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Moving to Switzerland

Your guide to expat life in Switzerland. A small country that makes a big impression

Want to move to Switzerland?

Switzerland is an immensely popular expat destination with spectacular mountain scenery, highly sophisticated cities, excellent financial opportunities and a great quality of life.

Home to some of the world's most prestigious brands, Switzerland 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 Switzerland earn impressive salaries which are well above the global average. With a good work-life balance, expats have more time to enjoy the high quality of life in the safety and security of Switzerland. The country provides the perfect backdrop to raise a family and the diverse schooling system and popularity of international schools mean most expats feel the quality of the education their children receive is higher than back home.

You should find it easy to adapt to the country’s luxury lifestyle and first-class infrastructure, but many expats say it’s difficult to integrate with locals. Developing friendships with the Swiss takes a long time as they often come across as cold and reserved. Fortunately, there’s a very large and welcoming expat community to make you feel more at home.

Basic info about Switzerland

  • Population: About 8.7 million

  • Capital city: Bern

  • Largest city: Zurich

  • Main languages: Swiss German, French, Italian and Romansch

  • Main religion: Christianity. Other religions include Islam

  • Political system: Federal republic

  • Time: GMT+1 (GMT +2 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October)

  • Electricity: 230V, 50Hz. Two-pin and three-pin, rounded plugs are standard

  • Currency: Swiss franc (CHF)

  • International dialling code: +41

  • Internet domain: .ch

  • Emergency numbers: 112 (general), 117 (police), 144 (ambulance), 118 (fire)

  • Road traffic: Drives on the right

Weather in Switzerland

The climate in Switzerland is moderate, though winters can get cold. From June to September, summers are warm and humid with occasional rain showers and temperatures ranging from 18°C to 28°C (65°F to 82°F).

In winter, temperatures can drop to below freezing with heavy snow on the mountains and fog in low-lying places such as Zurich, Basel and Geneva. This is the perfect time to take a ski holiday – resorts open from late November until the snow begins to melt in April.

Key phrases in Swiss German

  • Hello Grüezi (formal) Hoi (informal)
  • Good evening Gueten oobe
  • Goodbye Uf widerluege
  • How are you? Wie goots Ihne? (formal), Wie goots? (informal)
  • Thank you Merci
  • Yes Ja
  • No Nein
  • Do you speak English? Sprechen sie Englisch?
  • Can you help me? Können sie mir helfen?
  • Sorry Es tut mir leid

Shipping to Switzerland

Shipping goods to Switzerland is easy and cost effective. As long as everything has been used in your home country, it can be imported duty free. A reputable removals company will advise you on the documents you need and help speed up the process.

Air vs. sea freight

Transporting your belongings by air is expensive, but shipping goods to landlocked Switzerland by sea can take a very long time.

Pets

You can bring almost any pet into Switzerland. Dogs and cats need microchips, rabies vaccinations and animal health permits from the Federal Vet Office. Dogs must also be registered at a Swiss vet within 10 days of arrival.

Top tips for Switzerland

See what people responding to our Expat Explorer Survey think about living in Switzerland.

Take advantage of the excellent local state schools which offer intensive language lessons for expat children for free. Young children learn languages very quickly when given support.
If moving to the Italian part, the process of obtaining a work permit might be a little more complex than elsewhere. It is also difficult finding information if you do not speak Italian, since everything tends to be in Italian only. The people are very friendly and welcoming here and the nature is just amazing.
Learn skiing - it is the best way to enjoy winter time... Summer time is great with many open air festivals and activities by the lake. It may look like a quiet country but there are lots of things happening.
Come with an open mind and wallet, spare time to learn Swiss-German, and maintain a desire to see some beautiful Alpine vistas.
Don't keep converting the price of everything into GBP from CHF all the time when you are shopping. Accept that the high price of things is a factor of your higher net income.

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by expatarrivals.com, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in September 2021. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information is purely for orientation and to inspire further research, it does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you're aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.

You might also be interested in

 

Opening an offshore account, can be an effective way to save, invest and manage money while abroad.

 

Steps to build a better financial future abroad.

 

Read our 10-step guide to moving abroad to make sure you've got everything covered.

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