Pros and Cons of Moving to Switzerland

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Switzerland is famous for its soaring mountains, crystal clear lakes, punctual trains, and not forgetting the country's legendary chocolate. Each year expats are lured to Switzerland by exciting employment packages and the country's high standard of living. However, as with any country, expat life in Switzerland has its advantages and disadvantages. 

Accommodation in Switzerland

While the general standard of housing in Switzerland is good, finding a home can be a very complex and emotionally exhausting process.

PRO: Housing is of a high standard and well located close to public transport links 

The quality of housing construction in Switzerland is very good. Kitchens and bathrooms are generally very modern. Housing is usually located quite close to public transportation. There seems to be at least one parking space assigned to each apartment.

CON: Lack of availability and strict housing rules

The housing market in Switzerland can be very tight and very expensive. Finding accommodation will depend on various factors, including the size of the family, desired location and whether one has pets. It takes a significant amount of time to find housing in Switzerland.

Finding housing that accepts pets may also be a challenge. It may also be very difficult to find a place with a private garden.

Laundry may be shared within an accommodation complex and residents may be assigned a day and/or time to use the washer and dryer. In many complexes, these times are not very flexible.

When residents leave the property they will be required to leave it flawless, which may require hiring a cleaning company.

Lifestyle in Switzerland

The expat lifestyle in Switzerland is great for families. Life may be a little quiet for 20-somethings or those without kids.

PRO: Active outdoors culture

There are lots of family-friendly places in Switzerland. There is an active outdoors culture with beautiful lakes to swim in, biking trails and hiking routes in the mountains. During the winter months, expats will have the opportunity to take to the slopes and try skiing.

CON: Integration between expats and locals can be difficult

It can be difficult to integrate into the local community. Activities offered by the local schools are typically offered in German.  Though the younger the children the easier the integration process may be. 

CON: The country closes down on Sundays

Switzerland pretty much closes up on Sundays. The only things that tend to be open would be small stores at the train station and gas stations.

Education in Switzerland

There are lots of schooling options for expats moving to Switzerland with kids. As public, private and international schools are all quite good, expats should be able to find a good match that meets the needs of their child and falls within their budget.

PRO: Lots of excellent schooling options for expat children

The standard of public schools in Switzerland is excellent. Expats with younger children should consider sending their children to a Swiss public school. The transition may be slightly more difficult for older children; therefore, many expats prefer to send older children to international schools. There are many international schools in Switzerland so expats have plenty of options. In addition, there are Swiss private schools and boarding schools.

CON: Expat children may have difficulty adjusting to a new education system and fees are high at private schools in Switzerland

Older children might struggle in Swiss public schools, especially if they don’t speak German or French. Expat parents need to be aware that schools break for 90 minutes for lunch and often public schools in Switzerland do not have a cafeteria. Most kids generally walk home for lunch and then go back to school. Private schools are very expensive and space may be limited.

Safety in Switzerland

Safety in Switzerland is not a major concern for expats.  Those who use common sense should have an enjoyable experience in the country.

PRO: Crime is low

There are no real safety issues in Switzerland. Most places are safe even at night. Children have a rare ability to be independent in Switzerland, and they can often be seen walking alone, riding bikes and scooters or taking the bus with friends.

CON:None.  As long as one uses common sense, Switzerland is generally very safe.

Working in Switzerland

While the Swiss are hardworking, overtime is discouraged and employers encourage people to use their vacation time, so they can be more productive when they are at work in Switzerland.

PRO: Unemployment is low and there are opportunities for trailing spouses

Unemployment in Switzerland is low. Most expats come here to work so don’t really need to worry about finding a job after they arrive. There are lots of thriving cottage industries which offer job opportunities for trailing spouses. There are also lots of volunteer opportunities within the expat community or at international schools.

CON: Jobs opportunities for expats are limited

If expats don’t speak German or French, job opportunities in Switzerland are limited. Volunteer opportunities may also be limited. Furthermore, foreign degrees are not always recognised by Swiss employers.

Cost of living in Switzerland

Switzerland is famous for its exorbitant cost of living. Both Geneva and Zurich were placed within the top 10 most expensive cities in the world according to the 2013 Mercer Cost of Living Survey.

PRO: Online shopping can save money

Due to the fact that the cost of living is so high in Switzerland, expats should look online for better prices, especially on imported goods.

CON: The cost of living is very high

Expat life is Switzerland is expensive – so expats must brace themselves. Geneva and Zurich have consistently been seen as some of the most expensive cities in the world. Most expats will find that everything in Switzerland, from dentists, petrol and parking to shoes, clothing and food (especially meat), are more expensive than they would be at home.

Culture shock in Switzerland

Expats should not underestimate the potential for culture shock in Switzerland. While it a beautiful, modern European country, there is a major language barrier to overcome. For instance, even if one can speak German, the Swiss German dialect is very different. Expats should do their best to find a support circle of friends and other expats. Expats who make the effort to support other newcomers will find the favour is likely to be reciprocated in the future.

PRO: English is widely spoken

Most people in Switzerland can speak good English. English is taught in schools. Shopping is easy as most clerks (except perhaps the older ones) will have at least a basic understanding of English.

CON: Doing business done over the phone can be tough

Getting basic things sorted over the phone, through call centres, is very difficult. Sometimes callers get sent to two or three departments before finding what is needed. Because so many people speak English, practicing local languages can be difficult.

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