If you are considering moving to Switzerland, you might be wondering what the pros and cons are.
As someone who has lived around the world, and in Switzerland for over 20 years, I can certainly tell you what is the good, the great, and the not-so-good about this beautiful country.
Here are some of the most important factors for you to consider when moving to Switzerland. All the pros and cons of living in Switzerland I could think of
Table of Contents
The Pros of Living in Switzerland
High quality of life
The quality of life in Switzerland is hard to beat. The work-life balance in many companies is highly regarded and you will not be requested very often to work late or on weekends.
Family is also very important in Switzerland, and most companies will not blink if you have to take time off, even in the middle of the day to attend to a family issue.
You will also have lots of money left over (even on an average salary) to enjoy the great food, travel, and outdoor activities that are on offer here.
High-Quality Infrastructure & Housing
One thing I have noticed as an Australian living in Switzerland is that the infrastructure and housing quality is very hard to beat. Sure, Germany and a lot of northern Europe can compare, but Switzerland has more money than most. So, the roads, public transport, bridges, tunnels, and even your 1960s apartment will still be in great condition. Something you rarely see in other countries.
Low Unemployment & Great Benefits
The unemployment rate in Switzerland is one of the lowest in the world. Often it hovers around the 1-2% mark. Those people usually are between jobs or just not wanting to work.
And when you are unemployed, if you have worked for over a year, the benefits are mind-blowing. Often around 70-80% of your previous salary for a year or more. Depending on what you earned of course.
Outdoor Exercise Is Easy & Year-round
There are not that many places in the world where people exercise so much. In Switzerland, you see people outside doing some form of exercise all the time.
Perhaps it is because the country is so beautiful and accessible. Or, because you can do both summer and winter sports. So, you can keep yourself fit all year long.
Either way, you will never get bored if you like fitness and exercise in Switzerland, and perhaps you will even discover a new sport.
I have broken my leg very badly and visited a few hospitals in Switzerland, so I feel comfortable in saying the level of care and equipment in Swiss hospitals and at the doctors, in general, is one of the best in the world. Switzerland has one of the most expensive healthcare systems in the world and if you live here, you get to benefit from it.
There are so many expats in Switzerland that you are bound to make friends with people from all over the world. Especially if you work in an international company. This is likely, if you find a job here from abroad, and you don’t yet speak German or French.
There are lots of expats in places like Zurich, Basel and Geneva, so they are also great places to live and network with like-minded people.
Excellent Schools & Universities
Switzerland is also full of great places to study. Whether it is in one of the best international schools or boarding schools in the world. Or, even just the top-notch local schools in the majority of communities.
The universities are also nothing to laugh about either. With the likes of ETH in Zurich among the world’s best.
Language Learning Opportunities
If you like learning languages (or always wanted to try) then immersing yourself in a country with four official languages is a great way to try. If you land in the north of Switzerland, then it will be German. If you are in the southwest, then French. And if you already speak a smattering of Italian or the other two, then you will also get lots of practice.
Easy To Explore Switzerland & Europe
Being smack bang in the center of Europe means that while you are living in Switzerland you have lots of options for travel. Italy, France, and Germany are just hours away by car or train. And you can fly anywhere else in around an hour or two.
Of course, travel is not cheap with the local airline Swiss, but there are other options if you look around. Either way, if you want to see all of Europe, being in the middle is hard to beat.
The Cons of Living in Switzerland
Switzerland is one of the most expensive places in Europe so don’t expect anything to be cheap. However, one thing people forget about with cost is that it is relative to what you earn. Salaries are also a lot higher in Switzerland, so if you have a good job then the price of things soon won’t matter that much. And on top of that, the tax rate for salaries under 200k is approximately 20%. So, at the end of the month, you will also have a lot more money in your pocket compared to most places in the world.
Hard to Make Local Friends
Getting to know the locals in Switzerland, especially in the German-speaking part is challenging. Swiss people do not open up or invite you around to their house very quickly. That is not to say you can’t or won’t make Swiss friends, it is just a lot harder than in a lot of countries.
Instead, you will likely make friends with other expats, especially the ones from your own country or language. At least that is my experience.
The Gender Gap
Switzerland is a very traditional country and with people earning so much money, there is less of a need for both people in a marriage to work. As a result, Switzerland is far behind the rest of Europe and the Western world in terms of equality of pay and also in terms of supporting women at work.
Things are slowly improving with more of what they call “day schools” around (schools where the kids don’t come home for lunch – the tradition here), but still, it is hard for a mother to work full-time.
You will also find that there is an expectation amongst many Swiss people that the woman stays home and looks after the kids. So, if you don’t, you may find yourself in some uncomfortable conversations where such expectations prevail. Again, these attitudes are changing, but they are still quite entrenched.
Lack of Housing
With Switzerland growing so fast of late there is very much a shortage of housing, especially in the big Swiss cities like Zurich and Geneva. There can be hundreds of people lining up for an apartment viewing and getting a good one is tough.
As a foreigner, it is even tougher because the Swiss landlords will favor locals who they know are not going to leave as readily as expats. Plus, you will be on a temporary permit, compared to Swiss citizens who obviously will stay.
Nevertheless, there are ways and means of finding places through agencies, or word or mouth and you will get better at it over time.
Lack of Space
Switzerland likes to keep a fair share of the country green, and there are also a lot of mountains. As a result, there is quite a lack of space. The result is that most people live in apartments and even when you have a house it is small. Everyone more or less lives on top of one another.
The upside is that the country is small and fast to travel around.
Expat Jobs Are Limited
As an expat your choice of jobs is limited compared to a local. Partly because of language, as you likely won’t speak German or French when you arrive. But, also because Swiss people are preferred for any job and often given an unspoken preference.
This depends on the industry you work in and also since Covid, there are a lot more open positions around. So, take this statement with a grain of salt, but just know that it is not an even playing field for you.
Limited Shopping & Choices
Like most of Europe which has grown up with a strong religious culture, Switzerland does not like to shop on Sundays. Very little is open late or on Sundays, except for shops in a train station or airport where there is an exception made.
This is something you will get used to if you come from a country with 24/7 shopping. But it might be strange or challenging at first.