Your guide to expat life in Switzerland

Moving to Switzerland

Switzerland’s diversity is one of the first things you’ll notice when you arrive. Each of the country’s four main language groups has its own culture, traditions and cuisine. Which group you interact with most will depend on where you live.

You should find it easy to adapt to the country’s luxury lifestyle and first-class infrastructure, but many expats say it’s difficult to integrate with locals. Developing friendships with the Swiss takes a long time as they often come across as cold and reserved. Fortunately, there’s a very large and welcoming expat community to make you feel more at home.

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Basic info

  • Population: About 8.6 million
  • Capital city: Bern
  • Largest city: Zurich
  • Main languages: Swiss German, French, Italian and Romansch
  • Main religion: Christianity. Other religions include Islam.
  • Political system: Federal republic
  • Time: GMT+1 (GMT +2 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October)
  • Electricity: 230V AC, 50Hz. Two-pin and three-pin, rounded plugs are standard.
  • Currency: Swiss franc (CHF)
  • International dialling code: +41
  • Internet domain: .ch
  • Emergency numbers: 112 (general), 117 (police), 144 (ambulance), 118 (fire)
  • Road traffic: Drives on the right

Next holiday

Nov

01

All Saints' Day

When a public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it moves to the first available weekday.

Public Holidays

2020
1 January New Year's Day
2 January Saint Berchtold Day
10 April Good Friday
13 April Easter Monday
1 May May Day
21 May Ascension Day
1 June Whit Monday
11 June Corpus Christi
1 August Swiss National Day
15 August Assumption of Mary
1 November All Saints' Day
8 December Immaculate Conception
25 December Christmas Day
26 December St Stephen's Day
2021
1 January New Year's Day
2 January Saint Berchtold Day
2 April Good Friday
5 April Easter Monday
1 May May Day
13 May Ascension Day
24 May Whit Monday
3 June Corpus Christi
1 August Swiss National Day
15 August Assumption of Mary
1 November All Saints' Day
8 December Immaculate Conception
25 December Christmas Day
26 December St Stephen's Day

Your relocation checklist

Moving to a new country takes a lot of planning. To help you get started, here are some of the things you need to do before you leave home – or just after you arrive.

Key phrases in Swiss German

  • Hello Grüezi (formal) Hoi (informal)
  • Good evening Gueten oobe
  • Goodbye Uf widerluege
  • How are you? Wie goots Ihne? (formal), Wie goots? (informal)
  • Thank you Merci
  • Yes Ja
  • No Nein
  • Do you speak English? Sprechen sie Englisch?
  • Can you help me? Können sie mir helfen?
  • Sorry Es tut mir leid

Top tips

View a selection of tips sourced from expats about Switzerland:

“Take advantage of the excellent local state schools which offer intensive language lessons for expat children for free. Young children learn languages very quickly when given support.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

“If moving to the Italian part, the process of obtaining work permit might be a little more complex than elsewhere. It is also difficult finding information if you do not speak Italian, since everything tends to be in Italian only. The people are very friendly and welcoming here and the nature is just amazing.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

“Learn skiing- it is the best way to enjoy winter time... Summer time is great with many open air festivals and activities by the lake. It may look as a quiet country but there is lots of things happening... you will figure out in time.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

“Come with an open mind and wallet, spare time to learn Swiss-German, and maintain a desire to see some beautiful Alpine vistas.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

“Don't keep converting the price of everything into GBP from CHF all the time when you are shopping. Accept that the high price of things is a factor of your higher net income.” Added by Expat Explorer Survey respondent

View more hints and tips for Switzerland

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I've moved around a lot in the last 4 years, to take my home comforts with me but to avoid lugging loads of stuff or paying airline excess baggage fees I use a luggage service.

Chigwell_to_Washingston

View more hints and tips for Switzerland

Shipping

Shipping goods to Switzerland is easy and cost effective. As long as everything has been used in your home country, it can be imported duty free. A reputable removals company will advise you on the documents you need and help speed up the process.

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Air vs sea

Transporting your belongings by air is expensive, but shipping goods to landlocked Switzerland by sea can take a very long time.

Pets

You can bring almost any pet into Switzerland. Dogs and cats need microchips, rabies vaccinations and animal health permits from the Federal Vet Office. Dogs must also be registered at a Swiss vet within 10 days of arrival.

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by expatarrivals.com, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in October 2020. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

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