Leaving St.Gallen

I’m sorry to say that after many years in this beautiful little town I am moving on. It has been a pleasure to be able to provide this blog and I hope that people to continue to benefit from it for years to come :-). I won’t delete any content, but I’m afraid that eventually most of the information will become out of date.

But who knows. One day I might move back and I will for sure start to blog again. And thanks to everyone who followed the blog and all of the e-mails of support I received.

And if you ever decide to move to Frankfurt next, why not take a look at my new blog: www.frankfurtexpat.wordpress.com

As if I would actually stop blogging entirely ūüôā

Enjoy St.Gallen!!

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Café Doessegger

Are you looking for somewhere for a quick coffee and cake in the town centre? There are a few nice little places, including this one right near Marktplatz.

Doessegger has been around for years and is always popular and busy. Now that the sun is out, they have just started putting chairs outside. So if you have a spare 20 minutes and fancy a rest from shopping this is a good choice. Service is really quick and friendly, and the cakes are great. Order your cake at the counter on the way in and then find a seat.

My minor disappointment is that the selection is always limited compared to other places, but the quality is really good and always very fresh.

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Icecream parlour: Eiscafe Gekko

Score: 10/10

Summer has officially arrived, although in reality, it feels more like Autumn.

When the sun does shine though, you should have a look at St.Gallen’s best kept secret: Eiscafe Gekko.

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This little treasure serves the most amazing homemade icecreams and sorbets in Eastern Switzerland. Some of the sorbets are even dairy-free for those of you with allergies, but be sure to check with them before you order. The Eiscafe is only open 6 months of the year hidden away at the top of Engelgasse opposite Samosa.

The only issue is that there is limited place and no sunshine here to sit and enjoy your icecream. So be prepared to buy and walk…

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mmmmm……!

Restaurant Review: Samosa

Score 7/10

I did a post a while ago about the Indian Palace which still deserves its place as the top Indian restaurant in town.

However….

If you are looking for somewhere quick and easy, but still with great food, look no further than Samosa in Engelgasse. They have just reopened after renovating and are as good as ever. For lunch, they have a buffet with 3 or 4 dishes normally on offer. The price is really reasonable for St.Gallen: CHF 15 for vegetarian, or CHF 18 if you also have the meat dish.

And don’t be afraid to ask for the mango lassi – tastes great!

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Restaurant Review: Al Capone’s Steakhouse

Score: 6/10

Al Capone’s is a recent addition to St.Gallen and replaced the Italian restaurant Molino’s above the main buss top on Marktplatz. They still serve the regular mix of Italian dishes but have an extra steak section on the menu.

The beef is currently only from Switzerland and the US, but with pork steaks from Argentina. They could use a little more selection on the menu considering they are a steakhouse, but the food is fairly good.

The steaks are all served rare on a hot plate, allowing you to cook the meat further to your own taste. This is great for the novelty value, but could get a little annoying if you go regularly.
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Biggest issue I had was the cost. CHF 50 for a 300g steak and one drink. The steak came with one side-dish. For a good, but not amazing meal, that’s a lot of money. With a more suitable price I would probably have given it a 7/10.

As far as steakhouse’s go, it is worth considering and it is good to have another central option, but it would come third in the list after Englers by the Olma and Lagerhaus by the police station.

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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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Christmas market

The St.Gallen Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) opened this week (29th November) and managed to coincide with the second major snowfall of the year. This is significant because, let’s be honest, a Christmas market without snow somehow just isn’t as authentic.

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The market is in the old market hall but overflows around the Marktplatz and up towards the cathedral. To be fair, it isn’t really a very impressive Xmas market given the scale of some of the places available in the rest of Europe, but it is kind of quaint and makes the city look pretty under snow.

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The shops are not particularly inventive or Christmassy and they sell the same things each year. The highlight is definitely the gluhwein sellers (see below) which are packed, in spite of being ludicrously expensive :-). Its worth it though.

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Get your self a couple of glasses of gluhwein, served in a boot (!), head to the raclette stand and then on to the pancake stand for a nutella pancake. Finish with a stroll up to the cathedral and it’s monster (but undecorated?) Christmas tree.

All in all, it won’t take you more than a couple of hours, but its worth it once in a while.

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Olma

Officially the biggest event in the St.Gallen Calendar – Olma! Now don’t get your hopes up too much, it still just a glorified farmer’s market, but there are some moments of fun to be had.

Firstly the location. There is permanent exhibition space just East of the city centre just past the Radisson, but the actual event is normally for about 2 weeks towards the end of October.

This year the festivities are from the 11-21 October and while there is a whole website and an¬†Olma flyer¬†unfortunately it is all in German (or French) (as is their Facebook page) so you can guess that this is designed for the locals and not overseas tourists. Still plenty of fun to be had for a day. ¬†Here’s a few highlights:

1) Pig racing (!)
I know, sounds fascinating doesn’t it! And it is what it is – pigs running in a circle with numbers on their backs. ¬†A good laugh for the adults and fun for the kids!

2) Sausages galor (Olma Bratwurst to be precise)
Pay attention to people who get free vouchers through the post. There are lots of these vouchers floating around in the run up to the event.  Someone always seems to have spares.

I borrowed the image from their website ūüėČ didn’t really get this close…

3) Beer and Appenzeller
There is a whole hall full of booths selling the full range of the region’s alcohol. ¬†Personally I ¬†can’t stand the Appenzeller spirit but the beer makes up for it. ¬†Only drawback is that this hall tends to be busiest and it can be tough just trying to push your way through to a bar. ¬†Lucky that there are so many bars really…

4) Free food
While most of booths are selling food and there is a proper restaurant, head over to the tasting hall. ¬†You will get hold of plenty of freebies to supplement that bratwurst you just had. Excellent chance to test all of those local cheeses before you buy them in the coop ūüôā

5) Farm animals
Now whether this is really an attraction or not, I leave up to you. All I will say is that there are some seriously huge bulls. The parading horses were a little tedious, but then I’m not a farmer.

There are a lot of halls (take a look at the Olma flyer before you go) but many of them are missable unless you are interested in farm or building equipment.

Cost of living in St.Gallen

If you are considering moving to St.Gallen, this is probably one of the two most important things you are going to search for.  The second is salary levels in St.Gallen and they go hand in hand when you have to decide whether the famously high salaries of Switzerland will afford the infamously high living costs.

Trouble is that as you have probably found, almost all of the info you have found online is either a national average or it is focused on life in either Geneva or Zurich area.  Salaries in St.Gallen are lower than in either of these areas but thankfully so is the cost of living.  There is also a large disparity across the country.

Housing
Single person: CHF350/mth is just about the bottom end of the scale for a single room studio apartment, but don’t expect any luxury. Reasonable studios and 1/2 room apartments go from about CHF 500 to 800 with the upper end being CHF 1200. For students, you may want to consider joining into a group of 3-4 people and for CHF 400 each you could get a very nice shared apartment with all the mod-cons. These prices are for unfurnished places as there are very few furnished options. Add about CHF 2-300 per month on for furnished apartments, but it may just be cheaper to pop to IKEA when you arrive.

Couple: Starting a about CHF550 for rock bottom 2 person studio apartment, but reasonable quality would be between CHF 700 to 900. ¬†Bear in mind that many landlords won’t rent to you if they think that the apartment is too small for the number of people. So don’t think you can squeeze a family of 4 into a 1 room apartment to save money. The immigration office will also regret family visas if they think that your accommodation is too small.

Family (3-4 people): You need to start looking at apartments marked 3 rooms (zimmer) or upwards. The cheapest I have seen is about CHF 800/mth but if you have a child you should think of the area and basic hygene standards and start budgeting for CHF 1100 upwards.  Nice 4 room apartments start at around CHF 1500 up to CHF 2000 depending on the area.

And if you budget is above this then you probably don’t need my advice ūüôā

Transport:
City bus: CHF 67/mth or about CHF 650 for the year gives you unlimited city wide (zone 10) travel on any transport.  You need a 1/2 price card (halbtax) to buy the 12 month version though.

Parking: Bluezone (roadside around the city) costs CHF 106/mth but don’t forget that you need to budget for parking at your apartment. This is rarely included and can cost anything from CHF 50-200/mth depending on the part of the city. ¬†Landlords rarely include the parking for free but often have it as an extra rental cost.

Food:
The actual cost of food is pretty standard around Switzerland if you shop at the Coop or Migros. The big difference is when eating out. A cheap hot meal will cost about CHF 15-20, ¬†an average restaurant will be CHF 30 and a nice place will CHF 50. ¬†The one Japanese restaurant can get up to about CHF 80-100 per person though unless you plan to leave hungry ūüôā

Generic costs
In case you don’t want to do your research else where, this is the amount I budgeted monthly for one working adult for some of the other generic costs:
– Groceries CHF 500
– Health insurance CHF 250
– Health costs CHF 100
– Mobile phone CHF 50
– Facilities (TV, phone, internet, water, etc.) CHF 400
– Miscellaneous CHF 1000 (trust me, this part disappears quickest of all in Switzerland)