Sunday, 5 June 2011

My New (Business)Home (for the next 4 months)

You may be wondering "Why 'for the next 4 months' if your work contract is for six months?" The answer is one of cost. As I hinted at in my previous post about Serviced Accommodation there are often hidden surcharges to renting in Zurich, and one of these is a penalty surcharge that applies if you don't rent for at least four months (at least in the case of this particular landlord, Businesshome).

General advice from other ex-pats was that I needed at least 2 months, and preferably three, to be in with a chance of finding more permanent accommodation that might be cheaper or suit me better. But Businesshome have a 'short term' surcharge that (from memory) starts off at about UKP180/month and decreases for each additional month you commit to upfront, until it reaches zero if you commit to four months.

In fact, based on my experience to date (tomorrow will be the clincher, based on what happens with the wash facilities on my first 'early start' working day!) I'm likely to extend my rental contract to six months now that I've had a chance to experience living here. It's very convenient for work, with the only down-side of the bus service (which is superb, like most public transport in Switzerland) being that it doesn't run on Sundays, which is going to make return from the occasional 'save my sanity' weekend trips to the UK difficult/expensive.

Yesterday, I spoke to two other residents who've been here four months and six months respectively, and they are more than happy, which is always a good sign. As they pointed out, it's a lot of hassle to move (especially with new deposits to be found BEFORE you get any old deposits back) and it's nice not to have to do any cleaning here!

I have been very impressed with how clean the communal areas are. One or two residents have left things in a pretty disgusting state at times in the WC and the kitchen sink, but each day, including Sundays, a cleaner shows up and makes it all look good as new a couple of hours later.

In my serviced accommodation post, I mentioned there were photo's on the landlords' web site of the communal areas and also of a typical room. Conspicuous by its absence is any photo of the outside of the building. You can probably guess why, looking at my photo below.

The accommodation is less than inspiring from the outside: another bland, concrete office blog. What the web site also omits to mention is that the block is on a busy main road, with the accommodation rooms being on the third and fourth floors of the building, above a 24 hour garage (other floors have small business units). I am having to adjust to sleeping with a fair amount of road noise after living in a quiet road in London. Those housed on the other side of the building tell me it's a lot quieter there.

Outside appearance aside, I think things improve dramatically once you step inside the building. A large entrance with wide marble steps leads past the mail boxes, and the private office of the landlords. They lead up to the first floor foyer with a rather bizarre sculpture, as shown below. Two small lifts and the main stairs are then housed through a door next to the sculpture display area.

Shoe Sculptures
'Interesting' sculptures in the main entrance lobby.

The third floor houses 20 rooms, the laundry area and the kitchen and lounge area. The fourth floor, where I'm living, houses 20 more rooms, mens and womens' WC and shower/sink areas and the cleaner's stockroom area. Security is good: as well as the security door on the main building there is a locked door to each floor, as well as to each room.

As you enter the third or fourth floor security door (or peer through the reinforced glass) you're immediately greeted by a generous (wasted space?) corridor area which seems to be air-conditioned as it's always nice and cool - if only the same were true of the rooms (which on the road-facing side get hot and humid very quickly - my only real problem with the room).

Room corridor
The main corridor with rooms off each side.

The rooms themselves are spacious (more spacious and brighter than these photographs indicate) with large windows that have motorised shutters at night, and rather silly net curtains that are much too narrow to section off the whole window area.

The furniture is clean and modern and includes a generous wardrobe and bookcase and a nice wide bed. Wireless internet connectivity (an optional extra, but a relatively cheap one at just UKP12 a month) seems reliable and relatively fast.

Bed, Desk and Chair with one of two large windows

Bed, Wardrobe and Fridge

Bookcase and single light fitting

They seem to have missed a trick with power sockets though. There's a single cluster of four by the desk, only one of which can be used if you're using a Swiss/English adapter (Power sockets are a subject for a whole different blog post. Euro 'world traveller' plugs won't work here and didn't work in my temporary B&B, where they did in the Movenpick Hotel I used on my quick 'reccie' visit!).

There is an extra socket near the front door, meant for the fridge - except it's too high up the wall for the ridiculously short lead that the mini-fridge comes with. Doh!

All-in-all though I can recommend the accommodation. The cleaners work hard, and the communal areas are very nice. There's even an outside decking area on the back of the building outside the kitchen with barbeque gear and picnic tables and chairs.

'Serviced accommodation' is also a neat way of meeting other people new to Zurich as everyone congregates around the kitchen/decking area in the evenings and at weekends, although German and not English, is definitely the default language. Some of the signs and rules are displayed in German and English but many are in German only, so I find myself wandering around with the iPad and Google Translate trying to work out what the rules are. Apparently if you break a rule (such as no noise between 10pm and 7am, no use of the kitchen between 10.30am and midday) you get one warning and then you're out!

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