The things I wish I knew before moving to Switzerland

The things I wish I knew before moving to Switzerland
“I wish I made Switzerland my home from the get-go” Photo:monkeybusiness/Depositphotos,com
There are 2.1 million foreigners living in Switzerland and for many moving here from their home country was exciting but also daunting. Here's what you wish you had known before making the move.

Prior to moving to Switzerland, many envisage the Swiss life as being filled with skiing adventures, cheese tasting and possible sightings of Roger Federer. However, daily life can be difficult to navigate.

The Local asked six international residents of Switzerland to share what they wish they knew before moving to here.

1.    “I wish I knew to make Switzerland my home from the get-go” 

Bev Smith, from England, moved to Switzerland with her husband when he secured a job for a company based in Basel. Initially, Bev saw the move as a temporary one, but after living in Switzerland for almost four years she wishes she made it feel like home earlier on. 

“I wish I realised I should make Switzerland my home instead of a place of transition. I think the secret to enjoying Switzerland is to see it as your new home.

“I am a now planting flowers in my garden, hanging pictures on the wall, investing in deep friendships and making it feel like my ‘forever home’. I am not waiting for the next thing and I am no longer surviving, I am thriving,” said Smith. 

2.    “I wish I knew everything is closed on a Sunday”

Aideen McCarthy, from Ireland, is a seasoned traveller whose family had lived as expats more than once, so upon arriving in Switzerland, they were ready to adjust to a new life – but she admits they were initially surprised to learn that most retailers in Switzerland are closed on a Sunday.

“I wish I knew everything is closed on a Sunday, but now I am used to it and I quite like it. Our family uses Sunday as a time to unwind, reenergise and explore new places.

“We get everything done during the week knowing that Sunday is a time to rest before life gets busy again,” she said.

FIND A JOB IN SWITZERLAND: Browse thousands of English-language vacancies

 Stock Photo: DenKostiukB/

3.    “I wish I knew how to speak German” 

Gary Colen, originally from the United States moved to Switzerland five years ago and if there is one thing he wishes he knew it is the local language. 

“Language learning as an adult is difficult, when I was young I learnt Hebrew in six months in Israel, but living in Basel where 34 percent of the population are expats, there is no immersion because English seems to be the common language. The second I start speaking German people respond in English, because they also want to practice speaking English,” said Colen. 

Colen’s decision to keep trying his best to learn German stems from his own upbringing and observations of communities in New York. 

“Growing up in New York I was sensitive to populations of people who would come and not integrate and stay within their own community without making an effort to learn English, so moving here I wanted to integrate as fast as possible and make an effort”. 

Gary is currently studying German and attained a B1 level in the language, he says that he sees the benefits it has on his daily life. 

READ ALSO: Jobs in Switzerland: Where the vacancies are in 2019

4.    “I wish I knew how to find second-hand furniture”

Carrie Aikman from the United States wishes she knew more about sustainable retailers when she relocated.

“I wish I knew how to find second-hand furniture and get it delivered so I didn’t rely on IKEA. I found which would have been helpful to know about. They have nice furniture and they deliver.” 

Carrie is passionate about environmental sustainability and has used the relocation to share her tips on how to reduce, reuse and recycle. Last week she was a guest speaker at her son's school and received a positive response to her eco-friendly message.


5.    I wish I knew about the differences between places to live”

Mother of two, Kathryn Padain moved to Switzerland nine month ago from England and is loving the relocation. She is learning German and has already made Swiss friends within her neighbourhood – but she just wishes she had more access to information about the different districts in her Canton before the relocation. 

“I wish I knew more about the different places of residence in and around Basel, it would've been good to know the difference between living in Basel land and Basel Stadt and how that affects taxes and the benefits these locations have on daily life.

“I am also adjusting to the prices of after-school care and co-curricular activities, but overall I have enjoyed the move,” said Padain. 

6. “I wish I knew about ticks” 

Just like many other expats in Switzerland, James Mcmanaman was unsure about ticks when he arrived in Switzerland from the UK. But a few months after living in the city, he found a tick creeping up his leg when he was in his kitchen. 

“I wish I’d known about ticks, then I wouldn’t have panicked, well I probably still would have,” he jokes “I managed to stop half the tick from entering my leg and then I bought good tweezers and got the rest of it out.”

According to experts, finding a tick should not be alarming. However, medical attention is required for the monitoring of rashes and symptoms after contact with a tick.  

What do you wish you knew before arriving in Switzerland?


Member comments

The Local is not responsible for content posted by users.

  1. These kind of “self-help for expat” articles are becoming increasingly tedious. My personal preference is for serious news coverage from an expat perspective. This kind of stuff can stay in the Forums.

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.