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EXPAT GUIDE | PRESENTED BY BALOISEDIRECT.CH

What to look for in Swiss insurance

With enough nuclear fallout shelters to accommodate its entire population, Switzerland likes to be well-prepared. But how can expats protect against more mundane risks? The Local spoke to Katharina Komarek, an expat who relocated to Basel to work for online insurer baloisedirect.ch.

What to look for in Swiss insurance
Photo: Pictures of Money/Flickr

Katharina, let's get right to the meat of it: What kind of insurance does one need in Switzerland?

What you will definitely need is a liability insurance for your car — it is a legal requirement for every vehicle owner.
You will also have to sign up with a Swiss health insurer within three months upon arriving in the country. Moreover, contributions to your social security will be automatically deducted from your pay check.

At baloisedirect.ch, we strongly recommend our customers to get a personal liability cover as well. In the event — however unlikely — that you cause serious damage to someone else, not having this kind of insurance can easily ruin you financially. So you better get this uncapped risk out of the way. And what is more, with the tense Swiss housing market, it is almost impossible to rent out a flat without proof of private liability insurance anyway.

Are there any expat-specific recommendations you have in addition to that?

Expats are generally more mobile than your average person. As an expat, you will want to visit your folks back home from time to time, so travel insurance should be a given. But you should also always consider the possibility of moving out of Switzerland again, which is important when it comes to taking up life insurance, for example.

Other types of insurance worth considering include legal insurance with international coverage. It comes very handy when a product you bought while shopping across the border proves defective, or when your hotel abroad turns out to be a building site and you want to seek compensation.

When moving to Switzerland, insuring your property against transport damage is a very good idea, too.

What kind of problems can expats run into that they might not have expected?

When you come to the German-speaking part of Switzerland with a solid knowledge of German, you better be prepared to find that what they speak over here sounds nothing like the language you have learned. As a matter of fact, the first few months were challenging even for me, and I am a native German speaker!

Also, especially if you're coming from France, Germany or Scandinavia, you may be surprised how liberal the Swiss labour market is, and how little employee protection it offers. There is also a very strong emphasis on written references, which usually have to be submitted alongside your CV when applying for a job.

Any pointers on how to handle this kind of problems?

As for the language barrier: When tackling administrative tasks or buying insurance, make sure you'll have a point of contact that you can talk to in a language you fully understand. Usually, authorities and businesses have information available only in the three official languages German, French and Italian.

At baloisedirect.ch, you can contact our customer service in English, and our site has the most important information available in English, too, but many other companies do not offer this kind of service.

When it comes to labour-related issues, taking up legal insurance will help you assert your rights in the workplace, for example if your last employer gives you an unfavourable reference letter. That is something many people don't know: In Switzerland, you can legally claim to receive an employment reference which contains an unambiguous, correct, and benevolent appraisal of your work.

Katharina, you have only recently relocated from Germany to Basel to take up a new job at a quintessentially Swiss company. What has your experience been like so far?

Well, first of all I would like to add that I worked in three different countries before, so I think I am in a good position to compare things. One thing that has impressed me a lot is to see how much the employee/employer relationship is built on trust and mutual appreciation here. At Swiss companies like Baloise, you will find a consensus-based, not one characterized by rivalry.

Fairness and mutual understanding are real concerns for the Swiss, not just buzz words. Since Switzerland has no single language or culture to unite it, the nation and the society are basically held together by consensus, and this is something I really admire about the country.

People in Switzerland have recently been ranked the happiest people in the world — and they really do seem to be having a good time! They greet each other on the street and everyone wishes you a nice day. Thinking of it, I actually haven't seen a single stressed Swiss person so far!

So insurance, too, doesn't need to be stressful in Switzerland?

Definitely not. In fact, as one recent client testified, it can be downright fun! So take your time and make sure you don't get rushed into signing anything. Consult the customer service if there is anything at all you are unsure about.

Here at baloisedirect.ch, we will be very happy to welcome readers of The Local as new customers, and I dare to make the bet that they will be happy with us as well — after all, our high-quality customer support has just been voted best in the industry by one of Switzerland's biggest comparison sites!

And once you're equipped with the right insurance package, it is really easy to relax and enjoy life in Switzerland like the Swiss people do.


This article was sponsored by Baloise. 

 

For members

PROPERTY

Where to find property in Switzerland for under CHF 500k

Switzerland is not known for being a cheap country and property prices are higher than in other European countries, but it's still possible to find property bargains, some for even under CHF 100k.

Where to find property in Switzerland for under CHF 500k

Property prices are rising in much of Europe and Switzerland is no exception. As the average salary is high in Switzerland, finding homes for under CHF 1 million in some parts of the country becomes almost impossible.

Even when you do find cheap properties, they are sometimes quite literally too good to be true. For example, Switzerland’s famous one-franc home scheme had to be scrapped after nobody signed up. The cheap homes were, actually, too expensive when considering the costs for renovation or even how remote they were.

READ ALSO: Six no-gimmick websites that help you save money in Switzerland

Some of the properties in the scheme weren’t connected to the electricity grid, sewer system or even roads.

So, where can we find cheap(er) homes in Switzerland – that are still liveable or could be excellent investments for those who enjoy fixer-uppers (or huge DIY projects)?

Not an easy search

To find these gems, we used a property website that allowed us to search for real estate in the whole of Switzerland (instead of just a few main cities) and showed us homes with at least three rooms.

The price limit was set at CHF 500,000 (while our colleagues in Germany had theirs set at €100k, but, hey, this is Switzerland).

As of August 2022, we found 203 houses and 80 apartments following these criteria on sale.

Most of these definitely need some fixing up, but you can still snatch a home for under CHF 500,000 with lovely views of lakes and mountains or big terraces and gardens.

Going through the addresses with some of the properties, some things stand out:

Head for the border – most of the most affordable places are in Italian-speaking Switzerland. However, you can also find some of them in the French regions. In both cases, they are located very near the border with France or Italy.

Forget about cities – All the properties we found are quite far from the major cities of Zürich, Bern, and Geneva, which makes sense as the cost of living tends to rise in those regions. If you’re looking for a cheap home, you’re highly unlikely to find one in city centres.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why is Switzerland so expensive?

Consider property type – It is also worth mentioning that there seemed to be a distinction between the homes in the west and those in the south. In the French region, there are more apartments and newer properties, with some outstanding options.

While in the Italian south, most of the properties are houses – and you need to inspect well because some will need a lot of work.

Research services – You should definitely check carefully the property’s location – some are not connected to basic services or even roads.

Renovation costs – Almost all of the properties we found were ‘renovation projects’. Some can turn out to be very good investments, but it takes time and work to renovate. Before buying, get an estimate of the likely works so you can see whether the property really will save you money in the long term, and be honest about your level of DIY/building skills and how much work you are willing or able to do.

Extra costs – Besides renovating costs, you must be mindful of property taxes and other living costs and how much they are in the region where you are buying property. Prices can vary quite widely depending on the canton, so research well.

You can check all our Property in Switzerland stories here.

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