What's it like to live and work in Switzerland?

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Today, we have Hannah, who has moved to work in a school in Switzerland! Switzerland is famed for its stunning scenery, but is the cost of living really as high as it seems? Let's find out...

How long have you been teaching abroad?

Two years.

What made you decide to move overseas to work?

I have always wanted to live and work somewhere besides the UK but needed to gain qualifications and experience that would make me employable somewhere else to do so. Also, I was generally dissatisfied with the low pay and poor work/life balance that I knew came with most UK school jobs.

How did you find your current job?

It was advertised on the TES website.

Why did you chose that location?

Switzerland was attractive to me because of the high quality of life here (it consistently is named as one of the best places in the world to live and work). Also, having worked in the Middle East previously, I was keen to work somewhere that is a bit easier to get to from the UK so that friends and family can visit.

What is it like living there as a single female?

I can’t really answer that one as I am married; however Switzerland is a very safe country where men and women are generally treated equally.

What are its advantages?

High quality of living with plenty of opportunities to be outdoors. A lot of Europe is on your doorstep so weekend trips away are very doable. The Swiss also value a good work/life balance- most people I know here don’t see the end of the work day as a time to go home and collapse on the sofa; people will be out in the evenings cycling, hiking or playing sports. Also, most shops are closed on Sundays which kind of forces everyone to have at least one day on the weekend which isn’t dedicated to chores like doing the food shop!

Are there any negatives?

When you first come to Switzerland there are quite a few hoops to jump through like registering with your local ‘commune’, changing your driver’s license to a Swiss one, and making sure you have obtained all the insurances that are mandatory in this country. Also, the cost of living is much higher here than a lot of other countries so it can take time to get over the shock of paying more (although salaries do reflect this).

How did you deal with the negatives/homesickness?

It helps to be living somewhere that is not that far from home and only an hour ahead. Also, making sure that I joined activities outside of school time like fitness classes and social events helped keep me busy.

What has been the best part of your experience?

Standing at the top of a 3000m-high glacier with views across the Alps has definitely been a highlight; and it is only a 1.5-hour drive from where I live!

What are the biggest differences from teaching at home?

Class sizes are smaller and the school has much more resources. My school is a big investor in technology, which has been fantastic for teaching. Also, as my school is an international school, the broad range of nationalities of the pupils is really wonderful for enriching the classroom experience.

What is normally included in a good teaching package in your location?

A monthly contribution to health insurance costs should be included as, after rent, it will likely be your biggest expense. Some schools will also pay for the services of a relocation agent before you arrive who can help with finding you a place to live and with things like registration when you are in the country. This is a really useful service as the rental market is very competitive in Switzerland and having someone do the work for you before you get there takes a huge burden off of you. A relocation allowance, paid in your first salary, is also something to look for to help cover the costs of moving furniture, etc. over. My school also put new staff in touch with an insurance broker to help with finding the best quotes for health insurance and any others you may need.

Is there tax on your salary?

Yes. Taxes in Switzerland are quite complicated- they depend on not only where you live and work but also on things like your marital status. Income tax is generally lower than the UK, though.

How did you find your accommodation?

As previously mentioned, the relocation agent found it for us. This involved a Skype meeting with her to establish our must-haves and budget and she then visited several properties and sent us photos and videos. As the rental market is so competitive here, potential tenants must fill in an application if they want to rent somewhere, which the agent did for us. It’s worth noting that your application is unlikely to be approved if the total rent is more than 1/3 of your gross salary – not really a bad thing as it prevents you being financially overburdened!

What is the social life like there?

It can be quieter than other major cities but there are still plenty of bars and restaurants around and lots of gigs and concerts.

Any insider tips?

Public transport here is very good – if you’re going to be using it regularly then make sure you buy the annual half price travel card. It costs around 160 Swiss Francs a year (approx. $160) but quickly pays for itself as it can be used on all buses, trains, trams, and even most boats. It can also be used on some cable cars; great for ski or summer hiking season! Shopping locally for food is also easy here with lots of farms selling produce by the roadside – simply take what you want and put the correct money in the honesty box.

My name is Sorcha Coyle and I’ve been teaching in the Gulf (Qatar and Dubai) for the past 9 years. I also run Empowering Expat Teachers, whose mission is to empower future and current expat teachers to lead personally, professionally, and financially rewarding lives. If you haven’t already, join the supportive EET FB group here and follow me on IG @sorchacoyle_eet for lots of research, CV, and cover letter tips! Last but not least, I also provide CV and cover letter support to future and current expat teachers with my range of services in Teach Abroad Academy- check them out here!

Sorcha x 


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