Like a Nomad in Search of a Home - Switzerland

This article is a continuation and the second part of the series Like a Nomad in Search of a Home.

More than a year ago, I moved to a new country, Switzerland, to the city of St.Gallen. Instead of renting a proper apartment right away, in my experience, it is best checking out the place first by renting a room in the new location. This allows to find out if this neighbourhood feels right and to slowly integrate by interacting with locals.

After hunting for a room to rent during two days in January of 2012, these were some of the available options:

Room with wine shelf

Room of a student in an apartment shared by undergraduates. When I visited he was unsure if he would eventually move out or not. (I was sure that I needed a place, though...)

Room near University

Room in an apartment with mostly German master students. "Once in while one of us goes to Germany and buys lots of food, because it's cheaper there. Then we have enough for a month. We will split the food; all of us will have their turn in cooking; you can only move out of this apartment if you find a succeeding renter", one of the students explained. (I prefer fresh and more expensive food over low quality and cheap food. I am also afraid of not finding a renter in case I want to leave.)

Small room

Tiny room in apartment with undergraduate students and a huge video game equipment in the common living room. (The room is too small; I am not particularly interested in playing video games)

Apartment with pee odor

This apartment smelled like urine. (Odors are the first thing one notices when entering a place. I believe it has the largest impact on selecting the place or not.)

Rustic room

Advertised as "rustic room". In reality a "transient hotel" located in a hotel. Heavy tobacco smell inside, terrible traffic noise outside. (I left as fast as I came and became more aware of fake ads.)

Room and duty to socialize

Socializing and cooking together is a must in this apartment shared with undergrad students (I don't want to give up my independency and freedom about how to take in meals.)

Room with furniture to buy

"Are you ok with paying for the furniture in the living room?" (I disliked the furniture. But, to qualify as a potential renter I agreed to buy it. I was not selected as a roommate.)

I had many options, but nothing felt suitable. The best option seemed to be to rent this room from this older lady. Later, I would doubt that this was the best option. It was the first time ever that the lady shared her apartment with a stranger and this made live difficult for both of us. There was a long list of what not to do. I felt uncomfortable and completely restricted in my freedom of living. I decided to move out as soon as possible.

Room with shelf, table and bed

My new room at the lady's house.

View of St.Gallen historic town

The view from her living room area. (Not accessible to me)

A good opportunity came up. My co-worker had found a bigger place and offered me to move into her old place. I liked the idea. We made a plan: I had to find a person subletting my room for another two months because I was bound to a contract with this lady. Surprisingly, in a short term, I found a renter and I was free to take over my co-worker's place. A chain of action; all this happened within a week.

I moved in with two suitcases and a few bags. My new place-was all empty of furniture. I did not have to take care of some of the things, which were integrated as a sort of standard in Swiss apartments for rent: kitchen, fridge; washer and dryer were available next door (a bit of less comfort). Surprisingly, no light bulbs where there when I first moved in. One has to hire an electrician here to get the light bulbs in, something I have never experienced anywhere else.

empty kitchen

door and light bulb

empty kitchen

The empty apartment

I bought some of the basics. A lot of the things come from Brockenhaus shops that sell second hand items. This is a good way in Switzerland to buy used stuff, such as shelfs, some kitchen stuff, a table, a chair.

chairs and other furniture

shelf and chair

chairs and other furniture

chairs and and table in kitchen

clothes on hanger

Furniture found in the Brockenhaus; placed in the new home.

I also found objects:

sheet of paper on table

table in room

A homeless table found in the basement of the house serving now as a desk.

plates and glasses

Items left on the street, which I picked up.

I had to purchase some objects:




Newly bought stuff, such as kitchen items and electronics.

The pictures have been taken during and shortly after moving in. After a year, the overall look of the place is the same. The difference is that the apartment has become fuller; there is more stuff, the amount of books has doubled or tripled. Purposely, it has not been turned into a cozy place, yet. Essentials, like for example a sofa, are missing. This is a motivation to move to yet another place.

Brigitte Schuster
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