What do you wished you knew in the first few months in Switzerland?

After repeatedly seeing expats struggling with making Swiss friends I’m planning to put together a few blog posts about stuff Expats would benefit from knowing before coming to Switzerland or in the first few months of being in Switzerland.

What were in hindsight your top 3 or top 10 of things you wished you knew before coming to Switzerland?

  • daycare costs
  • daycare costs
  • daycare costs

However we enjoy so much our life in Switzerland and we are so happy to have the priviledge to raise our kids here that it does not really matter


Did you consider other forms of Daycare outside of the KITA options (e.g. Play groups or “day mothers” or even an Au-Pair/Fulltime Nanny)?

We both work 100% with no family to support
A Tagesmutter (declared…) costs as much as daycare in a Krippe/Kindergarten/Tagesschule (Primarschule)
We have no space for an au-pair, we do not want this option anyway

So I do believe we looked at all options. We are happy here so we just swallow the costs and look for the most suitable private school.
Now that our kids are getting older, and as home office is more “democratized” (i changed jobs for a better work/life balance) we could consider our kids to go to public school and commute independantly. But as not so many people without family to support know, the savings are not huge. Just a “few” hundreds of francs per month (sorry I do not want to offend anyone), so in our case it is not worth the hassle (covering 13 weeks of holidays, finding a “Hort”, paying for the meals etc). A Tagesschule is “all inclusive”

This information shall be considered for immigrants coming to Switzerland. 2 kids in zurich = 40k minimum per year. Can be a dealbreaker. I noticed a lot of people do not realize this before coming here


Thanks for sharing that story.

Does anybody else have a Top 3/5/10 of things they didn’t account for either financially or culturally?

Great idea @MrCheese! I’m interested to see if some life hacks come out of this but also a bit concerned *)

There are two cultural topics which were much more pronounced than expected. These might be sensitive topics for some, others may not have even experienced them because for a small country there’s a lot of variations thanks to kantönligeist. Your individual experiences may be extremely different but these are ours from Central Switzerland.

The first one is related to women’s rights in general and specifically both parents working as mentioned above. We knew the costs of daycare very well but not how many people are actually against the mother working. We have received comments like ”why did you have children if you want to give them to someone else”. Sometimes there’s also pressure towards the woman at the workplace after she has given birth. I always find it ironically funny when someone mentioned equal rights as an integration topic, typically in connection of naturalization or other topics concerning foreigners. The Gleichstellung von Frau und Mann may be in the constitution but some people sure have funny interpretations of it.

The biggest shock of all was the school system. Our experiences are from two different primary schools (plus those of our friends) and it feels so old fashioned and sometimes just plain backwards. The system is authoritarian - meaning the child is there for the school and not vice versa. A lot of the teaching is based on repetitive assignments and mechanical work. Very few teachers have the capacity or the motivation to teach children as individuals. As soon as someone doesn’t fit in their imaginary box it’s the child’s fault and not the system’s. Bullying is tolerated too much and rather ignored than handled professionally. We have found that the teaching staff in general don’t like questions. It feels like they might think their authority is being questioned and fall back to ”this is how we do it in der Schweiz!” We’ve noticed that children or even many parents don’t dare to question anything the school does.

Other than that there weren’t any big surprises and there are other cultural things which are very similar to my passport country. I made my research up front and more or less knew how everything works.

The original post also mentioned making local friends. I have a couple from work and some outside of work but not that many in general. I still sometimes wonder why it’s almost a taboo to spend time with your colleagues outside of work and especially on weekends. Maybe it’s because my previous workplace was very tightly knit and I’m still in touch with many of the people who I learned to know at work and became really good friends with. It’s still a bit sad how many people are so reluctant to even consider it.

In summary, a great country but can be extremely challenging with children.

*) P.S. I appreciate the effort but I’m somewhat concerned about how the topic fits in this forum. Topics like this can get political or very opinionated very quickly. There was some not so nice discussion about the coronavirus and the US elections. I hope this one stays more civil. I would urge everyone to remember ”even if it didn’t happen to you, doesn’t mean the other person’s experience is not real.”


Thanks for your story. Where are you from originally?

It’s the little brother of kantönligeist. Many Swiss people focus on their families on the weekends and/or strictly separate their close friends circle from their contacts at work. Effectively a lot of tribalism and skepticism combined in my opinion.

Others willing to share their Top unexpected things in Switzerland which they wanted to know about before?

I would say:
3rd pillar
bank’s taxation italy/switzerland
gp doctor

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If you discover tips/hacks on how to get over this, or even explain the phenomenon in the blog, it could be very helpful and set the expectations correctly.

Us immigrants are urged to integrate all the time and that’s fair enough. There are universal topics like learning the local language which should be the goal of everyone who plans on staying longer. What’s frustrating is that many people think integration (whatever that actually means) is just a checklist to complete. It’s not that straightforward. Finding friends is not as simple as joining a sportsverein. I may be the odd one out but I don’t remember hanging out with anyone from a hobby club outside of the regular club activities - not in my passport country or here. Sharing a hobby is not friendship - it’s just a common interest.

Ultimately, becoming friends with someone requires something from both parties and tribalism on either side doesn’t help. I say either side because many immigrants primarily hang out only with their own landesleute because it’s easier. It’s a difficult nut to crack.

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@LeStache: as you mention it, part of your experience is probably Kanton/region related.

Speaking for lower Wallis:

I don’t have children, so can’t speak with real knowledge of the topic but what I gather from my friends and general feeling of society is that some people will put a lot of weight behind the “traditional” family model, where the woman doesn’t work, but most won’t, around here. Depending on the people you go out with, you can either avoid exposure to the topic entirely (with the majority of people) or be surrounded by it (with a few specific groups).

Regarding going out with colleagues outside of work, this probably depends a lot on the culture of the job place. I’ve worked at places where getting out to drink after work on Friday was the norm, and people organized events for other people outside of work. We tended to invite each other to our birthdays/other celebrations. At other places… work is work and friends are friends and the two don’t mesh together.

In Wallis, I feel that the apero culture is more of a core rule than the exception, though it often relies on just a few people who can get bored to always be the ones organizing/motivating things/people (though the reverse effect works too: a few motivated people can get the whole office to share the happy hours).

Well even me as a Swiss guy made this experience that joining a Verein/Club doesn’t automatically guarantee closer contact or friendship with people there. But I think it’s a good first step to be open minded to join local activities/festivities to a point where you eventually keep running into the same people and then start getting in contact with them etc. I have the luck to have observed this with my wife now very closely too.

Fully agree, and since people are going the path of the least resistance, hanging out with landesleute is the easiest way to get a social life up and running.

I even see this at my current company. First team was very into social drinking on Fridays. Second team almost not at all. And then also attempts of inviting or organizing events outside of work are either rejected or not continued. Did you know that there is some unwritten law that when a Swiss person invites you to their place for dinner/lunch that this invitation is expected to be “payed” back at some point? Also don’t show up without a little gift (chocolates/wine/flowers etc.). These will be the topics I plan to pick up.

:smiley: I know it but I very strongly don’t play into it. My friends have adapted to it, in that I have a network of true friends with whom we get out without any pressure whenever we want and can say no to anything without creating a diplomatic incident and the people who would put such a pressure on my shoulders have left my network. :slight_smile:

Of course, it’s way easier for a local with a network “given at birth” (mainly acquired at school) than for an expat who has to build a network from scratch when they get here. So “bring something when you’re invited” and “invite back the people who invite you” is solid advice for people setting in.

Kuddos on writing these posts, by the way, practical local advice is what I’m searching for when I’m studying another place wondering what it would be like to live there. :slight_smile:

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Great detailed advice. All of those always felt natural to me due to cultural similarities. It always thought the follow up invitation would apply in many countries but maybe that’s not the case. Getting that first invitation seems to be the hard part though.

Out of all of my local friends, I’ve only ever been invited to the homes of two of them. Crossing the threshold from a public place to a home seems to be a big step. It’s much more common to be invited to anothe foreigner’s home. And yes, we invited them to ours. Swiss people always seem genuinely delighted (I really like that reaction even after years) when you invite them so just inviting them first might be a good tip?

That’s also a sort of definition for friendship - can you really be friends with someone if you’ve never been to their home and vice versa?

  1. Tax optimisation
  2. Pillar 3A
  3. Interactive Brokers :smiley: I spent too much money on third grade investment platforms with banks

Could you please elaborate?

I’d imagine that GP doctor models are in most cantons the cheapest option when it comes to Health Insurance. At least for me with Assura in Zug it was cheaper or the same price like HMO (for which I would need to travel by train for 10mins or so).

Shameless advertisement, the first post was just released: https://fondue.blog/expat-guide-to-switzerland-how-to-make-swiss-friends/ I’d prefer to get the comments in the blog to not derail this topic into a blog article review.

Are any other people willing to share their favorite things they wished they knew before coming to Switzerland?

  1. Over insurance trap. You really need good advice on this from begging, otherwise generic advice tend push you to get lot of is unnecessary insurance (half private, legal advice, accident, etc. is, probably, not first priority, especially for mustachians).
  2. 3a trap. (many auslanders at some point meet nice adivisor with rolex, who tries to get you in)
  3. Cultural traits (not sure this applies to south or west parts):
    a. lack of spontaneity (dinner with friends needs to be organized few weeks/month in advance)
    b. passive aggressive driving (all is good, until you abide to all rules, but only if you miss greed one second…, not speaking about more serious road confrontations)
    c. most innovative country which, sometimes, applies stone age logic (will fine you, if you forget your travel card at home, despite conductor seeing your valid ticket in his hand held device)
    d. all these will bother you 1.5 years, another 1.5 you won’t care, later you might adopt these rules yourself.

I mentioned this one in my post.

That’s the “Bünzlitum” trying to be overly correct for no good reason.

(health) insurance and investing are certainly topics I will discuss in future posts. Thanks for your inputs.

Do we have more examples or top 3 things people wished to have known before moving to Switzerland?

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