Mont Soleil

2018-05-29T13:49:46+00:00

This mountain rises to a heights of 1289m. A cable car or also a rather narrow road leads up from the small city of St. Imier. This area is part of the French speaking bernese Jura. The rolling soft hills and the large meadows are characteristic for the Jura.

On Mont Soleil (in French „Sun Mountain“) is a center for research on wind and solar power. In the center are many different kinds and types of sun panels that convert sun rays into energy. And there are at least a dozen wind mills that generate additional power.

The larger windmills are quite spectacular with a heights of 150m. The rotor measures 112m! It weighs 410 tons and produces 3’300kW. The noise production of the rotor is less prominent than expected. When the sun shines the movement of the rotor blades can be a little distracting because of the moving shadow on the ground.

About 80 million Swiss Francs were invested into this project. The production of energy from Mount Soleil covers about 80% of the need of the 17’000 inhabitants in the area including industry.

In Switzerland about 35% of the electric power is generated by atomic plants and almost 65% by water hydraulic plants. The mountains are an ideal set up for the later.

There are guided tours at the information center of Mount Soleil, explaining how energy is produced through wind and direct sun power.

Mont Soleil 2018-05-29T13:49:46+00:00

Geneva International Motor Show

2018-03-19T17:00:39+00:00

This annual car exhibition is one of the major international auto shows. It started way back in 1905. This year the show was held as usual next to the Geneva airport from March 8-18, attracting about 700’000 visitors yearly.

Almost 900 cars from Germany, Italy, France, Spain, UK, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Japan, Korea and the US were on display. The trend to alternatives to the combustion engine were a big topic. Many of the big brand names are in the process of switching to electric or hybrid cars. One example is the I-Pace from Jaguar, a very powerful challenger to Tesla.

There were quite a number of concept cars on display, trying to give a glimpse into the future of automobiles. The tendency again is clearly to vehicles that are totally automatic without the need of a driver.

China is well positioned and has growing experience with electric cars. It is not impossible the China will dominate the car market of the future!

Geneva International Motor Show 2018-03-19T17:00:39+00:00

Lot’s of Snow

2018-01-24T18:06:51+00:00

Over the past few days it had been raining non-stop down in the lower areas of our country. However up in the mountains and especially in the Southern part of Switzerland (Valais and Graubünden) meters of snow have come down and covered everything. Some villages are cut off and people can only come and go via helicopters.

The picture was taken in the village of Davos by a friend of ours who lives there. Davos is also under a thick blanket of snow.

At the moment the village of Davos is again taken hostage by this years WEF. Last year the president of the PRC, Xi Jin Ping, attended the forum. This year the US president Trump is attending, along with many other important figures ranging from politicians to market leaders and trend setters.

Lot’s of Snow 2018-01-24T18:06:51+00:00

UBS

2018-01-02T21:03:21+00:00

In Switzerland the UBS is one of the biggest economic players that suffered a tremendous image loss and lost a a lot of money during the subprime mortgage crisis (Dec 07 to June 09). Meanwhile the bank has recovered its image and the money and is now again making a lot of money.

The Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) is a global finance service company and one of the biggest wealth management banks. By 2016 it was represented in 54 countries with over a 1000 branches. In Switzerland alone there are around 300 branches that cater to the needs of people from all walks of life and not just a wealthy clientele only. Most of their 1’250 ATMs are mainly in Switzerland. It’s e-banking is really excellent.

On a global scale the UBS competes with the other Swiss banking giant, the Credit Swiss. Since its recovery from the big crisis where the Swiss government had to bail out the bank it has overtaken the Credit Swiss. The UBS is among the top 10 of the world’s investment banks.

Switzerland is really a small country with quite a number of big players, such as the two huge Swiss banks (UBS and Credit Swiss), Nestlé, Glencore, Novartis, Zurich Insurance Group, Roche Group, ABB etc

UBS 2018-01-02T21:03:21+00:00

Migros

2017-03-21T09:50:56+00:00

Migros is the largest supermarket chain in Switzerland closely followed by it’s eternal competitor Coop. Both companies have countless smaller and bigger stores all over the country with articles at reasonable prices.

Eating out is rather expensive. But many locals get their lunch at a Migros or Coop store. Just have a look at a store and get anything from food to pocket knife or fondue!

How did it all start?

In 1925 Gottlieb Duttweiler kicked off his first market in Zurich. He introduced the first discounter store with lower prices but a bigger volume. At first he just sold six articles only such as rice, coffee, sugar etc from the back of a truck in areas with little access to markets. As a broad resistance from competitors arose Duttweiler started creating his own products such as meat, milk and chocolate.

Duttweiler was very successful and by 1941 he handed his business over to the customers by creating cooperatives. By 1950 the founder had formulated his fifteen theses that Migros still adheres to such as:

  • his shops would sell no alcohol, no cigarettes and no pornographic materials.
  • No dividends would get paid but the earnings above 5% would get passed on to the customers by lowering prices.
  • Any living adult in the country can become a member
  • 0.5% of it’s revenue is used for cultural projects
  • the general interest is placed higher than the interest of the cooperative

Nowadays Migros is called the „orange giant“. A capital M is it’s trade mark. Migros owns not only a huge super market chain but also a Migros Bank, it offer evening courses on many different topics (languages, cooking, computing etc), a travel agency, a sports shop chain, electronics chain, garden shops, restaurants, petrol stations etc. It employs over 100’000 people.

Migros is by now a real heavy weight and over the years has pushed out many smaller shops or bought up competitors. Migros owns 70% of Denner who does sell alcohol and cigarettes. Many farmers complain that Migros and Coop dictate the prices. Some critics say that Migros has somewhat lost touch with it’s founders ideals.

Recently smaller competitors were able to push into the Swiss market such as Aldi and Lidl bringing in even more choice. Both companies are from Germany and have successfully challenged the two giants.

Migros 2017-03-21T09:50:56+00:00

WEF – World Economic Forum

2017-08-03T12:14:27+00:00

The President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping has just arrived in Switzerland. The Swiss government treated him and his wife here in Berne with the highest honours.

Switzerland hopes for even better trade relations with China, which is our most important trading partner in Asia and the third most important partner after the EU and the US. The trade volume in 2015 was CHF 31 billion. An innovative strategic partnership was established during the visit by the President of the Swiss Confederation, Johann Schneider-Amman, in April 2016.

President Xi Jinping is actually attending the annual WEF (world economic forum). The WEF annual meeting is one of the most important economic and socio-political events in the world. It always takes place in Davos, in a mountain resort in the Southeast of Switzerland.

This year it takes place from January 17-20. Among the participants are not only the president of China, but also Theresa May of UK and other world leaders. Over 2’500 participants from more than 100 countries, 1200 economic leaders and quite a few stars meet in the lovely village of Davos. The official motto is „Responsive and Responsible Leadership“. The unofficial motto is rather „Brexit and Trump“.

WEF – World Economic Forum 2017-08-03T12:14:27+00:00

VAT 8%

2016-07-25T09:51:51+00:00

In Switzerland the VAT (Value Added Tax – or MWSt – Mehrwertsteuer) is set at 8% for most articles. Basic foods and medication are only taxed 2.5%.

This is an indirect tax on all services and products purchased within Switzerland. The state gets about a third of its income through the VAT.

Companies offering services or products within Switzerland with less than a CHF 100’000 revenue may be exempt from having to charge their customers the VAT.

The VAT of 8% in Switzerland is quite low in comparison with Germany 19%, France 20%, Italy 22%, Austria 20%, UK 20% and Sweden 25% etc.

Visitors from China who buy expensive watches in Switzerland are probably best advised to pay the VAT in Switzerland because at home the China Sales tax is 17%.

Switzerland is quite an expensive country. Salaries are very high. That is a main reason why services are expensive in comparison with Europe or the rest of the world.

For Swiss residents it is tempting to shop across the borders. Services and goods are a better deal than at home. When crossing the border the Swiss residents can additionally apply for a tax return.

VAT 8% 2016-07-25T09:51:51+00:00

BREXIT

2017-08-03T12:14:27+00:00

The British Embassy in Bern with the flags of Great Britain and the EU.

On June 24 the official result of the vote was out early in the morning: the UK is going to leave the EU (European Union)! Shockwaves rocked the markets. Fortunes were erased. Nobody had anticipated that this would happen. Everybody thought that by a small margin the UK would opt to stay. It seems that even Boris Johnson, who as a lead figure for leaving the EU, was taken by surprise. He then soon announced that he would not want to be a candidate for the job of the next prime minister.

Great Britain is quite divided over the issue. Greater London was clearly for staying in the EU. Scotland and North Ireland also wanted to stay and might now possibly leave the UK to reapply as new members of the EU. At the moment the consequences of the Brexit no one is really able to fully anticipate and it will take years to sort it all out.

Switzerland is working closely with the EU but is also not a member of the EU. It is feared that some of our important negation points with the EU are now put on the back burner as the EU has more pressing matters to attend to.

In crisis moments many investors opt for the stable Swiss Franc. The Swiss National Bank (SNB) is buying heaps of € in order to keep the Swiss Franc from rising and hurting our export industry. Switzerland also hopes that big UK companies will move their seat to Switzerland.

Another unexpected Brexit happened last week when during the Euro Soccer Cup the prestigious English team lost the eighth finals on June 27 to Iceland (1-2), a nation of just a few hundred thousand heads!

BREXIT 2017-08-03T12:14:27+00:00

Burgdorf’s Famous Beer

2016-12-07T19:59:24+00:00

Burgdorf is a small enchanting historic town with a big medieval castle sitting on a rock. It is less than 25km away from Berne. The city is the gate to the beautiful Emmental.

1999 Burgdorf’s now well known beer brewery took up its business. Meanwhile they have been so successful that they moved to a bigger (actually historic) site. At their general assembly on Saturday May 21, over 1600 share holders took part. Everybody attending was treated to free beer and a pair of sausages. This kind of dividend is very tangible.

Their general assembly turned out to be the funniest I have ever attended. Everybody was in a splendid mood and enjoyed drinking all the different kinds of beer while doing GA business. The agenda of the 18th general assembly was whisked through without a glitch with crowds cheering for each item.

The brewery is still just a local company, but the beer of Burgdorf is by now known far beyond the borders of the canton of Berne. The brewery offers informative guided tours. At the end of the tour it’s hard to resist tasting their freshly brewed beer which is an a league of it’s own.

Burgdorf’s Famous Beer 2016-12-07T19:59:24+00:00

Summer Tires and Apprenticeships

2016-05-14T18:11:19+00:00

By now most people have replaced their set of winter tires with their set of summer tires. Summer tires lose their grip below temperatures of 7°C. By law the profile of tires in Europe may not be lower than 1.6mm. Below that they also loose their efficiency and driving becomes increasingly dangerous. The police in Switzerland deal out hefty fines for offenders. Additionally when caught drivers may even have to hand in their driving license for a limited time.

Most people store their set of tires at home. For a fee your car mechanic will store your set of spare tires for you.

The work place of any the car mechanic in this country is amazingly clean and well ordered. These guys are pros and have gone through the standard Swiss apprenticeship scheme of of four years hands on training. During those years the trainees also go to school for about two days a week. During their apprenticeship years they earn a modest salary. At the end of their apprenticeship they get a federal diploma recognizing them as trained professionals in their field.

These Swiss apprenticeship schemes (3 or sometimes 4 years) are the standard for any kind of non academic job be it a carpenter, cook, bank employee, shop assistant, hair dresser, insurance agent, office clerk etc. Most young Swiss rather opt for a non academic career. After graduation they will make between CHF 3’000 to 5’000 a month depending on their field.

When young people going through their apprenticeship training discover, that they would like to pursue academic studies they have several options after their graduation. The can do a specific gap year and then go to a technical school (later graduating as engineers) or after two gap years full time studies and completed exams they can start studying at a university. In  the private sector people who have done their apprenticeship training and then completed higher studies are in high demand. They offer hands on experience along with academic knowledge.

Youth unemployment is hardly a problem for trained pros. The unemployment rate in Switzerland with around 4.5% is the lowest in Europe.

Summer Tires and Apprenticeships 2016-05-14T18:11:19+00:00