Pros and cons of living in Switzerland? You'll wanna read this.

TransferWise content team
20.03.18
7 minute read

Moving abroad is a huge undertaking, even though people do it for so many reasons: for work, to go to school, to follow love or just to find a new adventure. If you’ve ever thought about moving abroad, you probably realize how much work and research it takes to find a place that you can happily and comfortably call your new home.

If you love chocolate and picturesque mountain ranges, you’ve probably dreamed of living in Switzerland. But like any country, Switzerland has its pros and cons. Read on to find out more about some of the reasons you might want to call Switzerland home, and some of the reasons you might want to just stay away.

Pros of living in Switzerland

Switzerland is a very desirable place to live -- just ask the ex-pat community from all over the world that has settled there. Thinking of following in their footsteps? Here are some of the many reasons you might want to choose Switzerland to be your new home.

You’ll have an immediate community

welcoming/friendly people

Switzerland is a very popular place for expats to choose to live. For that reason, there are people living there from all over the world, and new expats are likely to find a welcoming community ready to help them adjust to their new culture. Wherever you’re from, you’ll probably find others from the same home country as you, which can help with culture shock. Plus, you’ll have people to commiserate with if you ever get homesick.

You’re close to everything

walkability

So many people dream of seeing the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the London Eye. If you live in Switzerland, you’re just a short (and often cheap) flight away from all the European vacation spots that decorate Pinterest boards all over the world. If you’re a frequent world traveller, Switzerland will offer you an excellent home base for exploring dozens of other countries that are close by. Get your passport ready!

Healthcare is abundant and affordable

healthcare/health insurance

Switzerland has a universal healthcare system, and insurance providers are non-profit and government approved, ensuring their policies are affordable. There’s a lot of cost sharing in the Swiss system -- insurance plans come with deductibles and co-pays -- but yearly co-pays are capped to avoid financial hardship based on medical costs. There’s also an annual out-of-pocket limit for all Swiss health insurance plans.

The food is incredible

food

The Swiss have a culture of eating what is local and in-season. That means that meals are fresh, healthy and delicious, including any of Switzerland’s 450 kinds of cheese, 200 kinds of bread and pastries, farm-fresh meat and eggs and more.

You’ll probably spend a lot of time outside

nature/outdoors

Outdoor recreation in Switzerland is rampant. Have you seen those mountains? Skiing, hiking, swimming, tubing and more are common activities for Swiss people, who get more than their fair share of fresh air living in such a beautiful country.

Education is excellent

education/schools

The Swiss education system is known all over the world for being among the best. The state school system is free for all children to enroll in, and there are also numerous options for private and international schools, though these tend to be competitive and require an interview and testing to gain admission. The International Baccalaureate syllabus was created in Switzerland, and many schools there still teach to it.

You may have a fast track to citizenship

citizenship/residency

For most foreign nationals, it’s required that you live in Switzerland for a minimum of 12 years before you’re eligible to become a citizen. But if you’re from Canada or the US, it’s only five years.

It’s easy for foreigners to start businesses

start a business

Switzerland has a simple, straightforward process for registering a new business, meaning just about anyone can be a Swiss entrepreneur. You do have to be a Swiss resident to register a business, which makes it a little trickier to set things up from abroad. But good news: the only requirement for Swiss residency is that you live there for at least 90 days, so you can get your business up and running fairly quickly.

And it’s even easier to open a bank account

bank account

Switzerland is famous for its many banks, and being one of the finance hubs of the world makes it any easy place to open a bank account. It’s even possible to open a Swiss account from outside the country, although you’ll be required to mail in some documentation -- after all, the anonymous Swiss banks you see in the movies only exist in the movies. Some documentation, like proof of identity, residency and address, will be required, and some accounts may come with annual fees. But overall, opening a Swiss account is simple and straightforward.

Cons of living in Switzerland

As you can see, there are many reasons to consider Switzerland as your new home. The country is famous all over the world for its high standard of living, so no wonder there are a lot of pros to moving there! But where there are pros, there must be cons. Switzerland has some downsides, too, and you should be aware of those as you consider a move to the country.

It can be hard to meet actual Swiss people

hard to meet people

Remember that healthy and thriving ex-pat community in Switzerland? Once you join it, you can definitely end up in an expat bubble. Some people who have moved to Switzerland from other countries have reported it took them years to make Swiss friends, even though they had friends from over a dozen other nationalities. It doesn’t help that Switzerland has its own dialect of German that is different from what’s spoken in most other German-speaking countries. It will take serious effort to integrate, and the thriving ex-pat community will probably make it even more difficult.

There is a bias against foreigners

prejudice/racism

In Switzerland, there are people who view foreigners as being highly suspect. There’s not always an outright bias, but it’s important to note that is does exist, and it could affect the ease with which expats find jobs and housing.

The cost of living is extremely high

cost of living

Switzerland is a wildly expensive place to live. Rent is on par with places like London and New York City. Groceries and restaurants are pricey, too. Switzerland is home to several of the most expensive cities on the planet, so moving there from somewhere like Canada may come as a shock to your wallet. It’ll take a high salary and some good budgeting to make the most of a life in Switzerland, especially if you plan on living near a city center, where the action is.

Renting can be difficult for a foreigner

leases/renting

While we’re on the subject of rent, let’s talk about getting an apartment in Switzerland, one of the biggest hurdles for foreigners to overcome. Most Swiss people — around 60% of the total population — rent their homes instead of owning them, which means there’s a highly saturated and highly competitive rental market. It’s also going to be expensive to get into an apartment in the first place. Many Swiss people rent apartments and then stay for a long time. That means it’s standard to pay a deposit of three months’ rent just to get into a place. Even once you find the perfect apartment, there will probably be competition for it. You’ll be more likely to win if you have an agent, but that’ll cost you too — about two more months’ rent in fees. Ouch.

You may be far from home

isolation

If you move to Switzerland from the US, Canada or Australia, you’re going to be far from home. The long distance and time differences are a recipe for homesickness and feelings of isolation, and it won’t help that a lot of creature comforts you may have enjoyed back home (things like peanut butter and processed foods) are difficult to find or very expensive in Switzerland.

Everything is closed on Sundays

long break

This one may be a little bit of a culture shock for some expats. If you routinely run errands on Sundays, you won’t be able to anymore, because everything that isn’t a museum or restaurant is closed on Sundays. The Swiss consider Sunday to truly be a day of rest, which might be nice, but it sure can be inconvenient, too.

Juggling lives between two nations? Want to save money? TransferWise borderless multi-currency accounts could help.

transferwise borderless card

Whether you’re just visiting Switzerland or you’re ready to make your permanent move, there’s one aspect of your life that you’ll need to get in order sooner rather than later: your finances. You’ll need to have access to your money when you arrive in Switzerland, and that may mean making an international money transfer. But if you use your bank or a traditional money transfer service, you’ll routinely see a 4-5% markup on the exchange rate, which basically amounts to a hidden fee you’ll have to pay for just to move your money.

With TransferWise, you can move money across borders at the actual mid-market rate -- that’s the same exchange rate you see when you Google it. There are no markups or hidden fees. There’s just a small, fair transfer fee that’s spelled out for you upfront.

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As you can see, even with its famous quality of life, Switzerland has both pros and cons. It may be the place for you, or you might find that somewhere else in the world is a better fit. Regardless, the first step is research, and this list should give you a good idea of whether you’ll feel right at home, or not quite. No matter where you end up, good luck with your move!

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