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Does having a decent work-life balance appeal to you? Would you like to have lower taxes and higher pay? If you answered yes to these questions and are looking to start anew in a different country, then Switzerland might be right for you. Choosing to relocate to Switzerland has many positive points. For one, they are receptive to expatriates—out of the country’s 8 million residents, over 2 million are foreigners. Most of them hold senior level positions in corporations and conglomerates.
Swiss cities are very clean and everything is well maintained. You can drink from any public water fountain without fearing for your health. This high standard is one of the reasons why Zurich consistently ranks in the World’s Top 3 Cities to live in.
The cost of living is obviously higher in the bigger cities. Here are some estimates of what living expenses in Geneva could be like excluding rent:
- Single person, per month – CHF 1,144 (1,179 USD)
- Single person, per year- CHF 17,328 (17,864 USD)
- University student, per month – CHF 1,062 (1,094 USD)
- 4-person family, per month – CHF 5,362 (5,528 USD)
- 4-person family, per year – CHF 64,344 (66,336 USD)
All public transport in Switzerland is free and accessible with a Swiss travel pass. Meanwhile, purchasing a Zurich Card allows free public transport throughout the city as well. Whether travelling “inter” or “intra” city, you can rely on Swiss trains to take you where you need to go. The Swiss public transport system runs like clockwork—everything arrives and departs on time. All locations, even the most remote places in Switzerland, can be reached by public transportation. How’s that for efficiency?
People work from 8 to 5 and are not expected to work at night or the weekends. The same holds true for establishments such as malls and general stores. This means that except from bars, Zurich turns into a ghost town by 7pm. If that isn’t peculiar enough, establishments are only open until 4pm on Saturdays and nothing is open on Sundays! This means better work-life-balance and more time to spend with loved ones or engage in other activities such as sports. It is no wonder that the Swiss are so fit!
Visa and Work Permits
It takes a minimum of three months to process the visas and work permits you need to work in Switzerland. You would first need to apply at your country’s Swiss consulate then wait for a notice from the Federal Office for Migration on whether or not your application has been approved.
Citizens of EU countries can work in Switzerland for up to 90 days a year without needing a permit. However, your employer must register your employment with the cantonal office and you must inform them of your plans. You must also be enrolled in either a French, German, or Italian language course to be granted any visa.
If the thought of doing an online search for a home seems daunting, you may want to hire a real estate agent, or better yet a relocation expert who can assist you with everything you need. Finding a suitable home is very competitive in Switzerland and rent is generally expensive. Note that the rent, along with your utility bills, significantly varies from canton to canton.
Most Swiss locals opt to rent unfurnished apartments and only 30% of Swiss nationals are homeowners.
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Switzerland has one of the largest private healthcare sectors in the world and is consistently ranked as having one of the world’s best. The healthcare system is universal but is paid for by the individual rather than through government taxes. This means that everyone is covered by private insurance companies. Anyone entering Switzerland must have basic health coverage.
Banks and Taxes
Hollywood may have painted a romanticized, spy-filled scenario regarding Swiss banks, but the reality is somewhat different. However, the premium placed on anonymity when requested is true enough and Swiss banks are indeed sworn to protect the identities of the account holders with “numbered accounts.”
To help you navigate through your pre-conceived notions and on-ground realities, it is best to hire the services of relocation experts who can help you transition smoothly into your new life in Switzerland.
Compared to the U.S., the best Swiss universities only costs 500 CHF (515 USD) per semester. However, cheaper in this case doesn’t mean inferior. Both private and public schools share the same high standards. Swiss education standards are among the highest in the world. Public schools and state universities are responsible for educating more than half of the country’s population. International schools are pricey and are recommended for students who move from country to country and who are after specific credentials.
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Swiss wages are more than enough for a comfortable lifestyle. For example, a Swiss engineer would most probably earn more than his American counterpart. If you are looking to get employment in the country, expect to be asked for a higher education diploma and significant work experience in the same field. Knowing how to speak German, French, or Italian gives you an edge over other applicants. Self-employment is welcome but requires special permission from the cantonal authorities.
Ask any visitor who has travelled to Switzerland and they will all say that it exceeded their expectations. Everything you heard about living in Switzerland is probably true: the breathtaking views, the charming towns, the efficient public transportation system, the best chocolates and watches.