St.Gallen Architecture

There are a lot of positive things to be said about St.Gallen’s beautiful old city centre, the impressive shop fronts, the stately churches and cathedral, the distinctive old manors, farm houses and residences.

However, for some reason the City authorities, the architects and the locals themselves seem to be intent on ruining all of this with concrete monstrosities completely out of character with the surroundings.

This is the latest, almost completed, St.Gallen Blood Bank. Although it is just about to be put into use, it already looks as if it was built sometime in the 1980s…

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Gyms and Fitness

St.Gallen is pretty well served when it comes to gyms but not so good in terms of the variety of courses and group fitness available. The problem seems to be space with many gyms having a shortage of space for group activities. Below is a little map for you of the gyms in St.Gallen, but first a few general pointers:

– first, gym membership can be expensive in Switzerland. So is your health insurance. But many insurance companies will reimburse the cost of annual gym membership. This can be from about 200-800 CHF but varies between companies and can depend on your policy conditions, so check!

– consider getting the Migros ‘Intercity-Card‘. For CHF 1450, it gives access to lots of places around Switzerland in case you need to workout in a random city. More importantly it includes the swimming pool, fitness and wellness rooms at Säntis Park and Hotel Einstein – both great facilities.

– if you are a student, use the university’s facilities! They have a great range of clubs and a gym for free.

– group fitness choices are fairly limited. The Klubschule Migros has the best range of courses but not necessarily the best in quality or at the right time. Definitely the place to check first though. There is no Crossfit in St.Gallen at the moment (sorry!) but Zumba has completely taken over. Plenty of yoga and pilates and a lot of random one-off courses.

– there is a women only gym but very few courses. Just a fitness room I’m afraid…

Restaurant review: ChinaTown

Score: 8/10

A handy guide to the cost of living are the Chinese restaurants. For a town of 70,000 people there are surprisingly few Chinese restaurants. The cost of a Chinese meal for two varies from about CHF 40 – 100 and the quality doesn’t always match. Here is a list of all the Chinese restaurants in order of my preference (therefore a very subjective opinion):

In-house (2 people) Takeaway (2 dishes)
1. ChinaTown CHF 70 CHF 35
2. Wok CHF 90 CHF 50
3. Golden Dragon CHF 90 CHF 60
4. New White Swan CHF 40 CHF 35
5. Shunsing CHF 70 CHF 40

Of the 5 restaurants, ChinaTown is the clear front runner for quality, authenticity and atmosphere. The price is reasonable and the style of food is certainly closest to what you would get in China.

Next come Wok and Golden Dragon which are very similar in quality and price. Still good choices for food but nothing amazing. White Swan is a good choice if you are on a budget and/or just need a quick meal in town. Shunsing is too far out of the centre for most people and not worth the effort unless you live in the area.

A couple of photos of ChinaTown for you:

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English-speaking tax advisor

At some point during your time in Switzerland you are going to have to fill out tax return forms. When you do it will depend on your permit status, salary level, nationality and length of your stay. Even if you speak good German, this can be confusing and it can be hard to know if you are really filling out the forms right and if you are taking advantage of all of the relevant rebates.

The best thing you can do is get a tax advisor. For filling out the tax returns forms for easy cases, this will cost only about CHF 200 each year. It will probably save you a lot more than that on your tax bill, and will save you a lot of stress.

I only know of one fluent English speaking service in St.Gallen but I am sure there must be others. However the following provide an excellent service: http://www.scriptoconsult.ch