A Week In Zürich, Switzerland, On A $91,600 Salary

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Today: a scientist working in microbiology who makes $91,600 per year and spends some of her money this week on face masks.
Occupation: Scientist
Industry: Microbiology
Age: 30
Location: Zürich, Switzerland
Salary: $91,600
Paycheck Amount (Monthly): $6,496
Monthly Expenses
Rent: $2,436 (My boyfriend and I each pay half of this.)
Student Loan Payment: $150
Health Insurance: $300.30
Cell Phone: $34
Retirement: $294 (My employer contributes double this amount, so roughly $900 per month goes to my retirement.)
Public Transportation: $74
Internet: $50 (Split with my boyfriend. We each contribute $2,400 to a joint account for shared expenses like this one.)
Maid: $170 (split with my boyfriend)
Savings: Whatever is leftover at the end of the month
Annual Expenses
Gym: $220

Day One

6 a.m. — I hit snooze, rub noses with the cat on my pillow for 9 minutes, and then tiptoe out of bed so as not to wake my boyfriend. Feed the cat, start the moka pot, do my skincare routine, and water the plants. Today is the day I turn 30. I sip coffee and scroll through Instagram to see what my friends from back home have been up to. My boyfriend gets up and I start blending fruit into a smoothie for breakfast. I try on a few outfits, find the right one, do my makeup, pack my lunch and laptop, and by 8, I'm out the door walking downhill toward the tram stop. I live approximately three miles from the lab, but it takes roughly 50 minutes to get to work. I use this time to go over my agenda and emails. There's a tiny grocery store at one of my stops, so I pop in to grab a pot of yogurt and some grapes to eat this afternoon. $7.40
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8:45 a.m. — I drop my things at my desk and head straight to the lab. I started mentoring a master's student last week, and I have a few things to prepare for her. She's new but enthusiastic, so I'm pleased to work with her. The agenda for this week is to build her confidence in her abilities so she can trust her results later down the line.
11:40 a.m. — Scheduled lunchtime with my lab group. That stereotype about the Swiss and punctuality is right. But I need to finish something in the lab, so I skip lunch today. Later, I have chicken wings with Grippo's seasoning and potatoes, lovingly made by my boyfriend a few nights ago when I was feeling a bit homesick. A grad school friend of mine once insisted she didn't miss her family so much as the flavors of home. I can relate.
12:20 p.m. — Lunch is finished, and it's back to work. I just received the proofs of an article I authored from the publisher, so I review them. There are some missing objects from the images and instances of wrong text formatting. I send back my revisions to the editor, hoping that these won't take so long.
1:30 p.m. — The new master's student and a bachelor's student I've been mentoring for about a year arrive. The bachelor's student is self-sufficient, so she gets to work analyzing data from her experiments. The master's student and I head to the lab. I teach her some techniques she'll be using over the next six months. She executes them well, albeit tentatively.
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6:20 p.m. — Leave work to meet my boyfriend at the main train station. I'm craving a cold Coke, so I pick one up on my way. He ends up taking me to a Southern-style BBQ place. *Swoon* And it's actually delicious! We both are floored and filled to the brim with food. He foots the bill, and then we walk home. $1.60
Daily Total: $9

Day Two

6 a.m. — Same morning routine, except after coffee I head to the gym. I do the elliptical and stair machine for 30 minutes combined, and then go back to my apartment to do some Blogilates abs videos. Breakfast, shower, get ready, and then I'm out the door by 9:30 a.m. I pick up a coffee at a transfer station. $3.90
10:15 a.m. — At my lab bench, I analyze the results from my experiments yesterday. Then I meet with the master's student to go over more practical details.
12:40 p.m. — I miss lunch with my colleagues again, so I gather things from the salad bar in the cafeteria. $15.40
1 p.m. — Master's student and I have an appointment at a nearby campus to be given a tutorial on a new instrument. We catch the tram to get there just in time, receive the training, and part ways. I'm finished with lab work for the day, so I head home to do some data analysis.
8 p.m. — Some friends, my boyfriend, and I go to see Brian Jonestown Massacre downtown. My boyfriend and I bought the tickets weeks ago, so our friends cover our beers. The opening group (LeVent) is a kickass band fronted by a six-string bass-slapping, German Gwyneth Paltrow-lookalike, so I buy their album. We groove for the rest of the night. $30
Daily Total: $49.30

Day Three

7:30 a.m. — Sleep in, and then it's the same old. On my way to the lab I pick up a cake for my belated birthday. I got shit from my colleagues yesterday for not doing so, so I do it today. A carrot one from a nearby bakery, along with a coffee to go. $24.90
3 p.m. — I've been juggling training the master's student and my own experiments, and don't get a chance to eat until now. The cafeteria is closed, so I go to a nearby convenience store to get some salami, cheese, bread, and nuts. I scarf everything down while answering emails, and then go back to the bench. $17.90
6:30 p.m. — Leaving work, I'm beat. I feel productive after multitasking, but frazzled and concerned that I missed something. My boyfriend said he would pick up groceries on his way home from work, so I ride the tram fantasizing about PJs and cuddles. When I get home, I get my yoga on to quell my nerves. Then I move on to my second therapeutic practice: cooking. I prep a smoked herring salad served in lettuce cups and then round out dinner with a couple pieces of dark chocolate. I take a shower, respond to emails, and go to bed.
Daily Total: $42.80

Day Four

6 a.m. — Gotta get going because I have a few ends to tie up before my lab meeting at 9. I boogie out the door with a thermos of strong black tea and pick up a salad and grapes to accompany the pasta lunch I packed for today. $10.90
7:45 a.m. — I check my results. The experiment failed miserably (don't worry, my controls behaved as expected!), but I'm relieved. This just freed up my entire day, and I won't have to come in this weekend!
9 a.m. — Lab meeting. It's a long one, so we go directly to lunch after the meeting.
12:20 p.m. — My schedule is substantially cleared for the day, so I can work on back burner tasks: image analysis from some microscopy experiments and editing a colleague's professor application.
4 p.m. — I leave work, go check on a friend's cat while she's out of town, pick up some almond milk, and head home. My boyfriend played hooky today to walk up a mountain, and he shows me the mushrooms and other plants he collected. We go through our field manual to see if the shrooms are edible. Too hard to say. We dry them to put them in our Swiss botanical specimen collection. He also picked up some farmer's cheese from up there, so we try that out, too. $13.20
9 p.m. — We go to a nearby pizzeria for dinner. It's a cozy neighborhood spot and full of Italians. Afterwards, we walk toward home and then begin to hear the faint sound of an accordion. We follow it and find a mini Balkan street concert. We stick around, are offered some complimentary wine, and hang for a while until it gets too cold. $73
Daily Total: $97.10

Day Five

7:30 a.m. — Get to sleep in! I try to make a pumpkin spice latte but fail, likely due to the almond milk. (Does it normally coagulate when heated? Help me out!) I finish up some edits on my colleague's application and start some analyses that can run while I'm out and about.
10 a.m. — We go to do some major grocery shopping, and on our way, we come across stuff that someone left on the sidewalk that they clearly no longer want. We score two copper mugs! At the farmer's market, we grab some beans, apples, late season zucchini, and grapes. Then we go to the supermarket to pick up pasta, meat, milk, and nonseasonal produce. $117
12:30 p.m. — Check on the processes I started earlier while my boyfriend starts lunch — pasta with pesto. I harvested our basil last weekend and made a big batch of pesto. We're nervous it won't keep so long, so we want to finish it before it rots.
3 p.m. — I got some stuff to make kimchi this morning, but I don't have enough chili flakes. I go to the Korean market to get a boatload, along with some sesame oil, miso, and green tea to keep in case of emergency. $51
3:45 p.m. — Apparently a Sephora pop-up shop popped up in a department store here. We don't have Sephora here, and I miss it, so I go in to check out what's good. It's a hive of women scoping out cosmetics. Woah, the Fenty counter is wrecked. I quickly grab a few Tony Moly face masks and small hydration mask. (Winter is coming!) $49
5 p.m. — I whip up the kimchi and leave it to ferment on my counter. I start prepping dinner — mung bean smoked sausage soup. While that's going, I roast a butternut squash and some chestnuts to have during the week. We eat the soup after it simmers for a few hours. It's perfect for these first chilly days of autumn.
Daily Total: $217

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — Rise and shine. Sundays are pretty chill here in Zürich — nothing is open, save for a few shops at the main train station. We have cookies with coffee and prep the balcony plants for the upcoming cold season.
10:30 a.m. — I'm reminded that I'm meeting with a visiting professor tomorrow morning. I take a look at his research so I can have relevant topics of discussion to bring up with him. I also prep a few pieces of my data to show him, just in case the conversation goes in that direction. Perhaps the best piece of advice from my current mentor is that every interaction is a job interview — you never know who can help you land the next gig. I'll be on the hunt for a professorship in a year or two from now, so I'm gonna try to do this “free” self-promotion while I can.
12:30 p.m. — My boyfriend prepares a mini-Oktoberfest lunch as I prep for a separate work-in-progress meeting I have with a collaborator tomorrow afternoon. We eat some weisswurst and pretzels we got yesterday and split a beer as we watch a Japanology video on YouTube.
3:30 p.m. — I go to the gym and find a spin class on YouTube to follow. I'm wrecked afterwards, and walk home at a snail's pace. I drink some Gatorade and then head out to visit my friend's cat.
7 p.m. — My boyfriend stewed the late-season zucchini all afternoon, so we eat it for dinner along with the squash I roasted last night and a leek salad. We chat and more concretely plan our upcoming long weekend in Brussels.
9:30 p.m. — I send out some work emails since I won't be in my office or the lab barely at all tomorrow.
Daily Total: $0

Day Seven

6 a.m. — I do my morning routine, go to the gym, and shower. Then I pack my lunch and review my talking points for later.
12 p.m. — The chat with the professor is productive, even fun. He provides some interesting insight and new leads, and even more promising is his enthusiasm for my findings.
1:15 p.m. — Rush to my research meeting and arrive a few minutes late. I get helpful ideas from my collaborators and will implement them during my microscopy experiments this week.
3:30 p.m. — Head to the campus where my lab is. I have a few things to set up for my experiments tomorrow.
4:30 p.m. — Eat the bean soup I packed for lunch. I haven't been so hungry today — must be all the adrenaline. Then I go set up my samples for tomorrow.
6 p.m. — I leave the lab and head home. I feel like a boss after killing everything today! I savor this infrequent feeling and channel it toward the next big steps for my research. This is the best time to think about risky ideas, store them in my head, and revisit them for validity when I'm perhaps feeling less confident. When I get home, my boyfriend is out for a run, so I prepare a salad for us for dinner. We recount our days, play with the cat, and pack lunch for tomorrow.
Daily Total: $0
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