If you’re thinking of moving to Switzerland, there are a few things you should know. That’s where this short guide comes in. Our five minute read should give you the basics, which will set you on your way to your new life in Switzerland.


Where to live

So where will you choose?

  • Capital city, Berne, with its great transport links and medieval city centre
  • Warm, Italian-influenced, Mediterranean inspired Lugano, down in the south
  • Historic Geneva, with its wonderful scenery, old town, and proximity to the Alps
  • Basel, with its industrial links, interesting old streets and closeness to France and Germany
  • And of course, there’s a plethora of mountain and ski destinations

Cost of renting and buying

  • Sub-zero per cent interest rates mean that mortgage rates are also at a very affordable level for those looking to buy property in Switzerland – at around 2%
  • However, most people decide not to buy – renting is the norm and the buying process is long-winded. Plus, house prices are pretty high. Family home in Geneva or Zurich is around CHF 1 million (around £645,000)
  • According to Expatica, the average rental cost for a home in Switzerland is CHF 1,284 (£830) per month. But that could be slightly misleading, as properties in the larger cities will blow that out of the water, doubling or even tripling it.


  • Switzerland is very multicultural. Of the 8.24 million population in 2014, nearly 2 million (24.3%) are foreign-born, and around 50,000 of them are British.
  • French is prevalent in the south west region, more Italian culture as you head further east, and there’s the German leanings of Zurich.

Getting around

  • The trains are punctual, reliable and clean.
  • Flexible too – with one ticket you can travel the country on various modes of transport.

Essentials – figures from Expatica

  • The cost of living is steep; the average weekly family shop costs around CHF 1,200 (£190).
  • A month at the gym will set you back on average CHF 100 (£64) and a cinema ticket CHF 18 (£11.60). A pair of Nike running shoes will cost CHF 123 (£80) and a pair of Levi’s CHF 117 (£76).


  • Up to 300 days of sunshine in the south, and average July temperatures up to 26 degrees.
  • The north and east, particularly in winter, get very cold, but summers tend to be warm and sunny.

Social life

  • Swiss Alps alone offer a myriad of activities – skiing, walking, snowboarding etc.
  • Other outdoorsy things in Switzerland include mountain biking, canoeing and horse riding.
  • Varied music scene in Switzerland; the Montreux Jazz Festival is one of the most well-known.
  • A number of film/music festivals, including in Locarno in the south, plus Zurich and Basel (the Basel Viper). And there are museums, castles and art galleries aplenty.
  • Good nightlife. The big cities have plenty of restaurants – a great variety and terraces for al fresco dining – can be pricey though – and there are lots of bars, clubs and live music.


  • You’ll need a residence permit to work there, and you’ll only get one of these if there’s a job waiting for you there.

Expat life

  • Not the easiest to settle into, apparently. According to InterNations’ Expat Insider survey, only 31% of those surveyed were pleased with how friendly the Swiss were towards them, and more than half said they found it difficult to make friends with the locals.
  • Advised to learn some basic phrases; that will help you be treated as an equal by the locals.
  • Get together with fellow expats. angloswissclubs.ch is a good place to start.

Local sources of information

The Local is an independent English-language site that will keep you up to date with news and events and also provides job listings. Go to www.thelocal.ch 

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