May 26, 2016

Relocating to Switzerland: What International Assignees Need to Know

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Relocating to Switzerland: What International Assignees Need to Know

Switzerland has long been a frequented destination for expatriates (Switzerland was the fifth ranked country for Cartus’ total move activity last year), especially the cities of Geneva, Zurich, and Basel. I recently shared my top tips and best practices for international assignees in a Cartus video on relocating to Switzerland. With dedicated Destination Services on the ground in Switzerland, we understand the potential challenges that organisations and their employees may face when relocating.

Tips for Relocating to Switzerland

Topics covered in our Switzerland video include, housing, schooling, transport, immigration, and language. Here are a few of the top tips from the video:

  • Compared to world standards, the cost of living can be expensive and it’s important that assignees are aware of this before they relocate. Monthly rentals can be high, as can the cost of food, clothes and restaurants.
  • The rental market is rather fast moving so assignees need to conduct home searches with a degree of flexibility. And, once they find a property they like, they need to let their Cartus consultant know right away.
  • When searching for a home in Switzerland, assignees should know that advertised properties include the living room as a ‘room’. So a ‘two-room apartment’ will have one bedroom, as the living room is counted as the second.
  • For assignees relocating with children, it is good practice to do as much research online before the school search trip begins. That way, applications can be made as early as possible.
  • Most schools will charge a one-time Capital Development Fund payment (in addition to tuition fees). The Capital Development Fund is typically between CHF 2,000 and CHF 3,500, and used for the continual improvement and upgrading of the school environment.
  • Assignees planning to drive whilst on assignment need a Swiss driving license, which can be applied for once they have a work or residence permit.
  • The country’s excellent public transport network means that Switzerland is suitable for those who cannot drive. In major cities like Zurich and Geneva, public transport such as trains, trams, buses, and taxis, are often in operation for over 20 hours a day. And on weekends there are special night connections, so it’s easy to get around. 
  • There are a lot of clubs and organisations for assignees and locals alike. So, why not get involved and join one? It is a great way to make new friends and get to know the locals.
  • Most people in Switzerland can speak English, but locals will appreciate those who go to the trouble of learning the local language. Switzerland has four official languages – German, French, Italian, and Romanish. Even a few basic words and phrases can really help assignees and their families with the settling-in process.

For more information, be sure to watch our newest video on relocating to Switzerland, and for further information about other countries view our On The Ground video series.

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Lora Foster

About Lora

Lora Foster is based in our Geneva office, where she manages Cartus’ destination services in Switzerland. She has been with Cartus for 10 years and speaks English, French, and German.

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