Step #1: At least four weeks prior to leaving the States, submit a request to the Department of Motor Vehicles in your city asking for documentation that proves you are not a new driver. A notorized form is required as part of this process.
Step #2: Upon arrival in Switzerland, secure a passport photo.
Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a planner. When I read through some of the “Arrival Packets” provided by HR, I saw passport photos listed as a requirement for an awful lot of Swiss documents. It seemed like a good idea to just have Walgreens give me a dozen photos, so I wouldn’t have to keep getting my picture taken. However, once I arrived, I found out that the dimensions required for passport photos are different here, and none of the photos I brought are useful. So, if you want a really attractive passport photo of me to hang on your fridge, let me know.
Step #3: Fill out the Swiss Drivers License Application Form. This form is completely in French, so cross your fingers and hope you’re filling in the blanks correctly.
Step #4: Go to an optometrist for a mandatory 10 minute eye exam. Pay 15 Swiss Francs.
Step #5: Go to the Commune (City Hall) to get a stamp that proves you live here. Pay 15 Swiss Francs.
Step #6: Call HR to see what you should bring in lieu of a Resident Permit, since you won’t have yours for another 1-2 months. HR says they provided you with an “Attestation” proving your residency and stating that the remaining paperwork is in process.
Step #7: Take application, passport, current US Drivers License, proof of origination date of US Drivers License, Attestation, and 45 francs to the License office in Lausanne.
And this, my friends, is where the story gets interesting…
I had a morning without meetings, so I opted to tackle these few remaining items with the Swiss Authorities – Drivers License & Biometric Exam. Both offices are in Lausanne. I knew what I needed to bring, so figured I could complete these tasks pretty quickly.
I took the 14 minute train ride from Vevey to Lausanne. According to Google Maps, I needed to walk 15 minutes or so from the train station to the Biometric office. I had to circle the block once or twice, but I found the office. I wait a few minutes until my number is called, give them my passport, and sit in a little booth. They take my picture, take my fingerprints, and ask me to provide my signature. I pay 20 Swiss Francs, and I am free to go. This process is mandatory for foreigners moving to Switzerland.
Item #1 accomplished. Woohoo!
Next up, Swiss Drivers License. During my train ride, Google Maps showed me how to get to the Drivers License office. It was much farther away than anticipated. Maybe this wasn’t going to happen quickly after all. I jumped on a tram for four stops and then started following Google Maps. It told me I would be walking 27 minutes to my destination. Not having a car, I’m walking a lot more often. Typically, no problem. But today, Google Maps failed me.
I started walking (mostly uphill…this is Lausanne, after all). I’m probably almost 1/3 of the way when it tells me to turn onto a road that is not much bigger than a driveway. Then it tells me to “stay straight.” At this point, the “road” literally becomes what I can only describe as a “path.” It’s gravel, but thanks to the recent rain/snow, it’s now mostly mud. I’m too far into this journey to turn back, but the further I go, the closer I get to tears. Not because of frustration, exhaustion, or fear of being lost, but mostly because I’m wearing my most expensive pair of boots and they are not meant to be traipsing through the mud! (I know this is vain of me. Feel free to judge.) To give you a glimpse of the path (pre-mud)…
After the excessive mud, I get to a point where Google Maps tells me to “stay right,” and I literally walk through the grass around a private residence. All the while Google is claiming that this is a road! I eventually make it back to a paved road and keep walking. Guess what I see when I’m 3 minutes from my destination? A BUS STOP! And not just any random bus stop…one that goes directly to the Lausanne train station! Why did Google Maps suggest the off-road route instead of taking the bus?! Baaaahhhhhh!!!!!
Nevermind that. I arrive at my destination…sweaty, annoyed, highly concerned about the condition of my boots, and mostly ready to get the license and RIDE THE BUS back. I go to the appropriate place, take a number, and go to the window when it’s my turn. I lay out all of the documents mentioned in Step #7. The woman makes copies of everything, confers with another employee, and then goes to get a third employee. He informs me that the Attestation from my employer is not acceptable. They need an Attestation from the Commune in Vevey. The same Commune I visited two days prior to stamp my Application. Now I’ve forgotten about the boots and just want to cry thinking about how much physical effort I put into getting here.
My brother says I’m tenacious. The rest of this story will prove that out.
I get on the bus. (Thank goodness!) Ride 20 minutes back to the train station, get on a train back to Vevey, walk to the Commune and secure the magic Attestation (15 more Swiss Francs, s’il vous plait), walk back to the train station, take another train back to Lausanne, and get back on the bus for a 20 minute drive to the License Office. And voila – with the magic paperwork (and 45 Swiss Francs), I left with a Swiss Drivers License! And then took the bus back to the train station and the yet another train back to Vevey…
Lessons learned today:
- Do not trust Google Maps
- Wear proper footwear for off-roading.
- Pencil skirts are not conducive for climbing steep hills in Lausanne.
- Bus #21 runs to outermost parts of Lausanne (and incidentally past my church, too…Google Maps has been making me walk almost 30 minutes from the train station to church on Sunday mornings when there is a bus.)
- The Daily Pass is a great deal, if you plan (or don’t plan) to ride 4 trains, 1 tram, and 3 buses in the course of 5 hours.
All I can say is: thank goodness a Swiss Drivers License never expires!