Is Switzerland a Good Place to Live for Foreigners?

If you’re thinking of relocating, you might wonder about life in Switzerland for foreigners. Is it really as idyllic as it seems? What about the cost of living - is it prohibitive, or do the high salaries make up for it? Today, we’ll explore these topics through the eyes of a fictional expat family living in Zurich.

Life in Switzerland for Foreigners: What Is It Really Like?

James Williams, 45, and his wife Emma, 44, moved to a suburb of Zurich a year ago with their son, Roger, who is eight. James works as a Process Engineer at a Swiss company. He earns CHF120,000 per year, which is higher than the Swiss average.

Although James is an American, he was able to move to Switzerland because his mother is Swiss. He has a Swiss passport, so both he and Emma can legally work in Switzerland.

Is Switzerland a Good Place to Live for Foreigners?


Companies in Switzerland tend to start their workdays earlier than in the UK or US. James is expected to be at work by 08:30, so he has to get up at 07:00. From his residential area, it takes him 20 minutes to get to his office in the city centre by public transport. Because the trams arrive every few minutes, he has time for breakfast with his family. He leaves home at 08:00 and arrives punctually at his office, which is expected in Switzerland.

The workday lasts until approximately 17:00. Employees are legally obligated to take adequate rest breaks, so they can’t work at lunch and leave early. Because James is working on an important project, he leaves his office at 17:30 and arrives home at 18:00. This gives him several hours to spend with his wife and son.


Back in the US, Emma worked in HR, but she doesn’t currently have a job. Many positions require good German skills, and Emma is still learning. In the morning, she walks her son Roger to school. She drops him off at the street corner, where he meets several of his friends. Swiss schools value independence, so children are expected to enter the building on their own.

Roger comes home for lunch, but he returns to school for another two hours in the afternoon. Emma takes this time to research networking events. There are plenty of expat groups in and around Zurich, and she is hoping to find a job through the Professional Women’s Group or a similar organisation


On Wednesdays, Swiss children have the afternoons off. Roger is already looking forward to training at his football club. But at 11:00, Emma gets a call and has to go pick him up because he has sprained his wrist at recess. She takes him to the local hospital, where he is treated within two hours. He has to stay home for the rest of the day and the next day.

James and Emma don’t have to pay for the visit to the hospital because they have health insurance. This costs a bit over CHF 800 per month, which is average in Switzerland for a family of three. There is a deductible (excess), but it’s only a thousand francs a year. Most healthcare costs, including medication, visits to the doctor’s office or hospital, and various types of treatments, are included.


James works from home on Thursdays and Fridays. Although employees don’t have a statutory right to telework in Switzerland, his employer is flexible and has implemented a hybrid working model since the end of the pandemic.

James and Emma’s flat has a small office space, so James can work even when his family is home. Because they live in a popular area of Zurich, their apartment is relatively small. They pay a little over CHF 3,000 per month for a two-bedroom place in an apartment block.  Because they think they want to live in Switzerland long-term, they’ve looked into buying a small house in the area. However, finding something suitable can be a long-term process, so they’re renting for now.


Roger is back at school, so Emma has time to meet another American expat for coffee in the morning. Her friend is slightly younger, and she’s been using dating apps to meet new people in the area. Although she’s complained that many locals don’t take online dating seriously, she’s recently met someone. She tells Emma about their cultural differences. While marriage is normal in her hometown, her Swiss partner isn’t keen on it. He wants to cohabitate instead. This is increasingly common in Switzerland, as people are becoming more hesitant to tie the knot.

Later, Emma goes to her language course, offered by a local provider called the Migros Klubschule (Migros Club School). She started learning German a year before her move, and she’s recently passed the second CEFR exam out of six. This means that she is now an intermediate learner. In about two years, when she’s passed her fourth or fifth exam, she will be able to work in a German-speaking company.

Is Switzerland a Good Place to Live for Foreigners?


It’s a lovely late spring day, and the family decides to go on an outing to Stein am Rhein to see the iconic Rhine Falls, the largest waterfall in Europe. It takes just over an hour by train to get there. Like the tram James takes to work, the train is clean, punctual, and well-maintained.

Aside from the waterfalls, they visit the medieval town of Stein am Rhein and cross a bridge to the cloister island Werd. Since outdoor activities are a priority in Switzerland, the walk that takes over an hour is not a problem for Roger. Germany is very close to Stein am Rhein, but the family doesn’t cross the border this time. They travel to Germany or France at least once a month to explore local sights and benefit from the cheaper grocery prices.


Sunday is a rest day in Switzerland. Most shops are closed, and everyone takes the day off to spend with family, pursue passion projects, or relax in nature. This week, the family has been invited to a garden party by an English-speaking group they’re part of.

Although they still mainly socialise with other expats, they are starting to make some Swiss friends. Emma is part of the school’s WhatsApp group and has connected with several local mothers through school activities. James is beginning to spend time with one or two Swiss co-workers. In Switzerland, social life and work life are very separate, so it has taken longer for him to find workmates than in his previous job. However, he believes that his new Swiss friends are very loyal and dependable. He can imagine remaining connected to them for the rest of his life.

Like anywhere else, life in Switzerland for foreigners has its ups and downs. However, the country has a lot to offer, from great jobs to high-quality education and healthcare to amazing natural beauty. If you’re ready to find your new job in Switzerland, keep an eye on the roles that we're working on, or apply via the Rigby AG website, so we can connect you to suitable opportunities.