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RETIREMENT IN SWITZERLAND

Health, prices, and safety: Is Switzerland a good country to retire in?

Many people dream of retiring in Switzerland, but there are many things to take into account before doing so, with the budget being at the top of the list. Here are some other things you should consider as well.

Health, prices, and safety: Is Switzerland a good country to retire in?
One reason for retiring in Switzerland: quality of life. Photo by Sven Mieke on Unsplash

If you are seriously thinking about spending your retirement years in Switzerland, you probably have a lot of questions. There is no one answer that will fit everyone, because a lot depends on your personal circumstances, with the bottom line being — can you afford it?

While there are many surveys of best places for international retirees, they use different criteria in their rankings, so you should probably not base your decision on these studies alone.

So what should you know before deciding whether to retire in Switzerland? These are the major points:

Living conditions

Swiss cities are regularly ranked among the best in the world for the quality of life they offer.

The high scores are based on factors including the political and social environment, economy, stability, health standards,  provision of public services, housing, and the natural environment.

Switzerland also has an excellent infrastructure, including a well-developed public transportation system, which is important for people as they get older and may no longer be able to drive.

READ MORE: Why are Geneva and Zurich high among world’s ‘most liveable’ cities?

Health

Access to and quality of healthcare is a major consideration for older people and here too Switzerland excels.

Its health system is mostly efficient, has an extensive network of doctors, as well as well-equipped hospitals and clinics.

Patients are free to choose their own doctor and usually have unlimited access to specialists.

Also, waiting lists for medical treatments are shorter than elsewhere in Europe.

However, healthcare insurance (KVG / LaMal) is compulsory in Switzerland and it doesn’t come cheap, which is also something for retirees to consider before making the move.

Premiums are based on the canton of residence, age, and the amount of the deductible, costing 300 to 500 francs a month on average, plus various co-pays, which may be a lot for pensioners with a limited income.

On the positive side, the insurance is quite comprehensive, including coverage for illness, medications, tests, physical therapy, preventive care, and many other treatments.

Some foreign residents may be exempted from the obligation to buy a Swiss health insurance, such as people who receive a pension from the UK or an EU / EFTA member state and those who have insurance from their country of origin, which covers them in Switzerland to the same extent as KVG / LaMal.

If you fall into one of the two above categories, you need to fill out this form, attach all the necessary documents, and wait to see if the exemption is granted.

READ MORE: How is Swiss healthcare system different from the rest of Europe?

Safety

Another important consideration for older people is feeling safe and secure, and Switzerland provides both.

In comparison with other countries, it has a low crime rate.

According to InterNations, a website for expatriates around the word, Switzerland is “particularly safe” for foreigners living here, with 96 percent of those surveyed feeling “personally safe”.

In fact, Switzerland is among the safest countries in all categories — not just crime, but also in terms of infectious diseases, political unrest, and road safety.

READ MORE: Switzerland ranked one of the world’s ‘safest countries’

Making friends (or not)

If you are no longer working and have plenty of time on your hands, you will probably want to have an active social life.

But know this: if you are going to move to Switzerland and don’t know anyone here, making friends could be challenging, especially if you don’t speak the local language.

A common perception of typical Swiss (if such a stereotype actually exists) is that they are aloof and unfriendly, especially toward foreigners.

Is this actually true?

The Local reached out to readers to ask about their integration experiences – and whether they found making friends to be difficult.

One longtime resident of Geneva, who is originally from the United States, found that most Swiss are not unfriendly or suspicious of foreigners.

Rather, they approach friendships the same way they do everything else: slowly and cautiously.

“It’s not in their nature to make friends immediately”, she said, based on her own experience.

“The Swiss have the innate sense of privacy — their own and other people’s. That’s why it takes them longer to befriend someone and trust them”.

On the positive side, many Swiss towns and smaller communities have active senior citizen groups, which organise various activities and are a good starting point for meeting people.

Cost of living

Probably the main reason against retiring in Switzerland is that it is an expensive country to live in, particularly for people who don’t have a high income.

But if you are thinking about retiring in Switzerland in the first place, you already know this; after all, nobody says, “Hey, let’s move to Switzerland. It’s really cheap there”.

Prices of consumer goods and services, including food, housing, public transportation, and the aforementioned health insurance, are higher here than almost anywhere else in Europe.

On the other hand, the inflation rate is much lower in Switzerland than in the eurozone countries, which may somewhat offset the high cost of living.

If you really have your heart set on retiring in Switzerland, you can find ways to spend less and save more, as this article explains:

Cost of living: How you can beat Switzerland’s inflation blues?

Residency/immigration

There’s quite a difference between retiring when you already live in Switzerland and have a residence permit, and being a resident of a foreign country who wants to move here after retirement.

The first scenario is a simpler one. If you have been working in Switzerland for a period of time, have contributed to the old-age scheme (AHV / AVS) and have a pension plan, then it will be easier to remain here after you retire.

In the latter case, much depends on your citizenship. If you have a passport from a EU / EFTA country, then settling in Switzerland is relatively easy — all you have to do is register at your cantonal population office within 14 days of arrival, and apply for a non-working residency permit

But if you come from outside Europe, including the UK and the United States, this process is more complicated, as you will need a visa, proof of financial assets, and various other documents.

You can find more information about all the formalities on the website of the State Secretariat for Migration.

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