Living in Switzerland For Members

Six things to consider before you move to Switzerland

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Six things to consider before you move to Switzerland
This is definitely NOT the Swiss way. Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Before you move to Switzerland, you probably have a certain image in your head of what this country is like — most likely based on stereotypes. But before you come to live here, ask yourself some questions about what you might experience here.


Sure, there is cheese and chocolate, the Alps, and stunning landscapes practically everywhere you go.

There are also (comparably) high salaries, an enviable quality of life, and great infrastructure.

Those are some of the things that attract foreigners to Switzerland, but do they actually take a sober look at all the aspects of living in this country, and decide whether they can handle them?

Consider these before you decide to move here:

Three languages

When it comes to languages, Switzerland beats all other countries.

It has not just one official language (like most places) or two (like Belgium and Canada) but FOUR — German, French, Italian, and Romansh.

True, you don’t have to learn all the languages, but only the one that’s spoken in your canton of residence.

But learn you must if you want to obtain (and maintain) your work permit.

You must speak the language at an A1 elementary level for temporary admission or residence permit.

In other words, you can’t hope to keep your permit if you depend only on English to get around.

READ ALSO: Can you get by in Switzerland with just English?

Cost of living

Yes, Swiss wages are higher than elsewhere in Europe, and in many other countries as well.

And if your income is higher than the median (currently 6,665 francs a month), then you can likely afford to live comfortably in this expensive country.

Otherwise — and depending on your spending habits — you may have problems making ends meet.

As someone pointed out to us, "A Swiss wage is only high in other countries. The only place where it is not high is Switzerland."

So crunch your numbers carefully before you decide to settle here.


Health insurance

On the positive side, the quality of healthcare in Switzerland is excellent.

However, it does come at a hefty price, which is reflected in the high health insurance premiums.

This insurance is obligatory, so you have no choice but to purchase a policy from one of dozens of private providers — and that can be expensive.

So if you come from a country where the health insurance is tax-supported (EU) or not compulsory (US), then the price of Switzerland’s plans will come as a shock to you.

Recycling culture

That’s definitely a biggie.

Switzerland has strict garbage disposal and recyling rules, so if you come from a country where trash is thrown out any each way, then you could have a hard time getting used to the Swiss system.

You may be even more shocked to learn (hopefully, not through experience) that ‘garbage inspectors’ actually sift through your trash and will fine you if they discover something in there that wasn’t properly disposed of — as this foreign resident of Zurich has found


Difficult to make friends

One negative side that many international residents have experienced, is that it is not easy to make Swiss friends.

Anecdotal evidence has it that locals often snub foreigners, and it takes a long time, and jumping through a lot of hoops, to be accepted by them.

Whether it’s because they are wary of strangers or because they value privacy is not certain. But the lesson here is: don’t expect social interactions with the Swiss the minute you step foot on their soil — if ever.

Silent Sundays

Not only are the vast majority of shops closed on Sundays, but being designated as ‘rest days’, Sundays in Switzerland are noise-free.

On those days, the Swiss expect everyone – except possibly newborns - to switch to a silent-mode for the entire day.

You can’t use your lawn mower, make repairs with a jackhammer, or emanate any other noise that can annoy your neighbours — who are in their right to call the police on you (and will).

READ ALSO: Six things you shouldn't do on a Sunday in Switzerland 


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