Moving to Switzerland doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Much like anywhere you move to, whether at home or abroad.
If you take your time to research the country and the various locations, you can learn a lot about the best places to live and what they have to offer to you and your family.
What opportunities does Switzerland hold for those who choose to live and work there and what do you need to arrange before you make the move?
If you are well prepared, you will find it a much more enjoyable and less worrying experience. For many, the hard part can be knowing where to start.
Let’s look at why many choose Switzerland as their new home and what research you need to carry out before you make this life-changing move.
It helps first of all to determine your reasons for moving. If you are relocating because you have been offered an opportunity with work that is too good to turn down, then that is one thing but what if you just decide you want a change of scenery and Switzerland looks like it might be somewhere nice to live?
What can you expect from life in Switzerland? Well for a start Switzerland boasts one of the strongest economies in the world along with the lowest inflation.
As a non-EU member state it has its rules and its own currency; the Swiss Franc. The country is famous for its beautiful mountains and its quality of life.
The climate is temperate with mountains that are perfect for winter sports along with a Mediterranean climate for those who like it hot in the south of the country.
The summers in Switzerland are warm and humid. For those moving to Switzerland, you are probably already aware of the things that it is famous for.
Just put Swiss in front of cheese, watches, chocolate (yes they invented milk chocolate), Army knife and Red Cross and you get the idea!
So for good clean living, a better quality of life and a huge choice of things to see and do Switzerland is certainly a popular choice amongst many in fact 22% of the population are resident foreigners.
Where to live in Switzerland
Where you choose to live when moving to Switzerland will very much depend on your own personal preference and what you are expecting from your new life.
If you are relocating with work, you will probably be residing in or near the extremely popular Zurich, Geneva or you may be considering moving to Bern or another of Switzerland’s cities.
Italy, France, Austria, Germany and Lichtenstein all border this popular country and your choice may depend on the proximity of one of these European countries.
The further south you go the more Mediterranean the climate whereas, for those who prefer the mountainous climate with the choice of winter sports, you may prefer the Alps in the south or the Jura Mountains in the North.
If you prefer the postcard version of the Switzerland, then Bern is the perfect choice offering a quieter existent than some of Switzerland’s more populated cities.
For smaller towns, and a good quality of life the regions or cantons of Ticino, St. Gallen and Lucerne are also good choices.
Moving to Zurich
As a major city for commerce, Zurich is not only a major financial centre but also somewhere with lots to offer everyone. In fact moving to Zurich is a great prospect for so many reasons. The crime rate is low and the quality of life is so good that it is often ranked as one of the best places to live in the world.
Whilst Swiss German is the most common language spoken in Zurich, English is also widely spoken and when it comes to things to see and do you won’t be disappointed.
With plenty of museums, galleries, theatres and attractions as well as being relatively close to the German border you won’t tire of things to do if you decide that moving to Zurich is for you.
Moving to Geneva
There are so many reasons that many are moving to Geneva to start a new life. The quality of life is superb and there is so much to see and do, not only in Geneva but also the surroundings.
As the HQ for the United Nations and the World Health Organisation, it is a city of extreme standing with the rest of the world. The main language is French but it is not unusual to hear Spanish and German spoken here as well.
Because of its popularity, the competition for housing is high so it is advisable to ensure you secure somewhere to live before you move.
With fantastic healthcare, a great transport network and plenty to see and do it is no wonder that so many are moving to Geneva.
Moving to Bern
Although not the largest city in Switzerland, moving to Bern is a popular choice with expats with over 30% of the population being foreign nationals.
Whilst it isn’t the capital it is home to the national parliament and is known as the Bundesstadt or federal city.
Located to the west of Switzerland it is close to the Bernese Alps and the borders of France and Germany.
If you are looking to move here and find work then you will be pleased to know that it has a very low unemployment rates, in fact, it is amongst the lowest in Europe.
Whilst close to the Alps this doesn’t mean it is cold in fact it does enjoy warm summers with average temperatures of around 22 degrees Celsius.
When to move to Switzerland
If you are planning on moving to Switzerland you may not be able to move as soon as you would like.
Whereas in some countries you can simply put your dot on the map, arrange your international moving company and book your flights/travel and move at a time to suit you, it’s not quite that easy in Switzerland.
The amount of applicants per property and the fact that you have to secure a lease on a property and have an offer of employment before you move may mean that you are at the mercy of the authorities.
If you are relocating with work, then your move is probably already pre-determined.
If you already have an offer of an apartment/house and a job to move to then you will want to move as soon as possible as no doubt, you will be paying rent on your apartment, and your prospective employers will be keen for you to start.
So rather than when you want to move to Switzerland, it will more than likely be a case of when you ‘can’ move.
Carry out your research first
Have you decided where you want to move based on the image of Switzerland that you have created from the online articles you have read or have you actually visited Switzerland?
It is always advisable to carry out your research by conducting your own survey so if you haven’t visited the country before and you have the opportunity to do it, it would be wise to do so.
If you live too far away and a visit is not possible, then you need to carry out a thorough online research.
Make sure you find out all the pros and cons of each area of Switzerland.
What are the cities like vs the more rural cantons and would you prefer to live in the mountains or would this not be practical?
Many expats choose to live in the popular cities of Zurich or Geneva. Why is this?
Are there specific reasons that these cities are particularly popular? It is likely that many expats choose to reside in the cities because there are more job opportunities or that other areas are perhaps a little too remote.
It is wise to check out education if you have children – what is the education system like and what healthcare does the country have to offer those entering from outside of the country?
Make sure you can answer all of these questions before you decide upon moving to Switzerland.
Unlike many other countries, it is not as easy as you might think to move to Switzerland.
You can’t just decide you want to live there and apply for a visa.
As a non-EU member country, Switzerland is very much a law unto itself, it is not easy for EU members to simply move there and it is even more difficult for those outside of the EU.
First of all, you have to make sure you have an employment contract.
Next, you need to have a lease on an apartment, this alone can be difficult as the demand for rental properties in the cities is very high with as many as 60 applicants per property.
Once you have both a job offer and a lease on a property you can then apply. For those applying from outside of the EU, you will probably want to start the process a few months ahead of actually making the move.
Your application needs to meet lots of criteria and stand out amongst the many others applying for citizenship.
There are 4 different national languages in Switzerland. These are German, French, Italian and Romansh.
Over 60% of the population speak German with French the next most spoken language followed by Italian and Romansh.
So what does this mean for you? Well with so many different languages it is advisable that you can understand and communicate in at least one of them.
You may have studied German or French at school but if you are keen to learn a language before you move then it is probably best to learn German.
Before you decide on which language will be best for you we do recommend researching what the most widely spoken language is in the particular area you are moving to.
If you are moving close to the French border, for example, you may be better to learn French.
With Switzerland being such a clean and efficient country it’s no surprise that the transport network is one of the safest and most efficient in the world.
With a network that covers the entire country, you can choose from trains, trams, buses, boats and an extensive cycling network.
Green is very important to the Swiss as well, so pollution is low and green transport is encouraged. Not only is their internal structure good but you can also travel easily to countries like France, Germany and Italy for the weekend.
In fact, there is so much opportunity to explore this beautiful country and its surrounding neighbours, it is well worth checking out all of the different passes
available for transport as there are a few to choose from.
Once you have conducted your research and decided that a life in Switzerland is the right choice for you and your family, then you can begin the necessary applications for jobs, property and visas.
Make sure you prepare well in advance, are well informed, meet all of the criteria and that you are confident that you are able to make the move comfortably.
From a job and a place to live, to schools, healthcare and transport, being armed with the relevant information will make it much easier for you and your family to settle into your new home.