Expats in Switzerland: 16 Books about Switzerland
Switzerland has long been a favorite destination for expatriates, consistently ranking among the best countries for quality of life. The country’s cleanliness, low crime rate, overall healthy lifestyle and great public transportation crop up again and again on expat discussion boards as perks of living here.
While the cost of living is relatively high and there are nit-picking rules — garbage sorting and laundry room use, for example — that some might find restrictive, the consensus seems to be Switzerland is worth it. As Chantal Panozzo writes in the WSJ Expat blog, “It’s hard not to love a country where the law requires that every employee receive a minimum of four weeks of vacation a year.”
We’ve gathered 16 of the very best resources available on the internet for expats in Switzerland, whether you’re planning to relocate soon or are already here. Whatever stage you’re at in your Swiss expatriate experience, you’ll want to bookmark at least some of the sites listed below.
The Best Must-Reads For Living Switzerland as an Expat
An expat resource site for several countries, Expatica has particularly helpful guides for settling in Switzerland. There is even a guide to setting up electricity, telephone, television and internet services in your Swiss home — that one can be found here. Under the Finance tab, there’s the expat’s guide to Swiss taxes, and under Country Facts, there’s a “35 Facts about Switzerland” article that explains the abbreviation CH (it stands for “Confoederatio Helvetica”).
Promising “local info for global expats,” Expat Arrivals has country and city guides that cover the globe with information gleaned from established expatriates who serve as local experts. The advice given to those doing business in Switzerland, for example, is that “interactions are characterised by directness and restraint, especially with the German Swiss — so expats will have to stay focused and control their emotions. A lot of emphasis is placed on appearance, preparedness and punctuality.”
This English-language news network includes expat forums, a noticeboard and dating site for foreign professionals. There are also articles that help specific groups of expats. Taxes in Switzerland: the easy way is one such article, based on an interview with US expats David and Carrie McKeegan, who started Greenback Expat Tax Services, a tax company that serves Americans living abroad.
First-person reports from expatriates in Switzerland make interesting reading at Transitions Abroad, especially if you’re thinking of following a similar path. Mary Ware’s account of interning at the United Nations in Geneva, for example, gives readers an idea of what to expect during an internship. She includes a few helpful tips, as well, including the importance of getting details regarding time off and what “conversational fluency” really means.
More expertise on all things Swiss comes your way from Expat Focus, where you’re invited to join an English-language Facebook group of 167 members. Articles range from finance tips (the canton in which you live can affect your income tax bracket) to more general things you should know before you go: “Loud noises are frowned upon by most of the locals.” This can mean no flushing the toilet after 22:00 and no cell phone use on designated areas on trains.
Betsy Burlingame, the founder of Expat Exchange, a site that’s helped expats settle in abroad since 1997, has some thought-provoking information in her article 10 Tips for Living in Switzerland. “EU-citizens have a much easier time in Switzerland,” she writes, and quotes an expatriate who explains: “If you are not an EU-citizen, keep in mind that quotas apply for work/stay permits. There is a maximum to the number of work permits per year that are issued to non-EU-citizens. Moreover, your Swiss employee has to prove that he has made ample effort to find someone from Switzerland or the EU for the job before he can hire you.”
This is a true resource site for expats in Switzerland, with a directory of services, shops and clubs, and a community section with blogs and articles. If you’re looking for a dentist in Zurich, for instance, you’ll find updated listings and reviews from other expats. There are entries under some headings called “Useful Tips.” Under “Animals and Pets,” for example, tips include:
- Dogs are welcome in most restaurants.
- Dogs over 6 months old must be licensed.
- Cats do not need a license.
- Dogs can use public transportation, and if they are big enough must pay half the fare (you can pay for them if they are unable).
A combination of the words “local” and “global,” Glocals’ founders say this defines the mindset of their members. Expats and “international locals” living in Geneva, Zurich, Lausanne, Basel, and Bern, Glocals get together for activities and to share information. A quick look at the groups show lots of members participating in everything from Basel Vegans (which includes the “vegan curious”) to Geneva Scuba Diving and Lausanne Entrepreneurs.
With two guides on Switzerland (one for Zurich and one for Geneva), EasyExpat gives you lots of information at your fingertips. Subjects covered range from accommodation to child care services to transport for each city.
There’s also an EasyExpat blog, which recently took a look at The Economist’s choice of the safest cities in the world, highlighting a finding that read: “Being statistically safe is not the same as feeling safe. Out of the 50 cities, only Zurich  and Mexico City  get the same rank in the overall index as they do in the indicator that measures the perception of safety among their citizens.”
This directory site is just over a year old, and defines itself as the guide to Swiss services for American expats. It’s not just services that are listed on Americans Welcome, but also events that are submitted by Swiss wealth managers, financial advisers, and other service providers.
The community section of the site includes a number of clubs and associations together with English-language expatriate websites and marketplaces. Under Living Quarters in the Relocation section, you’ll find the following instructions on garbage disposal:
“In many Swiss regions you have to dispose your garbage in special ‘official’ garbage bags that are sold at CHF 2-6 per unit. If you dispose your garbage in a normal bag, the ‘garbage detective’ will find you and you will have to pay a penalty of some CHF 100.”
This online magazine about Switzerland includes articles on everything from culture, design and food to a calendar of upcoming events. While many of its blog posts are tongue-in-cheek (one of the 15 worries that keep the Swiss awake at night is: “With the franc losing its value, I won’t be able to afford a vacation anymore”), there’s still real insight there. For example, “writing yourself in on your building’s shared laundry plan on a day that you normally don’t use” is definitely one of the 19 ways to annoy the Swiss.
A Humorous Guide to Switzerland
Irene Wyrsch, who is from Switzerland and currently resides in Peru, says she writes about life and culture in Switzerland, Swiss languages and pretty much everything else Swiss. Spending some time on her blog will give you insights as to how to talk to the Swiss about weather, her selection of the 5 best cafés in Zurich, what a typical Swiss meal is, and which of the four official languages in Switzerland expatriates should learn before relocating.
Flats for Expats
The popularity of Switzerland among expatriates makes the rental market extremely competitive. Flats for Expats is a site that wants to help, with member-only rental listings for properties in Geneva, Zurich, Basel, Lausanne, Berne, Lucerne, Lugano and Zug. These properties are located no more than 30 minutes from the center of the city, and are not published elsewhere. In the Housing Guide section, you’ll find some articles with useful advice, such as whether or not expats in Geneva should rent a temporary apartment or opt for an unlimited rental contract.
The English language site Hello Switzerland is for international expats anywhere in the process of relocating to Switzerland, whether the planning stages as well as for those who are already in the country. The site features an extensive directory of service providers, from daycares to veterinarians to lawyers, many of which are rated by site users.
Relocation guides, which are specific to 12 of the most popular regions in the country, include actionable articles such as Mike Tomsett’s How to Potentially Reduce Your Rent in Switzerland.
Time Out Switzerland
Time Out’s worldwide network of event calendars and nightlife guides extends to Switzerland, which is important because expats living here apparently have the worst social lives of anyone. Buck that trend by keeping up with what concerts, sporting events and drink specials are on in your city this weekend.
A site for expats moving to nearly anywhere abroad, as well as for those who’ve already made the move, Just Landed is a huge resource with country guides, expat directories and communities, a housing portal, classifieds and a job market listing international job opportunities. Topics in the Switzerland guide include visas, housing, jobs and finance, and how to find Swiss health insurance for expatriates.