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Moving to Switzerland

By Betsy Burlingame

Last updated on Nov 26, 2022

Summary: Moving to Switzerland? Expats talk about what you need to know before moving to Switzerland.

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What do I need to know before moving to Switzerland?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Switzerland, they said:

"Aside from trying to adjust to a Continental move, the public school system gave me the most grief. I would suggest a person read up on how it works in CH before deciding to put your children into their system. If you don't like it, or it's not a good fit for your child or children it's almost impossible to move them to the private school system even with the money for tuition," explained one expat living in Zurich, Switzerland.

"Keep in mind: - There is no free choice of school for your children, unless you are willing and able to pay for (expensive) private schools. Your children will usually go to school in the quarter you live. If you have specific school preferences for your kids, take this into consideration in the neighborhood choice. - Not only property prices vary highly between city and countryside, and between the various cantons. Also taxes and costs for (mandatory!) health insurance may vary a lot. Example: the canton of Zug may sound very attractive at first sight, because of the extremely low taxes. You'll quickly find out that this is (more than) compensated by prices for housing. Check out tax and health insurance rates at www.comparis.ch," said another expat in Olten.

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William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

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How do I find a place to live in Switzerland?

We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"It was very difficult with a zero vacancy rate, our decision was dictated by what was available," remarked another expat who made the move to Zurich.

"www.immoscout.ch is a good website to find houses/apartments, both for sale and for rent. When you consider to buy a house: - may be a good idea as mortgage interest rates are low - keep in mind that a bank will not give mortgages for more than 80% of the value of the house. You need to finance the rest of the house yourself - check which legal conditions you must oblige when buying property. In particular, try to organise your work/stay permit before you buy, as this will make buying conditions easier and cheaper," explained one expat living in Olten, Switzerland.

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What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Switzerland?

"Apartment with 3 bedrooms, living/dining room, kitchen (more or less open to the living room), bathroom and seperate shower rom with WC, garage. It is in a 4 storey-block (we are on the 3rd floor) and seems very typical for expats and locals in the area," said another expat in Switzerland.

"We live in a house. It has 3 bedrooms and a garden. In the neighbourhood there are a mix of families Swiss and expats. Our children are small and we wnated them to miox with local children and learn the language early if posisble because we don't know how long we will stay here - it might be for a long time," added another expat who made the move to Switzerland.

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What is the average cost of housing in Switzerland?

If you are thinking about moving to Switzerland, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"They were much higher but salary made up for the difference. It was a 3 - 1 difference," commented one expat who made the move to Zurich.

"Property is expensive, whether you buy or rent. In the cities of Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Bern, prices can be astronomic," remarked another expat in Olten, Switzerland.

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William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance in Switzerland

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
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What should I pack when moving to Switzerland?

We asked people living in Switzerland to list three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They responded:

"What I wish I brought: Familiar foods and products GPS A guide to everything Swiss What we could have left behind: All our furniture, opting for storage Not selling our house ?," added another expat who made the move to Zurich.

"No particular things for myself - as I have a Swiss wife, she could very well prepare me for moving to and living in Switzerland. - There are no real needs to bring to Switzerland. Anything you need is available here as well. - Don't bring washing machines, tumblers, kitchen appliances, as they usually belong to / come with the house or apartment that you buy or rent. Moving these things is very unusual in Switzerland. - When you bring electrical equipment: check plugs and voltage. Swiss electricity comes at 230V/50Hz and plugs and sockets are of type "J", which means that any plug of type "C" or "J" will fit into a Swiss socket, and any other plug won't. - Switzerland is expensive. In particular, medicins, health care and body care products are very expensive. Many Swiss buy them abroad (in Germany) whenever possible. - Switzerland has the best public transport system of Europe, and one of the best of the world. Living without car may be very well possible for you in Switzerland - consider this when you plan to import a car," explained one expat living in Olten, Switzerland.

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What cultural faux pas should I try to avoid making in Switzerland?

We asked people in Switzerland if they could share any humorous cultural blunders they commited. For new expats, keep in mind that these incidents are an inevitable part of expat life. Learning to laugh about them is the key!:

"The only thing I can think of is when my daughter & I went shopping - we traipsed through stores trying things on including shoes, coats, make-up, etc. I think perhaps they are accustomed to more formally assisting you where as we are used to helping ourselves. I felt like a bull in a china shop! The reverse is true at the grocery stores-while we are used to having our groceries bagged - here, they shove it down to the end & you are supposed to bag it yourself - in your own bags. If you aren't quick enough, the next person's things get mixed in and they give you a look," explained one expat living in Geneva, Switzerland.

"hmmmm... Swiss sometimes do not understand German jokes. I laugh but the Swiss don't," said another expat in Zurich.

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What are medical services in Switzerland like?

When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Switzerland, they replied:

"Health Insurance is mandatory but privately paid by the insured. Cost is regulated for basic requirements but supplemental is at providers discretion. Can be expensive," said one expat living in Lausanne, Switzerland.

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

Snowfall on Lake Zurich, Switzerland

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