Expat Switzerland

Switzerland is full of stereotypes, which for the most part are true; it is a wonderful outdoor paradise full of Alpine Mountains for winter and summer sports enthusiasts. Switzerland also conjures up stereotypes of banking, which still continues to be a driving force in the economy and of course, who can forget Swiss watches and chocolate, both of which can be expensive and luxurious.

Switzerland can be much more expensive to live in that other countries in Europe, but her natural beauty is awe inspiring and the people that live in Switzerland are friendly and warm. For younger expats, there is a ton of nightlife and a less conservative side of the Swiss youth makes this small country the perfect place to call home.


The climate in Switzerland is very moderate. While the country is filled with Alpine Mountains, in the major cities that are not that high above sea level temperatures are comfortable all year round. While it does get chilly in Switzerland, it usually stays above freezing during the winter. During the summer it is very mild and comfortable with highs in the mid 70’s. During the spring and fall, temperatures are comfortable as well.

For outdoor enthusiasts, the ski slopes usually open up in late November and stay opened until the last of the snow melts which is usually late in April at high elevations.


The government of Switzerland is classified as a direct democracy and federal republic. Switzerland is a neutral country due to its size, resources and the fact that it is in the middle of powerhouses such as France, Germany and Italy. Switzerland is known for its technological know how and highly educated work force. The country has a population of about 7 million people which are mostly located in major cities such as Zurich, Geneva and Bern.

For Americans traveling to Switzerland, you can enter the country without a visa for a stay of up to 90 days. Many expats that come to live in Switzerland either are invited by companies, plan to start one of their own or start out as tourists that stay at 90 day intervals, leaving the country and then reentering it. For more information about Switzerland, you can visit the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington D.C. or you can visit the United States Embassy in Bern.

Tax System

Taxes in Switzerland can be high. It should be noted that different regions may have different levels of taxes. While at the federal level, taxes are moderate, in the different regions of Switzerland; cantonal levels of taxes can be high. The top rate for individual income tax is 41.5%; the top tax rate for corporate tax is 25 percent. Besides income and corporate taxes there is also a value added tax (VAT), property tax and a vehicle tax.

While Switzerland can have high tax rates, it is still one of the centers for banking and corporations. There are many legal and financial reasons to move operations or wealth to Switzerland and obviously these reasons are one of the big draws for expats to come to Switzerland.

Medical Care

Switzerland has a modern and efficient health care system in place. Switzerland’s healthcare is one of the top ranked in the world and very accessible. For residents of Switzerland there is a compulsory basic health insurance plan which protects its citizens and legal residents from most health issues. For those that want more than just basic coverage there is also voluntary supplemental insurance plan available. If you are coming to Switzerland to work for a company, you will usually be offered health care insurance, for entrepreneurs, you can easily find an underwriter for you and your family.

If you are categorized as a tourist, you may want to purchase an international medical policy or find out if your insurance policy from back home can be used in Switzerland.

Although Switzerland is fairly small, there are plenty of hospitals and clinics that offer services for foreigners, many doctors in Switzerland are multilingual and can easily communicate with you in English.

Switzerland is also famous for the many high end spas and wellness facilities. Many tourists come to Switzerland for a vacation in order to relax and enjoy many luxurious spa treatments and wellness facilities. While many spas are located near or at ski resorts, there are also plenty of spas in the many major cities of Switzerland.

Real Estate

Switzerland has a reputation of being one of the most expensive countries to live in which is very much true. Switzerland attracts the wealthy from many parts of the world causing demand for property and apartments. In addition to being expensive, living in Switzerland is a real treat. Most Swiss cities run very efficiently and have an extremely high quality of life, usually ranked in the top 10.

Homes can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Apartments and condos in major cities can also be extremely expensive. The weak dollars doesn’t help that much, however for those with large savings there are plenty of wonderful accommodations to choose from.

If you are planning on renting an apartment or leasing property there are many agencies and services available, however, you might have to sign a long term contract. For expats on a small budget, it can be difficult to live in Switzerland, but there are definitely opportunities here that make it all worth it. Your best bet for living in Switzerland is to share an apartment or home, expect to pay about $400 to $600 per month to share a small apartment.


Switzerland has fantastic shopping, especially when it comes to luxury products. The Swiss are known for high quality and not only are Swiss products available at almost every street corner, many fashionable and luxury brands have come to Switzerland to enjoy the bustling economy and the high end clientele that live, work and visit here.

For entertainment, there are plenty of restaurants, theaters, bars and nightlife. While Switzerland has a reputation for being conservative, the youth of Switzerland are far more liberal and love to enjoy themselves. For expats that are twenty or thirty-something, there are plenty of hot spots and clubs abound.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Switzerland is higher than most countries around the world; however you do get bang for your buck. Most Swiss cities rank at the top for quality of life and living in Switzerland can be a real treat no matter what lifestyle you live or what age you are.

While costs for real estate and taxes can be high, much of the taxes taken in by the government is well used and put back into infrastructure and social services. Food costs can also be high and shopping can be expensive, although bargains can be found. However, for those that are looking for a beautiful Alpine country to live in, Switzerland can’t be beat.

Web Sites for Expats in Switzerland


AngloINFO provides the English-language information you need for life in Switzerland.

Visit Switzerland

Visit Switzerland is a guide for first time visitors to Switzerland.

Extradition from Switzerland

Extradition treaty between Switzerland and the US
was signed on November 14, 1990

This treaty was entered into force on September 10, 1997

Map of Switzerland