Even though it often comes near the top of quality-of-life surveys, living in Zurich does have cons to go with its many pros. From cultural differences and language barriers to finding good accommodation and schools, expats should be prepared for both the challenges and advantages that come with moving to Switzerland's biggest city.
Below are a few of the pros and cons of moving to Zurich.
Accommodation in Zurich
+ PRO: High living standards
Switzerland is well known for having high standards of living, and expats can look forward to state-of-the-art amenities.
- CON: Rental accommodation is difficult to find
Thanks to the short supply of accommodation in Zurich, expats might have a hard time finding a suitable space to live. The tenant selection process can also be a hassle, and even if all the requirements are met, the landlord ultimately reserves the right to rent out their place to whomever they please.
Cost of living in Zurich
+ PRO: High salaries
Most expats who are transferred from other offices or headhunted can look forward to a good remuneration package that can include various subsidies, such as an education allowance for those with children.
- CON: One of the highest costs of living in the world
Switzerland currently has four of the top five most expensive cities for expats to live in, and Zurich is one of them. Schools, public transport and health insurance are famously pricey, and the cost of living, in general, is expensive.
Lifestyle and culture in Zurich
+ PRO: Luxury shopping and numerous restaurants
Zurich is well known as a shopping destination, and Bahnhofstrasse is globally acknowledged as one of the most exclusive and expensive shopping streets in the world. Its cosmopolitan atmosphere provides the setting for many different cuisines from around the world.
+ PRO: Low crime rate
Zurich, and Switzerland in general, prides itself on its low crime rates.
- CON: Shops are closed on Sundays
Except for shops in larger railway stations, most shops are closed on Sundays. While the reason for this lies in Switzerland's Christian roots, it has evolved to a day of rest.
- CON: Generally conservative locals
The Swiss are known for their love of rules and regulations, and in comparison to other parts of the world, they can be quite pedantic. Expats might be subject to some seemingly arbitrary rules when they rent an apartment, such as not being allowed to wash their cars on Sundays.
Healthcare in Zurich
+ PRO: Good quality healthcare
The standard of healthcare in Zurich is very high, and most expats will find exceptional service in hospitals and clinics.
- CON: Mandatory private health insurance
Expats will find that they are obliged to find and pay for their own health insurance, which can be quite costly.
Transport in Zurich
+ PRO: Efficient public transport
The transport system in Zurich consists of a network of trains, buses and even boats. The infrastructure is outstanding, and travellers can use the integrated ticketing system to access the entire network.
- CON: Expensive public transport
Public transport in Switzerland is notoriously expensive, even though there are various discount options available. Many people choose to cycle instead.
Weather in Zurich
+ PRO: Many opportunities for outdoor sports
The weather in Zurich is quite pleasant during the summer months, and there is a plethora of activities available for nature lovers. During winter, skiing is a popular past-time in the Alps.
- CON: Long sub-zero winters
While the cold is ideal for skiing, expats from more tropical climates might have a difficult time adapting to the winter. It is advised to invest in some good-quality winter gear, such as boots, coats, hats and gloves.
Culture shock in Zurich
+ PRO: Most people speak English
While expats might find themselves surrounded by different languages, most Swiss nationals speak English well, as Zurich is a diverse city that is popular with expats. That said, expats in Zurich will do well to learn at least the basics of Swiss German.
- CON: Many important documents and instructions aren't available in English
Expats might struggle with immigration documents that are in German or French, or find themselves baffled over grocery and medical products that don't have English labels.
►For advice on house-hunting, see Accommodation in Zurich
►For info on living expenses, see Cost of Living in Zurich
"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 “down town” 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."
Find out more about the expat experience in Zurich in our interview with American expat Tanya.
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.
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