Switzerland is one of the world’s best countries to live in – you can’t argue with that. Indeed, it had many advantages, and they by far surpass any drawback this country might have. Yet, you should be aware of all the bad things about living in Switzerland before moving there.
The worst things about living in Switzerland are:
- Cost of living
- Swiss real estate
- Working hours
- Swiss culture
- Job search
- Social life
- Making friends with Swiss people
- Swiss citizenship
- Suicide rate
Switzerland was always a magnet for foreigners. In a country with a population of about 8 million people, 2 out of them are with an immigrational background. Incredibly high salaries and low taxes attract thousands of professionals to move to this alpine dreamland every year.
But Switzerland isn’t perfect, and you should consider all cons of living there before seriously thinking about relocating your entire life overseas.
Also read how is it to live in Switzerland as an American.
Downsides of Switzerland everyone should know
Switzerland is known for a very high standard of living, outrageous salaries, low taxes, amazing healthcare, stunning nature, and much more. In addition, it’s regularly ranked as one of the happiest nations on Earth, thanks to all this country has to offer.
However, no place in the world is perfect, and so is Switzerland. Here are our top worst things about living in Switzerland you should be aware of.
Do you know why the world doesn’t know anything about Swiss food? Because it has nothing special about it. In fact, Swiss cuisine is quite disappointing and boring.
And this is despite having great culinary nations like France, Italy, and Austria as neighbors, Switzerland has somehow managed to end up with the poorest cuisine in the region.
Cost of living
Even if salaries are proportionally high, certain things are just so expensive that people can hardly afford them – e.g., taxis.
Zurich and Geneva are the two most expensive Swiss cities, where prices are similar to New York. You will need to have a high enough salary in order to afford a decent standard of living there. However, affordability shouldn’t be an issue for someone making at least an average salary.
Yes, moving to Switzerland comes with an initial shock and some adjustments to new price tags.
Switzerland speaks four languages, and you probably will never master any of them. While you can live with French in the French-speaking part of the country, German-speaking Switzerland will frustrate any German speaker.
The local language isn’t German but Swiss-German, and it’s something you have never encountered before and will never be fluent in.
Some people even move to Switzerland to learn or improve the German language, but in that country, it’s not possible. You can still live comfortably with just English, but your integration into society will be minimal.
Many people find Switzerland incredibly boring, including me. I could never imagine living there just because of this boredom, emptiness, and silence. Overall, there isn’t much to do in the free time.
If you don’t like skiing, hiking, or mountain biking, you’ll have a hard time finding something to do during weekends, especially on Sundays when all shops are closed.
Food and drink options generally aren’t great and, again, boring.
Getting an apartment in Switzerland is tough and even more challenging if you are a foreigner. The Swiss housing market is competitive and expensive. One is for sure; it will take a while until you find a new home in Switzerland. Finding pet-friendly housing and houses with private gardens can be extra challenging.
Moreover, you literally can move out and in only twice per year. Depending on the canton, there may be several moving dates per year.
For example, in Bern, all rental contacts end and start either on 30 April or 31 October, so that everyone can move house on the same day. This rule is definitely not intended to benefit tenants and requires some planning ahead.
In addition, many residential buildings have shared facilities for laundry where you are supposed to wash your clothes. Plus, residents are restricted in times when they can use the facilities.
Swiss real estate
Firstly, Swiss houses are incredibly expensive, and secondly, foreigners are restricted in acquiring real estate in Switzerland. The median price of the house is 1,100,000 CHF in 2022. The average apartment will cost about 718,000 CHF. Good luck saving this amount.
Nevertheless, do you still want to buy a house in Switzerland? Well, as a foreign national, you can’t!
Foreign nationals (non-EU) are only allowed to buy a property in a tourist area. For example, chalets and apartments in most Swiss ski resorts. But luckily, it’s also possible to buy a residential property if you qualify as follows:
- EU or EFTA national with a Swiss residence permit who resides in Switzerland
- hold a Swiss C Permit
Otherwise, it’s only possible to buy in ski resorts in Cantons Bern, Graubünden, Obwalden, Uri, Vaud & Valais. Swiss property laws are highly regulated.
Read more about property and prices in Switzerland.
Unfortunately, foreigners often get discriminated in Switzerland, and this fact isn’t even hidden. Many aspects of your life will depend on your nationality. For example, your car taxes depend on the country you are coming from.
Swiss people will always give advantage to their own, not just any Swiss, but people from that canton, locals. Even if you are fluent in German or French, and your qualifications are better, the priority line is given to Swiss nationals.
Discrimination in Switzerland is everywhere, and everybody knows about it.
Switzerland is a country of immigrants, but most foreigners don’t feel integrated into Swiss society.
In fact, people don’t feel like they belong there. Many come and go for very much this reason.
Foreigners are often treated as foreigners in Switzerland even if they have lived there for years, are married to a local, have kids, carry a Swiss passport, and speak the language fluently.
Integration into Swiss society is probably the most challenging part of living in Switzerland. The locals also have their circle of friends formed through school or going to the army together, and as outsiders, it can be difficult to break into the circle.
This issue is especially prevalent in smaller towns and villages, but it may be less apparent in larger cosmopolitan centers such as Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Berne, or Lausanne.
Childcare is incredibly expensive in Switzerland. If you want to have a child while living in this part of the world, check your finances first. Maternity leave is only 4 months, and after that, you start to pay hundreds, if not thousands of Francs to someone to take care of your child.
Daycare for one child costs about 130 CHF and up to 180 CHF per day.
Nightlife is pretty much non-existent in Switzerland, except for cities like Zurich. If you are a party junkie or simply enjoy a good quality clubbing and going out culture – this isn’t a place for you.
Work-life balance is great in Switzerland, but you also will work more for it. The average Swiss work week is longer than in neighboring countries and in Europe overall – about 42 hours.
In Switzerland, you might be driven crazy by various rules.
Some Swiss rules might seem ridiculous, but they almost all make sense to the Swiss. For example, rules like no showering after 10 pm and no flushing could be included in your rental contract.
There are also many rules regarding Sunday rest (no laundry, no noise) which might seem strange. Nonetheless, Swiss laws say nothing about smoking at bus and train stations or drinking alcohol in public places.
While I thought Germany had already collected all ridiculous and unnecessary rules, Switzerland took it to another level. And even Germans who live in Switzerland complain about how rule-obsessed Swiss are..
Swiss culture has its good and bad. As a foreigner, especially coming from a non-EU country, you will have a little culture shock at how official and rigid the Swiss are.
There are some positives to it, too, including excellent organization and pragmatism. Swiss people are certainly very polite but also reserved. For example, at work, you should always use last names and the formal you e.g., Sie/Vous/Lei, until your colleagues didn’t let you know you can use their first names (but this may never happen).
You can also read about Swiss dating culture in our dating guide.
In Switzerland, it’s normal to keep one job for years to come when not for the entire life. Switching jobs mid-career is a pretty rare situation for Swiss. That means any new job search or change will be a struggle for you.
There are certain in-demand professions like positions in medicine, IT, science & research. Still, if you don’t speak the local language and don’t have enough experience, finding a job in Switzerland may be challenging and very time-consuming.
Moreover, your career opportunities are pretty much limited if you don’t speak French/German or possess some highly valuable skills.
The sad reality is that as a foreigner in Switzerland, you might end up with no social life.
Only 35% have found it easy to form friendships in the country, and 43% have found it easy to integrate with the local people and culture (compared with 61% of expats globally).
Making friends with Swiss people
Another downside of living in Switzerland is having a tough time befriending Swiss people. According to statistics, 62% of expats living in Switzerland found it hard to make Swiss friends (compared to 36% globally).
Most Swiss people stick to their established circle of close friends. They’re also respectful of privacy, so they might wait a long time before inviting a colleague to meet outside of work. This can be a culture shock for an expat who is used to a more outgoing community.
Americans, in particular, do face this problem since their culture is so different from the Swiss. Friendly smiles and smalls talks aren’t common in Switzerland. American people also aren’t the reserved ones and approaching a Swiss can be a tough call.
As a result, most of your friends will likely be non-Swiss. Younger generations are much more open and, like the older ones, they’re usually very polite and reasonably friendly, but it’s hard to scratch the surface.
Yet, the longer you live in Switzerland, the easier it will be to make friends with locals. Especially, if you speak the region’s language.
If getting European citizenship is your goal when moving to Switzerland, you must be aware that it’s almost impossible to obtain Swiss citizenship as a foreigner with no Swiss background. In fact, getting a Swiss nationality is one of the hardest things in the world.
To become a Swiss citizen, you need to have lived with a C residence permit for 10 years in the same municipality and spend a lot of money.
The interviews and tests are very difficult, and they will keep telling you that nothing is guaranteed. Even if you pass everything, it’s up to the state to decide whether to grant you Swiss nationality or not.
Finally, maybe the darkest side of Switzerland is that it holds the record for suicide in Europe. Around 1,000 suicide accidents happen per year, which is 3–4 every day. For a country with just 8 million people, it’s a lot.
At the same time, Switzerland is ranked as one of the world’s happiest countries each year. Well, not everyone is happy there.