Thursday, December 26, 2013

Moving Abroad: Life in Switzerland

Switzerland is very popular place to relocate for European Union nationals. There are many reason for that: very high standard of living including health care and natural environment, high salaries, low taxes. But to find a job there is rather hard even for a good specialist because of tough requirements and strong competition.


In Switzerland a foreign experienced software developer speaking good English but without knowledge of a local language (German in North or French in South) can expect to be paid around 90-110 thousand swiss francs (€75,000-91,700) a year gross salary.

A senior Java developer with experience in banking area, speaking both English and a local language and living in Switzerland for several years can find a job for 150 thousand swiss francs (€125,000) a year. Another option is to take an 800 swiss francs (€670) a day contractor job.

Higher salaries in IT are in the biggest cities: Zurich (German is the most widely spoken local language), Geneva (French), and Basel (German).

You can look for a job here.


Income tax depends on many factors: marriage status, working status of the spouse, number of children and their ages, religion, place of residence… The simplest way to approximately estimate amount of taxes is to use tax calculators. Here is a good one.

Besides income tax there are other compulsory payments from salary:
  • Basic pension insurance (1st pillar / AHV) is at least 4.2% of income
  • Occupational pension insurance (2nd pillar) is around basic pension insurance value
  • Unemployment insurance (ALV) is around 1% of income
  • Accident insurance is around 0.5% of income
  • Daily benefits insurance is around 0.2% of income

Here are examples of approximate monthly net salaries in Zurich:

yearly gross salary90,000 CHF (€75,000)100,000 CHF (€83,300)110,000 CHF (€91,700)
single person5,950 CHF (€4,950)6,550 CHF (€5,450)7,100 CHF (€5,900)
only working of a couple6,150 CHF (€5,150)6,800 CHF (€5,650)7,400 CHF (€6,150)

An important note: medical insurance is not paid from salary by employer. But it's mandatory and should be paid separately.


Renting an apartment in Switzerland is very expensive. Here you can see rent prices.

The following table gives some ideas of apartment monthly rent prices for singles and couples in the biggest swiss cities:

2-room 50+ sq.m apartmentfrom 1,600 CHF: 1,400 CHF + 200 CHF (€1,330)from 1,900 CHF: 1,750 CHF + 150 CHF (€1,580)from 1,100 CHF: 900 CHF + 200 CHF (€920)
3-room 70+ sq.m apartmentfrom 1,900 CHF: 1,650 CHF + 250 CHF (€1,580)from 2,500 CHF: 2,300 CHF + 200 CHF (€2,080)from 1,400 CHF: 1,150 CHF + 250 CHF (€1,170)

Apartment expenses consist of two parts: apartment rent and utility expenses. To rent an apartment a tenant is usually required to put 3-month rent to security deposit and to pay one month apartment rent plus utility expenses in advance. If a real estate agent is involved, then it's usually paid by landlord.

Most apartments include kitchen furniture and equipment often with fridge. Washing machine and dryer are mostly shared between house residents and installed in basement. It's not so rare when they are also available in apartments.

The biggest Internet and television provider is Cablecom. 10 Mbit/s Internet connection costs 40 francs a month, and 80-channel television subscription is 20 francs a month.


During business lunch hours it's possible to eat some hot food for 15-20 francs (€12-€17). A dinner can cost 30-40 francs (€25-€33). A self-cooked meal is around 10 francs (€8). Food store prices can be seen here and here.

900 francs (€750) a month should be enough for a working person while cooking at home and going out only for business lunch.

Public Transportation

In Zurich a month ticket costs 81 francs (€68) at least, depending on number of zones included. Fine for traveling without a valid ticket for the first time is 100 francs (€83), but also purchase of a ticket is required.

Mobile Connection

Swisscom is the biggest mobile operator in Switzerland. Unfortunately prices are high. For example, M package including unlimited calls, SMS, and Internet with speed up to 7 Mbit/s costs 100 francs (€83).

Holidays and Vacation

There is only one national holiday — August 1. Other holidays are set by cantons. Zurich, Geneva, and Basel have 9 holidays.

Minimum annual vacation is 4 weeks.

Working week is usually 42 hours. But it can be up to 45 hours for office workers.

Health Care

Medical insurance is compulsory. But everybody is allowed to choose insurance company and between allowed insurance packages. Available options can be researched here. Usually it's around 200-300 francs a month.

Insured person have to choose amount of deductible expenses. Minimum for an adult is 300 francs a year. That means you have to spend the first 300 francs on your own if you got sick. Then insurance will pay 90% of medical bills until you spend 700 francs more. And then insurance will pay all the further bills. With the minimum deductible expenses you need to have 1000 francs just in case.

During sickness period you will be paid at least 80% of your salary up to two years.

Swiss health care is among the best in the world.

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