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10 things to know before moving to Switzerland

Switzerland, or what is officially known as the Swiss Federation, is a country located in central, western, and southern Europe. The federal republic consists of 26 cantons, and the federal authorities are based in Bern. It is geographically divided among the Alps, Swiss plateau, and Jura covering an area of 41285 square kilometers. The population of the country is around 8.5 million people, mostly living in the plateau where the most significant cities are located.

Note: This is a guest post written by Antonio Gabric of GoLookExplore.

Pinnable image
Images: top: snowcovered mountain peak. bottom: a river cutting through between two mountains, with more mountains behind. Rubber rafts on the river.
Text: 10 things to know before moving to Switzerland (and the Rachel's Ruminations logo)

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True to their culture, the Swiss residents adore chocolate and cheese, consuming between 8.9 and 21.5 kilograms per person annually. Switzerland boasts of some exceptional tourist destinations such as Jungfraujoch (a saddle between two peaks in the Alps) as well as the world’s steepest gondolas and funicular railways.

A snowcovered mountain peak, with another taller one behind it.
Photo courtesy of Laura Meyers at Laure Wanders.

Lately, many expats decide to move to Switzerland because of many reasons. Here are some of the most critical aspects you should consider before calling Switzerland your new home.

1. Swiss money

People who are unfamiliar with Switzerland are often confused about the main currency in the country. You should know that the official currency used in Switzerland is the Swiss franc. Switzerland is not part of the European Union, therefore they do not use the Euro as their primary currency. You can still pay some things in Euros, but it’ll be more convenient to have francs on you. If you don’t have a local bank account set up, there are a few viable options for low-cost conversions and money storing, such as Wise, Revolut or N26.

money and coins close up view
Photo courtesy of Augusta of Mini Me Explorer.

As a newcomer, you will often be surprised by the high prices of basic things such as food, transportation and accommodation. However, to make up for the shortfall, Switzerland is known for its high wages and low taxes. Actually, Switzerland ranks as the 4th wealthiest country in the world.

2. Transport and the Swiss travel system

One of the main aspects that you should consider when moving to Switzerland is the transport system. The country features a well-equipped transport system that can support all your moving needs. The public transport in Switzerland is quite exceptional, and you will never miss a thing when commuting to work or exploring far corners of the country.

The transport system incorporates over 27.000 kilometers of transportation routes countrywide, and this connects 150 local transport services in Swiss cities and towns. Getting a Swiss travel pass is mandatory if you’re looking to reduce the high costs of transport.

A view across a large train station: dark ceiling and floor, with lighted shops along the sides, as well as signs. In the foreground, a large, blue electronic sign showing a list of trains, times and tracks.
Zurich’s main train station. Photo courtesy of Halef and Michael of The Round the World Guys.

Use this form to check out train schedules:

3. Cantons

The Swiss administration is made up of 26 cantons. These cantons have something unique to them, and you can always find something fun to enjoy while in the region. You can visit Vaud, the largest canton on the French side of Valais, which is a mixture of French and German and famous for most of the ski resorts. 

On the other hand, the mountainous canton of Graubünden lies in the eastern region of Switzerland, renowned for stunning hiking trails, beautiful lakes and charming ski resorts. If you’re running out of activity ideas, head over to things to do in Graubunden and start working on your bucket list now.

4. Sport

The Swiss people are extremely fit people, and the country has one of the lowest rates of obesity. The locals, expats, and tourists alike love getting into outdoor sporting activities, and this makes them perfect company if you like sports.

Shiffrin, in a black ski suit, a black helmet and red ski boots, swooshes around a red pole. She is leaning and clearly moving very fast.
Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) on the bottom section of her second run in the 2013 slalom World Cup finals in Lenzerheide en route to winning the crystal globe. Photo by Nick Leonard of The Nomadic Vegan.

In the winter, the ski season runs from mid-November to mid-March and you can enjoy the slopes within the country. Other sporting activities include snow biking, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and winter hikes. Swimming is also a popular sport in Switzerland, and you can enjoy a cool breeze during the summer or winter. There are rivers, lakes, and outdoor pools where you can have fun throughout the year.

A river in the center of the photo cuts through between two mountains, with more mountains behind. In the foreground, rubber rafts on the river. A small house is partially visible on the riverbank on the right.
Rafting in Interlaken. Photo courtesy of Bradley of Eat Wander Explore.

5. Language

Four official languages are spoken in Switzerland, and these include Romansch, Italian, German and French. However, it is good to note that English is also widely spoken so you can get by with locals, particularly if you are visiting there for the first time. 

However, if you are moving to Switzerland to stay for the long-term, then you must learn the local lingo to help you to communicate and connect easily with the locals.

6. Shopping in Switzerland

If you are moving to Switzerland, you will need to find some of the many places where you can do your shopping. Although most people assume that Switzerland is expensive and shopping in this country is expensive, this is not the case if you can visit some of the shopping districts. The Swiss usually avoid going to shopping malls, and they have excellent shopping districts where you can get furniture, accessories as well as specialist product markets.

The Swiss adore market shopping, and this is the reason there is a variety of Swiss markets, including farmers’ markets where you can find local produce. There are also flea markets with designer clothes as well as vintage.

Left, a large building with about 6 stories, painted yellow with green shutters on the windows, 6 windows across each story. Red flowers in flower boxes under most of the windows. Next to it, right, another building, same height, but only four windows wide. This one is painted white with grey shutters and also has red flowers in window boxes. In front of them: tables outside with umbrellas above them.
The marktplatz in Solothurn, Switzerland. Photo courtesy of Nick Leonard of The Nomadic Vegan.

There are two leading supermarket chains in Switzerland, Migros and Coop.

7. Festivals, holidays and annual events

For people relocating to Switzerland, there are various public holidays. Be aware that these public holidays and school holidays vary among different cantons, and some of them occur at bizarre times. However, there are many fun activities that you can enjoy. 

A parade coming toward the camera down a street. People watching on either side. A person with a huge smiling clownish mask, yellow hair, blue jacket and colorful plaid pants, holds hands with a smaller person, also wearing a clownish mask. Behind them, a marching band in similar clothes, but wearing clownish makeup rather than masks.
Basel Fasnacht is the biggest carnival in Switzerland. Photo courtesy of Deeptha of The Globe Trotter.

There are plenty of music festivals in Switzerland, and they generally happen during the warmer months, although there are some others that occur during winter too. Christmas is celebrated across Switzerland with outdoor ice rinks, markets, and general merriment.

The Swiss national day (August 1), Christmas, and New Year’s Eve are some of the holidays that you should look forward to because they are celebrated across the country alongside the festivals.

scenic view of a row boat on a lake with mountain background
Lake Geneva in Montreux, Switzerland on a crisp October morning. Photo courtesy of Gabby Stuckenschneider of The Office Escape Artist.

8. School and healthcare

The Swiss educational system is one of the best in Europe. However, it is essential to note that the education system varies from canton to canton. You will find the right choice of private as well as international schools to take your children to in Switzerland.

In terms of health, all residents in Switzerland regardless of origin are required to purchase health insurance within a few months of moving into the country. There are numerous service providers and you can choose an insurance program that will suit your needs.

9. Eating out

Dining out in Switzerland is an exceptional experience because you are going to have dinner in some of the top restaurants around the globe. Switzerland boasts a galaxy of Michelin stars meaning that you have countless places to go and dine.

A pot of fondue, and three hands dipping chunks of break into it.
Swiss fondue in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo courtesy of Constanza Fernandez of Experiencing the Globe.

However, you should come prepared in such places because the food can be quite expensive. You can enjoy your evening with a view of the Swiss Alps or dine al fresco in some of the country’s fantastic summer restaurants.

10. Phones and internet

There is very little regulation when it comes to the purchase of a mobile phone or pay-as-you-go card. You should show a Swiss address and a passport or identity card. Internet access is easy because your rented apartment will have a phone line, but you can contact a service provider to install broadband for you.

Have more advice and tips for people who’re thinking of moving to Switzerland? Feel free to share your knowledge and experiences below.

Pinnable image
Text: 10 things to know before moving to Switzerland (and the Rachel's Ruminations logo)
Images: Top: a river running toward the viewer between two mountains, with more mountains behind. Rafts on the river. Bottom left: a pot of fondue with three hands dipping bread into it. Bottom right: buildings with red flowers in windowboxes.


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about Rachel

Hi, I’m Rachel!

Rachel’s Ruminations is a travel blog focused on independent travel with an emphasis on cultural and historical sites/sights. I also occasionally write about life as an expatriate. I hope you enjoy what I post here; feel free to leave comments!  Read more…
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Such a beautiful country! Thank you on a detailed impressive guide! Saved your post for the future