Switzerland is famous for its snow-capped mountains, clear lakes, punctual trains and legendary chocolate. 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
While the general standard of housing in Switzerland is good, finding a home can be a challenging process.
+ 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 and strict housing rules
The Swiss housing market can be competitive and expensive. Finding accommodation 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
The expat lifestyle in Switzerland is great for families, but it may be a little quiet for single expats without kids.
+ 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, with the exception of gas stations and small stores at train stations.
Education in Switzerland
Expats have plenty of options when it comes to schools in Switzerland. Public, private and international schools normally have good standards, and most expats are able to find an institution that meets their children's needs and falls within their budget.
+ 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.
- 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 go 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
Employers in Switzerland encourage their staff to be productive by discouraging overtime and encouraging employees to use their leave.
+ 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
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.
+ 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.