Unfortunately, Christelle and I are not like most couples; our relationship has never been conventional – coming from different countries, meeting on the other side of the world, living in separate countries for two years, etc – and our married life would also start in an unusual way.
Two days after we tied the knot, I flew back to England and left my new wife in Switzerland, 580 miles away. Some couples who have been married a long time might be thankful to put that kind of distance between them and their partner, but for newlyweds it is somewhat more difficult. As September ended, so did my time as a UK resident, as it was now time to drive over to Switzerland to really start our married life, something else that perhaps makes our relationship unique.
Changing countries means you are effectively starting from scratch, especially as we couldn’t fit any furniture in the car for the drive over – we barely had enough space for our clothes. Fortunately, Christelle’s parents let us live with them in their apartment, so we didn’t have to rush to find somewhere to live, which was just as well considering I had no job and therefore no means to contribute towards the payment of the various bills that come with renting an apartment.
We moved in with Nelly and Bernard, and so went from being newlyweds living in separate countries to being a married couple living with my parents-in-law. Like I said, our relationship is unique.
Christelle had already found a job in Lausanne, so the idea was that I would concentrate on finding employment and adjusting to life in Switzerland whilst we live with Nelly and Bernard. A couple of months later, I still had not found a job, and I think it is fair to say that we were all looking forward to the day when Christelle and I would move into our own apartment.
It’s not that Nelly and Bernard couldn’t wait to get rid of us – in fact, it was quite the opposite, as they continually told us we were welcome to stay with them for as long as we needed, showcasing the incredible generosity that they both have. Nevertheless, we decided it was time to start looking for somewhere to live, somewhere that would be our first real home together in Switzerland. In early December, we started to search for apartments to rent.
The first place we looked at was a studio flat in the same apartment building as Nelly and Bernard. Having visited one or two studios in England when I was looking for a place for Christelle and me to live a couple of years ago, I had a rough idea of what to expect: a small living room / bedroom with a separate area for the kitchen and bathroom, and not really much else.
However, what greeted us when we entered the front door was still quite a shock to me – the entire studio was about as big as the bedroom we had in Nelly and Bernard’s apartment. I tried to imagine how we would fit a bed, wardrobe, sofa and TV in the room, but simply could not picture it as the room was far too small. We would have likely had to put the TV in the kitchen area, or possibly put the wardrobe out on the balcony.
I was surprised to learn that the previous tenants were a family of five – two adults and their three children – who all managed to cram into this one, tiny apartment. I presume they must have all slept in one, giant bunk bed and had only one change of clothes each. I was even more surprised when I found out how much rent we would be charged monthly for the privilege of living in such a small place.
After discussing the pros and cons with Chris, of which the only pro was that we could see her parents often, we decided not to sign for the apartment, preferring instead to leave it for another family of midgets to take in the future.
When I saw the price of the monthly rent for the tiny studio apartment, I began to worry that we could not afford anything larger, given than we would only have Chris’ salary to use for paying the bills. However, the determination to find our own place to live – somewhere that we could really call home – spurred us on, and we began to search for other apartments.
In Switzerland they describe apartments and houses differently to how we would describe them in England. I was used to seeing adverts along the lines of “two bedroom house” that then list the different rooms that come with the property. In Switzerland, they instead refer to how many pièces there are in the apartment, along with the total amount of floor space (in square metres) of the property.
For example, I found adverts for “1.5 pièce apartment, 30m²”, which would basically mean the apartment has a bedroom and living room/kitchen, spread over a floor space of 30m². This took a little bit of getting used to, but eventually I was able to search for apartments that seemed large enough for us.
The first place we visited as part of our search was an apartment that took up the ground floor of a villa in Blonay, a village that is situated north of Montreux. It had a recently-refurbished kitchen and a bedroom that had a wardrobe built in to the wall, as well as a living room, a second bedroom, a garage and a separate utility room (for laundry). Each room was pretty small, particularly the second bedroom – the couple currently living there had a bunk bed in this room for their two children, and there was absolutely no space for anything else.
It also had a small window that gave the kids a nice view of the garage. The front door opened into the living room (in front of where the TV was), and there was barely enough space to fit a two seat sofa in the room. The garage was a plus, but the driveway that we would have had to use was incredibly steep, and my little Peugeot 106 would have had a lot of difficulty climbing and descending the slope to the apartment in the winter time, when ice and snow would make it virtually impossible to get the car out onto the road.
|Nice view, shame about|
the apartment itself...