Work in Switzerland | Everything you need to know
Swiss franc (CHF)
Switzerland is worldwide known for being a dreamy destination, how could it not? With their Alps in the south and southeast and breathtaking landscapes it attracts a lot of people not just for a visit but to actually live in Switzerland. But why does everyone consider Switzerland such a great destination? Here you will find out.
Switzerland is a charming mountainous country in the center of Europe with an area of 41,285 km² and population of 8.6 million inhabitants. Switzerland is not a member of the EU, so they have their own currency, Swiss franc (Chf, SFr, Fr) and 1 Chf = 0.96 EUR. Their capital city is Bern, but the most expensive city regarding costs of living, also in the entire Europe is Zurich. Fortunately, it also has one of the highest average annual wages in Europe. They have four official languages, German, French, Italian and Romansh. This economically stable, safe and high quality of life country is often a dream destination for expats.
5 Curiosities about Switzerland
- The shape of the flag of Switzerland made it world famous, it’s a square! White cross on the red background can be seen on official buildings or during national holidays and events.
- Switzerland remained neutral during WWII, however, it’s not only why for this country neutrality is a recognisable feature. Switzerland is not a member of the European Union nor NATO nor European Economic Area.
- Around 25% of residents in Switzerland are foreigners, you can say they are really open to expats.
- They have one of the most strict laws regarding pets ownership. Social animals such as guinea pigs can’t live alone on the charge of abuse. Fortunately, to avoid pet-buying circles, pet-renting services work well.
- Despite being neutral on so many fields, Switzerland is well prepared in case of war. One of their defence strategies is placing explosives in every main center of the country, Swiss are also well prepared in case of nuclear attack, cities are equipped with nuclear bunkers by the law.
Culture in Switzerland
Moving to Switzerland you may experience a real culture shock. Not because Switzerland is specific in one, certain way. Just the opposite, a multicultural environment speaking four languages, none of which is English, might be overwhelming when you are not prepared for that. Of course, English is well known in society, however, it may get lost in diversity. The overall level of the country’s order is incredible and nationals are proud of it, but you may not find it out directly from them, since Swiss people appreciate privacy a lot.
The Swiss are not very open for foreigners, they are not hostile, however, they prefer to keep borders and tend to be reserved, so for making friends with them give yourself a little more time. That is probably caused by the fact that there was a time when internationals were coming to Switzerland very intensely, some expats say nationals will accept you entirely only if you will learn the language and adapt some customs.
Sunday is a day of chill, actually, some of the activities are even prohibited by law! You can’t mow your lawn then, unless you wanna fall into trouble. A good idea for the weekend is to travel around the country to see many breathtaking landscapes of the Alps or small lovely towns. The country is divided into 26 regions called cantons and in every single one, there is something worth seeing.
Cuisine in Switzerland
Some of the cultural gems of Switzerland belong to the gastronomy section and there are two things which most probably came to your mind while reading this sentence. The first one is of course chocolate, known as the best in the world. You probably have heard about Toblerone, right? Making chocolate in Switzerland is frequently close to art. It’s a big part of their export. Equal in popularity to chocolate is cheese. The variety of choices and quality of each piece made the cheese product loved by the Swiss.
Swiss cuisine regarding spices may be characterised differently depending on the region, they use basil, rosemary, thyme or parsley. Commonly used is garlic, which comes from their mountains, red onion and charlotte onion. Some of the most popular dishes are:
- Émincé de Veau à la Zurichoise is a sliced veal with mushrooms cooked with a cream sauce and wine
- Swiss Fondue consists of one or two kinds of melted cheese mixed together with garlic and wine
- Pâté Vaudois (meat based crispy snack)
- Röstis is sliced potatoes baked with butter, which might be served with meat or eggs
- Malakoff de Vinzel, or le Luins, are simply balls of fried cheese
Famous desserts worth to try are definitely Leckerli, La Salée au Sucre or Le Gâteau Payernois. Talking about alcoholic drinks, the vine has to be mentioned, vineyard in Vaudois is even listed in UNESCO World Heritage List.
Work Permits for EU/EFTA nationals in Switzerland
EU and EFTA nationals, i.e including Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, can stay in Switzerland freely up to 90 days, this is because of the Agreement on the Free Movement of People, however if you’re planning to work and live in Switzerland, you need to ask your employer to register your employment either through the government’s online portal or with the local canton authorities (since each canton, or district, has their own regulations) in order to get a work permit and be able to stay longer, this has to be done before starting your job.
Quick Note: After BREXIT, residents from the UK are not included in this agreement.
Work in Switzerland
Thanks to its high salaries and high quality of life with work benefits such as social security, healthcare and insurances, annual leave, maternity/paternity leave and pensions, Switzerland is a demanded destination for job seekers, this makes the job market a little difficult because the employer must prove why it’s hiring a foreigner instead of a local, however, it’s still a very dynamic market and one of the prominent economy sectors is the Tourism, which is constantly hiring locals and foreigners.
Also, if you’re specialized in any field, it’s way more probable to land a job in Switzerland, if you’re from the banking sector then you should look in Zurich, if you’re in chemicals or pharmaceuticals then the best city for you is Basel. We know that the biggest cities are more expensive, but this is easily offset with higher salaries.
In Switzerland you have two faces regarding labour laws, the first one is what actually says the law and the second one is the common practices. According to law restrictions, the maximum hours a person can work weekly are 45 hours, but in practice, there’s a tendency between 45 – 48 hours weekly, but this doesn’t mean the employers are tyrant but the opposite, in Switzerland you get paid for extra hours a 125% of your salary plus other benefits employers brings to those longer periods of working time.
Pro Tip: Be sure your contract says you may work extra hours, because the payment is entitled to appear in the contract to be effective.
Work in Zurich
Zurich is a perfect city if you desire to build your career since it attracts professional workers in the financial services industry, which generates a quarter of the jobs and a third part of the wealth of the city. However, the financial sector is not the only popular in Zurich, you may find opportunities in the IT, computing and engineering sectors too and these kinds of jobs often don’t require you to speak German. Other highlights of working in Zurich as an expat are their high, worldwide impressive salaries. It is true that the cost of living is high, but we can assure you that if you manage your spending well, you’ll end up saving way more than in another country with a lower cost of living.
Taxes in Switzerland
Taxes in Switzerland are divided into at least three levels, federal taxes, cantonal taxes and communal tax, but also if you follow any religion then you may have to also pay a church tax, however the approximate sum of all these taxes is around 21% to 46% depending on your locality, while the marginal wealth tax is about 0.15% to 1%.
Once you’re registered into any job in Switzerland or getting paid from Swiss sources, even for the 90 days the EU agreement permits, you are already eligible to pay taxes in Switzerland.
Finding accommodation in Switzerland
Finding accommodation in Switzerland might appear to be quite a demanding task. It would make things a lot easier if your employee would agree on including housing provisions in your employment contract. You can also ask for help from estate agencies, but the fee for their services are usually high.
However, remember that it’s not impossible to find accommodation on your own. Use online renting portals to see what prices are in which regions and how many offers are available. Don’t leave in for the last moment, it may take some time, be prepared for around a month. Try Facebook groups about rentals in Switzerland, Zurich or Bern. To get accommodation sometimes you have to show proof of employment.
Apartments for rent are usually unfurnished, which often means even lack of light fitting and utilities are often paid separately. The deposit is equal to three months of rental. Sometimes you also need a Swiss guarantor to be accepted for accommodation, so after getting in touch with the landlord ask about all additional requirements.
Living cost in Switzerland
Switzerland is known for its high cost of living, it’s true that three of their major cities are ranking into the 10 most expensive cities in the world (Zurch, Bern and Geneva) but it’s also true that the salaries in Switzerland easily counterbalance this cost of living, by A LOT, being the average salary around €6200
|Description||Cost in Euros (€)|
|Tennis court rent (1 hour on weekends)||33.52|
|Mobile rate (1 min. Prepaid tariff)||0.21|
|Ticket de cinéma||18.34|
|Pinte de bière locale||6.27|
*Les prix peuvent varier en fonction du quartier, du nombre de personnes vivant dans l'appartement et des équipements.
**Depends greatly on your diet and which shops you buy food and drinks from.
Expats in Switzerland
Many expats who already decided to move to Switzerland claim to be drawn into this country. Indeed for the price of living you have to pay you to get an incredible quality of life. Since around 25% of the dwellers are internationals, the expat community is lively, especially in bigger cities. Join social media groups where foreigners are sharing their comments, advice and experience about living in Switzerland. Look for the groups with meetings and events too and attend them as much as you can. What makes you feel like home are people, so meet some in the new place.
Making friends with locals is often hard at the beginning, they are quite reserved toward expats, because the international community has been tense for a long time already. But don’t let it make you feel bad, they like privacy but after some time they will let you join their circle. Start from your colleagues, after all these are people you meet on a daily basis, so catching a bond shouldn’t be a problem.
Where to Learn German in Switzerland?
Switzerland has four official languages, German, French, Italian and Romansh, but 60% of the population speaks German and it will be more useful to land a job in Switzerland if you manage to speak German at a certain level.
Pro Tip: Try to learn Swiss-German, since it’s the variation of the language that it’s actually spoken in Switzerland.
There are numerous apps dedicated to teach swiss german, so it would be great for you to start downloading one of those asap before getting into your swiss journey. These apps are: Grüezi Switzerland, utalk Swiss German, Schweizerdeutsch Lernen and Dialäkt Äpp.
The best way to make the most from your experience with living and working in Switzerland is to try to understand locals, respect their customs and learn the language of the region you live in. But even before, you will quickly realise why Switzerland is a well-known dream expat destination.
Plenty of benefits at work, magnificent landscapes, a constantly growing economy and possible earnings attracts people from the furthest places. With living wise and having control over your budget even costs of living known as one of the highest shouldn’t be a barrier to create lifelong memories at the same time developing your professional career.