Perched on the northwestern edge of the breathtaking Lake Zurich in north central Switzerland, Zurich is not only the country's largest city, but is also infinitely picturesque and highly popular among ambitious expats.
Zurich is home to one of the world’s largest stock exchanges and is the country's financial engine, but there's much more to this beautiful Swiss city than commerce. It's safe, has excellent infrastructure and one of the best public transport systems in the world, and the city consistently ranks as one of the best places to live in the world.
Living in Zurich as an expat
Zurich attracts a skilled workforce and is a particularly popular destination for professionals working in the financial services industry. Although money isn't everything, it certainly helps, and expats in Zurich earn impressive salaries that are well above the global average.
Luckily, the language barrier shouldn’t be much of a problem. English is widely spoken, especially in business circles. That said, Swiss German is the predominant language, and learning at least a few introductory phrases can make a big difference during interactions with locals who are reluctant to engage in English.
There's plenty to see and do in Zurich. Having long influenced arts and culture, the city pays homage to its history with museums, galleries and theatres. Expats will enjoy strolling along the Limmat River that runs through the city, taking in the sight of boats whisking passengers along and the lights glinting off its surface. The medieval Old Town is a rich backdrop for contemporary fashion stores, bookshops, bars, restaurants and clubs for all to enjoy.
Cost of living in Zurich
The cost of living in Zurich is notoriously high. One of the biggest challenges expats will face is finding somewhere to live. There's a shortage of accommodation in Zurich, so prices and competition for quality rentals are stiff. Tenants will also have to pay utilities and council taxes on rubbish disposal, which can equal around 10 percent of an expat's salary.
The other major cost expats will need to budget for is health insurance. Swiss law states that every resident in the country must be covered under a health insurance scheme, and this can be eye-wateringly expensive.
Expat families and children in Zurich
Zurich is one of the most family-friendly cities in the world with an abundance of green spaces, outdoor activities and an excellent education system. Expat parents looking to settle in Zurich permanently will be delighted to know that their children can attend Swiss public schools at no cost, though the language of instruction is typically Swiss German. There are also bilingual private schools offering instruction in German and French or English, but these come at a cost.
Expat parents who are in Zurich on a short-term assignment may consider one of the city's exceptional international schools, which offer a variety of globally recognised curricula at a premium.
Parents will be lacking for nothing when it comes to entertaining their tots in Zurich. During the summer, Lake Zurich and the Linmat River become a playground and swimming pool for families to explore, while the Swiss Alps make for great skiing adventures in winter.
Climate in Zurich
The weather in Zurich is fairly moderate, with four distinct seasons and regular rainfall. Winters are bitterly cold, and temperatures often drop below freezing, while summers are pleasantly warm and sunny. Expats should be sure to pack warm, thermal clothing but ensure they reach for their swimsuits as well.
With highly developed infrastructure, fantastic standards of living and plenty of indoor and outdoor lifestyle options, Zurich has much to offer expats who can negotiate a good salary to get around its exorbitant living costs.
►Read Areas and Suburbs in Zurich to find out about some of the best neighbourhoods to live in
"I enjoy living in Zurich because it has a lot of the benefits of a big city, without the big problems of one. I live in a quiet, leafy-green neighbourhood in Zurich city, but I can hop on a tram and be 'downtown' in five minutes for shopping or dining out. While I take full advantage of the safe, clean and punctual public transportation, I can also easily walk to most everything I want to do in Zurich: my children’s school, the shopping mall, the local farmer’s market, the lake, the woods, etc. My children have access to many beautiful and clean parks and playgrounds, filled with potential playmates. The city provides many services specifically targeted to children and families, including lively community centres in most neighbourhoods and a wide variety of sport classes and holiday camps. When we need a change of pace, we can easily escape the city and within an hour or two, be in a quintessential quaint European village or on the top of a world-famous mountain."
For more about American expat Tanya's experiences in Zurich, read our interview with her.
Are you an expat living in Zurich?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Zurich. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
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