'I thought it would be different': What to expect from a seasonal job in Switzerland

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
'I thought it would be different': What to expect from a seasonal job in Switzerland
A typical seasonal job in a ski resort: waitressing. Photo: Pixabay

While most foreign nationals who are employed in Switzerland work here long-term, others come specifically for seasonal work.


In an article published in foreign media on Monday, a South African woman relates her experiences of working in the Swiss Alps during the latest ski season.

Though she had great (and clearly unrealistic) expectations of her two short-stint jobs as a waitress in a ski resort, her hopes were dashed after she was fired from both, subsequently venting her anger on TikTok.

The litany of her complaints includes that her work “was exhausting” and that she and other seasonal personnel were “exploited”.

She even found it unfair that there were … “so many Swiss people”.

“Me not speaking German was really hard. I had to learn so many Swiss drinks. All the beers were in German, so there was a lot to learn.”

It is not clear what the woman thought her job in Switzerland, and in the German-speaking part at that, should legitimately entail, but she concluded that she is "so disappointed with Switzerland. I thought it would be completely different".

All this brings up the question of what you should reasonably expect from a seasonal job.

But first: what is a ‘seasonal’ job?

As the name suggests, it is temporary, usually short-term work, performed at certain times of the year that are particularly busy for a given industry.

It includes extra help needed by businesses during peak periods — for instance, retailers hiring additional staff during the Christmas shopping season.

In Switzerland, seasonal (mostly foreign) workers are typically hired by winemakers during the grape harvest in early fall, or, as was the case with the South African woman, during the winter sports season.

In the latter case, as relatively few people live permanently in resort areas, there is a shortage of local employees to work in various jobs that are essential for tourism.

Tourists far outnumber the locals in Swiss ski resorts – which means "outsiders" must be hired for the efficient running of the local economy.

However, while the more "glamorous" jobs like ski instructors may be hard to get (sport instructors must have special qualifications and be certified), work in a service sector, which includes hotels, bars, and restaurants, is plentiful.

READ ALSO: How to find a job in winter sports in Switzerland 


What about summer jobs ?

They too are considered "seasonal" but would typically be filled by Switzerland-based students rather than people coming from abroad specifically for this purpose, as is the case with the grape harvesting and winter sports sectors.

In Geneva, however, this type of work has become scarce, though it is still available in most other cantons.

READ ALSO: Why it's becoming more difficult to get a summer job in Geneva

Are seasonal employees really ‘exploited’, as the South African woman claimed?

Though Switzerland has no special regulations for seasonal workers, the usual labour rules and protections apply to them as well.

Like any other job contracts, short-term ones must also be in writing and outline the rights and obligations of both employer and employee.

However, if you think you are being treated unfairly in your seasonal (or "regular") job, contact your employer in writing to express your position.

If that doesn't help, your next course of action should be a union (if there is one) and, as a last resort, the cantonal civil court responsible for settling labour disputes.


How can foreign nationals apply for seasonal work permits?

Rules are determined by the candidate’s nationality – as is the case for "regular", long-term employment.

This means that people from the European Union and EFTA (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein) can work in Switzerland for up to three months without  a permit (they must, however, declare their arrival in the canton within 14 days).

Rules for people from outside the EU / EFTA depend on how long they plan to work in Switzerland.

If it is up to three months, they must apply for a short-stay L permit.

For work contracts of up to four months, a D visa is needed

You can find seasonal work here


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