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Welcome to Switzerland! If you have just moved here, it’s likely you are feeling somewhat overwhelmed. Apart from a new culture and language(s) to cope with, you will have to sort out a host of practical things within the first few weeks: somewhere to live, your finances, permits and papers, and maybe a school for your children and a job for your partner. The Expat Survival Guide will give you a starting point: the basic information you need and directions to the people, companies, organisations, and institutions that can help you.

INTRODUCTION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 - 6 RELOCATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 - 11 Residence/work permits; Bringing the family. HOUSING. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 - 18 Renting or buying; Mortgages; Renting an apartment; Home-finding resources; Popular expat locations. FINANCE. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 - 23 Banking; Tax; Insurance; Financial service providers. EDUCATION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 - 35 Education system; International schools; Universities; Language schools. EMPLOYMENT. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 - 39 Job hunting; Starting a business.

This guide is published by Expatica Communications, a leading media organisation serving the international community in Europe. Don’t forget to check out to access daily news, features and resources such as housing and job searches, free classifieds, all-English A-Z listings, Swiss blogs, local entertainment, and an online community.

HEALTH . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 - 43 Healthcare; Hospitals; Fitness.

We wish you a wonderful stay in Switzerland!

CONTACTS & CALENDAR . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 - 49 Groups and clubs; Emergency contacts; Public holidays.

HOME BASICS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 - 45 Utilities; Telephone and internet; Television and radio. TRANSPORT. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 - 47 Public and other transport; Driving in Switzerland.

INDEX. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 Advertiser index.

Published September 2012 © Expatica Communications BV, Gedempte Oude Gracht 31, 2011 GL Haarlem, The Netherlands Email:, Web: Editorial Contributors: Chantal Panozzo Editors: Marina Peneva, Antoine van Veldhuizen Cover photo: Danielle de Groot, Dimitri Burkhard (“Newlyswissed”) Advertising sales: Veronica Guguain, Publisher: Antoine van Veldhuizen Marketing, communications & distribution: Albina de Wolf

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronically or mechanically, including photocopying, recording or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior written permission from the publisher. Requests for permission should be addressed to Expatica Communications BV, Gedempte Oude Gracht 31, 2011 GL Haarlem, The Netherlands. Expatica makes great effort to ensure the accuracy of information contained in this guide. However, we will not be responsible for errors or omissions or any damages, howsoever caused, which results from its use, and make no warranty of claims as to the quality or competence of businesses or professionals mentioned. Users are advised to take care when selecting professional services and to use common sense when adjusting to life in a new country.


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Introduction The cars actually stop at pedestrian crosswalks. The lakes are so clean you can swim in them. The dogs on the trains somehow smell nice.

Welcome to Schweiz/Suisse/Svizzera/Switzerland. Whatever you call it, the country known for its cheese, chocolate and time-telling ability is an appealing place to live. So pleasant, in fact, that the 2011 Mercer Worldwide Quality of Living Survey placed three Swiss cities (Zurich, Geneva, and Bern) among the world’s top 10. The Swiss are rich. Despite being landlocked, having no natural resources and refusing to join any kind of organisation (like the EU) to improve their trade relations, Switzerland ranks in the top five in per capita incomes in the world (201011). A Big Mac in Switzerland costs more than any other on earth, and yet the average person working in Zurich can afford it after only 15 minutes of work. Some Swiss will talk about going to the “big city” but don’t let that fool you. The biggest city in Switzerland is Zurich (population 365,000) and to most foreigners it seems more like a small town than a metropolis. Each Swiss “city” is small, diverse, and speaks its own dialect based on one of the four official languages (German, 4

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French, Italian, and Romansh). Each Swiss citizen claims that his/her hometown is superior, with the result being that not many Swiss people move especially across something as precarious as a “Roestigraben” or “fried potato ditch” (the imaginary divide between the French- and German-speaking Swiss). Switzerland is small. With a population of 7.9 million and a low birth rate (9.53 per 1000), its population growth comes mainly from migration. Switzerland has one of the highest proportions of foreigners in Europe, with 21.9 percent of the population coming from elsewhere, hoping to get their share of the good life (and the good pay). In the Geneva canton, 37.8 percent of the population is foreign.

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Despite Switzerland’s strict immigration policies, the Swiss population has doubled in the last century, mainly due to migration. Because of its economic success after World War II, Switzerland became a desirable place for many Europeans to live. In the 1970s, thousands of Italians and Spanish came to Switzerland in search of employment or better pay. Today, the largest foreigner groups are the Italians and Germans (who, from 2007 to 2008 alone, increased in number by 20 percent), followed closely by the Portuguese. In 2002, Switzerland agreed to a seven-year bilateral labour accord with the EU, despite continual refusal to actually join the EU. This agreement granted Switzerland and the EU access to each other’s labour markets and has led to a huge influx of foreigners living in Switzerland. In February 2009, the agreement was up for renewal and sparked huge debates across Swiss party lines, with some people upset over incoming foreigners (particularly Germans) taking top managerial work as opposed to the lower-paying jobs previously associated with immigrants. However, in the end, over 56 percent voted to extend the free movement of people with the EU, claiming that the Swiss economy depended on foreign workers. Switzerland takes democracy to the extreme. The tiny country is composed of 26 cantons or states, each of which has its own laws, education


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system and tax rates. Just about anything and everything is voted on by Swiss citizens — from smoking laws to whether Frau S should be allowed to do construction on her house. The political system is so democratic that there is no head of state but rather a ceremonial position of president, which rotates annually among the executive branch, the Federal Council. The Federal Council is one of three Swiss federal institutions, which also include the legislative branch, the Federal Assembly — which is made up of no less than thirteen political parties (the most notorious of which is the SVP) — and the judicial branch, the Federal Tribunal.

groups tried to legally force a removal of the posters but the Swiss courts found that the posters did not break Swiss law. Despite widespread xenophobia among Swiss citizens, foreigners continue to arrive and remain in Switzerland in large numbers. The traditionally strong Swiss economy, linguistically talented residents (about one-third of Swiss people speak English), location in the heart of Europe, and high quality of life will continue to make Switzerland a magnet for foreigners well into the future. Chantal Panozzo

The SVP (Swiss People’s Party) is a conservative party best known for their posters, all of which aim to persuade voters to keep foreigners out of Switzerland. One poster from 2007 showed three white sheep kicking a black sheep off a Swiss flag and out of the country. It was meant to highlight the SVPs support for a law to deport foreigners convicted of crimes. Opposition Population: 7,907,000

Winter sports: According to the Swiss council for accident prevention, about 1,000 people are injured in winter sports accidents in Switzerland every day.

Density: 190/km


Life expectancy: 81.17 years (one of the highest in the world). National flag: The Swiss flag shows a red square with a bold, equilateral white cross in the centre that does not extend to the edges of the flag. Various medieval legends profess to describe the origin of the flag; a white cross used as identification for troops of the Swiss Confederation is first attested at the Battle of Laupen (1339). Landscape: Switzerland is mostly mountainous, with the Alps in the south and the Jura in the northwest. There is also a central plateau of rolling hills, plains and large lakes.


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For in depth information on Switzerland visit:

Public transport: Swiss public transport is renowned for its reliability and punctuality. The country also boasts Europe’s longest continuous-cable funicular (cable railway), the Niesenbahn in the Swiss Kandertal. Watchmaking: The Swiss are famed for their watchmaking, with luxury brands like Audemars Piguet, Baume et Mercier, Breitling, Chopard, Franck Muller, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Longines, Patek Philippe, Piaget, Rado, Rolex, TAG Heuer, Tissot and Vacheron Constantin. The wristwatch was invented by Swiss manufacturer Patek Philippe in 1868. Switzerland also contributed the ‘chalet’-style cuckoo clock at the end of the nineteenth century.


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• • R E L O C AT I O N • •


admitted from non-EU/EFTA countries – known as third countries.

Switzerland has a high migration rate. Foreigners now make up more than a fifth of the Swiss population, with the number of foreigners increasing more than four-fold since WWII, compared with a total population increase of 67 percent. RESIDENCE AND WORK PERMITS Anyone who works during their stay in Switzerland or who remains in Switzerland for longer than three months requires a residence permit issued by the Cantonal Migration Offices. A distinction is made between short-term residence permits (less than one year), annual residence permits (limited) and permanent residence permits (unlimited). There are three aspects to consider when applying for a permit. Firstly, Switzerland is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons (regions). Each canton has Cantonal Migration Offices, which are responsible for issuing residence permits, and Cantonal Labour Offices, which are responsible for work authorisation. Although all cantons operate under the same federal law, each canton has some autonomy over immigration into the region. Therefore, individual cantons are the first resource for information regarding requirements for work and residence permits. See the Swiss Confederation website at for contact details of the various cantons. Secondly, obtaining a work permit differs according to your place of origin. Switzerland has a dual system for the admission of foreign workers, with priority given to individuals from EU/EFTA countries. For employed nationals from EU/EFTA states, the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons applies (to varying degrees; see below), leading to a straightforward permit process that is not subject to quotas. Only a limited number of management-level employees, specialists and other qualified employees is 8

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Thirdly, your type of employment (local hire, assignment, period of employment) can determine whether you are granted a work permit. AGREEMENT ON THE FREE MOVEMENT OF PERSONS In 1999, the EU and Switzerland signed seven bilateral agreements with other nations relating to the movement of citizens. These included the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, which came into force in 2002. The agreement grants citizens from EFTA countries access to the Swiss employment market, recognition of professional qualifications, and the right to buy property, in addition to the coordination of member countries’ social security systems. The agreement was later expanded to gradually introduce ten new EU member states beginning in 2006. Because the agreement is still being implemented, transitional measures apply to some member states. For citizens of the EU-17/EFTA (France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the UK, Republic of Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein), the Free Movement of Persons fully applies, allowing unrestricted freedom to live and work in Switzerland. As of May 2011, the citizens of the EU-8 countries (Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovenia) have had the same unrestricted free movement rights as EU-17 and EFTA countries. Recently, however, the Federal Council in Switzerland invoked a safeguard clause that allows for the introduction of restrictions. In May 2012, EU-8 Member States became subject to some restrictions on living in Switzerland in the form of quotas on category B residence permits. The restrictions apply to individuals who are selfemployed or have employment contracts that are valid for one year or longer. It is expected that these restrictions will remain in place for a year. Citizens of the EU-2 (Bulgaria and Romania) are also subject to some restrictions. These will remain in place until May 2016 at the latest.


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Labour/ Work permits In order to work in Switzerland, EU-25/EFTA nationals must have a residence permit, which also acts as a work permit. To qualify, a person must either have secured employment or meet the requirements that apply if they are not employed. The employer registers the individual with the Cantonal Labour Office or online at www.meweb. The category of the residence permit is determined by the duration of employment. A short-term residence permit (Type L permit) is awarded for employment of less than a year, while a residence permit (Type B permit) is awarded for employment of one year or more.

The following guide provides a timeline for the required types of permits: EU-25/EFTA NATIONALS • 8 days per calendar year: in general without permit or registration* • 9 - 90 days of employment: registration (no permit required) • 3 - 12 months: L permit (short-term residence permit) • 12 months or more: B permit (residence permit)** • 5 years or more: C permit (settlement permit) * Exceptions apply to the following industries: construction, hospitality, cleaning, security services, and itinerant traders such as travelling salespeople, market-traders, stall-keepers, and circus and fairground workers. ** Quotas currently apply to category B resident visas for EU-8 nationals who are self-employed or have employment contracts of longer than one year.

Citizens from EU-2 countries must have an employment contract, which their employer submits to the cantonal labour authority together with a request for a work permit. Whether a work permit is awarded depends on quotas and the local labour situation. Usually, EU-2 nationals must also already hold a residence permit when they apply for a work permit. Nationals from non-EU/EFTA countries can only work in Switzerland if employers can prove that they have been unable to recruit a person from an EU/EFTA country. There are, however, some exceptions to these rules (further information can be found at G PERMIT: CROSS-BORDER COMMUTER Workers receive this permit if they are EU/EFTA residents who also work in Switzerland. They must return to their non-Swiss domicile at least once a week and register their Swiss residence with the communal authorities. For EU-25/EFTA nationals, no border zone regulations apply; residence can be anywhere in the EU/EFTA and the workplace can be anywhere in Switzerland. For EU-2 nationals, residence and workplace must lie within designated border zones. (Contact your cantonal labour market authority for details.)

EU-2 • Up to 12 months of employment: L permit (shortterm residence and work permits required, quotas) • 12 months or more: B permit (residence permit, quota) OTHER COUNTRY NATIONALS • 0 - 12 months: L permit (short-term residence permit) • 12 months or more: B permit (residence permit) • 10 years or more: C permit (settlement permit) Within eight days of arrival and before beginning work, nationals of EU-25/EFTA states must register with the communal authorities at their Swiss place of residence and apply for a residence permit. A valid ID (such as a passport) and written confirmation of employment must be presented. Further documentation requirements can vary according to your type of employment and canton of residence. Contact the respective communal authorities or the cantonal migration authorities for specific requirements. While there are similar work permit requirements for nationals of EU-2 and other countries, the Swiss authorities will generally require that you also fulfill the following conditions:


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• Local worker priority: no local equivalent worker (Swiss national or foreigner already in the Swiss labour market) is available to fill the position. • The wage and working conditions must meet local, professional and industry standards. • The canton’s quota for that permit must not be exhausted. For third country nationals, the applicant must demonstrate relevant qualifications, such as graduation title and relevant work experience.

Bringing the family

How to go about bringing your family or partner with you to Switzerland, plus information on daycare centres and child benefit. EU/EFTA citizens EU and European Free Trade Area (EFTA) citizens are allowed to bring family members to Switzerland. This includes children or grandchildren younger than 21 who are financially dependent on the petitioner, as well as financially dependent parents and grandparents. Switzerland does not recognise unmarried couples as family members for the purposes of residency permits. Family members of EU/EFTA nationals are allowed to work in Switzerland as long as they inform the appropriate cantonal migration authority before doing so*.

FAMILY PERMITS Family members are defined as spouses, children and grandchildren under the age of 21, and parents or grandparents who are financially supported by the worker. Family members of employed EU/EFTA nationals are granted an EU/EFTA permit even if they are non-EU/EFTA nationals but live permanently in an EU/EFTA country. The validity of the permit is limited to the duration of the main holder’s position. Family members are allowed to work, but must notify the cantonal authorities before doing so. More information Visit or contact your local authority. Sources (Federal Office for Migration)


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* Quotas and restrictions currently apply to citizens of newer EU member states, where individuals are self-employed or have employment contracts of over one year. The countries affected are: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, and Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania.

Non-EU/EFTA citizens Your registered partner can stay in Switzerland as a tourist for up to three months in any six-month period, but does not have the right to work. Third-country nationals can apply for a Permit B (residence permit), which allows residency for up to one year. This permit can be renewed every year, in the absence of any issues relating to criminal offences and depending on social security and the situation in the labour market. Shorter-term residency permits are also available for periods of less than a year (Permit L). However, the granting of this type of permit is affected by annual quotas set by the Federal Council, and there are limits to the possible length of extension.


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Swiss cantons do not recognise unmarried couples regarding residency permits. Unlike for EU citizens, family members must have a residence permit in a country with which Switzerland has an Agreement of Free Movement of Persons. To relocate your au pair, s/he must apply for a work permit through an agency that is approved and licensed by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). In addition, au pairs from non-EU/EFTA countries must be 18 – 25 years old. FINANCIAL SOLVENCY The Swiss embassy or consulate in the applicant’s home country can require that the person prove that they have sufficient financial means to support themselves during their stay. In these cases, a declaration of guarantee must be signed by a sponsor - a solvent individual living in Switzerland. The sponsor then acts as a guarantor for potential costs arising out of medical treatment or travel arrangements. DAYCARE CENTRES Children younger than four can be cared for at home, in nurseries or in kindergartens. The minimum age for nurseries is usually three months and these are open on weekdays from 7:00 to 18:30. The cost of childcare in Switzerland is high – the net cost is equivalent to 50.5% of family income.

CHILD BENEFIT Child benefit is regulated on a cantonal basis and can vary between CHF 200 and CHF 425 per child, depending on the canton. At least one parent must be gainfully employed or receiving daily benefits from the unemployment insurance fund to be entitled to child benefit. Part-time workers may receive only a partial child benefit or none at all. Again, the policy of the canton will determine this. In some cantons, self-employed individuals can also claim child benefit. To receive the Family Compensation Fund, you must register your family, which will require your child’s birth certificate. EU citizens are entitled to full child benefit. NonEU citizens must adhere to certain regulations. Some cantons pay child benefit only if your home country has entered a social security agreement with Switzerland*. Benefits for children living abroad are only paid to asylum seekers after a fixed residence status has been obtained in Switzerland. CHILDREN’S CAMPS: Berlitz Kids Camps: Les Elfes International: * These include: Australia, Canada, Chile, Croatia, USA, India, Israel, Macedonia, Philippines, FFYR, San Marino, and Turkey.

Family nurseries or crèches familiales organise daycare at the home of a certified nurse assistant. Haltes-garderies are short-term nurseries, used by parents when they want to go shopping, for example. Parents can make use of them for a maximum of three hours a day, three days a week.


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Finding a home

returned when you move out along with the interest earned over the rental period.

Finding accommodation in Switzerland is not the easiest of tasks. It is best to start the search before leaving your country. Depending on the length of your stay, different options make sense. If you are coming to Switzerland for less than a month, hotels and B&Bs are most convenient. For longer stays, an apartment or a house tends to be more comfortable and even cheaper. You can search for housing on your own through one of the online real estate portals. If you wish to have some assistance or want to avoid dealing with Swiss owners who may not speak English, chose a temporary housing agency. If your budget allows full service, a relocation agency might be your best choice. Hotels and B&Bs often offer weekly and monthly rates. For the renting of a temporary apartment, the minimal rental period is usually one month. When bringing your family along, it is better for them to follow you after you have found a suitable accommodation. WHY RENT? (MIETEN/LOYER) Over 70 percent of the Swiss population rents. Renting a house or an apartment has advantages such as favourable tenant rights and easy cancellation of lease contracts. Lease contracts in Switzerland are usually made without time limitation. As Swiss tenants have a legal right to sublet their rented apartment to another person, there is quite a large market of furnished apartments that can be rented for a limited period of time. Rent rates in Switzerland are comparable to those in other European countries. However, you will find variations between the cantons. Due to excess demand, rents are higher in cities like Basel, Geneva and Zurich. Most landlords will expect a threemonth deposit (called Kaution or Depot), which is

Accommodation is generally rented unfurnished, unless a tenant sublets his housing space for a limited period of time to another person. Apartments are usually equipped with an oven, a refrigerator and often a dishwasher. Usually, a laundry machine for shared use is located in the basement. In addition to the basic rent, apartment tenants should expect to pay electricity, heating and water. House tenants usually pay house maintenance (water pipes, gutter, garden, and chimney) and utilities. If a conflict arises between you and your landlord, being a member of your local tenants’ association (Mieterverband, Association des locataires) will prove beneficial. MORTGAGES Foreigners can buy residential property Switzerland under the following rules:



• EU/EFTA nationals with a residence permit B can buy property if they will live in this property themselves. • Other countries’ nationals can only buy property if they have a Swiss residence permit C. These rules do not apply to commercial real estate. You can find detailed information here: http:// wirtschaft/grundstueckerwerb.html. It is recommended that you obtain at least three offers from different banks and insurance companies for mortgages, as there is strong competition between providers. Switzerland’s mortgage industry is characterised by: • the highest withholding tax rate of any country; • stable interest rates; • the highest per capita mortgage industry in the world.

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Expand your horizons As the residential market becomes increasingly global, the benefit of our extensive coverage throughout the Naef Prestige sales team in Switzerland and network of 244 Knight Frank offices around the world becomes clear. Together, we offer vendors and home seekers access to our global reach, combined with truly local knowledge wherever they are in the world. If you are planning on buying or selling a property visit the Naef Prestige team online at Naef Prestige is a member of the Knight Frank network.

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Foreigners can get between 60 and 80 percent of the house price. When you buy land, an apartment or a house, moving duties and a land transfer tax are around four percent. This amount varies between cantons. The procedure for buying is to make an appointment with a local notary after arranging your finances. The notary’s job is to ensure the legality of the transaction. In certain cantons, you have to pay a fee for the notary, which depends on the price of the object and can reach a considerable amount. The buying price for the house or apartment is paid to the notary and is transferred only after change of ownership is properly registered. Mortgages in Switzerland are collateralised with the land on which the housing is located. The owner has a right to credit depending on the value of the land. The lender has a right to use the land if the borrower is unable to meet his or her mortgage payments. As Switzerland has high per capita mortgage embeddedness, the mortgage rate is the leading interest rate indicator in the country. Registration of the deed with the Land registry office is costly, running between 1.0 percent and 1.5 percent.


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Main real estate agencies: • Privera - • Wincasa - (In French / German / Italian only) • SPG - (In French only) • Moser Vernet & CIE - • Naef - (In French only) Main agency for temporary housing & furnished apartments: • UMS Ltd Temporary Housing Switzerland - www. Main home-finding sites: • • • • • • •


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Your home

What you see is what you get The sky, the airline, the spirit of Switzerland. Top-ranked quality of living, world-class ski resort, the home of the Swiss franc. State-of-the-art architecture, high-end interior design, room service 24/7. And: your 204 m2 apartment in the Mobimo Tower starting at 3 Mio. CHF can be viewed by appointment. Mobimo Tower, Zurich Constancia Jรถrger, Walde & Partner, T +41 44 396 60 33,


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Renting an apartment Crucial information on searching for an apartment, visiting prospective homes, gathering necessary paperwork, and signing the lease contract. HOUSING MARKET The current housing market favours the landlord, as there are very few available apartments in the cities to which most foreigners relocate. In Zurich, for example, just 0,06 percent of apartments are available and, in Geneva, only 0,25 percent. The limited housing allows Swiss landlords and agencies to choose from an array of prospective tenants. The real estate agency often collects and screens applicants but the owner makes the final decision. HOW TO RENT Search for apartments on sites such as, or If you are looking for a furnished apartment or house, contact the UMS Temporary Housing service ( www. offers a good selection of available rooms in apartments for shared use. You can also read the classifieds in the local newspapers or use word of mouth to learn of available apartments. Look for apartments that cost between one quarter and one third of your salary. Agencies and owners often look for tenants who can afford their property, but not a more expensive option. Also, make sure that the size of the apartment corresponds to your needs. Agencies and owners often prefer to rent a large accommodation (four rooms or more) to a family with children rather than to a single person or a childless couple. 16

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It is advisable to visit the available properties. Looking outside the city limits can expand your options. As distances in Switzerland are short and trains run properly, living near a train station outside the city can enable you to travel to the city centre within 10 minutes. Visit If you find a place that you are interested in, visit it on the announced date or make a personal appointment with the landlord. In several cantons, real estate agencies will only accept applications from prospective tenants who have already visited a property. In addition, be prepared to have a meeting with the landlord: Swiss owners often like to meet their future tenants. Paperwork Be prepared to fill out a sheet of paper detailing your earnings, references, pets, kids etc. And be aware that references WILL be tested; it is common for a future landlord to talk to your boss or your current or previous landlord. When you apply for the accommodation, you will need a valid work permit, a copy of your passport, and the past three months’ pay slips or a letter from your employer stating your salary. If you have been in the country for longer than six months, include the ‘Betreibungsregister-Auszug’ or ‘extrait des poursuites’ with your application (a document proving that you are debt-free and that there are no legal proceedings running against you). It can also be useful to send a personal letter with your application. If the lease will be in the name of the company employing you, a copy of the Registry of Commerce should also be available. Lease A decision on your application may be immediate or take days. If you receive a positive response, a lease will be prepared in your name and a movein inspection date will be set. To receive the keys to your apartment, you will need to complete the following: sign the lease contract of your property, establish the bank guarantee (three months’ rent), pay the first month’s rent plus any administrative fees, and provide proof of your liability insurance.


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Moving day: When you finally sign the contract and moving day has arrived, you will meet the Inserat_Expetica_DU_EN_1_4.indd landlord in your new home. Together you will inspect the rooms and he/she will write down any visible damage. Be attentive and accurate; anything not noted may end up on your bill when you move out.


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Moving out: Be aware that for the termination of a lease contract you have to observe a legal period of notice of three month. In certain cantons you can only terminate the contract on fixed dates. Alternatively, you can terminate your contract at an earlier date if you propose a new tenant who is similar to you (income, number of persons using the apartment) and who is willing to rent the apartment under the same conditions.


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Popular expat locations Berne With a population of 122,178 (half the size of Zurich), newcomers to Switzerland may be surprised to learn that Berne is the capital city. Located near the linguistic border between French and German Switzerland, the city combines the plateaus of the western region with the eastern mountains. All major Swiss political decisions are made in Berne, a surprisingly international city for its size. The medieval city centre is recognised by UNESCO as a Cultural World Heritage Site and still retains elements of its 12th century origins. The city also possesses one of the longest shopping promenades in Europe. Transport connections to other major Swiss cities are very good, with various motorways, an extensive rail network and an airport nearby. Zurich Zurich is often considered the economic powerhouse of Switzerland. The city was recently ranked second in a quality of living survey ( due to its high standards of education, health and transport. Consequently, it is a popular destination for companies and families setting up a new home. The cost of living is high, especially in the city centre, despite the authorities’ efforts to expand the city by building new suburbs. The city is arranged in 12 districts, which contain one to four neighbourhoods each. Main sights include the Kunsthaus, a classic modern art museum, Bahnhofstrasse (considered the Champs d’Elysees of Zurich), and Grossmunster, a church built in the 9th century. Geneva Geneva is one of Switzerland’s most multicultural cities. It hosts the headquarters of numerous international organisations including the United Nations, the Red Cross and the World Health Organisation. Due to the high numbers of diplomats and high-ranking politicians working in Geneva, as well as the rich history and stunning scenery, the cost of living in Geneva is even higher than in Zurich. In addition to the international organisations, which are open to the public, the main attractions include the large shopping district, the preserved old town and Lake Geneva with its famous fountain. Transport links to Geneva are very good, with a large international airport and connections to the 18

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Swiss and French rail and motorway systems. In the winter months, many pass through Geneva on their way to the Alps’ best ski resorts. Basel The city of Basel, located in northwest Switzerland, offers its inhabitants a great geographical position for enjoying Switzerland, France and Germany. It is considered a European cultural centre despite its small size. Small, winding backstreets in the old town connect shopping districts, museums and heritage sites. Picturesque views over the River Rhine can be enjoyed from numerous spots across the city and the river plays an important role in exporting and importing goods, since Basel is Switzerland’s only outlet to the ocean. There is also heavy industry along the main international borders with France and Germany. Transport connections are exceptionally good in Basel due to its sea port, international airport and proximity to both Zurich and Berne. Lugano Switzerland’s most southern town, often regarded as the capital of Italian-speaking Switzerland, is a stark contrast to other towns of the country. The extreme climate ranges from metres of snowfall in winter to high temperatures averaging 27 degrees Celsius in the summer, which attracts visitors from the German and French speaking regions. Due to the Mediterranean summers, winemaking is a key source of income for the Ticinese (inhabitants of Italian Switzerland). The Italian influence on the region is identifiable in its architecture, food, mannerisms, and even driving. Lugano is located an hour’s train ride from Milan. Swiss ski resorts Switzerland offers some of the best skiing resorts in the world, and thousands of tourists flock to the slopes each season to benefit from the hundreds of kilometres of well-kept pistes. There are numerous skiing locations in each linguistic region. The winter season begins in November after the first snowfall and can run until mid-May depending on temperatures. Summer skiing is also a possibility in the mountainous regions over 3,000 metres, but is a more expensive option. Reaching the slopes is easy, with airports located in and around the main resorts. Geneva, Berne, Zurich, Lugano, and Milan (Italy) airports are well-connected to the mountains via train and bus. Some resorts such as Zermatt, Murren and Wengen are completely carfree, so driving there is not an option.


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Banking Switzerland is known for its sophisticated and discreet banking services, though opening an account may prove difficult for non-residents. Banks and financial institutions play an important role in the Swiss economy. The Swiss franc is among the world’s most stable currencies, and the two largest Swiss banks – UBS and Credit Suisse – are among the world’s leading banks. The Swiss are world leaders in private banking and asset management for individuals. Private banking provides more than one third of all UBS and Credit Suisse’s net profits. Switzerland has 24 cantonal banks, owned by the individual cantons either entirely or with a majority stake. CURRENCY Since Switzerland is not part of the European Union, it is one of the few European countries that have yet to adopt the euro as their unit of currency. Therefore, all payments in Switzerland must be made in Swiss francs (CHF), or alternatively via credit or debit cards. The Swiss franc is known as Schweizer Franken in German, franc suisse in French and franco svizzero in Italian. You can, however, expect to get by on euros in major cities as well as the Swiss federal railway, airports, motorway tolls, and some coin-operated phone booths. BANKNOTES AND COINS Swiss banknotes are issued in denominations of CHF 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 1000. They are distinguished according to their size and colour. The smallest, both in terms of size and value, is the CHF 10 note; the largest, the CHF 1,000 note. Swiss coins are issued in denominations of CHF 1, 2 and 5, and 5, 10, 20 and 50 centimes. Unlike other currencies, all Swiss coins are silver, with the exception of the 5-centime coin, which is golden. BANKS AND BUREAUX DE CHANGE Bureaux de change tend to offer better exchange rates than banks. At banks, currency can be exchanged over the counter and cash can be

withdrawn via automatic teller machines or ATMs. Banks are open from 8.30 to 16.30, although smaller towns may close between 12.00 and 14.00. If possible, avoid exchanging your money at hotels, as they are known to have the least favourable rates. CREDIT CARDS As in most of Europe, credit card use is common in Switzerland. Visitors must consider that some small local shops and restaurants may require cash. MasterCard and Visa are most popular in Switzerland, followed by American Express and Diners Club. OPENING A BANK ACCOUNT To open a bank account in Switzerland, you will need to provide a copy of documents such as a passport or equivalent identification card, residence permit, lease, and work contract. It is not necessary to make an appointment before opening a bank account, and any requested credit or debit cards can be expected to arrive after a week to ten days. Banks can issue you a Carte Maestro: a debit card which can be used in nearly all shops and can also be used for withdrawing cash. The Maestro card also has an embedded CASH chip that can be recharged with a credit of up to CHF 300. This is most commonly used to pay for services such as car parking, phone calls and public transport. Carte de Crédit is a credit card that can be debited once a month. Banks can charge a commission fee on cash withdrawals made using this card. Financial service providers Banks • BNP: • Credit Suisse: • UBS: • Raiffeisen: • Migros Bank: • Coop Bank: Cantonal banks • Geneva: • Vaud: • Zurich: • Basel: • Bern: • Zug: Mortgage providers All of the above banks.


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How to open a Swiss bank account THE SWISS BANKING SYSTEM A prosperous and economically advanced nation, Switzerland has the world’s largest gross domestic product (GDP). There are nearly 400 banks in Switzerland, ranging from UBS and Credit Suisse to smaller banks serving single communities or selective clients. Considered the world’s largest offshore financial centre, the Swiss banking sector is known for its privacy, stability and protection of customer information and assets. The Federal Banking Commission (FBC) regulates these banks. OPENING A SWISS ACCOUNT Opening an account can be difficult or impossible for non-residents of Switzerland. Foreigners officially residing in Switzerland, however, can open bank accounts easily. Banks require personal information (such as name, address, date of birth, profession, and contact information), identification, a passport-sized photograph, and financial documents, which vary depending on the client’s profession. The origin of the funds will also be checked. US citizens are required to sign a document agreeing to notify the IRS of all transfers over a certain amount. As Swiss bank accounts for US citizens require additional administrative work, many banks prefer to open these accounts only when large sums of money are involved. Swiss banking transactions can be done via correspondence as long as the customers follow bank rules and regulations. The bank and customer can interact through the internet, telephone or postal mail. Non-residents are expected to pay a large security deposit. To keep their account privacy intact, US citizens are expected to avoid making business transactions through their Swiss accounts. SECURITY DEPOSIT A security deposit is needed if the customer wants to obtain a credit card. Approximately 1.5 20

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to 2 times the monthly credit limit is required, depending on the bank that the customer chooses. This deposit is returned once the customer has discontinued the credit card and paid all outstanding bills. CONFIDENTIALITY To preserve the customer’s anonymity, some highsecurity bank accounts are given pseudonyms. This number or name is used wherever the customer is referred to. Failure to respect the customer’s privacy could lead to imprisonment for bank employees. However, there is no secrecy from tax authorities or the justice department. To prevent money laundering, Swiss banks crosscheck the authenticity of information provided by the customer. Any transfer over CHF 25,000 will be checked. If, during the inspection, the bank finds a potential or existing customer connected to criminal activity, a Swiss judge or prosecutor allows an investigation. This can include an inquiry into tax fraud, insider trading or terrorist financing. CLOSING AN ACCOUNT Closing an account is easier than many might expect. No financial penalty is demanded and neither is any money retained, unless a maximum amount has been agreed upon.

Tax How the Swiss tax system works for individuals and companies. The Swiss tax system is quite complex because the Confederation, the 26 cantons and about 2,600 municipalities levy their own taxes based on the federal and cantonal constitutions. Switzerland places taxes on income and wealth (direct taxes) as well as on goods and services (indirect taxes). PERSONAL TAXES Permanent residents in Switzerland with permit


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C need to file a tax return each year. Foreign employees (without permit C) have the income tax deducted directly from their salary, although some may also need to file taxes, e.g. if they own real estate in Switzerland or if their annual gross income exceeds CHF 120.000. The federation and all cantons and municipalities collect a general income tax. The tax rates are generally progressive and vary considerably from canton to canton and from municipality to municipality. For single persons, the maximum tax ranges between 19 and 46 percent, depending on the canton and municipality of residence. An additional wealth tax of up to one percent is due at the cantonal and municipal level if net wealth exceeds a certain threshold. The income and wealth of a family are taxed together. Because this would lead to a significant increase in the tax burden, especially if both spouses are employed, the tax authorities grant special deductions and a separate tariff for married couples as well as for single parent families. Depending on the canton, foreign citizens working in Switzerland on a limited contract for no more than 5 years may claim additional deductions such as costs of housing and schooling for minor children, if these are not paid by the employer. This special treatment ends after 5 years or as soon as the contract is changed into a permanent one. Foreign citizens who do not pursue an occupation in Switzerland and had not lived there during the previous ten years may be eligible for lumpsum taxation. In this case, they would be taxed based on estimated living expenses rather than on income and net wealth. However, several cantons have recently started initiatives to abolish or restrict lump-sum taxation. COMPANY TAXES Corporations are subject to corporate income tax as well as to tax levied on equity (paid-up capital and reserves), at both cantonal and municipal level. The federal corporate income tax rate is 8.5 percent while cantonal tax rates vary considerably.

In Switzerland, unlike in most other countries, all taxes due by corporate taxpayers are deductible. Swiss tax rates should therefore not be compared 1:1 with foreign tax rates. It is recommended to speak with local economic development agencies about tax exemption before creating a company, as new companies may be eligible for tax relief at the cantonal level. Holding companies perform no active business and 2/3 of either the total assets or the total income must consist of (income from) participations. Holding companies enjoy a favourable tax treatment and are almost completely exempt from tax at the cantonal and municipal level. Domiciliary companies only have administrative activities in Switzerland (e.g. headquarters of multinationals), while the majority of their commercial activities must be performed abroad. Cantons grant them specific tax status and details should be negotiated in advance. OTHER TAXES VAT (value added tax), currently at a rate of 8 percent, with reduced rates for the hotel and lodging industry and certain categories of goods (e.g. food, medicine, printed matter). Withholding tax of 35 percent is levied on income derived from movable property, lottery prizes and certain insurance payments. Swiss residents can get a refund if income and capital are declared for direct taxation. This tax may be refundable for non-resident taxpayers if a double taxation agreement is in place with their country of residence. Capital gains tax on Swiss real estate is only applied at cantonal level. The rate of tax depends on the length of ownership of the property; the longer the ownership, the lower the tax rate. No capital gains tax is levied on movable capital such as stocks or bonds. Stamp duty on specific legal transactions, such as issuing shares, transferring securities or paying premiums on certain insurance policies.


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The inheritance/gift tax is only applied at the cantonal level and does not apply to spouses or, in most cantons, direct offspring. Gifts made during the last five years before the death of the decedent are included in the calculation of the inheritance tax. Tax advisors: • Bonfina Treudhand GMBH: •A  IT Services:


The Swiss are among the world’s highest spenders on insurance: the average Swiss family spends one fifth of their household budget on insurance. COMPULSORY INSURANCE Health insurance: Health insurance is governed by the Federal Law on Health Insurance. Every Swiss resident is required to have basic health insurance (Soziale Krankenversicherung / Assurance maladie / Assicurazione - Mallatie) within three months of arriving in the country. There are approximately 90 health insurance companies that are authorized to provide compulsory medical insurance. Premiums vary, so it’s worth comparing insurers. Some employers offer discounted premiums through a group policy with a health insurer. Most individuals, however, must seek out their own insurance. Basic insurance provides the essential cover. In addition, each insurer offers supplementary cover that can be taken out on an individual basis and can be private, semiprivate, and so on. Again, the benefits and premiums of health insurers can vary.


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Accident insurance: In Switzerland, accident insurance is included in the services offered by health insurers. Employees are automatically insured by their employer. This enables you to reduce your private premiums accordingly. Vehicle insurance: The Federal Law on Road Transport requires anyone driving a car or riding a bicycle on the roads to take out third-party liability insurance. Motor vehicle liability insurance covers all damage caused by you, as the driver of a vehicle, to other road traffic users. Personal injury is covered, as is damage to property. You must present an insurance certificate to the road traffic authorities in order to receive Swiss licence plates. OPTIONAL INSURANCE Personal liability insurance: This covers any claims against you as a private individual, regardless of whether injury or damage is concerned. It also protects you against unjustified claims. Household insurance: Household contents are defined as all items in your possession in your house or apartment, on your balcony and in your garden. This form of insurance covers fire and water damage, as well as loss through theft. Insurance companies • Zurich: • AXA-Winterthur: • Integra: • NVC:


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   

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• • E D U C AT I O N • •


or Italian as their first language.

An introduction to the Swiss schooling system. Switzerland has a largely decentralised education system. Each canton has its own independent education department. The Swiss Conference of Cantonal Education is a united body of Swiss cantons aimed at standardising the system. Education is divided into four sections: preschool or kindergarten, primary, secondary, and tertiary or higher education. In the majority of cantons, English is taught beginning at the primary school level. Although private schools exist, the majority of students attend state-run schools. School education in Switzerland is compulsory until the age of 16. Preschool/kindergarten Kindergarten (école enfantine / scuola dell’infanzia) attendance is mostly voluntary, although the majority of children attend preschool for at least one year. Children are not divided into achievement groups at this level. Public kindergarten attendance is free of charge, with local government providing financial support. Primary school Primary school (Primarschule / école primaire / scuola primaria orelementare) attendance is obligatory and free of charge for all children. The minimum age is six years in all cantons except Obwalden, where it is 5 years and 3 months. Primary school lasts six years in 20 of the cantons and four or five years in the other cantons. At this level, children are not divided into achievement groups. Cantons are responsible for determining the curricula of the primary schools. All of the cantons teach one national language (German, French, Italian, or Romansh) and two foreign languages, in addition to maths, history, geography, and science. In some cantons, a student’s sixth-grade work is important as it determines the track they will follow for the rest of their education in Switzerland. Pupils are separated into groups based on whether they speak French, German 24

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Lower secondary school Pupils between 12 and 16 years of age attend lower secondary schools. In most cantons, this level is divided according to performance and career intentions: schools with basic courses promote practical abilities and prepare students for apprenticeships, while schools with expanded courses prepare students for general education schools or more demanding apprenticeships. Upper secondary school After nine years of compulsory education, adolescents continue to the upper secondary level, which is split into vocational and general education. Basic vocational education lasts between two and four years and provides practical and technical training. Education takes place at companies that provide apprenticeships, in vocational schools and in cross-company courses. General education students attend Matura schools and specialised middle schools (Fachmittelschulen). Matura schools’ curricula include languages, humanities, economics, maths, science, visual arts, music, and sport. Specialised middle schools prepare pupils for higher vocational education in healthcare, social service, teaching, communication and information, and the arts. Tertiary level Higher education includes technical and vocational schools as well as universities. There are twelve universities in Switzerland: ten run by the cantons and two, the Federal Institutes of Technology, managed by the confederation of Zurich and Lausanne. Other universities are located in Basel, Berne, Fribourg, Geneva, Neuchatel, Lausanne, Lugano, Zurich, Lucerne, and St Gallen. To be accepted into a bachelor’s programme at a Swiss university, students must have a foreign certificate recognised by the university as equivalent to a Swiss certificate, such as the International Baccalaureate diploma (IB), A levels (GCE) or equivalent.


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   

 


    

    

   

   

   

   

   

   



     

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• • E D U C AT I O N • •

International schools Both local and international school systems in Switzerland offer excellent facilities and educational opportunities for students. Considerations for choosing between a local or international school include length of stay in Switzerland, age of student, priority of local integration, language preference, and scheduling. Swiss school options tend to be most appropriate for younger students, who can maintain their native language in the home environment, and for students who do not require an equal development of both languages on a written level. It is recommended that families choose one system for all children to maintain compatible daily and vacation schedules.

Switzerland has 40 international schools, which together form the Swiss Group of International Schools (SGIS) With a reputation for high teaching standards and strict discipline, Swiss international schools are among the best in the world.


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Exams and diplomas International schools offer students either nationally or internationally recognised qualifications. The IB and GCE (A Levels) are both internationally recognised and are almost always prerequisites for entry into top universities. The International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and GCE (A Levels) The IGCSE is a UK-based qualification administered by the University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). It is equivalent to school years 10 and 11, or British GCSEs. IGCSE requires students to take a minimum of eight subjects. Students who complete IGCSEs have the option of studying for their A Levels (GCE), which are recognised by universities in the UK, North America and Europe. The IGCSE is just one of the exam boards in the UK; there

are others such as EDEXCEL, OCR, AQA and WJEC. All of them are bonafide exam boards used by a variety of schools in the UK.


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• • E D U C AT I O N • •

The International Baccalaureate diploma (IB) The International Baccalaureate originated at the International School of Geneva, and today over 1,700 schools in over 120 countries offer this diploma. It is considered equivalent to the British system of A Levels, and caters to students aged 16-19. The diploma requires students to study six subjects within two years, as well as additional academic courses in philosophy, creativity and service, and to write a final essay. International schools in Gstaad Gstaad, located in the Bernese Mountains, is known for its schools’ high quality of teaching. Many families move here for their children’s education and the proximity to both Berne and Geneva. Gstaad International Boarding School Founded in 1962, this boarding school’s mission includes building endurance and stamina in academics and sports, and stimulating personal achievement by teaching the values of respect, gratitude and humour. Institut Le Rosey A Swiss boarding school with a strong tradition of academic excellence, Le Rosey consists of two campuses: Rolle in autumn and spring, and Gstaad in the winter. John F. Kennedy International School The John F. Kennedy International School is an English-language boarding and day school for children between five and 15 years old. The student body is made up of 65 students from over 20 different countries. International schools Bern The International School of Berne is an Englishlanguage school offering three- to 19-yearold students the International Baccalaureate programme.

Geneva The International School of Geneva: Collège du Léman: The British School of Geneva is an English school in the centre of Geneva following the English national curriculum from the primary section to the A levels (5 – 19 years). Lausanne Brillantmont International School, located in the centre of Lausanne, is a family-owned boarding school for male and female students between 12 and 18 years old. Schaffhausen The International School of Schaffhausen offers comprehensive programmes for three- to 16-yearolds, and will begin a high school programme for university applicants in the coming years. Winterthur The International School Winterthur teaches fourto 16-year-olds of over 34 nationalities. Zug The International School of Zug and Luzern is a day school spread over three campuses in and around Zug. Boys and girls are offered the International Baccalaureate programme. international School • Swiss International School Zurich West: • Brillantmont International School: • The Japanese School Zurich: • Swiss International School: • Zurich International School:

F 28

Survival Guide Switzerland 2012.indd 28


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EXPATICA.JOBS Find a job with Check out our LISTINGS at:

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• • E D U C AT I O N • •


A basic guide to the Swiss university system, application process, academic calendar and fees. Switzerland offers a wide range of higher educational opportunities in the humanities and sciences. Students from around the world come to Switzerland to benefit from the high standard

of education and the comparatively low tuition costs, ranging between CHF 1,000 and CHF 2,340 per year for foreign students (with the exception of the University of Lugano, which has a fee of CHF 8,000). Higher education in Switzerland is divided into two types of institutions: traditional universities offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees, while the universities of applied sciences offer professional studies and teacher training. Due to their relatively small size, not all Swiss universities offer a wide choice of disciplines. Swiss higher educational policy values quality over quantity and most universities tend to specialise in certain subjects.

Entry requirements differ depending on the level of study pursued. For a bachelor’s degree, internationally recognised qualifications such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) and the British A levels are preferred to less mainstream qualifications. The prerequisite for a master’s programme is a successfully completed bachelor’s level programme. Good command of the university’s teaching language (either French, German or Italian) is also usually a prerequisite, although some courses, especially in the master’s programmes, are only taught in English.

The academic year is divided into two semesters: autumn semester runs from calendar week 38 to 51 and spring semester from calendar week eight to 22. Students wishing to spend one or two semesters at a Swiss university can do so via the Erasmus student exchange programme. Depending on the area of study, exchange students are expected to participate in university life along with the Swiss students. Each university has an international office, which facilitates an easy transfer between accredited universities. One of the assets of studying at a foreign university is that Swiss authorities provide students with a living allowance of around CHF 1,250 per semester. Visit for information on Swiss universities for international students.


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• • E D U C AT I O N • •

Swiss university listing German region • University of Basel: • University of Bern: • University of Lucerne: • University of St Gallen: • University of Zurich: Italian region • University of Lugano:

• University of Lausanne: • University of Neuchâtel: Federal Institutes of Technology • Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne: • Federal Institute of Technology Zurich:

French region • University of Fribourg: • University of Geneva:

Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) New: Programme opens in English! Our EMBA programme prepares you for your next career step. We provide you with essential management expertise in key business disciplines. This enables you to take on your prospective role as a manager in a responsible, competent, and effective manner. Basel: Next start on 21 August 2012 For further information please contact Angela Milesi, T +41 56 462 42 38, University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland School of Business




Tel: +34 93 201 81 71


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Business Education • University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland • University of Liverpool • European University Barcelona • European University Geneva • European University Munich

22/08/12 16:5131

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“The most human thing we have is, after all, language.” — Theodor FonTane Are you looking for a suitable language course for you and your children? Call our friendly staff today! • maximal individual support for our students • friendly, professional atmosphere • international diplomas • “swiss daily life” for the expat community • professional childcare by Kindernäscht Basel Contact person: Birgit Czisla Bénédict-Schule, Steinenberg 19, 4051 Basel Tel. +41 61 284 96 86,

Survival Guide Switzerland 2012.indd 32

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• • E D U C AT I O N • •

Language schools

Basel Benedict Language School: Established in Switzerland in 1928, Benedict Language School offer several attractive packages, from language classes only, to language classes that includes accommodations in our studios, or alternatively hosted by a Swiss family. All Bénédict schools are eduQua certified with our diplomas and certificates are widely recognized. Geneva Berlitz Geneva: With 130 years of experience, more than 470 centres in over 70 countries, and millions of graduates, Berlitz offers effective language instruction and cross cultural training, whether for business or personal enrichment. city_center/

Inlingua Geneva: Language school offering group or individual lessons in French, English, German, Spanish and other languages, plus an online test to assess language skill level and placement. angebotsuebersicht/ gesamtuebersicht LinguaViva Geneva: Training centre founded in Florence in 1976 and established in Geneva in 1994 offering language and IT courses. The language school offers group, intensive, business courses and more. SL&C: Language training centre in Geneva offering personalised language training programmes for professionals.


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Vaud/Lausanne Le Bosquet: A family-owned language school in Lausanne, teaching French, English, German and Spanish. Conversation, literature, business and culture modules are available. Inlingua Lausanne: Language school offering group or individual lessons in French, English, German, Spanish and other languages,plus an online test to assess language skill level and placement. Eurocentres: Located in the heart of Lausanne, Eurocentres has been offering language courses for 60 years. French lessons for groups or individuals, and intensive courses are available. www.eurocentres-lausanne. com/en/N583/french-languageschool-in-lausanne.html 33

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• • E D U C AT I O N • •

SL&C: Language training centre in Lausanne offering personalised language training programmes for professionals. Online Live Mocha: Comprehensive and free online language courses available in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Mandarin and more. Help from native speakers from around the world in realtime online. Learn French at Home: Long distance French learning programme. Individual or group lessons with a teacher, carried out over the telephone or using Skype. Toniks Languages: Online language courses offering the possibility to learn a language using Skype. Personalised lessons with native teachers in French, English and more. Zurich Bellingua: Bellingua is the premiere language school in Zurich specialising in teaching German as a foreign language. Bellingua offers German courses in small classes (four to nine students) with excellent teachers.


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Language Center Zurich: LCZ offers a master tailored learning programme according to students’ personal needs. Each session is divided into two parts: revision, grammar and vocabulary, followed by talking (e.g., roleplay, conversation and discussion). languageschool.html Sprachwelten: Sprachwelten likes to share their passion for languages and people with high professional linguistics. Their training premises are situated in the heart of Zurich. Sprachwelten maintains learning atmosphere as an important factor for successful learning, whether in a small group or as an individual. w w w. s p r a c h w e l t e n . c h / welcome.html Berlitz Zurich: With 130 years of experience, more than 470 centres in over 70 countries, and millions of graduates, Berlitz offers effective language instruction and cross cultural training, whether for business or personal enrichment.

childrens’ camps Berlitz Kids Camp: Berlitz Summer Camp programs offer a truly interactive and fun language learning experience for children. Whether an English, French or German camp is chosen, kids & teens will enjoy being immersed in the foreign language and will return home more motivated and with new opportunities and possibilities for school lessons. kids_teens_camps/ Les Elfes International: Les Elfes Summer Camps offer your child an incredible opportunity to learn a new sports and a language while discovering Switzerland and its neighboring countries with cultural excursions. A perfect mix of education and fun!

SL&C: Language training centre in Zurich offering personalised language training programmes for professionals.


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Le Bosquet is located in Lausanne, Switzerland and offers a wide range of language courses for all levels of learning, whether you are a beginner looking to learn French or you are at a more advanced level looking to expand your current skills.

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Job hunting A guide to writing a CV, applying for jobs, interview dos and don’ts and work culture basics in Switzerland. Looking for work in another country requires more than just the obvious CV translation, and thorough preparation will give you a head start. Here is some information on Swiss job application procedures, selection process and management culture. The application procedure • The boss is usually present at the interview. • Be prepared to answer questions about the company and your motivation for the job. • Psychological and psychometrical tests are sometimes used. Writing a CV • View your CV as a marketing tool and adapt it to the applicable market. Nowadays, due to high-level degrees becoming commonplace, more focus is put on what you have done outside of your studies. • The structure of your CV can be chronological, reversed chronological or functional. • Swiss recruiters give great importance to work experience. • Write the CV in the main language used in the organisation, if possible. The application letter • The Swiss application letter is handwritten, well-structured and short; maximum one page. • Write in a formal style. • Refer to the advertisement you are responding to. • Highlight your transferable soft skills and how you can use them to help the company.


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Interviewing DOs: • Maintain a clean and neat appearance. • Combine handshakes with eye contact during introductions. • Ask for clarification if you don’t understand the question. • Provide examples to illustrate your achievements. • Ask questions to express interest. • Emphasise how past experiences could relate to the role you seek. Interviewing DON’Ts: • Be surprised if the interview lasts up to an hour. • Sit until invited. • Criticise former employers. • Be dramatic or exaggerate - stay calm and stick to the facts. Management culture in Switzerland • The culture of companies can vary somewhat, depending on whether they are in the German, French or Italian area of Switzerland. • Swiss companies have a vertical hierarchy and decisions are made at the top. • Meetings are sharp, orderly, task-oriented, and impersonal. • Discussions are very precise, cautious and can be a little gloomy to some. • The Swiss are considered hard but fair negotiators. • Office hours are Monday to Friday, from 8:00 to 17:30. • Business and private life are strictly separate. Where to look for jobs Recruitment ads in the press are not common, although they tend to appear a little more frequently in German-speaking Switzerland. There is no real national newspaper, but the best newspapers for good positions are the ‘Neue Zürcher Zeitung’ (NZZ), the ‘Tages Anzeiger’, the ‘Journal de Genève’, the ‘Tribune de Genève’, the ‘Finanz und Wirtschaft’, the ‘Handelsblatt’, and the ‘Schweizerische Handels-Zeitung’. Consequently, recruitment web sites or agencies might be the best option in your pursuit of employment.


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Job searching online • • • Covers a range of industries including healthcare, IT, banking, hospitality, watch-making.

• For executives and professionals. • (In French and German only)

Recruitment agencies Swisslinx AG Zurich, Geneva

Oprandi & Partner Throughout Switzerland

Adecco Throughout Switzerland

Page Personnel Basel, Geneva, Lausanne, Zurich

Aims International Bern, Fribourg, Gland, St. Gallen, Zurich

Pleinert & Partner Zurich

Computer Brainware Advisors Basel, Bern, Lucerne, Zurich

Swisselect Basel, Bern, Lausanne, Zurich


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Starting a business Before starting a business in Switzerland, you should assess the types of companies available, as they require varying legal fees and amounts of paperwork. Single-owner company or Sole proprietorship The most common type of company after the standard corporation or ‘joint-stock’ company; it is most suitable for sole owners of a business or other professionals who work for themselves, such as freelancers, small businesses and individual entrepreneurs. They tend to refer to businesses run by one individual, who must be a Swiss resident. There is unlimited liability and the individual’s name must appear in the business name (such as «John Smith Consultancy» or «Smith IT services»). Registration with the Chamber of Commerce is mandatory if annual sales exceed CHF 100,000. Freelance workers and contractors often work in Switzerland for only part of the year and should look into taxation rules. General partnership A general partnership is an association of people operating a commercial business; it is similar to sole proprietorship but with more than one person involved. This category is used when two or more people jointly operate a company. No limited capital is required, all partners must be Swiss residents and the company must have a Swiss address. The name of one of the partners must appear in the business name of the company (such as “Smith and Co”). All partners have unlimited liability and registration with the Chamber of Commerce and Commercial Registry is mandatory. The general partnership is not an


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incorporated enterprise and therefore has no legal entity, although it may prosecute and be prosecuted under the firm’s name. Once the partnership has been registered, full accounts with profit and loss statements need to be kept.

Limited partnership A much less common version of the General partnership. In this type of company, general partners have unlimited liability while limited partners may be liable up to an agreed amount. Registration with the Chamber of Commerce is mandatory. Corporation/Joint-stock company (AG/SA) The most common form taken by businesses; the corporation is considered an independent legal entity. At least three original shareholders are required to form a corporation. Liability is limited to the value of the company’s assets and the minimum amount of shareholders’ equity is CHF 100,000, of which CHF 50,000 must be fully paid for. The company must comply with formal incorporation procedures for which it must pay fees for taxes and legal advice. Processing the registration generally


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takes between two and four weeks, after which the company is a legally recognised entity. In each case, the majority of the board must be composed of Swiss or European citizens resident in Switzerland. The board members can be personally liable for the payment of

can take the form of a corporation or a limited liability company.

Swiss taxes and social security. It is compulsory to appoint an auditor.

operates outside of its home country. In this type of company, the foreign parent company is liable and the branch is taxed in Switzerland as a Swiss company. One Swiss resident with legal authority is required; the lawyer can be a non-Swiss national.

Limited liability company (GmbH/Sàrl) Another legal entity; this type of company requires a minimum shareholders’ equity of CHF 20,000, of which CHF 10,000 must be fully paid for. At least one managing director must be a Swiss resident, though not necessarily a Swiss or European citizen, and the company must have at least two original shareholders who may be non-Swiss nationals. The founders are allowed to perform the duties of governing bodies. This type of company is cheaper to start than a limited company, but requires a more difficult process to transfer shares. Subsidiary A legally independent company affiliated to a foreign entity; a subsidiary tends to operate more as a ‘Swiss’ than a ‘branch’ company. It

Branch A branch is a legally dependent but financially independent wing of a head office that

Accounting All businesses must maintain proper books of account and retain accounting records and associated documents for ten years. Investment incentives Switzerland offers attractive grants and incentive packages at both federal and cantonal level. Cantons may grant tax incentives to new ventures and these are available to both national and foreign businesses.


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• • H E A LT H • •

Healthcare Switzerland is known throughout Europe for its high-quality medical and paramedic services, and healthcare is always high on the political agenda. The country spends more than 10 percent of its GDP on health, placing Switzerland near the top of OECD countries for medical expenditure. This considerable investment means that the country possesses a wealth of medical facilities employing the latest technology, as well as one of the world’s lowest patient-to-doctor ratio (and a high ratio of well-trained nurses to doctors). Health insurance This high level of healthcare in Switzerland comes at a price. Everyone living in the country is required to have basic health insurance (Soziale Krankenversicherung / Assurance maladie / Assicurazione-Mallatie). Non-Swiss nationals must obtain health insurance within the first three months of their arrival in Switzerland and babies must be insured within three months of birth. International Civil Servants, members of permanent missions and their family members are exempted from this compulsory health insurance. Individuals are responsible for contacting insurance providers, since employers do not necessarily arrange for coverage. Several public and private insurance companies are available, but it is usually necessary to register with one of the state-run Swiss insurance companies. In many cases, Swiss insurance authorities do not accept global health insurance even if the policy states that it covers medical care in Switzerland. Depending on the level of cover, an annual individual health insurance package can cost up to CHF 10,000. Basic cover is CHF 351.05 per month for an adult and CHF 84.03 for a child. For the basic plan, the insured pays up to 8% of 40

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their income. The insured person must also pay part of the cost of treatment: an annual excess of between CHF 300 to a maximum of CHF 2,500 and a charge of 10% of the cost above the excess up to CHF 700 per year. Reductions are often available through the employer, who may offer a group policy that offers discounted premiums. By law, an employer is obliged to insure all employees for accidents; costs are split between employee and employer. Health and accident insurance for spouses and children is compulsory in Switzerland. Each household member should be insured individually, as family members are not automatically covered by one parent’s membership. Visitors to Switzerland for three months or less may be covered by a reciprocal agreement between the home country and Switzerland, or by a private health insurance scheme. Private healthcare In addition to its high level of public sector healthcare, Switzerland also possesses one of the world’s largest private healthcare sectors. Geneva and Zurich in particular draw international patients seeking health advice and treatment. These facilities are generally very costly and are usually not entirely covered by health and accident insurance. It is best to enquire prior to admission. Due to the international nature of this sector, most of the staff is English-speaking. Pharmacies Before going directly to see a doctor, many Swiss people visit a pharmacist. Pharmacists are highly qualified and most speak English. Pharmacies in Switzerland are clearly marked with a green cross. Although equivalents of all medicines can be obtained in Switzerland, it is advised to bring a supply of required medicines when relocating as they can be expensive. Many medicines frequently found in supermarkets or considered ‘over the counter’ elsewhere are generally only available at the pharmacy. They can be purchased without


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• • H E A LT H • •

prescription but must be requested. Doctors are often willing to write prescriptions for these medicines when they are used in the course of general treatment; the cost of these medicines is sometimes covered by the insurance provider.

Pharmacies are listed in the telephone directory, and even the smallest mountain villages usually have at least one. All-night pharmacies operate in most large towns and cities.

EMERGENCIES You should dial 144 for an ambulance, 117 for the police and 118 for the fire department. Depending on the gravity of the accident, you may wish to phone for an air ambulance (REGA) by dialling 1414, or +41 333 333 333 from a foreign mobile phone.

LUSTMUEHLE • Paracelsus Klinik:

HOSPITALS Below is our list of some notable hospitals in Switzerland.

USTER • Spital Uster:

ARAU • Kantonsspital Aarau: BALGRIST • Universitätsklinik Balgrist: BASEL • Bethesda-Spital: BERN • University Hospital Bern: • Tiefenauspital Bern:

ST GALLEN • Kantonsspital St.Gallen: DE LA TOUR • Hôpital de la Tour:

WIL • Spital Wil: WINTERTHUR • Kantonsspital Winterthur: ZUG • Zuger Kantonsspital: ZURICH • Stadtspital Waid: • UniversitätsSpital Zurich:

CHUR • Kantonsspital Graubünden: GRABS • Spital Grabs:


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• • H E A LT H • •

How to stay fit Switzerland offers year-round sporting opportunities, from skiing in winter to swimming, golf and camping in summer. Switzerland offers unparalleled opportunities for sports throughout the year, providing sports enthusiasts with ski slopes in the winter months and outdoor swimming pools in summer. With names like Roger Federer and Martina Hingis known by millions, sports are an essential part of Swiss life. The Swiss are very health-conscious and practice sports regularly, and one in four is an active member of a sports club. Ice hockey and football remain the most popular sports. Details about sports camps and clubs can be found on the website of the Federal Office of Sport ( Winter sports Switzerland is home to winter sports such as ice skating, skiing and snowboarding. Most families spend at least a week of their annual holiday at a ski resort. Major towns and most alpine resorts have an ice field for skating in the winter. At school, pupils often follow elementary courses in skiing and figure skating. Most ski resorts are open between December and April. Biking and hiking Biking and mountain climbing are the most popular summertime sports. Switzerland also has more kilometres of hiking paths per capita than any other nation and many Swiss enjoy using them (maps and hiking routes can be found at In the main towns and cities, different clubs organise outdoor treks, but most people prefer to hike independently. For inexperienced hikers, guides are available. Swimming The Swiss also love to swim and sunbathe in summer, and the authorities ensure that the city’s waters are kept clean. Public pools as well as river and lakeside swimming facilities 42

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are located throughout the country. Swimming in lakes and rivers is especially popular, as entrance fees cost half as much as those for pools. Opportunities to take part in water sports are mostly found in French-speaking Switzerland. Lake Geneva and Lake Neuchâtel offer sailing, water-skiing and canoeing. Horseback riding and golf Horseback riding and golfing attract thousands of people during weekends, despite the expensive equipment required. The Fribourg region in the French-speaking canton of Jura has hills for riders, hikers and bikers. Switzerland is also a well-known golfing destination, with over 90 golf courses and 40 golf hotels throughout the country (See for details.) Camping Campsites are generally clean and wellequipped, and each town and village in Switzerland has at least one. The sites are classified according to facilities, ranging from one to five stars, and tourist offices in every region in the country have a camping map showing the locations, contact details and facilities of campsites in the area. The largest camping facilities are in the south of Switzerland, namely around Lake Geneva, the province of Tessin and the valley of Engadin. Note that these are in high demand between May and September, and can cost between CHF 30 and CHF 60 per night. See the Association of Swiss campsites website for details ( Gyms For an indoor workout, there are several gyms and health clubs in the main cities. Note that membership fees are more expensive than in Switzerland’s neighbouring countries. There are Migros Fitness Parks in almost every main city ( and Activ-Wellness sport centres in many locations as well ( A list of private sport centres is available online at


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• • H E A LT H • •

Universities Universities offer their students a heavily subsidised, if not free, sports programme, with activities ranging from football to caving. Students are also usually offered discounts at private sport centres.

Website references: • • • • http://


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Setting up home

Electricity in Switzerland is between 220 and 240 volts, and the electrical plug has three round prongs. You may need to replace your electrical appliances from home or purchase adapters.

Utilities The Swiss energy market is privatised, and consumers are offered a wide choice of service providers. Many companies cover all three services: electricity, gas and water. When renting a house, utilities are usually excluded from the monthly rent. Apartments, however, commonly include heating and hot water in the rent. Companies send bills every two to four months. Tenants pay an estimated charge which is recalculated every six to 12 months based on meter readings. The Swiss Federal Office of Energy is responsible for regulating the energy market and increasing energy efficiency in the home. As environmental awareness increases, interesting incentives for decreasing energy use are emerging.


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Gas is uncommon in Switzerland for household use due to its high cost. If your house requires gas you can contact one of the listed suppliers. Main suppliers: • Repower • Alpiq • The BKW FMB Energie AG • Etrion Corporation • Azienda Elettrica Ticinese Renovations: • Expat Renovations Television and radio Swiss residents pay a tax for TV and radio access. The annual cost of CHF 20 allows unlimited access to television and radio programmes. Failure to pay can result in fines of up to CHF 5,000. For more information visit www.billag. com (in German, French and Italian only).


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Once you have the licence there is a wide range of regional and national radio stations available, including the English-language World Radio Switzerland. Each linguistic region of Switzerland has its own state-owned and private range of television channels, which are obtainable from a standard receiver. Most television programmes are shown in the regional language, although some channels have dual-language options. For a wider range of programmes you can subscribe to a monthly cable service. Many city apartments already have a cable TV connection, enabling you to receive national and international channels. Satellite dishes are also an option if you require a specific selection of channels. However, landlords may require approval before dish installation. Service providers: • • • • •

Landline installation When moving into an apartment where you are not the first occupant, there will usually be an installed telephone line but no phone . A new apartment, however, may just have a few holes in the wall in preparation for the installation of telephone sockets. The installation of the telephone line is usually quick (around 7 days) and is done by the phone operator of your choice. If your provider is Swisscom, Sunrise or TalkTalk, your line rental fee can be paid to them. If you are using a different telephone company, you

will receive one bill from Swisscom for the line rental and another one for your call costs. One way to avoid paying a line rental fee is to choose a cable company such as Cablecom (www., which has its own cable network, although it is not available in rural areas. CHOOSING A PHONE COMPANY You can choose your phone service provider from a number of companies including Talkeasy (, Suissephone ( , Sunrise (www.sunrise. ch), TalkTalk (, and, of course, Swisscom ( The tariffs of these companies vary greatly. It is even more important to compare the call rates if you frequently call abroad. For example, TalkTalk offers a SIM card that allows you to make international calls from your mobile phone at the same rate as from your fixed line (e.g. CHF 0.05 or 0.06 per minute to most European countries). INTERNET An internet connection is also provided by phone companies such as Orange, Sunrise or TalkTalk, but also by Cablecom (offering one of the fastest broadband connections). MOBILES PHONES There are three mobile phone providers in Switzerland with their own infrastructure: Orange (, Sunrise ( and Swisscom ( There are several other providers who use one of these networks, including Aldi, Coop, Migros, Red Bull, TalkTalk, and Yallo. Rates vary considerably; although Swisscom’s charges are the highest, it also has the best network cover. Charges and rates can be compared at www., or www. When moving house or leaving Switzerland, it is very important to notify your telephone company, preferably at least one month in advance. Telecom Service Provider • TalkTalk Telecom GMBH


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Transport Switzerland possesses one of the world’s most reliable public transport services, which makes reaching even the most remote parts of the country relatively easy. Trams and buses The main Swiss cities boast efficient public transportation, with trams and buses forming the core of the urban network. A single short journey ticket costs around CHF 2.60 and is usually only valid for an hour. Depending on the travel required, it may be more economical to purchase a day pass for about CHF 8, a monthly pass or a prepaid discount card. Travel by train Switzerland has over 5,000 km of railroad track, of which about 60 percent is owned and operated by Switzerland’s government-run transport provider (Schweizerische Bundesbahn or SBB in German, Chemins de Fer Fédéraux or CFF in French, and Ferrovie Federali Svizzere or FFS in Italian). Major cities are connected by InterCity trains, which run at least once every hour throughout the week. Switzerland does not have its own high-speed railway line, but foreign high-speed trains such as the French TGV and the German ICE run throughout Switzerland on a daily basis. Restaurants tend to be a standard facility on the main InterCity connections and international trains. The SBB provides additional services such as educational hikes and day trips. Scenic trains are available for those who want to fully experience the beauty of the Swiss landscape; these routes include the Glacier Express, Chocolate Train, GoldenPass Line, and Bernina Express.


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Travel by car Travelling by car in Switzerland is easy, as all villages and towns are clearly marked and accessible. Road surfaces are usually well maintained, although heavy snowfall in winter can lead to some closures. To drive on the motorways between the main cities, it is necessary to purchase a special licence (called a vignette) for CHF 40. Larger vehicles such as caravans can safely travel along the Alpine passes, with even lorries driving over mountain passes when tunnels are too busy. Note that traffic is heaviest during the summer months, especially on weekends. While most mountains are accessible by road, some mountain resort towns including Braunwald, Murren, Wengen, and Zermatt are completely car-free. Public transport in these locations is therefore exceptionally good. Other forms of transportation Other forms of transportation are also readily available. Ferryboats operate on all main lakes and it is also possible to rent bikes at most train stations. The only underground system in Switzerland was introduced in 2008 in the town of Lausanne. As is the case across Europe, taxis are readily available in the centres of all cities, but can be expensive. The cost often doubles after 22.00, thus it is advisable to ask the price beforehand. Prices and discounts The high standard of public transport in Switzerland comes with high prices, especially for rail travel between larger cities. When staying in Switzerland for a long period of time, it is advisable to purchase a GA (General Abonnement) ticket. The GA provides unlimited travel on the entire Swiss network and is available in one-month, six-month and one-year durations. The next best option is to purchase a Half-Fare card (CHF 164), which entitles the bearer to half-price travel on the whole network. Finally, those younger than 25 who already possess a Half-Tax card can upgrade to a G7 (Gleis 7) card for CHF 129, which grants free travel on the whole network after 19.00. Bearers of these cards are also entitled to reduced-price products at a number of shops throughout the country.


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Driving How to obtain a licence, import vehicles and follow the road rules in Switzerland. The geographic diversity of Switzerland requires adapting to various environments, ranging from motorways to small mountain roads. The rules concerning driving in the country are often complicated, particularly for foreign visitors. Obtaining a license Switzerland allows drivers to use a foreign license for one year, after which the license must be exchanged for a Swiss one (an exception is made for holders of an 18-month residence permit). Any driver who does not apply for a Swiss license within the first year of residence must pass a Swiss driving test. During this first year it is prohibited to lease or sell a car to a third party. The minimum age for driving in Switzerland is 18 for cars and two-wheel vehicles of 50cc or more. Small motorcycles of under 50cc may be driven from the age of 14 at a maximum speed of 30 km/h. Motorcycles (under 50cc with a maximum speed of 45 km/h) may be driven from the age of 16. International driving license To obtain an international driving licence, it is necessary to provide a residence permit, a copy of the lease or a confirmation from the local authority of residency within the canton, a passport photo, and CHF 40. The international driving license is only valid for three years. Vehicle registration Each canton (a small administrative division of a country) has an automobile service that conducts technical inspections and issues vehicle registrations. When moving within a canton, it is necessary to send your driver’s license and vehicle registration papers to the automobile service for updating. When moving to another canton, it is necessary to request

a new license from the automobile service of the new canton within 14 days of relocation. License plates must be registered at the automobile service. Importing a car to Switzerland Vehicles owned for less than six months will be charged an import tax. It is necessary to provide official documentation to confirm the value of the car and its country of origin. The import duties include customs duties, 7.5 percent VAT, CHF 15 for a report required for vehicle registration, and a consumption tax of four percent of the vehicle’s value. Vehicles owned for over six months are not charged an import duty, but require a completed clearance request form for moving purposes. A month after importing the car, the motor registration office informs the owner that the official motor vehicle inspection will take place within a year. Once the test is completed, drivers pay the Swiss road tax, between CHF 100 and 800 depending on the engine size. Insurance and license plates must be purchased as well, and can be expensive depending on the vehicle model, parking place and other details. Comprehensive vehicle insurance can cost about CHF 1,200 for an average car. Motorway usage To use the motorways in Switzerland, even for short distances, special licences must be purchased. The motorway tax sticker or vignette costs CHF 40 and is available at customs offices, post offices and garages. Failure to show a vignette is punishable with a fine of CHF 140. Car hire A range of car rental companies is available, with major chains located in all main towns and cities. In order to rent a car, the driver must be over 20 years old and must have already had a driving licence for at least one year. However, policies differ and it is best to check individual regulations. BMW Dealers • E. Schlapfer Volketswil AG


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Winter driving Since Swiss roads are often covered in snow during the winter months, it is advisable to change to winter tires and install snow chains. While special snow equipment is not compulsory, Swiss police can stop drivers if they think it is unsafe to drive without it. General road rules: • As in the EU, it is illegal to use a mobile phone, except for hands-free units, while driving. • The alcohol limit while driving is 0.05 percent, which is lower than in other European countries. • In the case of a breakdown or accident, drivers must place a triangular warning sign behind their car.

Emergency contacts and calendar Emergency numbers Police: 117 Fire Service: 118 Ambulance: 144 International Emergency: 112 Air Rescue (REGA): 1414 Poison Emergency: 145 Emergency Road Service: 140 Samaritans - First Aid: 143 Child/Youth Help: 147

A highway code manual can be purchased for around CHF 20 at customs offices and each canton’s automobile service. The books are available in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

2013 1 January: New Year’s Day (Neujahrstag) 2 January* Berchtold’s Day (Berchtoldstag) 29 March*: Good Friday (Karfreitag) 31 March: Easter (Ostern) 1 April*: Easter Monday (Ostermontag) 9 May*: Ascension Day (Auffahrt) 19 May*: Whit Sunday (Pfingstsonntag) 20 May*: Whit Monday (Pfingstmontag) 1 August: Swiss National Day (Bundesfeier) 1 November: All Saints (Allerheiligen) 8 December: Immaculate Conception (Mariä Empfängnis) 25 December: Christmas Day (Weihnachten) 26 December: Boxing Day (Stephanstag)

Switzerland, and there are additional regional holidays which

Public holidays Public holidays in Switzerland are taken very seriously, with almost all shops and public institutions closed. If a public holiday falls on a Tuesday or a Thursday, workers commonly take either the Monday or Friday off too, for a long weekend.

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Speed limits Motorways: 120 km/h (75 mph) Country roads: 80 km/h (50 mph) Cities: 50 or 60 km/h (31 or 37 mph) Residential areas: 30 km/h (18 mph)

* These dates are only observed in some cantons (districts) of

Each canton also has an emergency pharmacy. Visit for contact information.


• On roundabouts, vehicles inside the circle have the right of way. • When two vehicles meet on a narrow mountain road, the ascending vehicle has the right of way.

are observed in only certain cantons.

The Swiss National Day Every year on 1 August, Switzerland celebrates the founding of the Swiss Confederation in 1291. Each Swiss commune offers a day of federal unity with firework displays, concerts, public speeches or presentations. Thousands of people attend festivities in the largest cities (Zurich, Basel, Geneva, Bern and Lugano). The main celebrations take place at the Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen and at the Ruetli Meadows alongside Lake Lucerne.


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• • C O N TA C T S A N D C A L E N D A R • •

Groups and clubs BASEL American Women’s Club of Basel Basel Children’s Trust Centrepoint Basel Open Door Basel Professional Women’s Club of Basel BERN American Women’s Club Bern Cricket Club Canada Club Bern

Round Table Switzerland The English Theatre Group of Zug ZURICH American Club of Zurich American Women’s Club of Zurich Aussies Abroad Democrats Abroad Indian Association Zurich New Zealand Association of Switzerland Professional Women’s Group of Zurich

English Club Biel / Bienne

Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce

English Speaking Club of Bern

Zurich International Women’s Association

ZUG International Mums and Kids Club


International Men’s Club of Zug Zug International Women’s Club


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Advertisers index

T TalkTalk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

U UMS Ltd Temporary Housing Switzerland . . . . . 17

A AIT Services . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

W Walde & Partner Immobilien AG . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

B Benedict Language School . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Bonfina . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23 Berlitz Kids Camp . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 Brillantmont International School . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27

E E. Schlapfer Volketswil AG (BMW) . . back cover European University. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Expat Renovations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

F Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz FHNW Hochschule fur Wirtschaft . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31

K Know it all passport . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . inside back cover

L Les Elfes International . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Le Bosquet . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 Laureate Online Education / University of Liverpool . . . . . . . . . . inside front cover


Z Zurich Versicherungs-Gesellschaft AG. . . . . . . . . . . 23

NEED MORE GUIDES? The Expat Survival Guide will be distributed this year to over 10,000 expats in Switzerland through embassies, international companies and organisations, expat clubs and expat housing and relocation companies. If you are involved in managing expats (maybe you are an international HR Manager) or through your company or organisation come into frequent contact with expats who would find this guide useful, please contact us at to order the guides. You can order as many guides you feel necessary, for free, and delivery is also free within Switzerland (otherwise we ask that you simply cover the postage costs). If you run a bookshop, cafe, bar or restaurant popular with expats and would like to distribute the free Expat Survival Guide to your customers, please email for details.

Naef Immobilier. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

O Off the shelf . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27

S Scout24 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Swisslinx. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 Swiss International School Zurich West . . . . . . . . . 25


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E. Schläpfer Volketswil AG E. Schläpfer Wetzikon AG

Sheer Driving Pleasure

JOY IS TRUST. Buying a car in the premium segment is one of those moments when having a reliable partner is very important. I have worked for the BMW marque since 1993. Since 2007 I have been advising corporate and major clients, fleets, expatriates and diplomats on which BMW or MINI best represents them and their companies. My direct contacts with BMW Switzerland and all major fleet providers mean you can rest assured that you have received the most professional offer. Come and see me at E. Schläpfer AG in Volketswil – and experience a new dimension of sheer driving pleasure.

STEPHAN BALLY – YOUR PERSONAL ADVISER AND CORPORATE SALES SPECIALIST. E. Schläpfer Volketswil AG Stephan Bally Corporate Sales – Member of the Management Board Tel. 0041 44 908 18 00 – 351.511.10_11.011_Schlaepfer_Bally_148x210+2_4f_e_KD.indd 1 Survival Guide Switzerland 2012.indd 52

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CH Survival Guide 2013  

The magazine provides a selection of essential information for new expats to Switzerland. For the reader’s convenience, the Survival Guide...

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