Top Tips for Newcomers to Switzerland

Filed in "New In Zurich", Children, Family by on September 4, 2016 3 Comments

Top Tips Switzerland


Top Tips for Newcomers to Switzerland


It’s an adventure moving to a new country but it can also be fraught with worry and uncertainty. Switzerland is a wonderful country to move to and its key cities rank highly in international quality of life surveys. However, as with anything new there are bound to be ups and downs when you arrive in a new country, so here are some top tips for newcomers to Switzerland.

Zurich in December


Be Patient 

when you move to a new country things can take longer to get organised and things are done in a different way to back home. You may feel that your lack of knowledge of the system, lack of language skills etc hamper you getting things done quickly. However, don’t let these things get you down – you will get there in the end – it just may take a little longer.

Deal with The Paperwork As Soon As It Arrives

everything is very well organised in Switzerland and there are quite a few rules to make sure things run smoothly. When you first arrive you will need to register with the Gemeinde straight away, you will need to arrange compulsory health insurance (in addition to normal insurances) and you will receive a lot of paperwork! Deal with the paperwork as soon as you get it and don’t be frightened of asking for help at the Gemeinde if you are confused about anything you receive from them. Once your registration is complete you should receive your Ausweis and you can then apply to exchange your driver’s licence. (See below for more on this)

Keep An Open Mind

just because things are done differently in Switzerland doesn’t mean it’s wrong – it’s just different. Embrace the novelty of the adventure and enjoy the differences and try not to compare. You may find some things incredibly frustrating when you first arrive – but once you know the system it all becomes much easier.

Don’t Compare Prices to Back Home

it’s well known that Switzerland is an expensive country but taxes are low and generally people earn better salaries here than in most other countries. One of the things new arrivals remark upon is how expensive the prices are! However, if you keep doing a currency conversion to prices back home you won’t go out of the house and you won’t do anything! As with anything you will soon learn to find places to shop, to eat out, to visit etc that are more affordable – but do go out and explore.

Try to Learn the Language

it always helps to learn some of the language and by joining a language class not only will you get to meet new people and even if you don’t progress to being fluent, you will find any language you learn a great help in reading signposts, your mail, listening to announcements and for giving you a better general awareness of what’s going on around you.

Join Clubs, Organisations, Sports

when you first arrive you may know nobody at all so do join clubs, organisations, sports clubs, take up new hobbies, get involved in organisations and interest groups. There are plenty of clubs such as the Meetups which have groups for almost every interest you can think of throughout Switzerland, and for women in Zurich there is the ZIWA association and the AWC and many others. If you have school age children find out if there are any clubs for parents – the international schools are particularly good at organising activities.

Be Aware of Local Customs

there are quite a few Swiss customs to get used to from “quiet hours” during lunchtime and in the evening (ask your neighbours or at the Gemeinde if you’re not sure), many businesses closing at lunch from 12-2 (or for some time within that timeframe), greeting people with Frau or Herr So-And-So even though you’re used to addressing people by their first names, using “Grüezi” (in the German speaking parts of Switzerland) for hello, buying special bags to dispose of your rubbish (or buying Abfallgebühr to go on black rubbish sacks) and so on.

Get to Know You Town

explore the area where you live – it will help you feel at home and get connected. Ask at the Gemeinde for leaflets, information packs about activities and events that take place. Many Gemeindes organise welcome events for new arrivals and there are often swimming pools and sports centres where you can go to the gym etc and meet other people.

Explore Switzerland

take some trips out to explore the country. Switzerland is so amazingly beautiful and there is so much to do from hiking, swimming, boating, to skiing and of course taking trips up the mountains all year round. The transport system is fantastic so if you don’t fancy exploring by car then let the train take the strain. Work out the best tickets for you and your family (visit the SBB office or see here) and don’t forget your camera!

Driving In Switzerland

if you drive, do apply for your Swiss driver’s licence as soon as you get your Ausweis. You have to do this within 12 months of being in the country and the consequences of not doing so can be very expensive and time consuming – so it is very, very important to make sure that you switch your licence as soon as you have your Ausweis!


there are so many speed cameras in Switzerland that this really does deserve a point on its own. If you drive you will likely get a speeding fine at some point within your stay. When we first arrived we were advised by a colleague to reserve CHF 100 per month to put towards speeding fines until we had got used to the system! We soon got to keep to the speed limits! Unlike British speeding cameras which are usually bright yellow the Swiss ones are grey and are difficult to spot. They also have a number of mobile speed cameras too.

Get to know Your Neighbours

invite your neighbours round for an Apéro to break the ice and to get to know them. Do invite them for a specific time period e.g. 5pm – 7pm, give them plenty of warning (two weeks in advance should be fine) and it’s a good idea to give them a written invitation via their letter boxes.

Keep Abreast of the News and What’s Happening

there are events, exhibitions and activities happening all over Switzerland so it’s helpful to try and find out what is going on by taking a look at the local papers and checking local websites. If you live in Zurich do subscribe to NewInZurich in the box below to find out what’s going on and to get the most out of your stay in Switzerland. Every Thursday or Friday we publish an update on what’s on in Zurich so that you can get ideas for things to do for the weekend and the week ahead. Have fun and enjoy and explore!

Zurich in April

Do you have any additional tips? If so, feel free to tell us in the comment box below.

Sign up to our the Newsletter below and take a look at our Home Page for the latest information here.

Further Articles Which May Be Useful

More Tips for Newcomers to Switzerland

Find a Cleaner for your Home in Switzerland with Helpling

Learning German the Fun Way with The German Language School

Hairdressers Zurich

Top Tips For a Dazzling Smile From A Zurich Dentist

Top Tips For Transitioning to Switzerland With Kids

Guide to Best Cafés in Zurich

Best Brunches in Zurich

Best Burgers in Zurich

Hammams, Spas, Steams and Saunas in Zurich

Top Ice Cream Spots in Zurich

Top 7 Healthy Restaurants in Zurich

KindyROO – Parent and Baby Classes Now in Zurich!


Tags: , , , , ,

About the Author ()

Comments (3)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Before you get frazzled and the transition becomes a strain, engage a professional to help you through the initial phase of adjustment. It is important that you get off to a smooth start and that you, your spouse and children can spend your time enjoying the new experience.

  2. Jane says:

    I just moved to Zurich 2 weeks ago – this blog is brilliant. It has already made me feel more at home! I am inspired to get out and explore my new beautiful home.
    Thank you so much for such a helpful post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *