Arguably one of the best places to live in the world (frequently topping polls for high quality of living), Switzerland is an expat’s dream. From low crime rates, to great standards of education and healthcare, to the excellent cheese and chocolate, there is something for everyone to enjoy here. If you’re still not sure where to live, though, here’s our rough guide to some of the most popular regions for expats.
What's the Benefit of relocating to Switzerland?
For years Switzerland has been the prime and number one global spot for tourists, and contract workers to visit or relocate to. With bearable winter months as compared to many other European countries, but still offering great conditions for skiing in some of the world's top ski resort, cities in Switzerland are perfect. Due to the high cost of living, particularly living in Zurich or any other major city, Swiss cities are often overlooked for work or relocation.
Zurich and Geneva aren't the only cities to live and work in Switzerland of course, and if you've managed to find yourself a good working reason to relocating, then you've got a great deal to look forward to in any city centre the country has to offer. Here's just a few reasons why relocating to Switzerland is a great opportunity:
- Multicultural Vibe - whether you're Italian speaking or not, you're likely to meet a great deal of people from all walks of life.
- Stunning Scenery - almost all Swiss cities are home to a world heritage site, just imagine sipping tea while taking a slow stroll along Lake Geneva, or a gondola ride on the River Rhine.
- High Quality of Living - there's a reason that Switzerland may be an expensive country to live in, the quality of life (employment, safety and security, etc.) is impeccable.
The only question then to ask yourself is, where you should relocate to, and this question depends on what you're looking for from your relocation.
Where to Live in Switzerland
If You're Looking for Jobs
The economical epicentre of Switzerland, Zurich is often mistaken for the country’s capital city (it’s not, that’s Bern, but we’ll come to that next).
It’s easy to see why – with powerhouses in international banking, art and the media all located here, there’s a lot going on. Many of the companies here are multinational, opening up lots of job opportunities to foreigners and making it a popular place for expats in particular to choose. The city centre is thriving with museums, churches, art galleries, restaurants, clubs and bars, while towns outside the city centre are great for families and have lots of green space and parks for children to play in. Public transport into the city centre is safe, clean and reliable.
However, the downside to picking Zurich is that the cost of living is high (taxes, rent and healthcare are all far more here than some other European countries) as is demand for housing, but salaries do tend to compensate. Depending on where you live in Zurich you might also find yourself subject to annual bicycle license fees and dog taxes – strange but true!
If You’re Retiring
There’s no real bad place to retire in Switzerland at all, but if you’re looking for somewhere peaceful, that’s set in stunning scenery and has plenty to see and do then Bern is a great choice. And although it’s the country’s capital, Bern is actually far quieter than many of the other cities in Switzerland – the lack of nightlife being one of the testaments to this (particularly in the winter months, when everyone heads for the Alps during ski season).
Other noteworthy things to mention about Bern are that a) everything is within walking distance – especially the market which is held in the city centre 3 times a week, selling fresh fruit and veg, and b) there is a high percentage of English-speaking locals.
As with the rest of Switzerland, however, shops here close completely on Sundays with the exception of anything that is located within a train station and therefore considered a necessary service to travellers.
If You’re Moving with Children
While most of the country is child-friendly, so to speak, there are a couple of places that stand out in particular when trying to work out where to live with a young family. Both of these are located in Lausanne.
First up, there’s Sous-gare-Ouchy. Favoured by families for its friendly, pleasant atmosphere, this is also a great choice if one or both adults in the family will need to commute to work daily too, given the close proximity to the main train station plus the excellent bus and metro services. And on top of all that, two of the country’s major supermarkets – Migros and Coop – are also located in the area, as well as lots of other shops and boutiques.
The second place to consider is Montchoisi, a mainly residential area that’s defined by its impressive views over the lake and beautiful apartments. Montchoisi is mainly favoured by families with children due to its close proximity to all the local schools, its great park, pool and selection of small shops, plus its excellent transport links to larger towns.
Generally, Lausanne is not a very big city compared to some others in Switzerland, so it’s easier to find a house or apartment in one of the towns or villages here for slightly less than you might elsewhere, whilst still having access to the main city. It’s also worth noting that Lausanne is regarded as a particularly safe area of the country to live in, with relatively low rates of crime reported in all of the towns and villages.
If You’re a Student
Home to the University of Geneva, Plaine de Plainpalais is a great place to consider if you're a budding student wanting to study abroad.
Essentially, Plainpalais is actually a large esplanade in the city centre – which is the place to hang out if you’re living in student digs in one of the many surrounding streets and neighbourhoods. As well as the excellent night life (check out Rue de l’Ecole-de-Medicine and the Bains district for all of the trendy clubs, bars and restaurants), here you’ll also find the biggest farmers and flea markets in the whole of Geneva – great for sampling cheap local food and drink or picking up a bargain for your apartment. And if that’s not enough, then there’s also a local skate park and regular visits from circuses and fun fairs all year round.
With a high percentage of foreigners already living here (due mostly to the governmental organisations located here), this would make a great place to live for first-time expats.
If you Love an Active Lifestyle
If it’s action and adventure you’re after then there’s really no better place to live in Switzerland than Interlaken. Living here means embracing the great outdoors in all its glory – after all, it isn’t deemed the outdoor sports capital of the country for nothing. Here you’ll be able to indulge in all manner of outdoor activities – from the regular hiking, skiing, sailing, snowboarding and canoeing to the more irregular pursuits of bungee jumping, sky diving and white-water rafting - all whilst being surrounded by the stunning scenery of the Bernese Oberland region of the Swiss Alps.
The central town here is home to lots of boutiques, as well as great places to eat and there’s an excellent nightlife. Most shops here shut for a hiatus between 12-1.30pm each day (except on Sundays, when they’re closed altogether), reopening until around 6.30pm. Transport links to outer areas are excellent and, whilst this is a predominantly German-speaking area of Switzerland, many locals are also fluent in French and English (thanks in part to the tourist-led nature of the town).
This would be a great place to consider living as an expat if you’re looking to get some work experience – the touristy nature of the town means that the peak seasons are perfect opportunities to get a temporary job if you’re a student or young adult wanting to broaden your horizons and experience working in another country.
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