Harmony, Safety and a Great Salary in Switzerland
Switzerland is an enigma in and of itself. It is extremely difficult to describe the nation in any sum of words, or with any basic description. Other destinations can be described in a general way as the culture and society remains principally the same throughout their borders. This is not the case in Switzerland as it is a complex community that differs dramatically from place to place. It takes time to adjust to the goings on, it takes effort to win over the locals, and it takes investment to make things happen. However, with the right amount of work Switzerland can be an extremely satisfying and gratifying destination to move, live and work abroad.
While many potential expats view Switzerland as a place of elegance, order, and purity, there are so many variables and differences to consider. It is almost like 3 or 4 different countries and cultures rolled into one. The north and some eastern parts of the nation consist of primarily German speaking cantons while the southern and western parts of Switzerland are dotted with rich French and Italian communities full of a vivacious atmosphere. Surely there is a language difference in the different communities but there are also many diverse happenings when it comes to politics, economy, climate, cuisine, and a number of other factors.
All the variables and complications aside, Switzerland boasts a dramatically promising lifestyle that many expatriates lay in bed dreaming of. Hundreds of thousands of people have chosen to call Switzerland their home abroad, and the country attracts tens of millions of tourists every year. To get right into it, here are some factors to think about and reasons why you might want to consider a move to Switzerland.
Health Care in Switzerland
When it comes to heath care Switzerland’s reputation precedes itself. When compared to countries like the USA the health care system is affordable but will require monthly health insurance. If you are making the move from a country such as Canada or the UK you may find the monthly rate quite draining, but the quality of the system is bar none. It is obligatory to have the proper health care but you are given 3 months after your arrival to sort out the specific arrangements. If you are bringing your family to Switzerland you should be ready to shell out close to $800 a month on health care, but will be covered for most matters and be given the best treatment possible. While the cost may seem arduous you will be almost guaranteed minimal waiting times and top of the line treatment, which many other countries cannot offer.
Shopping in Switzerland
If you are used to large, obscene shopping malls then Switzerland will offer a nice change of pace when it comes to shopping. The small, local, family owned shops are convenient, calm, and welcoming. There are a vast number of supermarkets and shops but it will take some time to get used to the hours. Many grocery stores and even places like post offices tend to close between 12 and 2pm. This has a lot to with the protection given by the government to shop owners and farmers. This protection available in the country when it comes to subsidization can affect the cost of living and the price of food dramatically however. Dining out and shopping can get quite costly which can have a major impact on your chosen lifestyle and budget. If you are used to fast food restaurants and dining out weekly then you are going to need to either plan your budget accordingly or cut back in order to afford your new life.
Education in Switzerland
While the education standards in Switzerland are very high, they do differ from community to community based on the different cantons in the country. Kindergartens exist all over the country and are free, but there are very few pre-schools and nurseries for younger children. Many expats often complain about the lack of childcare for younger children and also the “streaming” effect used in schools; as early as age 10 children are divided based on their abilities. This is something that is widely accepted by locals but is a new way of thought for foreigners. Also, university is a minority for most of Switzerland as over 70 percent of students opt for vocational schooling. There is also an abundance of private schools that also offer courses in English but they can be quite costly. If you are lucky the price may be included as part of your new employment’s relocation package.
Banking in Switzerland
For decades people have associated having a Swiss bank account with fortune and high class. While it may not mean instant fortune it is easy to get your hands on a Swiss bank account as a resident of the country. While credit and debit cards are used commonly, you will rarely see check books anywhere in Switzerland. Despite the abundance of technology you will notice that most Swiss citizens prefer to use cash for daily expenditures and leave the plastic at home. People often stream into shops at the end of the month to pay their bills in cash, rather than use online banking and the internet. On a positive side note, mortgage rates are relatively low when compared with other destinations, however many citizens and expats opt to rent accommodations rather than purchase them outright.
Social Networking in Switzerland
The Swiss culture is comparable to British culture when it comes to how reserved people are. While it is unfair to say that the Swiss are unfriendly, you will very rarely be approached by strangers or engaged in random conversation. If you want to meet new people, and connect with new acquaintances, your best bet is to extend an invitation on your own and lay down the groundwork for networking, as opposed to waiting for people to come to you. Learning the local language will obviously go along way into easing the transition abroad. If you are searching for a job you will quickly understand the term, “it’s not what you know, but who you know”. Get out there, meet new people, attend functions, and possibly most importantly, be on time. Punctuality is taken very seriously in Switzerland as opposed to other destinations abroad such as Costa Rica or Thailand.
Accommodations in Switzerland
Unlike other countries, most Swiss people choose to rent rather than buy property. Tenants are generally very well protected by tenant rights. You can access a high quality of living by renting property, especially if you are wary of making a long term investment. Subletting is extremely common throughout Switzerland, which is excellent news for expats such as yourself. It is important to keep in mind the culture when renting a property as Swiss tenants are very considerate. Use the laundry rooms appropriately, take recycling very seriously, and keep quiet after certain hours or you may lose respect from some of the other tenants. As for pricing, a general guideline is that you can find an apartment in a major city for between $1,000 and $1,500 that is sized around the 100 square meter mark. Obviously an apartment that is larger or more centrally located will cost more, much the same way it does in most other countries.
Transportation in Switzerland
Many expatriates take advantage of the excellent public transportation in Switzerland to cut down on the cost of living. The train system runs across the country reliably and the public transportation is quite efficient. Trains are your best bet as buses can be expensive if used daily.
Added Reasons to Move to Switzerland
On top of government factors and cost of living, Switzerland offers so much when it comes to natural and architectural beauty. You may have heard stories or read news clippings about what Switzerland has to offer, but it doesn’t even begin to describe the attractions and beauty you can find here. There are rivers, mountain vistas, creeks that run off of glaciers, waterfalls, pastures, and a whole host of natural beauty in between.
An excellent reason to move to Switzerland is the safety. Unlike other, less family oriented destinations, Switzerland is incredibly safe as the crime rate is surprisingly low, especially in terms of violent crimes. Children walk the streets alone at all times of the day without a worry. There are also an abundance of activities to partake in as you can take advantage of wonderful hiking trails, water-sports, cycling, skiing, and most everything else you can imagine. The climate in Switzerland never gets too uncomfortable in either direction. It does snow in the winter which provides for excellent winter activities, but the weather in the south is also almost tropical. Palm trees are abundant and the sunshine provides peace and a calming effect.
Switzerland seems to be less well known as an attractive location to move abroad to, but that is simply because it promotes itself less than other countries. The Swiss are comfortable in their community and the harmony and peace that are present. The ideals seem almost old fashioned and uncommon, but make the way of live in Switzerland very attractive for expatriates all over the world.
Finding Work in Switzerland
Now that we have discussed the advantages of moving to Switzerland and what the nation has to offer, the real question becomes how can you get here? There are quite a few major international firms that have headquarters in Switzerland, and if you are involved in the banking industry there are quite a few opportunities for employment. However, finding a job in Switzerland may not prove to be that easy, as the country is known for some restrictive immigration policies and tight quotas for work permits. You surely have quite a few questions so let’s take a quick walkthrough on how to find a job in Switzerland, and shed some light on your potential move.
The good news is that Swiss policy may seem quite restrictive at first, but may be easier to navigate than you first imagine. The best news for foreigners is that law requires expats to be paid the same salaries and receive the same work conditions as Swiss citizens. If you have ever worked abroad or looked into moving abroad then you know how comforting that law is for foreigners. The amount of foreign workers in Switzerland has increased steadily over the last few years and recently it was noted that there were close to 2 million expat workers in the country. This means that foreigners are making a big impact on the economic success of the nation and that the government is becoming more lax in terms of restrictions.
When you first begin looking for a job in Switzerland it is important to remember the regional differences evident. Close to 50% of foreign workers are located in Geneva, and the majority of them are employed with international institutions. If banking is your business, you should note that most banking jobs can be found in or near Zurich. You should also keep in mind that language will play an important part in your job search, and you should research the language that is most evident in the area you would like to head to.
Where to Find a Job in Switzerland
There are quite a few recruitment agencies in Switzerland that run their business online. These recruitment agencies can only extend true help to citizens or those with work permits, but you can still take advantage of the functions their sites offer. You can engage in customized job searches where you can navigate based on regions and job sectors. There are also sites that allow you to post your CV and resume online in order for potential employers to browse through. The internet is probably the most used source for finding employment in Switzerland today.
Magazines and Newspapers
There are a wide number of job offers found in daily newspapers, mostly in the classified sections. There are also quite a few positions advertised in trades magazines as well as monthly city magazines and other publications. You also have the option to place an ad yourself, but people who have done this claim it to be ineffective and a waste of money. Unlike the internet, you will find jobs easier through newspapers and magazines only if you are already located in the country.
Employment Agencies play a large role in the recruitment market for Switzerland. The problem is that many agencies only work with current citizens or expats that possess a residency or work permit. They cannot apply for the permit for you as this can only be done through an employer.
Aside from these somewhat obvious options there are a couple of opportunities that you can look into on your own, such as career fairs or via straight contact. If you are set on landing a job in Switzerland then perusing a Career Fair is a great way to get in touch with the right people. You can also opt to file speculative applications in order to get your foot in the door and see what potential employers may be looking for. Email or phone human resources departments and inquire about opportunities or certain requirements they might be looking for. You will not be handed a job in Switzerland and in many cases you are going to have to create opportunity on your own. However, a little hard work can go a long way in allowing you to realize your Swiss relocation goals.
Finding a Job in Switzerland for EU Citizens
There is quite a bit of good news if you are a citizen of the EU. First off you will not need to possess a work or residency permit for up to 3 months, which means you have a significant amount of time to get to Switzerland and network and peruse the job market. Secondly, you are allowed to use State employment agencies in order to possibly find a job and are given much of the same rights that Swiss citizens have. All you really need to do is register with the regional employment office and get your name out there.
Potential Salaries in Switzerland
The most exciting news when it comes to moving to Switzerland is the fact that surveys estimate that salaries are two to three times higher here than most other European countries. This is for both skilled and unskilled trades and extends generally from border to border, with a few obvious differences between jobs in rural and urban communities. A study that was completed in the year 2000, (might be outdated but still relevant) suggested that Geneva and Zurich were two of the highest paying cities in the entire world. At that time it was noted that the average monthly income was above $9,000 USD, which may seem extra high but included all assets include pension, private income, and so on. On average the wages have not increased much since then and salaries do vary in different parts of the country. Also, pay scales in the banking industry are also generally higher than other sectors.
So How Do I Determine My Salary in Switzerland?
Determining your estimated salary, when considering a move to Switzerland, is not necessarily easy. Many Swiss citizens are tight lipped when it comes to personal finances and generally do not enjoy talking about salaries. Also pay scales are not commonly advertised in advertisements for employment.
In many cases your salary will be quite negotiable once you have come across a job that suits you. It is left up to you to determine your worth based on your experience and relatable qualifications. With that said, seniority is taken very seriously in the country and new staff members will generally not be paid the wage that loyal, senior members of the company receive, even if you will be doing the exact same job. You will be protected by minimum based salaries for most occupations but many employers have shifted towards performance based contracts that reward hard work and determination.
Can’t You Give Me an Exact Figure?
You may wish that we could tell you the exact figure you can expect to make when moving to Switzerland, but it really is not that simple. There is no easy form of calculation and no real existence of facts and figures that are reliable. This is where your own personal research has to come into play in order to make sure you are paid appropriately. Discover your worth, analyze cost of living, and determine what you feel is a fair figure. It is not that employers will try to short stack you; it is just common practice in the society for potential employees to offer up a reasonable salary, rather than the employers.
Is Switzerland the perfect destination for every expat looking to move abroad? Absolutely not. However there are an abundance of reasons to at least consider the move and look into what the country has to offer. This is a truly personal decision that will affect the rest of your life, or at least a couple of years. Consider a short term vacation to the country, browse online at potential jobs, and give yourself a little taste of Swiss culture. Should you pack up and immediately move yourself and your family to Switzerland? Probably not. However after a short vacation there, or some in depth research, you may just realize that this harmonious, culturally diverse, and economical prosperous nation may just offer the escape you are searching for.
Even if you are not sure what you want in life, there is no harm in looking into the matter further. If you end up deciding that another country has more to offer you, so be it. It’s not like a vacation in the Swiss Alps will be something you regret.