Switzerland is famous for its snow-capped mountains, clear lakes, legendary chocolate and punctual trains. It lures expats with exciting employment packages and a high standard of living. But, as with every destination, there are ups and downs that come with expat life in Switzerland.
Below are some pros and cons of living in Switzerland.
Accommodation in Switzerland
+ PRO: High housing standards
Swiss housing construction is usually excellent. Kitchens and bathrooms are generally modern. Apartments often have a parking space and most housing is close to public transport.
- CON: Lack of availability, strict housing rules
The Swiss housing market can be competitive and expensive. Finding accommodation in Switzerland depends on various factors, and takes a significant amount of time. Finding pet-friendly housing and houses with private gardens can be extra challenging.
Apartment complexes sometimes have shared laundry facilities, and residents may be assigned specific times when they can use them. There are usually strict noise curfews too.
Lifestyle in Switzerland
+ PRO: Active outdoors culture
Family-friendly places in Switzerland abound. An active outdoor culture is accompanied by beautiful lakes, biking trails and hiking routes in the mountains. In winter, expats can take to the slopes and ski.
- CON: Making friends with locals can be difficult
Integrating into the local community can be difficult. Clubs and activities are usually offered in the local language, so it's easiest for younger children to adapt.
- CON: The country closes down on Sundays
Switzerland pretty much closes up on Sundays, except for gas stations and small stores at train stations.
Education in Switzerland
+ PRO: Lots of excellent schooling options
Public schools in Switzerland are excellent, and expats with younger children should consider sending them to one. Expats tend to send older children to one of the country's many international schools. The country also offers private and bilingual schools.
- CON: Adjusting to a new education system can be difficult
Older children who don't speak the relevant local language might struggle in Swiss public schools. Expat parents should note that schools often have an extended lunch break and may not have a cafeteria. Most kids go home for lunch and then back to school. Private schools are expensive and space may be limited.
+ PRO: Children can be independent
Children can be independent and are often seen walking alone, riding bikes or taking the bus with friends. There are few major safety issues in Switzerland, and most places are safe even at night.
Working in Switzerland
+ PRO: Unemployment is low
Most expats come here to work, so they don’t need to worry about finding a job after they arrive. But unemployment in Switzerland is low, so trailing spouses have opportunities in cottage industries or doing volunteer work if they can't find anything else.
- CON: Jobs for expats are limited
Opportunities are limited for expats who don’t speak German or French, and Swiss employers don't always recognise foreign degrees.
Culture shock in Switzerland
+ PRO: English is widely spoken
English is taught in Swiss schools and most locals speak it quite well, which makes activities such as shopping easier, but some expats find that it makes it more difficult to practise local languages.
- CON: Jobs for expats are limited
Expats shouldn't underestimate the potential for culture shock in Switzerland. It is a beautiful, modern European country, but there is a language barrier to overcome, and the Swiss have their own dialects of French and German. Finding a support circle of other expats and helping newcomers are good ways to deal with this.
►See Education and Schools in Switzerland if you're moving with children
"I like that it is a small city, which feels cozy, and that it is so close to the lake and the mountains. As far as quality of life, I think that it is slightly higher than where I’m from simply because the salaries are so much higher. It makes things like travel much easier. I think, too, that people here stop and enjoy life more – either by going for a hike or taking hours to have a meal with friends."
Learn more about living in Switzerland in our interview with American expat Melissa.
Are you an expat living in Switzerland?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Switzerland. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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