Bootstrapping with a Maze of Dependencies (October 28, 2005)

Bootstrapping in Switzerland is hard. It's always hard to move somewhere different because you are building up from almost nothing. It's particularly hard in Switzerland, though, because you don't just walk up and buy what you need. Everything has prerequisites, and to get started, you have to sort your activities carefully. Some of the dependencies are cyclical, and so you must break the cycle and get started by doing things half-baked at first and then returning later to do the properly.

The most vicious cycle is between housing and the "B Permit" that proves you are a legal resident. Many, many things require showing a B Permit -- it's even more severe here than in Denmark with its national ID cards. Getting housing requires a B Permit, but getting a permit requires having a local residence.

There are many such dependencies. Here are some items that are needed (or at least desirable) to bootstrap in a new country:

That's a short list. Now here is what those things depend on:

Here are some typical cycle-breaking hacks to get bootstrapped in the face of the above mess of dependencies:

I'm told that life in Switzerland moves like clockwork once you make it through all the initial bureaucratic dependencies and are thoroughly inspected, branded, stamped, and papered. Since everything requires all these cards and papers and so on, however, it certainly is hard to get started. I wonder what people do here who don't have my advantages, e.g. political refugees? I doubt it's impossible, but the "mere" week I've spent working full time on this would probably not be enough.

Lex Spoon