The Netherlands and Switzerland are common expat destinations. However, selecting between these two can be challenging if you don’t have an insider’s outlook on what it’s really like living in these European countries.
The main differences between living in the Netherlands vs Switzerland are:
- Switzerland has a higher quality of life
- The Netherlands has more friendly people
- Switzerland has a better climate and weather
- The Netherlands has a lower cost of living
Many US expats choose Switzerland above the Netherlands. In fact, about 10% of all expats in Switzerland are from the US. In the Netherlands, this proportion is lower, but there are still about 31 thousand Americans. If you are deciding which of these two places to relocate to, we have a helpful guide for you.
Living in the Netherlands vs Switzerland
The Netherlands and Switzerland may seem similar culturally. Still, if you take a second glance, you’ll be able to pick a few differences here and there.
While both countries boast excellent living standards and high levels of well-being, the choice between the two will depend on your lifestyle preferences.
The friendliness, culture of the locals, living costs, and environmental quality are also vital factors. So, let’s take a deeper look.
Quality of life
Generally, a country’s quality of life is measured in terms of its:
- political stability
- employment opportunities
- natural and living environment
- leisure and social interactions
- cost of living
Here are some points about the quality of life in the Netherlands vs Switzerland. Not surprising that Switzerland ranks at the top of the most livable countries in the world. Currently, it holds 4th position and 1st overall, while the Netherlands comes up 8th and 12th overall.
With a GDP of $77,324, Switzerland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Here is how Switzerland ranks across various quality-of-life criteria:
As you can see, Switzerland is an excellent place for business. Swiss entrepreneurs enjoy very low taxes.
Netherlands’ GDP is also pretty decent – $63,767 per capita. It’s higher than in many other EU countries, including Germany ($57,928). Therefore, the Dutch economy is well-developed and provides good earnings opportunities.
Below you can see a quality of life score for the Netherlands.
Moreover, out of a hundred, Switzerland’s political stability stands at ninety-one (91), while the Netherlands’ is at eighty-six (86).
A high life expectancy indicates a high quality of life. Netherlands’ life expectancy is 81.4 years, while Switzerland’s is 83.1 years.
Overall, Switzerland might be perfect for you if you’re looking for a leisurely lifestyle coupled with excellent transport, great income, a strong and stable economy, high-quality products, and lots of cultural diversity.
However, the Netherlands has a far more international atmosphere than Switzerland, and it’s easier for expats to find jobs. The Netherlands pays excellent wages if you have the right skills.
Food is also easily accessible as you can get pretty much anything you want with the liberal store opening times and a wide variety of produce.
Switzerland offers rich benefits to its citizens, including a comprehensive social safety net, low taxes, an excellent healthcare system, and stable financial markets. Public transportation, although not cheap, is legendary and cheaper than owning a car in Switzerland.
In the Netherlands, however, cycling is not only therapeutic but also a financial lifesaver as the driving tax is relatively high. From car sales, and registration, to gasoline, all these are heavily taxed in the Dutch.
Parking in the larger, older cities is also minimal and often expensive. Consider getting a bike in the Netherlands to avoid the hefty petrol prices, parking fees, and car insurance.
Cost of living
Let’s compare the cost of living. The consumer prices in the Netherlands are 39.9% lower than those in Switzerland. Netherlands’ rent prices are 32.4% lower than Switzerland’s. And Swiss supermarkets are shocking 48.7% more expensive than Dutch.
If you are moving with your family to Switzerland, you need a monthly budget of about $6,500 to $7,000. That’s if you have two children. In the Netherlands, a family of four can live pretty comfortably on about $4,000 per month.
A one-bedroom apartment in Switzerland’s city center goes for $2,055, while one in the Netherlands costs $1,702.
Renting a three-bedroomed flat in Switzerland will cost you between $2,745 and $3,689 per month, depending on the location. The same apartment size costs between $2,053 and $2,515 monthly in the Netherlands.
Food expenses in Switzerland are crazy compared to the Netherlands. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant goes for $27 in Switzerland and costs $19 in the Netherlands. Groceries are twice more expensive as in the Netherlands. Read this guide on food prices in Switzerland.
In Switzerland, a three-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant goes for $122. The same meal out would cost about $75 in the Netherlands.
Netherlands’ local transport is cheaper than Switzerland’s. But only when it comes to one-way tickets.
You’ll be able to save more coins if you get the monthly pass in Switzerland vs the Netherlands. Switzerland’s monthly pass regular price stands at $85, while Netherlands’ goes for $91.
In the Netherlands, a liter of gasoline is $2.27, while it costs $2.21 in Switzerland.
Essential utilities like water, heating, and cooling will cost you $105 in Switzerland for a one-bedroom apartment. These amenities go for $234 in the Netherlands. Surprisingly, utilities are much more expensive in the Netherlands, probably due to rising electricity and gas prices.
Here is an example of average monthly expenses in Zurich:
- Rent (including) utilities: $2,000 – $3,000
- Groceries: $500 – $700
- Health insurance: $300 – $500
- Mobile: $50
- Transport: Zurich annual ticket is $782 for 1&2 zones, you need to do a one-time payment
- Household expenses: $300
- Entertainment and leisure: $500 – $1,000 (e.g., going out, events, gym, shopping)
Rent and housing is the biggest expense in Switzerland. For a large family-friendly apartment, expect to pay between $2,500 to $4,000, depending on the location. A single can get away with spending between $1,500 and $2,000 for one bedroom.
Below are the rent prices for a three-bedroom apartment/house in different Swiss cities:
|City||Rent in the city center||Rent outside of the city center|
Moreover, knowing how crucial budgeting for Switzerland is, we have conducted a list of average costs for a family of four:
|Living, incl. utilities and electricity||2,000 to 3,000|
|Taxes and deductions||1,000 to 1,500|
|Food and groceries||700 – 1,000|
|Health insurance and other insurances||1,000|
|Communication: landline, mobile, internet, TV, Serafe, etc.||160 to 290|
|Transportation: car, mopeds, bicycle, public transport, other means of transport, repairs, maintenance, amortization, fuel, etc.||800 to 1,100|
Let’s have a look at the Netherlands. The average monthly cost of living in Amsterdam is about $2,990 for a single. Hence, you should strive to find a job that pays that amount. If you live in Amsterdam, housing will take about half of your net pay.
So, renting a studio or one-bedroom apartment in Amsterdam ranges from $1,080 to $2,050 a month, depending on the neighborhood. That said, some of the typical monthly expenses while living in Amsterdam include:
- Rent: $1,100-$2,000
- Utilities: $200
- Insurance: $150
- Transport: $100
- Internet: $40
- Groceries: $400
- Total: $1,990 – without leisure or free time activities.
Switzerland is a warmer and drier place compared to the Netherlands. The Dutch weather is often foggy, rainy, and windy. The days are also considerably short in winter and are often grey and dark.
Due to the proximity to the sea, Dutch weather is known to be quite nasty, with a lot of rain and wind.
A land-locked Switzerland has a temperate climate with mild winter and warm summer.
It’s relatively dry, with precipitation of about 2000 mm per year in the north and only 500-600 mm in the South.
The Netherlands also lies in the temperate zone, however, it’s a Marine west coast, warm summer climate zone to be precise. Across the country, the average precipitation is 750/850 millimeters per year.
Switzerland’s average day temperatures are about 15.3°C, while the Netherlands are 14.4°C. The Netherlands reaches its highest temperature of 22.9 °C in July. It experiences its lowest temperatures of 5.8 °C in July.
Switzerland’s coldest month is January, with temperatures as low as 4.6°C. July is the warmest, with temperatures as high as 25.7°C.
Therefore, you will enjoy warmer summers in Switzerland, where you can swim in one of its cleanest lakes.
Netherlands’ standard night temperatures are 6.9°C, while Switzerland’s are 6.5°C. Switzerland’s coolest nights have temperatures of around -1.4°C. July has the warmest nights, with temperatures as high as 14.7°C.
February has the lowest night temperatures in the Netherlands. The temperatures can drop to 1.0°C. July has the warmest nights, with temperatures as high as 13.7°C.
Switzerland is a good option if you prefer a dry and warm environment. It has an average relative humidity of 76%, while the Netherlands is 80%. What’s more, Switzerland has 5.3 hours of sunshine daily. Netherlands’ sun hours hardly exceed 4.9.
December is the rainiest month in the Netherlands, with 13.6 rainy days. April is the driest, with only 7.5 rainy days.
Although Switzerland is 2.92x more mountainous than the Netherlands, it’s less rainy than the latter. The rainiest month, May has only 11.9 rainy days.
Visa and residence permit options
If you intend to stay in Switzerland or the Netherlands for more than ninety days, you must get a residence permit. You should also apply for a long-stay visa before traveling to these countries.
Switzerland’s and the Netherlands’ visa applications are pretty similar. To qualify for any of them, below are the mandatory documents you must submit:
- Two passport photos
- National passport
- Copies of your other visas
- A round-trip flight itinerary
- Proof of accommodation
- A cover letter
To get a Swiss residence permit, check out the official website of migration or employment authorities. There are several options for how you can relocate to Switzerland, including:
- Student visa
- Trainee visa
- Work visa
- Volunteer visa
- Cross-border commuting visa
- Visa for asylum seekers
- Family visa
- Business visa
- Retirement visa
It’s easier to move to Switzerland with a job, however, possible without a job offer too.
You must have stayed in the country for five years to qualify for a permanent RP. Other requirements include having a good relationship with Swiss society, having no involvement in crime, and you must be connected to a local association.
Qualifying for a residence permit in the Netherlands requires a sponsor, a valid passport, no criminal record, and a medical test.
The visas options in the Netherlands are pretty similar to Switzerland; some of the most popular residence paths for immigrants and expats are:
- Spouse, (unmarried) partner or family member
- Highly skilled migrant or researcher
- Student at university
- Student at a secondary or vocational school
- Graduate in an orientation year
- Participant in an exchange or working holiday program
- Au pair
- Foreign investor
- Entrepreneur (startup)
- Refugee or asylum seeker
Netherlands’ unemployment rate is about 1.7% more than Switzerland, meaning that the Swiss people have a better job market.
You have a greater chance of getting employed in the Netherlands if you studied there. Although not mentioned in most job applications, you must be a fluent Dutch speaker to get a job in the Netherlands unless you are working in large corporations in main cities, e.g., Amsterdam or Rotterdam.
Switzerland has four linguistic regions; Romanish, Italian, German, and French. To get employed in these regions, you must understand the local languages, but you have a wider choice.
With only German language, you already have plenty of job opportunities in cities like Zürich or Bern.
If you aren’t fluent in any of the official languages, you could look for employment in Basel, Geneva, or Zürich, as they have pretty lenient language rules.
It goes without saying Switzerland holds some of the highest wages in the world across all occupations. In 2022, the average national wage was about $78,000. Swiss salaries can be significantly higher than that. This is one of the few countries where one can earn a very decent wage.
For example, someone in a managerial position will earn between $130,000 and $270,000 per year. Low taxes allow you to take home the most of the money you make.
Furthermore, the average gross income of all Swiss households is around $9,951 per month or $119,412 per year.
Switzerland has no national minimum wage set by the government like most countries, including the Netherlands. The employer and employee discuss the salary in Switzerland before starting work.
Although the Swiss government doesn’t set the minimum wage, each canton has the power to set its own. Switzerland has twenty cantons and six half cantons, each with its minimum wage.
Jura and Neuchatel cantons have a minimum wage of $21.53 per hour. Geneva has the highest minimum wage of $24.76 per hour.
Basel, the latest German-speaking canton, set its minimum wage at $22.61 per hour. Kloten, Winterthur, and Zurich still don’t have a minimum wage but intend to set it at an outstanding $24.76.
To check what you’ll make in Switzerland, use the official tax calculator to get an estimation. Here is an overview of how much people in typical professions earn in Switzerland:
- A secretary earns around $7,000 per month.
- A kindergarten teacher earns up to $10,000 a month, and a high school teacher easily comes to over $13,000.
- A project manager in a big corporation in Zurich earns around $300,000 annually.
- An accountant with 5 years of professional experience makes, on average, around $100,000.
- A Swiss radiologist earns around $390,000 gross.
- Managing directors currently earn an average of $400,000.
Read more about salaries in Switzerland.
To have a comfortable life in Switzerland, you should make between $6,000 and $9,000 gross per month. The average wage should provide you with that amount. In the end, no one is suffering from being underpaid in Switzerland.
In the Netherlands, the national minimum wage for 2023 is set at €1,934 ($2,086) per month for adults over the age of 21. The average gross salary in the Netherlands is $3,415 per month ($40,980 per year) or $2,696 net.
A typical salary for Amsterdam is between $41,000 and $43,151 gross per year.
That said, a monthly net wage between $2,800 and $3,500 is a decent income where you can live comfortably in the Netherlands. For this, you need to make an annual gross salary of above $45,000.
In the Netherlands, salaries are pretty much the European average; it’s enough to cover main living expenses, but don’t expect to live lavishly or save a lot of money while you are working there.
Although, expats can benefit from the 30% tax rule and pay less in taxes. Your taxable income will be reduced from 100% to 70%, meaning 30% of the wage is tax-free.
Yet, even so, Switzerland has lower tax rates, regardless of your nationality.
Below are some salary examples in the Netherlands:
Read more about salaries in the Netherlands.
Out of a hundred, Switzerland’s healthcare quality stands at 93, while Netherland’s is at 84.
The distribution of hospital beds in Switzerland is 4.63 for every one thousand inhabitants. The Netherlands has 3.17 beds for every one thousand citizens. Hence, as a patient, you are better supplied in Switzerland.
Physician distribution in Switzerland is about 4,24 per thousand inhabitants. In the Netherlands, the distribution is 3.51 physicians for every a thousand persons.
Switzerland has more and better equipment for digitalized diagnosis and treatment. For this reason, Switzerland’s medical staff completes examinations and reports faster than the Netherlands’.
When it comes to health insurance, Swiss residents pay about $350-$500 per month for basic health insurance. It includes a deductible of $300. Optionally, you can take out expat health insurance like one from Cigna Global.
You will need to pay for health insurance in Switzerland for each person in your family. Rates for small children are lower; you can expect about $70 on average.
The Dutch health system is funded by the state or taxes you pay while residing there. The healthcare system is universal, with the government providing healthcare allowances for low-income earners to access mandatory insurance.
Additionally, your insurance automatically covers your children that are below 18. You still need to pay for health insurance which costs between $100 and $150 per month. You can also take out private insurance there. Furthermore, Switzerland has an excellent sick leave policy and is a great reason to move there, especially with people with underlying conditions.
Health insurance for expats in the Netherlands and Switzerland
Expats need a health insurance solution when moving to the Netherlands or Switzerland. Health insurance is a requirement for your visa and future resident permit.
For this, we recommend Cigna Global. For American expats company provides comparable to US health insurance packages.
Because Cigna insurance is international, you can use your policy not only in the Netherlands or Switzerland but almost anywhere in the world. With 74,000 employees, 200 years of experience, and more than 100 million customers globally, it’s one of the largest international insurance providers out there.
With that insurance, you can enjoy instant and easy access to healthcare facilities and professionals around the globe.
Visit their website to learn more and choose the optimal coverage for your situation.
Swiss people and Swiss culture are very different from Dutch. Swiss society is more conservative and fashioned, while Dutch is progressive and modern. They generally don’t care what people think and live life to the fullest.
The Netherlands has twice as many people as Switzerland, and many have a foreign background or have lived abroad for some time. The Dutch are explorers by nature (look at their history) and love learning about different cultures.
Switzerland is less densely populated – 50.48% more space for one person than the Netherlands. The Netherlands has 17,5 million people, while Switzerland’s total population is about 8,703,405. About 14% of 17,5 million inhabitants were born abroad.
The Dutch people are more direct and honest than the Swiss. They are also informal and more friendly. The Netherlands is the best option if you prefer a social community.
The Dutch enjoy their free time entirely away from work or studies and don’t let age get in the way of that, unlike the Swiss society, which is a bit conservative.
They are also merry and amicable people. If you are relocating from the US, you’ll easily fit in this country, as Dutch are great at small talk too. You’ll also make friends quickly in this country.
One is the fact, the Swiss people are more organized and structured than the Dutch. They also follow undocumented social rules and have a quiet demeanor.
The Swiss consider homes very private and hardly invite people they aren’t very familiar with. Neighbors prefer meeting in commonly owned areas, like a shared garden.
Swiss people prioritize keeping their country perfect and beautiful, ending up missing out on life.
Besides, making friends in Switzerland is pretty complicated. The Swiss have strict boundaries and are long-term oriented.
Switzerland isn’t for you if you enjoy small talk while strolling or shopping. In fact, many expats struggle to build friendships with the Swiss due to their mentality.
However, if a quiet and peaceful life with a more reserved lifestyle is your priority, Swiss people are the best for you to live with.
Yet, before you move there, read this article about the downsides of living in Switzerland.
Best cities to live
The best cities in Switzerland include Lausanne, Geneva, and Zurich. Zurich is the largest city (400,000) in this country. It’s known as Switzerland’s economic and banking capital thanks to the countless international financial corporations with headquarters here.
Some other great cities to live in Switzerland are:
Zurich is perfect for you if you are searching for a well-paying job. It also has many entertainment sources, schools, and shops.
Geneva is a very international city with the headquarters of various global organizations. It’s located between the beautiful mountain ranges on lake Geneva. Its landscape is ideal if you are a nature fanatic or enjoy a typical cosmopolitan vibe.
Geneva’s population comprises 40% expats, meaning you’ll easily fit in. This city also has the best schools. It’s favorable if you have kids who are still in school.
The best cities to live in in the Netherlands are Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Amsterdam has an international community with plenty of US and UK expats, making it easy to fit in. It also has a vibrant atmosphere; it’s easy to make friends in this city.
Amsterdam has several peaceful areas where you can relax if overwhelmed with the loud streets and neighborhoods. It has up to thirty parks, with lots of space to play games and lie down.
Asides from being lively, Rotterdam has several cultural activities and attractions to keep you entertained when not working. Rotterdam is also more affordable than other big cities.
Many well-known international businesses like Pfizer, Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, and Shell Downstream have their headquarters in Rotterdam. Finding a job in this city is also pretty easy.
Some other Dutch cities that worth your attention are:
- The Hague