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Moving to Switzerland? A Guide to Swiss Living, An Expat’s Guide

What’s Switzerland Known for?

Switzerland is perhaps one of the most notable expat countries in the world, but why? Here are the top things expats love about this friendly and beautiful place:

Getting Your Paperwork in Order

One of the first things you’ll need to do upon deciding to move to Switzerland is organize your paperwork. If you’re an American entering Switzerland, you’ll need a green card and a passport. The combination of these two things will allow you to stay in the country for three months. If you’re planning to stay longer, though, you’ll need to apply for and obtain a residence permit. This document is issued by the Cantonal Migration Offices and will allow for either short-term residence (stays of less than one year), permanent residence (unlimited stays), or residence on the basis of annual renewal. Keep in mind that, while Switzerland is a very friendly country for expats, it’s not always easy to gain a residence permit to the country. For example, to obtain a residence permit, you must have an offer to work in Switzerland, but that job must be one that cannot be completed by a Swiss national. To apply for a residence permit, you’ll need to gather the required documents (including proof of employment offers, two separate passport photos, the completed application itself, and the fee for the visa) and submit them to the Swedish embassy in your area. Be advised that the processing period can run between eight and ten weeks and that you’ll be updated about the status of your visa via email or physical mail once it’s completed.

Removal Companies UK to Switzerland

Finding Housing in Switzerland

Since Switzerland checks all of the boxes on a discerning expat’s list (prosperous, beautiful, safe, and welcoming), it’s understandable that properties in the area are highly in demand. While there are plenty of homes available for rent in the country, you’ll need to act fast if you want your pick. Unlike other parts of Europe, where home ownership is the norm, fewer than 40% of Swiss people own a home. Rental rates in cities like Zurich are some of the highest on the continent and most expats who move to the area choose to rent. Depending on your preferences, you’ll find everything from downtown apartments to historic farmhouses in rural, scenic areas of the country. Keep in mind that property prices have risen significantly in recent years and it can be difficult to find affordable housing without a long search. Finding a rental often involves an extensive application process and, because of this, many expats choose to hire a Swiss real estate professional to help them with the process. If you choose to purchase a home in the area, you’re in for an uphill battle. In addition to the fact that the country restricts the rights of some expats to purchase land, property in Switzerland is expensive. Because of this, many expats choose to rent, instead.

The 5 Best Places to Live in Switzerland

While Switzerland offers many beautiful cities within which to set up shop, these five are some of the top choices among international expats:

1. Zurich
Known throughout Europe as “The most desirable city in the world,” Zurich is the economic seat of Switzerland. Famous for its high quality of life, outstanding schools, competent healthcare system, and efficient public transit network, Zurich is a functional, efficient city that offers virtually everything an expat could want. While the cost of living in this urban haven is high, most expats agree it’s worth it. The city is divided into 12 distinct districts, each of which contains anywhere between one and four separate neighborhoods. Within these districts, residents can enjoy art galleries, famous cafes, ancient churches, music, live shows, and plenty of delicious, traditional (or exotic) eateries on each block.

2. Geneva
Geneva is known as the most diverse city in Switzerland. The headquarters of the Red Cross, the United Nations, and the World Health Organization are all located here, which creates ample jobs and a variety of opportunities for expats.
Because the city is a hotbed of high-level politicians and diplomats, rental prices in this beautiful area are very inflated, and it can be more expensive to rent property here than in Zurich. When you consider the quality of life and the beauty of the city, however, it becomes clear why so many expats choose to fight through the high rental prices in favor of the lifestyle. In addition to the global headquarters spread throughout the city, Geneva also offers a large, bustling shopping district, a historic “old town” center, and scenic Lake Geneva, which features a famous and often-photographed fountain known around the world.

3. Basel
Basel is a city located in the Northwest segment of Switzerland. While this city may not possess the glamor of Zurich of the international importance of Geneva, it’s famous for being the gateway to all the natural wonder that Switzerland has to offer. Close to France and Germany and boasting enough crisp rivers, scenic mountains, and heritage sites to keep any explorer busy, Basel is a historic town with plenty to offer. In addition to being the only Swiss gateway to the ocean, Basel is also famous for being a critical byway to France and Germany. As such, it offers a sea port and plenty of well-traveled international routes for both air and land travel.

4. Lugano
The southernmost town in Switzerland, Lugano is a densely Italian area with the food, culture, and language to show for it. Unlike many other parts of the country, Lugano is extreme: with cold, long, densely snowy winters and hot summers. The area is known for its winemaking prowess and its definably Italian architecture, food, and culture. Located just an hour (by train) from Milan, this beautiful, scenic city is the perfect place for any expat who wants a taste of Italy, in Switzerland.

5. Berne
Roughly half the size of bustling Zurich, Berne is the capital city of Switzerland. Located at the meeting of the plateaus and mountains, Berne is the seat of Switzerland’s major political and financial decisions. In addition to being a critically important city in Swiss culture and life, it’s also a beautiful one. The city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and visitors and residents alike will love the architecture, cobbled streets, and other vestiges of 12th-century life. Don’t let its ample history fool you, though. Berne is also a very modern city with a large shopping district and an extensive network of public transit.

6 Tips for Moving to Switzerland
If you’re planning on making Switzerland home, it’s best to be well-prepared. While the country is predictably beautiful, friendly, and active, moving can be stressful.

Moving House to Switzerland

With this in mind, here are six tips to make the relocation process easier:

1. Be prepared for diversity
Switzerland is dense with Italian, French, and German influences and Swiss culture reflects this. Regardless of where you come from in the world, Switzerland Is a welcoming country that will ask you about your culture while also requiring that you learn about other cultures, as well.

2. Locate a job before planning your move
When it comes to moving to Switzerland, many things ride upon whether or not you have a job offer. Because of this, it’s critical to nail down your job before you begin your move. This will lend a feeling of security to the move while also making you more favorable in the eyes of Swiss immigration authorities.

3. Be prepared for a high cost of living
Switzerland is many things, but it’s not inexpensive. Rental prices, food, and petrol are all expensive, and it’s wise to be prepared to spend more on these things than you might back home.

4. Find a relocation agent
A relocation agent is a Swiss real estate professional who specializes in helping expats get settled in the country. This person will be able to assist you in finding rental properties and navigating the often complicated rental process, so it’s well worth it to hire one.

5. Learn the language
German is the most common language spoken in Switzerland and, while most residents speak English, it’s wise to learn the language in the region you’ll be calling home. This smooths the transition and ensures that you get the most possible benefit out of your new location.

6. Bring what you can
Again, most things in Switzerland are very expensive, so it will benefit you to bring everything you can from home. Things like furniture, books, toys, and clothing will cost you more in your new country, so it’s wise to invest the extra time and effort into moving them with you if possible.

Switzerland: A Beautiful Place to Call Home

In many ways, Switzerland is the epitome of what expats want in a new country. Wealthy, prosperous, stable, friendly, beautiful, safe, and rich with opportunity, Switzerland embraces virtually everyone who wants to make a new life there. From the beautiful cities to the rural, striking countryside and the skyscraping mountains in the Alpine region, there’s plenty to love about this country. Regardless of whether you move to Switzerland to take a job in a high-powered sector or simply to enjoy the quality of life offered by this pristine and quiet country, there’s virtually no doubt that you’ll quickly find a way to settle into the pace and pattern of Swiss life. After all, what’s not to love about a war-free country that specializes in producing some of the finest chocolate and cheese the world has to offer?

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