The pretty alpine country of Switzerland is known for its beautiful scenery, winter sports, secretive banking system and quality watch making. This is a very romantic view of one of the richest countries in the world, measured by income per head. Switzerland offers a very high quality of living to its citizens. Surprisingly, it is not a member of the European Union but hosts the headquarters of many international organizations including the Red Cross, the World Trade Organization and one of the United Nation’s main offices. The capital city of Switzerland is Berne, although its largest city is Zurich. As reflects its international status it has four official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. The currency is the Swiss Franc.
The majority of Switzerland’s 7.6 million population live in the northern part of the country making it quite densely populated. There is a high number of foreign citizens making up 22% of the total population. They are mainly from Italy, Germany, Portugal, Serbia and Montenegro. It is a hilly area with forests, pastures and large lakes close to the populous cities. Summers in Switzerland are warm and humid whilst winters are cold and snowy. The lower lands can be cloudy and foggy too.
The median household income in Switzerland is over $80,000 but the cost of living is also comparatively high. Jobs are mainly in the chemical, health and pharmaceutical, tourism, banking and insurance industries. There are generally jobs available in industry for English speaking workers. EU residents and American citizens are among the nationalities who do not require a tourist visa, but a work visa is necessary if you plan to work or study as a student. Chemicals, machinery and watches are the biggest exports. Switzerland has a flexible job market with low unemployment. It is an easy place to start and operate a business with a low tax burden.
The majority of Swiss nationals rent their homes so there is a flourishing real estate market in rental homes. However prices are much higher than elsewhere in Europe. Food is 50% more expensive than in neighboring Germany, due to Switzerland’s protectionist policies. Recycling is a priority and new residents will have to learn the rules of disposing rubbish with a payment sticker system and pay disposal charges levied for some items such as batteries.
Most Swiss residents ski and are fans of soccer, ice hockey and tennis. Healthcare in Switzerland is to a high standard but it comes at a costly price. There is no public healthcare system or reciprocal agreements with other countries, so all those living in Switzerland need comprehensive health insurance.