10 Things I wish I'd known before moving to Switzerland

Moving abroad can be an extremely daunting experience. I can only imagine all the questions you currently have flooding your mind. On the plus side, this is a new and exciting adventure! So rather than dwelling on the scary parts, let’s focus on all the things you should know before moving to Switzerland!

10 Things I wish I'd known before moving to Switzerland

Switzerland consists of 26 cantons, Zürich being the largest. Switzerland is split into different linguistic areas, the South West which is French, the North which is German, the South-east which is Italian and lastly Romansch which is mostly spoken in the southeastern areas. 



Generally, when you think about the capital of a country you assume the largest city becomes the capital city, right? Well, apparently not! The capital of Switzerland is Bern, which is only the fifth-largest Swiss city. 


Now that we have a general overview, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty stuff!


1. Climate and Seasons


From March to May it is spring in Switzerland and you can expect the trees blossoming and the meadows turning green. Summer can become quite toasty as the temperatures reach between 25 and 35 degrees Celsius. This makes for perfect swimming temperature, as the lakes reach 19 to 23 degrees Celsius. Autumn falls between September and November and presents itself through the leaves changing colours. Last but not least, November to February is winter and the landscape is blanketed in snow, perfect for a white Christmas.


2. Population


Bern may be the capital city of Switzerland, but Zürich is one of the most densely populated cantons with just over 1’900’000 inhabitants. It is the largest city and is one of the world’s leading financial centres. Not only is it a business centre, but it is also a cultural metropolis which offers a selection of theatres, museums, art galleries, cinemas, concerts, clubs, exhibitions and restaurants. 


3. International moving


In Switzerland, it is quite easy to find a variety of moving companies who offer services to transport your belongings from one place to another. Pricing will vary from company to company and it’s best to look out for a professional company with the necessary experience and knowledge. If you don’t feel like transporting all of your belongings, why not rent furniture? Take a look at our furniture rental services to find the option that suits your needs the best! 


4. Accommodation


Accommodation in Switzerland can be difficult to find and pricey, especially when compared to other European countries. Zürich, Zug and Geneva are known to have the highest rental prices. For Zürich, two of the most popular areas are Kreis 8 or Seefeld as they are close to the lake as well as the city and boast a wealth of restaurants, exclusive shops, clubs and bars. Kreis 2, Enge and Wollishofen which are on the other side of the lake are popular as well and offer apartments at a better price. Höngg is popular with families and is located on the hillside above the city. The gold coast which is on the eastern side of Zürich is popular with expats, even though the rentals are generally the highest here. Adliswil, Thalwil, Horgen and Winterthur which are outside of the city, are good options for families and are not more than 20 mins away by public transport. 


Generally, when looking at the size of the apartment or house, it does not include the kitchen, bathroom or dining rooms. Normally an open kitchen, dining room and living room counts as one-and-a-half rooms and bedrooms are added accordingly to that. 


Description of housing:

2.5 rooms

1 bedroom, open plan living room and dining room count as 1.5 rooms.

3 rooms

Possibly 1-2 bedrooms plus a smaller living room and separate dining or study.

4.5 rooms

3 bedrooms, open plan living room and dining room count as 1.5 rooms



Apartments with balconies or terraces, are a lot more common than houses, as houses are in short supply. When applying for a place, you will mostly deal with a real estate agent and rarely the homeowner. Here’s a fun fact, 75% of the Swiss actually live in rented accommodation and are not homeowners. 


Most apartments are normally let unfurnished, but do come with complete kitchens which include a dishwasher, oven and stove. Washing machines and tumble dryers are available for communal use and sometimes apartments are equipped with their own washing machines. Unfurnished apartments are actually a blessing in disguise because it means you can decorate your space the way that you want to. But wait there’s more, we can furnish your entire space at a monthly fee, instead of you having to go out and waste money buying furniture. Take a look at our extensive online catalogue to get an idea of what you could rent for your space. Furnished accommodation is more tricky to find and is quite pricey.


Properties in Switzerland do not come with curtains or light fittings, however, they do come fitted with shutters and/or blinds. 


5. Electricity


The electric current in Switzerland is AC 220 – 240 volts with a frequency of 50 Hz and most sockets are for two-pin plugs. If you are coming from America, you will want to invest in a step-down transformer, which can be purchased at an electrical store. Electricity is billed by the electricity company and is paid in addition to the utility costs unless stipulated differently in your rental agreement. 


6. Cost of living


The cost of living in Switzerland is one of the highest in the world. People spend an average of one-third of their income on rent and 5% on insurance. 


Water is billed according to how much you have used from the meter reading or it will be billed at a fixed price. Your water bill is sent quarterly, but meter readings are only made every six months. Therefore, your first bill will be an estimate based on your normal usage and the second bill will be a reflection of your actual consumption.


Before moving into your new place, it is important that you ask your real estate agency/landlord about your connection and its providers. Shop around and compare different options and prices to make the best choice. 


7. Waste Disposal and Recycling System


Switzerland has one of the highest rates of waste recycling in the world. Disposing of household waste costs you money in Switzerland as you have to use official refuse bags. When purchasing these bags at either the supermarket or Post Office, the waste disposal costs are covered in the price. The rubbish bags come in sizes 17, 35, 60 and 110 litres. The best is to try them out and see which one works best for you, but size 35 is the most popular. Once you have filled your waste bags, they are put into large communal containers near homes or are collected on an assigned day. 


The Swiss are avid recyclers! There are recycling centres all around Zürich where you can dispose of your recycling. It needs to be separated into paper, cardboard, plastic, glass, tins, aluminium, batteries, light bulbs, books, metal, old clothes and PET bottles. 


8. Schooling and education


When moving to Switzerland with school-aged children, you may be faced with a predicament: public school or an international school? All of the schools in Switzerland have a very good reputation. Education is definitely one of Switzerland’s strong suits and they offer an excellent variety of public, semi-private, private and international schools.


9. Public Transport


Switzerland’s public transport is extremely efficient and everything is timed to perfection. Many places can be reached through a system of trains, buses, boats and cable cars. 


10. Shopping


Shopping in Switzerland is considered to be more pricey than shopping in other European countries and choice is restricted. Nevertheless, there is now a large variety of supermarkets that offer fresh local produce. One thing you may miss is the culture of “mall” shopping which you may be used to from home, but there are some larger shopping centres that are well worth a visit.


There are probably a bunch of things you still need to know before moving to Switzerland, but this is a good place to start.

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