Pros and Cons of Living in Zurich

When living in Zurich, you can benefit from the high salaries, great infrastructure, and international atmosphere this city offers. Over 400,000 people with a non-Swiss background live in the canton of Zurich, so it is home to the biggest expat community in Switzerland. If you’re thinking of moving to Zurich, keep reading to find out about the lifestyle you can expect.

Pros of Living in Zurich

Excellent Earning Potential

Swiss employees earn some of the highest salaries in the world. In 2020, the average worker earned CHF 6,665, which is approximately USD 7,560 and GBP 5,590. However, there are significant regional differences. While you can expect lower salaries in Ticino and eastern Switzerland, Zurich comes out on top at almost all levels of employment.

Upper executive level employees can expect to earn CHF 11,500 per month, while mid or lower-level executives earn over CHF 9,500. If you want to boost your career and earn a high wage, Zurich could be right for you.

A Balanced Lifestyle

According to Kisi’s 2022 Work–Life Balance Index, Zurich is the fourth-best city worldwide when it comes to work-life balance. It offers excellent healthcare, plentiful outdoor spaces, and great city safety. The average employee takes 25 days off every year, and less than 12% of the population is overworked. This is because work and free time are strictly separated in Switzerland, and employers respect employees’ leisure time.

Pros and Cons of Living in Zurich

Everything Works

Quality and precision are important in Swiss culture, so the infrastructure is built to last. The city is connected by buses, trams, and trains, which run frequently and reliably. Around two-thirds of the population have at least one travel pass, and over a quarter of trips are taken by public transport. This means that having a car is optional in Zurich City and the surrounding areas.

Similarly, homes are built to a high standard. Features like triple glazing, sturdy insulation, and underfloor heating are common. When you move into an apartment building in Switzerland, you can expect everything to be clean and functional.

Great Safety and Healthcare

There are no ‘bad neighbourhoods’ in Zurich, and you can safely walk around every area as most places are populated and well-lit. Petty crimes are infrequent, and instances of street harassment are rare.

If you need medical care, you’re in good hands in Zurich. The university hospital, Universitätsspital Zürich, is one of the leading medical centres in the country and offers excellent care.

An International Community

Almost one in five foreigners who move to Switzerland settle in the canton of Zurich. As a result, around 32% of Zurich’s population is non-native, and you’ll find a vibrant international community. No matter where you’re from, there are likely to be residents from your home country. If you want to connect with other expats, join international groups like the American International Club Zurich or Zurich Together. You’ll meet people from all over the world as well as internationally-minded Swiss residents.


In most areas of Switzerland, shops are closed in the evenings and on Sundays. For expats who come from large cities with open shops around the clock, this is challenging. However, it isn’t such an issue in central Zurich because there is a large shopping mall inside the main train station, which is open from 9am to 8 or 9pm every day.

You can find everything in Zurich, from health food shops to boutiques to big box stores. There are also plenty of delivery options, so you can get your groceries or purchases delivered to your door.

Since the city is well-connected and walkable, you won’t struggle to get around. Public transport tends to run until around 12am and from 5 or 5:30am, but there is a night bus network on Friday and Saturday nights.

Plenty to Do

No matter your interests, you’ll find something to do in Zurich. The weather is warm from April to October, so you can enjoy the many green spaces the city has to offer. Particular highlights are the lake, which attracts locals and visitors all summer, and the Uetliberg, a mountain situated inside the city, which offers stunning views of Zurich.

In the winter, you can enjoy activities like ice skating in the city and skiing, tobogganing, and snowshoe hiking in the nearby mountains. There are also plenty of Christmas markets, performances, and traditional restaurants, such as fondue chalets, that brighten up the cold season.

Cons of Moving to Zurich

It’s Expensive… at Least Until You’re Settled

Essentials and recreational activities are expensive in Zurich, and housing is particularly costly and challenging to find. Fortunately, the high salaries make up for this. Once you have a well-paid job in the city, you’re likely to enjoy a good standard of living. Since public transportation is excellent, you can also choose to live in a nearby village and commute to reduce your costs.

Swiss Culture May Take Some Getting Used to

Some expats are surprised by the reserved culture they find in Zurich. Most locals won’t speak to you on the street, but they might look at you or even bump into you in crowded areas. In Zurich, queuing isn’t as important as in countries like England, especially on public transport. This is probably related to the fact that the “Zürcher” are busy people, and trains can get crowded at peak times.

You Have to Stick to the Rules

Switzerland is known for its many rules and regulations, which are partly responsible for the country’s high safety rating. Everything from the way you dispose of your rubbish to where and when you hang your laundry is regulated. The “Nachtruhe,” night resting period, is particularly important. In most areas, you can’t make any noise that can be heard outside your flat after 10pm and before 6am or 7am.

There Is a Language Barrier

German, French, Italian, Romansh, and Swiss German — which one do you have to learn? Getting a hang of the Swiss languages can be tricky at first, especially in German-speaking areas like Zurich. Signs and official documents are always in standard German, but locals speak a dialect called Zurich German (Züritüütsch) to each other. It may take you some time to learn both these languages, but fortunately, most people in Zurich speak good English.

The City Is Small

Although Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland, it isn’t a megacity like London or New York. People who come from these metropoles may find the pace of life slower.

It’s Cold in Winter

Do you dislike cold weather? If so, Zurich might not be the right city for you, as you can expect sub-zero temperatures in December, January, and February. You can still move to Switzerland, though. The sunny cities in Ticino could be a better fit.

Should I Move to Zurich?

Most expats find that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages of living in Zurich. Although the city may appear small and expensive at first, you’ll find plenty to do in Switzerland’s vibrant and international financial hub. The best way to find out whether moving to Zurich is a good next step for you is to visit the area. You can also sign up for our newsletter and download our Rigby AG Welcome Guide. It contains helpful information about all aspects of life in Zurich and other Swiss cities.

Pros and Cons of Living in Zurich