisco than Switzerland, I guess you've won your argument. You can still tell yourself America is the Best Country in the World™.

But as the article indicates, the net worth of the average Swiss is twice that of the average American. The Swiss have found a way to leverage a higher tax rate to less out of pocket cost for their citizens. So you get 20000$ more bucks a year as an American, and then you go ahead and spend it on health insurance or driving a car everywhere.


Besides San Francisco and New York I also think that the average software developer gets paid a lot more in Switzerland, especially tons more than in surrounding countries. The only caveat is that you are usually expected to speak German and/or french (there are jobs without that requirement, but one of those two languages will really make your life a lot easier).


I never claimed that America is the Best Country in the World™. In fact, I'm participating here because I'm living in the US and considering a move.

Net income is a better measure than net worth, and net income is higher in the US than in Switzerland -- both in absolute terms and relative to the respective cost of living.

Why is net income a better measure? Well, for one thing, if a country's economy is in danger of imploding and people can guess that that is so, they'll start saving more money. Living from paycheck to paycheck is irrational in any country, but it is less irrational the stabler the government and the economy of your country.

Lack of stability or more precisely the perception thereof is part of the reason personal savings rates are higher in China than in the US for example.


This is the first time I've heard that the reason Americans aren't saving money is because of their confidence in the USD. Typically the reasons are that they can't afford their healthcare or housing costs, or are just financially illiterate.

If I wasn't confident in my currency, why would I save in it? The collapse of my government destroys my investment at the same time.


I refer not to confidence in the currency, but rather confidence in their ability to remain employed.


Simple salary doesn't give the entire picture, though.

A doctor generally makes more in the US than, say, Norway. The Norwegian doctor, however, doesn't necessarily have a school loan since tuition isn't charged. If they live in a city, they don't need a vehicle, to pay health insurance, and their children's health care is free. The doctor gets maternity leave and they get paid sick leave if needed.

They probably pay a bit more tax, but it isn't crushing.

The entire life cost structure is simply different - without including some of these quality of life things in with the costs, it isn't a fair comparison.


I can not tell for the starter salary, but 100000-120000$ is rather the norm (say it was offered to me without any haggling) and contractors (short term employees) make around 150k-250k.


The single metric of "cost of living by country" is misrepresenting reality in certain areas, let me tell you why.

USA on average is cheaper than Switzerland, sure. You are correct on that front. But you never live "in a country", you live in a specific city!

Try comparing Bay Area with Switzerland, or even better, San Francisco with Zurich, and you'll get a very different picture. Let's look at it quickly.

One of the most important metrics to determine real cost of living is "Cost per square foot" (or square meter) to buy a house/apartment in the city center.

San Francisco and Zurich are both at ~$1,200 per square foot [0], but San Francisco is more expensive on pretty much any other metric, and remember that home prices are affected (reduced) by a much higher property tax in San Francisco compared to Zurich.

Renting a 1-bedroom in downtown SF is at ~$3,410, compared to a bit more than half (!) in Zurich at ~$1,790. [0].

In 2019, San Francisco displaced Zurich as the city with the highest salaries [1, page 8].

So, to summarize: San Francisco is actually more expensive than Zurich.

[0]: https://www.numbeo.com/property-investment/compare_cities.js...

[1]: https://www.dbresearch.com/PROD/RPS_EN-PROD/PROD000000000049...


It is extremely difficult to calculate cost of living. Sure, I might pay more in VAT, but if I'm also not stressed out about paying high medical bills and getting, in general, more money, the higher cost of living isn't so bad. For that higher cost of living, you get real benefits and a real safety net.

You get none of that in the US.

You might actually lose benefits if you switch states, and even when you do gain it isn't generally because everyone gets those benefits, but simply that you get them from one particular company as long as you don't get sick and get fired.


The point isn't that all of america should move to Switzerland but that America can take some Swiss ideas and implement them here.

In Switzerland, your neighborhood votes on whether you should become a citizen.


>In Switzerland, your neighborhood votes on whether you should become a citizen.

I didn't know that. That's very cool.

You're also the only person who's right about the point of the article. It seems like most people here didn't read it yet responded with half-cocked tribalism.

That said implementation would be difficult. The youngest voting block would need to be inspired en masse to participate in local government. Municipal and County first, then State.

That would be a realistic source of change. The current status quo has no incentive to implement changes like this.

The other hurdle is that even at a local level America has a brand of corruption that blocks this sort of progress if it doesn't have enough popular momentum. It's not just political. It's related to taxes and how money is moved around and handled that the article hints at. For example, America has a lot of small businesses that sell many different things but their one real job is cleaning money.

There's also the fact that historically American culture is more competitive and exclusive socially than places like Switzerland. Getting people here to work together and look beyond their differences for something that's just practical problem solving is easier said than done.


  In Switzerland, your neighborhood votes on whether you should become a citizen.
In the USA, you'd be vilified as a NIMBY for far less.


Correct, yet the average swiss citizen has twice has much net worth, so I guess the higher cost of living doesn't result in less money in their pocket.


I mean yeah, Switzerland is a great place to live if you're rich.


It's also a great place to live if you're not rich, because of their incredible welfare system compared to our own.


If you are a EU citizen you have the same rights as a native swiss citizen so the path to citizenship(if you really want it) might be easier.


I recently moved from working for a US company to working for a CH one. There’s some disadvantages, like people not giving their all at work slowing things down. Compared to the previous role, it’s glacial. But no on call, 6 weeks vacation, and 8% pension contribution from the company that I don’t even have to match is a good trade-off. Work is always going to be frustrating, but I’m at a point in my life that I’d rather be frustrated at being forced to work a maximum of 37.5 hours per week (tracked with timesheets) than frustrated at unrealistic deadlines and the cult of appearing to get things done.


> There’s some disadvantages, like people not giving their all at work slowing things down. Compared to the previous role, it’s glacial.

Maybe they've figured out that getting work done as fast as possible isn't the end goal of all human existence.


What's the deal with people putting 120% efforts at work. It's clear that this is not necessary (for example - Switzerland is just fine). Put a steady 60-80% and bump it up to 100% when things get rough. I truly don't get it, sometimes it feels like people simply want to spend lives at work rather than do something else.


It’s frustrating for the things that should take a couple of hours but take 3-4 weeks, like laptop replacements or deploying new monitoring software or upgrading build tools or fixing a broken master branch. But ultimately those things don’t objectively matter and leaving at 5:45 to spend time with my family objectively does.


Why do so many technology breakthroughs and successful companies get founded in the US, compared to Europe, then? Why do so many Europeans go off to work for US companies? There must be something beneficial about the US approach.


I know this is a troll but: VCs have more funding available and are less risk-adverse, employees are easier to underpay/overwork (rip unions), corporate oversight is less burdensome.

This is the first job outside of the public sector that I’ve seen union materials prominently displayed on internal notice boards.


> I know this is a troll

I can't understand how my point could be considered trolling.

People seem to vote with their feet - they often choose US employers over European ones.

The employers with the best conditions and pay in Europe are often US employers! For example local offices of Google.


> The employers with the best conditions and pay in Europe are often US employers!

Could this be because theyre being subsidized by an exploited American workforce? They're certainly profiting off weaker data regulation in the USA.

Anyway, it seems trolly because it'd be like arguing "well the Egyptians have pyramids, and the non slave holding civilizations don't. Clearly they're doing SOMETHING right."

Lots of people are leaving America, as well. Most can't afford to. The ones that can afford international lifestyles aren't really burdened as much by the negative aspects of America - they can get good insurance through a company that can afford it, they can afford to Lyft everywhere to make up for the lack of public transit, they can flex during salary negotiations for longer PTO.

How many impoverished in Europe are "voting with their feet" to come to the first world country with the worst safety net out of all of them? Imagine the innovations that could come from America if it actually invested in its population.

The idea that Europe is not innovative is a bit of a myth anyway. This is a fun read: https://ec.europa.eu/growth/industry/innovation/facts-figure...

Btw, Sweden is measured as the "most innovative" country in the EU. So in a system of first world countries with socialized education and healthcare, and despite detractors on this forum of their allegedly "high cost of living" they're still standing out amongst their peers.


I left the US to Finland for one third the salary and twice the taxes, but I gained a priceless work-life balance.

My work colleagues are relentlessly competent, and part of that competence is valuing family and leisure.


Sure, agreed. But I mean why would you, or me, or any other particular person do that?

Confession on the topic: I feel guilty investing in US equity markets, earning hard bucks on the backs of people that put 120% labor efforts instead of enjoying their lives.


Do more Europeans go off to work for US companies than vice versa? I’m not up on the stats.


Or a very large homogeneous home market.


> Work is always going to be frustrating

I had a direct report with this problem. We talked about it and I helped him to realize that his previous situation was unhealthy.

He was used to crunch, he was used to feel a hero for delivering at the cost of his own health and without time for his girlfriend.

After the long talk he recognized that he was missing the adrenaline, he was so used to the stress that he was missing it. With time it got better.

Feeling needed, the adrenaline rush, that feeling of accomplishment can be addictive. But, like tobacco, it does not mean that it is good for you.



On top of that Switzerland has one-third of the US's GHG emissions per capita

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_greenhous...


My father worked for decades for a Fortune 100 company in the US as a manager and then worked in Switzerland for a few years.

In both scenarios, he had a comfortable life. The US company provided great benefits, a pension, good work hours, and the job in Switzerland was even better.

When I discuss what it's like to work in the technology sector, he doesn't understand it. 1099 contract work with extremely expensive health coverage? I should get a job that provides benefits! Daily long hours or death marches? I need to find a company that provides a better "work/life" balance. Start-ups that don't pay you now but "you have a chance at equity"? I should find one that succeeds.

I'll keep trying.


Are you keep trying because you hope for striking gold sometime or because you can't find a job that resembles the jobs your father worked?


I moved to the US (from France), 15 years ago, I think I made the right choice for a 21 year old in 2004. But today I wouldn't recommend it, by virtually every metric except economic growth, and by most intangibles, I feel that the US had not improved enough and even in many cases declined. The state of education, infrastructure, healthcare, inequality, population health, etc. are worrying.

15 years ago it was a no brainer for most people to consider the US as a career and life option, nowadays I think it's only the case for a certain type of people.


I personally find Switzerland boring and expensive. And I'm not sure your work culture is going to be that different if you work at Google or another tech company.

If I go back to Europe I would go to Portugal or Italy or Spain. These countries are laid back, cheap, have good weather and good food. What else do you want?

London and some cities in France like Bordeaux or Montpellier are insanely fun too.


> These countries are laid back

Have you worked in Italy or Spain? I'm Spanish and laid back at work is not a thing. The main reason I moved to Sweden is for is better work life balance.

Never go to live where you go for vacations, you will be very disappointed.


@kartan, are siestas still a thing in Spain? I always imagined workers in Spain roll into work around 10, work till 2, then a 2-hour break, and then go home around 6. I guess that's wrong?


Depends on the location and sector. Many restaurants still have siestas, maybe not in the tourist-centers of the big cities, but on the country side for sure.

Just like the US and other federated states, Spain has a lot of diversity within it's borders, and a lot of social/economic questions needs the context of "where" to be answered correctly.


No but have many friends there. It depends if you're in the north or the south. Same with Italy.


> It depends if you're in the north or the south

As most work is located in the big cities (Madrid, Barcelona, etc.) that is what most people will experience. But, the South or even the countryside is quite different. I agree with you.


The countries you mentioned (for context, I’m from Spain and moved to Finland many years ago) aren’t laid back when it comes to work. These may offer you some improvement compared to US but you usually get poor salaries and not very good conditions, unless you work for a multinational (but then it’s usually not very exciting place to be in, however depends of your preferences).


If you can find a job there with a good salary then that's probably not a bad choice. It will however be harder than finding one in Switzerland (or Germany).


There's a lot to like here, but

> The Swiss have a culture of professional part-time work ...

Coincidentally, this is the very day that one of the top stories on Swiss broadsheet Tages Anzeiger is about how more people would like to work part-time, but can't because of family commitments: https://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/sonntagszeitung/nur-8-prozent-d...

EDIT: to quote for example "Rund drei Viertel der Eltern mit Vollzeitjob geben das höhere Einkommen als wichtigen Grund für ihr Arbeitspensum an."

Three quarters of parents with full-time jobs said the higher income was an important reason for their full-time work.

Later on it discusses the cost of living and of childcare for a family.

EDIT2: I don't know if it's deliberate that Vox put a video of "Why we should all move to SWEDEN" at the bottom, but I certainly chuckled.


That seems fine to me? The point of part time work is that you can choose between money or time.

In the US there is no choice, generally speaking, as a coder. You can get $120k for 40 hours, but there aren’t many $60k for 20 hours jobs available. You have to freelance basically which is 3 years up front hustle.


jjuhl 30 days ago [flagged]

So the USA is fucked up when it comes to work/life balance and the US has no social system worth anything. Who knew? Well, we all knew. The US has been the laughing stock of the world for decades and the only ones who haven't noticed are the americans. No news here.


Nationalistic flamewar is not ok here.

If you continue breaking the site guidelines we are going to have to ban you. I don't want to do that, so would you please read the site guidelines and use HN as intended from now on?

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


But what shall we do? Not continue to spread the word to our fellow Americans that things can be better? I'm privileged enough to have had opportunities to see how the rest of the world manages societal and economic systems. They do it better. Before I saw for myself, I simply wasn't aware. The American way was The Way.

All it took was for me to see for myself how much better it could be to turn me into an activist to make it better here. I want to spread that message to as many people as possible so we can all try to make America better.


> The US has been the laughing stock of the world for decades and the only ones who haven't noticed are the americans.

Right, it's not like the world has benefited at all from modern innovations from the US. Like the Internet or the US' contributions to medical science and technology or humanitarian efforts. And why they're not using Google, iPhones or Android devices, watching American movies, etc.

Also please explain why so many have bothered to immigrate to the US in a bid to improve their lives? You think they moved to the laughing stock when they were already in a better situation? Your claim is insulting to American immigrants.

It's also worth noting that over half of unicorn startups and Fortune 500 have immigrant founders. The system is working better than most and has helped the entire world in concrete ways. Does it have flaws? Absolutely. Huge flaws. But let's aim to improve it, not throw the baby out with the bath water.


> Then please explain why so many have bothered to immigrate here and started hugely successful companies?

Because the US has cheap labor (read: low pay) compared to Switzerland?


No, considering most are from places with far cheaper labor. Like India and Asia.

Hiring in the US is expensive with high salaries (especially in tech) and healthcare costs.


> America is the most rich and powerful country in the world

Source needed.


We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20196080 and marked it off-topic.



Not every statement needs a source, especially not that are pretty much general knowledge (but then again that's not the strong side of a lot of people)


Highest GDP + most powerful military doesn't cut it for you?


[flagged]


Military is generally how most people qualify the power of a nation (what we're discussing).

I've never heard anyone try to measure "power" as "how many people can pay their hospital bills", but nice non sequitur. And that is me being generous with what you said. Literally every American can go to a hospital (of which there are very many) whenever they want. The debt they will incur from such a visit is where the controversy lies. But back to measuring "power" with medical coverage: do you seriously consider Singapore to be more powerful than China? Because per capita, Singaporeans get better medical care than Chinese.

Sounds like you want to measure "individual prosperity" or something, but I'm afraid that isn't what was said. This sub-thread is about whether the US as a nation is the wealthiest (check) and the most powerful (check).


If the country your family and all your friends are living in ever gets bombed or invaded, you will care about military.


It’s illegal to turn someone away from the emergency room. I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.


[flagged]


Do you genuinely believe that mitt Romney is at risk for wealth annihilation?


It's not as risky as it might seem.


Transportation is the biggest difference between the us and a lot of the rest of the world. Switzerland is the size of a small New England state. Mass transit is a tough thing to scale.

That said I’ve noticed that a lot of the jobs in the us that would be considered “glamorous” are by and large the lowest paying jobs with the longest hours. Looking past the status of a company and career and looking into the practical details of a job will make finding a fulfilling and well paying job easier. All in all I think the article is not really apples to apples but has some valid points.


I never understood that argument - Bay Area, the (arguably) richest place on this planet is smaller then Switzerland and it's transit system is catastrophic in comparison to SBB still.

I get that you can't cover Alabama with Swiss railways, but why the heck is traveling from Zurich a Swiss mountain top in the middle of nowhere still faster and more convenient than getting from SF to Mountain View?


The thing that pisses me off the most about the Bay Area transit system is how slow it is compared to taking a car. I don’t understand how you can build a rail system that ends up taking 2x longer to get from point A to point B. Even aside from the spotty coverage it’s ridiculous how the train can take longer from station to station than driving


I, too, can't believe how many times I've been Caltrain in an Uber Pool.


From my perspective this is how I see mass transit in the US, and I am 100% for changing the status quo here. READ: Im for sensible, reliable and safe public transit systems by train/bus/subway/ whatever.

In Houston, there have always been proposals for hub and spoke train service from the burbs to downtown. They get shot down repeatedly, usually on grounds of imminent domain fights. High speed rail from Houston to Dallas is proposed every so often and will likely arrive on the same time scale is fusion energy. (perpetually 10 years away). Dallas is actually an example of a sane train system, and I quite enjoyed using the Dart when I worked there for 6 months a few years ago.

If you happen to use the public transit in many urban areas of the US, people don't seem to want to take care of these sorts of things, so they usually get pretty grimy and in a state of disrepair quickly. People (rightly or wrongly) fear for their safety as sometimes these trains harbor those with drug problems or other mental illness.(separate and equally important issue to work on here)

The projects that do get off the ground seem to turn into boondoggles that blow their budget 10x or more and end up serving 1/10th of the proposed areas. California comes to mind as an example of this recently. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-california-governor-rail/...

I admit it was impossible to glean this from my comment and it would be easy to see what I said as anti mass transit and all of the political baggage that carries with it. That isn't the case here. Pragmatically speaking, though you are misguided if you think that it is as easy to implement rail and other forms of mass transit in the US vs a small European country. That is not to say its impossible, or that other countries haven't done it. But I do stand by my statement that rail projects in Switzerland are not the same as those in the US. Its not apples to apples.

In my opinion, for this sort of thing to take off in the US, it would take a sea change in how most people view urban living. That means people will need to decide that they don't need a 4-5k sq foot home in the burbs with a 30-40 mile commute every day...


Out-of-control NIMBYism.

Not sure why Switzerland doesn't experience that, but there you go.


I live in the wealthiest and most successful city in the history of world civilization and I can’t take a fucking train to any of the three massive airports. In fact recently at LaGuardia it’s been so dysfunctional that’s it’s impossible to be picked up by cars.

Meanwhile, not too long ago I was in Lucerne, where I got on a train and then got off an hour or two later 100 feet from the check in counter at Zurich airport, a completely different city.

They could do this in NYC if they wanted to. They don’t. It’s not because of the size of the country.


Other than LaGuardia sucking all around, this complaint is completely invalid. You can take multiple subway lines directly to JFK from Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. I do it myself all the time. You can take the E from Manhattan directly to the AirTran in under an hour. You can get there from Queens and Brooklyn even faster. NJ Transit trains (which you can get from midtown Manhattan) go directly to a Newark Airport monorail.

Mass transit in NYC has problems, but it's one of the most connected places on earth.


> You can take multiple subway lines directly to JFK

You're kidding right?

You can take a subway line to downtown Jamaica Queens, or to the fringes of a remote airport parking lot in Howard Beach, but you most certainly cannot take a subway anywhere near an actual JFK airport terminal.

As you point out, you can then walk hundreds of yards and navigate several sets of stairs or elevators to have the privilege of paying five bucks to get on the useless and slow "AirTrain" people mover and wait another 20 minutes and walk another hundred yards into the terminal.

In the rest of the world they take trains -- real trains, actual trains that go places -- and they run them into the terminals. You get on a train at a subway or train station in the center of the city and you get off in an airport, not 3 miles from an airport. If you've never experienced this go to Zurich, or London, or Munich, or like almost anywhere else.

They way we do it is insane. They're spending billions of dollars to totally renovate LGA right now and they still can't get this basic concept right.


> Switzerland is the size of a small New England state. Mass transit is a tough thing to scale.

If tomorrow all of Europe and Asia was unified into one giant continent-spanning country, would building mass transit there suddenly become more difficult?


Yes because the number of stake holders that need to be satisfied and the number of edge cases would increase massively.

Look at public transit systems throughout the west whenever they get expanded it's a long painful process because of all the new stakeholders being added and the new edge cases that get brought to light.

Edit: Down-voted because inconvenient opinion or down-voted because wrong?


Perhaps because you don't state any mechanism on how the borders of a country increase the complexity of building a particular transit system - you just assert that it is so. Surely the number of stakeholders is more related to proximity, than borders? And China, Russia, and Canada are all large countries, but seem to manage decent mass transit.

In sum, you provide a shaky, ad-hoc justification on why it's more difficult if the country is larger, and ignore counterexamples.


>Perhaps because you don't state any mechanism on how the borders of a country increase the complexity of building a particular transit system

This is HN. I shouldn't have to exhaustively spell out every detail like I'm on Reddit. I think that stating that a mass transit system that covers more people and more area leading to more stakeholders with more opinions who need to be pleased is more than enough. Presumably most people here have jobs where they work with other people and should be familiar with how increasing the number of stakeholders and/or coverage of a project increases technical and political complexity.

Look at the history of public transit in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area for an example of political complexity scaling with the number of people and different jurisdictions covered.

>China

The land of "the subway is going here, don't like it then screw you".

>Russia

Which built out most of it's infrastructure back when it could operate similarly to China does today.

I would think it would go without saying that having a government that unilaterally steamrolls any opposition to its public works projects is not a practical solution for mass transit in the west.

>Canada

In basically all of Canada you "need" a car. Most here would say that means they don't have good mass transit.


Really love what they’ve done in Vancouver with the sky train.


> Transportation is the biggest difference between the us and a lot of the rest of the world. Switzerland is the size of a small New England state. Mass transit is a tough thing to scale.

I don't buy this argument. "We are much bigger than $OTHER_COUNTRY therefore we can't have comparable public transport".

I concur that for the whole country this might be a viable argument but it doesn't explain why the public transport in metropolitan areas are also often not good at all.


I wonder how many people that don’t buy that argument have driven across the USA a few times?


The commenter restricted it to metro areas and I concur. There is not too much difference in density from cities like Seattle and San Francisco from European cities. I don’t think we should be building high speed rail from Anchorage to Lincoln, NE but there is no reason we can’t have a ubahn/sbahn system in each large city and high speed rail down the coasts


>There is not too much difference in density from cities like Seattle and San Francisco from European cities.

Not sure I can get on board with that. It's the number of cities.

Switzerland has ONE city with a population over 250k. USA has EIGHTY EIGHT or so over 238 times the area. That matters where you invest, how you build, etc.

As to why we can't have high speed rails, ask California.


> Mass transit is a tough thing to scale.

Is it? Russia is the largest country on the planet and they have had mass transit figured out for nearly a century.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transport_in_Russia


Have you been there? I really don’t think Russia has it figured out better than the US. Russia’s infrastructure is certainly not close to the level of Europe/Japan or China.


> Have you been there? I really don’t think Russia has it figured out better than the US.

Yes, I live here. Russian transportation absolutely blows anything in the US away, and I've traveled extensively in both countries. Transportation is embarrassing and frustrating for me when I come back to the US. The US is absolutely car-dependent.

Russia has everything from Rail transport (trans-Siberian, etc), city subways (Moscow subway just built a bunch of new lines including a second ring), trams, electric buses, bus systems, marshrutka mini buses, very cheap taxis (uber & yandex).

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/14/Mo...

> Russia’s infrastructure is certainly not close to the level of Europe/Japan or China.

Fair enough, but their low tech solutions are cost effective and solve the problem.

https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2018/07/20/moscow-public-tran...


I really wish we had marshrutka in the States.


Agreed, but I'd exclude marshrutkas from this list :) This is not something you want in a good public transportation system.


Be fair )). Marshrutki are the fastest way to get from region to region as long as you don't care about your well-being or appearance when you get there ;) When I need to get 15km across town fast in SPB rush hour I take a marshrutka.

Jokes aside, I honestly am surprised megastores haven't come up with an equivalent in the US. Last I visited my family, I was frustrated because in an admittedly small City, a walk to a grocery store that was 1 mile away as the crow flies was either a 3 mile walk on safe paths or required the car. It just seems logical to me that you can bring more people in to spend if they can actually get to your location. Uber and other taxi-likes aren't really the same because the cost for a private ride is prohibitive for some to use it regularly like you'd use a marshrutka. But surely Walmart, shopping malls/centers, and other such commerce areas would benefit from a string of vans on regular intervals just picking up and dropping people off on a direct route.


You don't think US cities have mass transit? The NYC subway[0] is 30 years older than the Moscow Metro[1], if you want to talk about "having things for a century".

The US has train lines that cross the entire country as well. No HSR, which is what is needed, but then again neither does Russia.

Here is a map of transcontinental railroads in the US in 1887[2].

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York_City_Subway [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moscow_Metro [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcontinental_railroad#/med...


> You don't think US cities have mass transit?

No, they are a hilarious joke. NYC metro is a dirty cesspool that can't build anything within budget. Marta in ATL doesen't go anywhere and hasn't added a new line in decades. Everyone knows how bad BART is.

Also, it's generally more expensive to take Amtrak than fly. And Amtrak goes nowhere vs the Russian train systems. Just pull up a map to compare.

And Russia does have some HSR (could use some more): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-speed_rail_in_Russia


Interesting that you decided to exclude Boston, Chicago, DC, and Philly from your list.

NYC is a massively overbuilt city, much of which is on an island of bedrock. It wouldn't be any better if it was in Russia with the same geography.

Not sure how Amtrak being more expensive than flying is relevant. Plus, I don't think you want to compare train coverage in the US vs Russia. Most of Russia's land area doesn't have good train coverage.


But most of the places where people actually live, does. Nobody needs trains to the middle of the Siberian tundra. Middle of south Dakota, on the other hand...


So what you're saying is... the population distribution of Russia and the US are different and therefore present different problems?


We can include Boston if you'd like; it's awful too. The commuter rail fails on a daily basis in the summer and winter. The buses are persistently late and/or bunched up because they get stuck in traffic. (Feedback loop here, of course: the worse transit is, the more people decide to drive.) The T is overcrowded during peak hours and utterly unpredictable outside of them.


Possibly has good coverage for SPB, Moscow....how about the other large cities?

I will say for the cost of living in both countries Russia has a good ratio of infra to cost, but still not convinced it’s higher quality than US.


I'm another person who's been there.

I've lived for three years in the Bay Area and travelled to a few other US cities (LA, Seattle, Portland, Orlando, Chicago) and surprisingly, even the smaller Russian cities I've visited mostly blow the US out of the water in terms of public transit and are a lot better in other aspects too.

The city I stay in the most, where my wife is from, has a population of 110k, is absolutely not wealthy and is pretty far away from Moscow and St. Petersburg.

In terms of local transit, there are frequent and affordable minibuses (Marshrutki) with stops all over the place. They cost (in this city) 17 rubles, which at the moment is around a quarter US. My mother in law is on a teacher's salary which is quite low and has no issues with affordability. I think the longest I waited for one was ~5 minutes.

For regional transit, there are trains to and from the nearest airport and larger city, as well as the capital. From there you can take trains to Moscow and from there most of the rest of Russia. The trains are also fairly affordable, particularly if you go for the lowest class (which is admittedly something most Americans wouldn't be comfortable with).

There are of course also planes.


Between major cities, anyway.

In the Far East and north, Salekhard-Igarka is still unfinished after over 70 years, even with years of slave labor.


> Transportation is the biggest difference between the us and a lot of the rest of the world. Switzerland is the size of a small New England state. Mass transit is a tough thing to scale.

What about railways in China? I don't think size matters, it's more a question of political will: take Germany (or even worse the UK) and France and compare their train systems, France is just light years ahead in terms of low prices and fast speeds, all other factors (country size, economy, terrain) are pretty similar.


I’m not sure transportation is as important as, say, healthcare or work/life balance.


It's a vital part of it.

It's much healthier to walk bike or ride transit to work and daily activities. Additionally, being closer to everything means less stress and more free time (better work/life balance).


Yeah but it doesn’t have anything to do with my healthcare premiums being more than my rent, or my boss making me work 80 hour weeks without overtime and a measly 2 weeks per year vacation which I am discouraged from taking.

Those are far more pressing issues imho.


Pressing, yes, but between the two of us you can tackle those issues that are near and dear to you (while garnering benefit for us all) while I focus on transportation. There's no need for every person to focus on the same issue - otherwise we better all head out to Africa and start irrigating, or something else that has the greatest Utility.


> Yeah but it doesn’t have anything to do with my healthcare premiums being more than my rent

Fair enough.


Is Switzerland producing anything like SpaceX? Or Google? Or Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Tesla, Stripe, Y Combinator?

More importantly, would we have produced these with their system? If so, then great, but let's see the evidence.

No problem to have a work culture preference, and things could definitely be improved(!!), but I think we're kidding ourselves that there are no tradeoffs and everything would simply be better. And that we'd still have the same rate of innovation.

Also a lot of people like that stores are open on Sundays.


Nestle, Novartis and Roche can easily compare to the companies you mentioned. Especially since they deal with healthcare and food supply which might be even more important than PR heavy billionare projects of throwing cars in the orbit.

I'm also pretty sure that average american has a lot to gain from existence of Apple when they can't pay off their college loans and medical bills. Or go on a proper vacation.


The US has a population 40 times higher, that's not really a fair comparison.

Also: Nestle, Logitech? Just because they don't have shiny frontmen doesn't mean they aren't worthy.

Google also has a large AI research department in Switzerland.


Switzerland is the population of New Jersey over twice the size.

It’s crazy how people don’t have any sense of scale on these things.


You might want to bear Nestle's corporate ethics in mind before touting them as something to be proud of.


Ah yes, Google and SpaceX are well known for their impeccable corporate ethics


After moving from a small city in France to London, I definitely miss Sundays with all store being closed. It's a good break.

Why Switzerland would need a SpaceX, Apple and Google? For the last 2 I would be happier if they wouldn't exists, having more of those would be quite bad :D


So what? How does the average American profit from their existence on their daily lives?


Well if average American or for that matter anyone does not gain anything from Google, Amazon, Apple etc then it would be reasonable to say no one really gains from technological progress.


As if they are the only bearers of progress.

Not to mention that not all kinds of progress are good to mankind.


You probably typed that question using the fruits of one or more of these companies.

Maybe you Google'd something just before that. You've probably saved time and money with Amazon. Everyone benefits from Tesla advancing electric vehicles and sustainable energy. It goes on and on.


Using Firefox here.

Google is not the first search engine, nor it will be the last.

Plenty of other options available.


That doesn't mean something similar couldn't exist without America's hyper-capitalist model.

IMO the most valuable websites on the internet could have been created without a profit motive, like Wikipedia. If an American hadn't invented it, someone else would have, and hackers would have indexed it for a searching one way or the other.

There's little evidence that the American work culture being lambasted by social progressives actually contributes any benefits to the world.


I'd say Switzerland is not unique in this respect - you could switch pretty-much any European country in there and it would be the same deal: 25+ days vacation a year (plus 8 or more public holidays), 37-40 hour working week, universal healthcare, decent public transport.

Just a few comparisons for European equivalents off of the top of my head (there may be better/more well-known):

SpaceX: Ariane Space

Google: Rocket Internet

Apple: Arm


Switzerland is home to many successful businesses and products.


and Facebook?




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