Living in Switzerland

Breath-taking landscapes, a rich culture, and a high quality of life converge to create an extraordinary living experience in Switzerland. But moving to a new country is always challenging, and there are pros and cons to choosing Switzerland as your destination. Keep reading to find out more about this small but diverse country and to determine whether living in Switzerland could be your next adventure.

Living in Switzerland

Pros and Cons of Moving to Switzerland


1. Some People Can Become Residents and Citizens Relatively Quickly

Are you hesitant to consider Switzerland because you’re worried about the long road to citizenship? Although it can take a decade or more to become a Swiss citizen, this isn’t the case for everyone. It all depends on your situation and country of origin.

If you’re an EU or EFTA citizen, you don’t have to apply for a visa to live and work in Switzerland. Instead, you can get a permit right away, as long as you either have a job or sufficient financial resources to sustain yourself. After five years, you’re eligible for citizenship. The process is even simpler for individuals who are either married to a Swiss citizen or are descendants of a Swiss person.

2. English Is Spoken Widely

Another common concern is the language barrier. Some people don’t move to Switzerland because they’re worried that they won’t be able to get by with English. But this isn’t usually a concern. Swiss children are taught English from a young age, and many residents speak three or more languages. This makes everyday communication easy, even if you don’t speak the local language.

3. There Is a Great Expat Community

Finding people to socialise and network with has never been easier. Countless expat clubs like the American International Club Zurich provide regular opportunities for English-speaking people to get together. Additionally, you can find other local expats on English Forum, a large online community that allows members to chat about various aspects of living and working in Switzerland.

4. High Housing Standards

Craftsmanship and precision are two important values in Switzerland. This is evident in the construction of homes, which are built to high standards under observation of strict building codes. The oldest Swiss chalet, Bethlehem House, was constructed in 1287 and lived in until the 1980s. This exemplifies the excellent quality of Swiss homes, many of which are centuries old and still in great shape.

It’s also worth noting that modern buildings in cities are often specifically made for multi-family occupancy, so they feature excellent insulation. Because Swiss homes are so well-constructed, most residents don’t have to worry about drafts in the cold months and excessive heat in the summer.

5. It’s Easy to Get Around and Travel to Other European Countries

One of the best things about Switzerland is the extensive public transport network. The trains, buses, trams, and ferries are renowned for their reliability, efficiency, and punctuality. No matter where you have to go in the country, there’s sure to be a suitable public transport option.

Even better, all of Europe is at your fingertips when you live in Switzerland. From Zurich, it takes you just over three hours to get to Milan (Italy) by train. You can also get to Munich (Germany) and Dijon (France) in under four hours.

6. Great Education and Safety for Children

If you’re looking for a child-friendly country that offers security and good educational opportunities, Switzerland could be an excellent choice. The local school system is one of the best in the world. Students benefit from a comprehensive and diverse curriculum that works well for both academically-minded and practical individuals.

Another reason to move to Switzerland with kids is that most areas are safe. Children are actively encouraged to walk to school on their own and develop their independence. In Switzerland, your kids are more likely to spend a lot of time outdoors than in more car-centric societies.

7. Dozens of Outdoor Activities

Active people love Switzerland because outdoor activities are available year-round. In the spring, summer, and autumn, residents enjoy the 65,000 kilometres of local hiking trails, the many public swimming pools, and countless bike paths in the country and the cities. In the winter, favourite activities include skiing, snowboarding, and sledding. Some cities like Bern even offer free ice rinks.

8. Great Language Learning Opportunities

Although most people speak English in Switzerland, learning the local language is important if you want to settle in. Fortunately, there are countless opportunities to learn German, French, or Italian. If you’re sending your child to a Swiss public school, they will be automatically enrolled in a language course.

Additionally, you can find group courses, private tutors, and immersive experiences. Expat groups in every city organise language learning meetups, so you can get to know locals and practice your skills at the same time.

9. Low Unemployment

Living in Switzerland can be expensive, so you have to land a good job to make ends meet. There are plenty of employment opportunities, especially for highly skilled workers. Unemployment is low, at under 5%. Currently, there are shortages in the healthcare, IT, engineering, and construction industries. If you have good qualifications, you’re likely to find an excellent job.

Further Reading: Is Switzerland a Good Place to Live for Foreigners? 


1. Becoming a Citizen Can Take a Long Time for Some

As mentioned, moving to and working in Switzerland is easy for people from EU or EFTA countries and those who have Swiss family members. But those who come from other parts of the world often struggle to obtain a residency permit and, ultimately, citizenship.

The best way to overcome this challenge is to reach out to a Swiss staffing agency. At Rigby, we help IT professionals from around the world to find the perfect job in Switzerland. If you’re a skilled and experienced worker, you’re likely to be a good fit for some of our clients.

2. The Cost of Living Is High

Another limiting factor is the high cost of living. In Switzerland, goods and services are around 31% more expensive than in the US. This means that someone with an American salary wouldn’t be able to afford the same type of lifestyle in Switzerland. However, it’s important to note that salaries are also higher than in other countries. When you move to Switzerland, you’re likely to earn significantly more than you did in your home country.

3. Housing Can Be Hard to Find

Most Swiss cities are experiencing housing shortages, which makes finding a home time-consuming and costly. There are often several applicants for each property. To secure a house or apartment, you have to submit a strong application that demonstrates your financial stability.

Fortunately, there are several ways to increase your chances of finding a great home. If you’re seriously considering moving to Switzerland and you’d like more information about how to rent, download our free “Living in Switzerland” brochure. It contains over 40 pages of helpful content about moving to Switzerland, including a comprehensive guide to finding housing.

4. Renting Can Be Challenging

Once you’ve found a place to rent, you have to adhere to the strict house rules set out by many landlords. They include respecting the quiet hours, purchasing the right kind of insurance, and correctly disposing of garbage.

Although expats often have trouble wrapping their heads around the rules at first, many eventually come to enjoy them because they promote order and quiet enjoyment of the property. Our “Living in Switzerland” guide explains the most common building rules and the rental process in greater detail.

5. Making Swiss Friends Can Be Challenging

Swiss people are often seen as distant and reserved. Many have tight-knit friendship groups that are hard to break into. This can make socialising more challenging for newcomers, especially those who don’t yet speak the local language.

However, it’s worth noting that Swiss people tend to be very loyal once you’ve broken the initial barrier. Expats who have been in the country for a while have a stable and reliable network of friends and business associates. James Macsay and Margaret Reilly Baer speak about this topic on our podcast.

6. Everything Is Closed on Sundays

One of the biggest cultural differences between Switzerland and many other countries is that everything is closed on Sundays and bank holidays. The Swiss take their days of rest very seriously. At first, this can be shocking for expats who are used to 24/7 shops and restaurants. Over time, many start to appreciate the quieter pace of life and the fact that they can use Sunday to work on passion projects or socialise with family and friends.

7. Jobs for Expats Are Limited

Because English isn’t the primary language in Switzerland, some expats have trouble finding a job. Good positions for those who don’t speak German or French are in limited supply and often highly specialized.

One of the best ways to increase your chances of landing a good job is to become fluent in the local language. Additionally, if you’d like to find a job as an expat, contact local staffing and recruitment agencies. Businesses like Rigby are happy to keep your CV on file and match you with suitable jobs in your desired area.

Moving to Switzerland

Once you’ve decided that you’d like to live in Switzerland, the first step is to plan your move. You can get a residence permit if you or your spouse have a job or you have close family members in Switzerland. Getting set up can take some time, but many employers offer guidance and support.


The requirements depend on where you come from. If you’re from an EU or EFTA country, you can move to Switzerland and look for a job once you’re there. If you’re from a non-EU or EFTA country, you have to get a highly specialized job or have a connection to a Swiss citizen to be able to live in Switzerland. The best way to find out whether you qualify for a residency permit is to visit your local embassy or speak to staffing experts located in Switzerland.

Best Place to Live in Switzerland

When they first arrive, most expats move to one of Switzerland’s major cities: Zurich, Basel, or Geneva. Each of these locations has something special to offer. If you can, visit all three and travel around the country to get a feel for the various areas before you move.

Moving to Zurich

With over 400,000 residents, German-speaking Zurich is by far the largest Swiss city. It is located in the north-central part of the country, at the tip of Lake Zurich. Residents enjoy the diverse cultural opportunities and the fact that this city is safe and efficient. Life in Zurich can be very expensive, which is why some people who work in the city commute from the neighbouring cantons of Schwyz and Zug.

Further Reading: Pros and Cons of Moving to Zurich

Moving to Basel

Basel is another primarily German-speaking city. With a population of around 170,000, it’s much smaller than Zurich. This means that the atmosphere is calmer and less hectic, but also that there is less to explore.

Basel is generally considered safe, and it’s a great place to live if you’d like to visit Germany and France on a regular basis. This is because Basel borders both of these countries. However, the Swiss mountains are less accessible because Basel is located in north-western Switzerland.

Moving to Geneva

Geneva is a very international city. Almost 40% of its 200,000+ residents are non-Swiss. This city lies at the southwestern end of Switzerland in an area called the Romandy. It is primarily French-speaking, although many locals also understand English. Geneva is ideal for people seeking a milder climate because it’s usually warmer than the other major Swiss cities. It is considered more affordable than Zurich but less affordable than Basel.

Further reading: Where Do Most Expats Live in Switzerland?

How Much Money Do You Need to Immigrate to Switzerland?

Relocating to Switzerland doesn’t have to be expensive, but it depends on your situation. If you’re moving to a furnished apartment, you might only have to cover your travel expenses. On the other hand, you will likely spend CHF 5,000 or more if you’re bringing your furniture and car from your home country or buying everything from scratch in Switzerland.

High-net-worth individuals who would like to become Swiss citizens but haven’t found a suitable job can pay to live in Switzerland by getting an Investor Visa. This requires an upfront payment of at least CHF 200,000 to the local canton or the establishment of a business with a turnover of at least CHF 1 million. The Switzerland Investor Visa is the most expensive way of immigrating to Switzerland. Most people get a job instead.

Can I Move to Switzerland Permanently?

You can only move to Switzerland permanently if you have EU or EFTA citizenship, a suitable job, or a family connection to a Swiss citizen. Those with a short-term contract who don’t have EU or EFTA citizenship have to leave once they are no longer employed by a Swiss company. In contrast, those with a permanent position or residents who have married a Swiss person can stay in the country indefinitely by obtaining a C permit. After ten years, they can apply for citizenship.

Daily Life in Switzerland

The best way to experience daily life in Switzerland is to spend an extended time there. If you don’t have the opportunity to visit for several months ahead of your move, read as much as you can about what living in Switzerland is like. Below, we’ve compiled some interesting facts to give you an insight into what you can expect.

Swiss Culture Facts

Switzerland is known for its chocolate, watches, and banks. But there’s more to Swiss culture than meets the eye.

Swiss People Marry Late

If you come from a country where most couples get married in their twenties, you might be surprised to learn that the majority of Swiss people don’t tie the knot until they’re 30 or older. This is partly because there is a big focus on education, so many people spend their twenties studying and initiating their careers.

Because Switzerland is a relatively expensive place to live, couples often decide to marry later in life, once they’re settled and financially stable. They tend to cohabit for some years before getting married.

Swiss People Own Lots of Guns, But There Is Little Crime

Did you know that many Swiss families own a gun? This is because military service is mandatory for men in Switzerland. Since gun owners are taught to store and use their weapons responsibly during their military training, the rate of gun-related deaths is very low. In 2020, there were only nine homicides by firearm in the entire country.

There Are 7,000 Lakes

People who enjoy outdoor adventures will find endless opportunities in Switzerland. This country is home to mountains, valleys, forests, and over 7,000 lakes. Best of all: freshwater is so clean that you can swim in most of the lakes.

3 Big Swiss Traditions

Switzerland is steeped in history and tradition. Some of the most beloved ones are Swiss National Day on August 1st, Fasnacht, and the Alpine Cow Descent.

The First of August

The First of August is the Swiss national day. It commemorates the foundation of the Swiss Confederation, and it’s a national holiday. On August First, you’ll get to enjoy brunches at local farms, firework displays, parades and processions, traditional dishes such as Rosti and patriotic boiled eggs, and bonfires.


Fasnacht is also known as Carnival, and it’s a lively celebration that takes place in winter. Every area celebrates it slightly differently, but parades, special music called Guggenmusik, and masked revellers are almost always present.

Alpine Cow Descent

Many farmers take their cows to the Alps during the summer months. When they come back to the valleys and villages in the autumn, the towns organise a celebration called Alpine Cow Descent. The cows and farmers are dressed up, and there are sometimes traditional dances and performances.

Important Things in Swiss Culture

As mentioned, Swiss culture is varied and diverse, and it takes several months or even years to get to know it well. If you want to start off on the right foot, remember these important aspects:

1. Peaceful coexistence and neutrality are important values in Switzerland. Although they are manifested in politics, they also apply to daily life. To fit in, it’s important to respect the local rules and the people around you.

2. Another important cultural value is civic engagement. Switzerland is a direct democracy, which means that Swiss citizens actively participate in decision-making at all levels of government. This fosters a sense of civic pride and a collective spirit that is central to living in Switzerland.

3. Quality and precision are crucial. The buildings, transport network, and products all reflect attention to detail and quality. It’s important to remember this when applying for jobs or interacting with locals in a professional capacity.

Average Cost of Living

The cost of living is relatively high in Switzerland when compared to other countries. Most families of four pay at least CHF 5,000 to 6,000 per month. If you’re living in a city, you can expect to pay significantly more because rents are very high. Dining out and other leisure expenses are more costly than in many other areas of the world.

Daily Life

You might find that daily life is similar to what you’d experience in your own country, although you’ll notice that the pace is often slightly slower, especially on weekends. The culture is characterized by punctuality, orderliness, and work-life balance.

To make integration easier, browse the local council’s website before you move to your new home to find out about the rules and customs. Befriend one of your neighbours, and ask them about aspects of daily life like garbage collection and building rules. If you follow the guidelines set out by your council or local authority, you’ll have no trouble fitting in.


While you can own a car in Switzerland, this isn’t strictly necessary. The transportation network is extensive and present in virtually every area of the country. You can purchase a general travelcard, also called General Abonnement (GA), for CHF 420 per month or CHF 3,860 per year. This covers travel around the entire country. Many areas also have local travelcards that are significantly cheaper.

Renting vs. Buying

Around 60% of Swiss people rent an apartment or house. Homeownership isn’t very common in Switzerland because it’s very expensive. Renting is easy, and there are many regulations that make it safe and convenient. Expats almost always rent when they first move to Switzerland, especially if they aren’t sure whether they’d like to stay for more than a few years. Those from non-EU or EFTA countries can only buy property if they have a permanent residency permit (C permit).

Further reading: How Much Do You Need to Comfortably Live in Switzerland?

Working in Switzerland

To live in Switzerland, you have to either be connected to a Swiss citizen or find a local job. At Rigby, we connect IT professionals from around the world to Swiss companies. Let’s have a closer look at what working in Switzerland is like.

Getting Paid to Move to Switzerland

Switzerland has recently been featured in the news around the world because a small Alpine town called Albinen is paying people to move there. The village has under 300 residents because locals are abandoning it for the surrounding cities. As a result, the regional government is offering Swiss citizens and anyone with a C permit thousands of francs to move there.

But settling in a secluded area of the country isn’t the only way to get paid to move to Switzerland. You can also get a lucrative job before you arrive. Several industries, including IT, are experiencing staff shortages, so now could be a great time to reach out to a recruitment agency.

What Salary Do You Need?

When compared to other countries, Swiss wages are high. In 2022, the average monthly salary was CHF 6,788. If you earn more than this, you’re likely to have no problem getting by in Switzerland. It’s important to remember that certain areas, like Zurich and Geneva, are significantly more expensive than others. If you’re planning on settling there, you might need a higher wage to feel comfortable.

Further Reading: How Much Do You Need to Comfortably Live in Switzerland?

Minimum Wage in Switzerland

In 2014, the Swiss population voted against a minimum wage of CHF 4,000 per month. However, several cantons have their own minimum wages. If you live in Neuchatel, you will earn at least CHF 20.50 per hour. In Jura, the minimum wage is CHF 20. Recently, voters in Zurich City have also approved a minimum wage of CHF 23.90.

While these salaries might sound high, keep in mind that living in Switzerland is expensive. If you’re earning under CHF 50 per hour, you might not be able to afford a comfortable lifestyle in one of the major cities.

Is CHF 100,000 Enough?

CHF 100,000 per year is more than the Swiss average wage. A family earning this amount is unlikely to struggle unless they live in the centre of Switzerland’s most expensive cities.Despite this, CHF 100,000 doesn’t put you in the top quantile of earners. To earn more than 75% of people, you have to make at least CHF 8,861 per month.

Most Popular Jobs in Switzerland

Many jobs are in demand at the moment. Some of the most popular jobs in the country include:

1. Healthcare Workers: Nurses, doctors, and pharmacists can expect excellent pay and benefits because there is a severe shortage.

2. Technology Professionals: IT professionals and engineers are crucial to the Swiss economy. Skilled and experienced workers won’t have any trouble finding a highly-paid job.

3. Business Professionals: Accountants, marketers, and other professionals who keep businesses running smoothly are always sought-after in Switzerland. The country runs on small and medium-sized companies, which make up 99.2% of all enterprises. This means that skilled businesspeople can expect to land a job easily.

4. Tradespeople: Although Switzerland has an excellent apprenticeship system, increasing numbers of young people want to go to university. That’s why skilled tradespeople like plumbers or carpenters are in high demand.

Swiss Labour Laws

The Swiss emphasize work-life balance, so strong labour laws are in place. When you start to work with a company, you’ll sign a detailed work contract. Most companies can dismiss you within a month at first. However, once you’ve worked with them for over two years, they have to give you two months’ notice. If you’ve been with a business for over ten years, the notice period is three months. There are also provisions for holidays, maternity and paternity pay, and paid sick leave.

Swiss Working Hours

Another important part of Swiss labour laws is the working hours. Employees aren’t supposed to work more than 45 or 50 hours a week, and overtime is compensated at a much higher rate than regular work. These rules are designed to protect work-life balance and prevent excessive working hours.

Living in Switzerland can be a great adventure, especially if you have a good job already lined up. If you’re ready to take the first step, sign up for our Rigby AG newsletter to receive your extensive guide. You can also send us a message and ask us about currently available positions. We’ll be more than happy to help you find your dream job in Switzerland.

Living in Switzerland