Guide to Switzerland, find expat clubs, accommodation, healthcare & more



The seat of the UN and the EU, Switzerland sees the faces of many expats from all over the world daily. Geneva has a huge number of expatriates ranging from diplomats to foreign employees. There are many things Switzerland is known for; watches, banking, chocolate and skiing. Yet even just standing still, foreigners will marvel at the picturesque mountain tops, crisp cold weather, and bright blue skies.

Switzerland Lake Lugano

Expat Clubs

American Club of Zurich

The American Club of Zurich (ACZ) is here to provide you a smooth integration into the community. In addition, the club, through its own volunteers, organizes wonderful events that enable you to fully benefit from your experiences in Switzerland.

Address: Postfach, 8000 Zurich, Switzerland

Tel: +41 79 243 5681, Fax +41 86079 243 5681

Email: [email protected]



American Women's Club of Bern in Switzerland

The American Women's Club of Bern is a non-political organization of American women meeting for social, charitable, and cultural activities and to facilitate better understanding of Switzerland.

Address: AWC Bern, 3000 Bern, Switzerland




American Women's Club of Zurich

The American Women's Club of Zurich (AWCZ) is a non-profit, volunteer organization providing friendship and support among American women as well as non-American women with close ties to the United States, living in Switzerland and to facilitate their efforts to integrate into the Swiss community.



American Women of Ticino

The group meets regularly to share information on topics of mutual interest and to provide support for one another. We also plan special events to commemorate American holidays.

Email: [email protected]




Fribourg Expat Woman's Group

Our group's main aim is to unite women who are living in the surrounding areas of Fribourg.  We offer the ability for new comers to meet existing members so they can share and swap information plus experiences, whilst making and building new friendships in a new country.




International Women's Club of Lucerne

We are an active English-speaking club in the Lucerne area, and we are delighted to share with you our interests and events on the web. It is our hope that this homepage will reach out to English-speaking women in the Lucerne area and lead to many new and rewarding friendships.




International Women's Club of Lugano

The Club's purpose is to bring women together in order to share resources, hobbies, interests, skills and contacts via a wide variety of informal and formal activities. The Club now has more than 210 members from over 30 countries. Most of the members live in Ticino.



Organization of Women in International Trade

OWIT Lake Geneva connects professionals across industries, providing networking, development, and social opportunities. OWIT Lake Geneva's members represent a diverse spectrum of cultures and industries. Our members benefit from a world-wide network of like-minded women and men interested in expanding their professional networks, sharing ideas and best practices, and continuing their education.

Address: Rue du Mont Blanc 18, Case postale 1542, 1211 Genève 1, Switzerland

Email: [email protected]



Professional Women's Group of Basel

The Professional Women's Group of Basel exists to offer women of diverse professional and cultural backgrounds a platform to gain new insights, exchange information and share experiences whilst building friendships and professional relationships in a welcoming and social environment. PWG is a not-for-profit organization with 130 members from more than 25 countries.

Address: Centrepoint. In Lohnhof 8 .  CH – 4051 Basel, Switzerland

Email: [email protected]




Professional Women's Group of Zurich

The Professional Women’s Group of Zurich (PWG) provides support for English speaking women who are interested in meeting and networking with other women, for professional or social purposes, and to exchange experiences about the working world. Women of all nationalities are welcome whether currently employed or not.

Address: Zurich , ZH 8000, Switzerland



Zurich International Women's Association

ZIWA is Zurich's leading International Women's Association. Our purpose is simple. We bring together women of all ages and nationalities to help celebrate different cultures, expand our viewpoints and build friendships. With over 650 members representing 65 different nationalities, ZIWA is dynamic, very international and most importantly fun!

Address: ZIWA, 8000 Zürich, SWITZERLAND


International Schools 

Inter-Community School of Zurich

ICS is an IB World School offering the Primary Years, Middle Years and Diploma Programmes of the International Baccalaureate.

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate

Address: Strubenacher 3, Postfach, 8126 Zumikon. Switzerland

Tel: +41 44 919 8300

Email: [email protected]



International School of Bern

ISBerne continues to offer, in addition to the IB, an accredited US High School Diploma.  Additionally, since 2012, ISBerne offers ISBerne Online, a new online school powered by K12 Inc.’s outstanding curriculum, which opens ISBerne to students around the world.

Currlculim: American International Baccalaureate

Address: Mattenstrasse 3, 3073, Gümligen, Bern, Switzerland



International School of Geneva

The International School of Geneva serves both the international and local communities of the Geneva area. They offer programmes in English and in French.

Curriculum: American

Address: 62, route de Chêne, CH - 1208 Genève, Switzerland

Tel: +41 22 787 24 00

Fax +41 22 787 24 10


International School of Lausanne

The school has taken some measures that other schools could adapt including a kitchen for 3-5 year old kids in the Early Childhood learning center, a cafe for the community and parents in the school and increased learning outside of the traditional classroom. 

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate curriculum

Address:Chemin de la Grangette 2, 1052 Le Mont-sur-Lausanne, Switzerland 

Tel:+41 21 560 02 02 

Fax :+41 21 560 02 03



International School of Schaffhausen

The International School of Schaffhausen offers high quality education to students ages 3 to 17. ISSH is a private, non-profit institution owned by the International School of Schaffhausen Foundation. It was founded in 1999 to serve the needs of the local international community. The school is an IB world school, authorized by the IB – International Baccalaureate to offer all three IB Programmes: IB Primary Years Programme (PYP), IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) and IB Diploma Programme (DP), leading to university entrance.

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate

Address: Mühlentalstrasse 280, CH-8200 Schaffhausen, Switzerland

Tel: +41 52 624 17 07

Fax: +41 52 624 17 56

Email: [email protected]



International School of Winterthur

International School Winterthur was founded in 2001 and is a not-for-profit organization governed by a foundation. The school opened its doors in 2002 with just 12 students and to keep pace with the development of the school, ISW has moved facilities 3 times in the last 6 years. They have a multicultural student body as well as faculty and staff.

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate

Address: Zum Park 5, CH-8404 Winterthur, Switzerland

Tel: +41 52 269 59 00

Fax: +41 52 269 59 02

Email [email protected]



Swiss International School – Zurich North

International School - Zurich North is an IB World School, which offers students an international education in the English language and the benefits of living in a local culture.

Curriculum: International Baccalaureate

Address: Industriestrasse 50

CH-8304 Wallisellen

Tel: +41 44 830 7000

Fax: +41 44 830 7007

Email: [email protected]



Zurich International School

Zurich International School is a leading, non-profit day school offering a comprehensive education program for students aged 2 to 18 in the greater Zurich and Baden areas. Over 1,500 students from more than 55 countries attend one of the school’s five campuses.

Address (Early Childhood Center): Seestrasse 169, 8802 Kilchberg

Tel: +41 (0) 58 750 2250

Fax: +41 (0) 58 750 2251


Address (Lower School Wadenswil): Steinacherstrasse 140, 8820 Wädenswil

Tel: +41 58 750 2200

Fax: +41 58 750 2201


Address (Early ZIS, Wadenswil): Steinacherstrasse 150, 8820 Wädenswil

Tel: +41 58 750 2210


Address (Middle School, Kilchberg): Nidelbadstrasse 49, 8802 Kilchberg

Tel: +41 58 750 2300

Fax: +41 58 750 2301


Address (Upper School): Eichenweg 2, 8134 Adliswil

Tel: +41 58 750 2400

Fax: +41 58 750 2401


Address (Baden): Mellingerstrasse 18, 5400 Baden

+41 58 750 2280

+41 58 750 2281

Email: [email protected]



Learning the Lingo

Swisswife is a 46 year old English woman with a Swiss husband. Together they have lived in London, Hong Kong, Singapore, USA and are now living in Switzerland. She is addicted to travel, photography, food and champagne and has even been know to play the odd round of golf. She tells us the importnace of learning the lingo in Switzerland:


I was born in England and I’m the same as many English speakers when it comes to foreign languages. I’m a little lazy.

Whenever I visit a new country I always try to learn to say some basics counting, hello goodbye etc, but that is really it. The minimum requirement. For the most part I have always been able to get by speaking English - until we moved to Switzerland.


What.. No English?


When we lived in Asia everything was translated into English, that simply doesn’t happen here. A national language is needed for government forms, most websites and even restaurant menus outside the cities.


If you spend all of your time in City centre Zurich it won't be as much of a problem but like many other expats who move to Switzerland we wanted more space than the city centre flats offered and so we live in a town 20 mins drive away. Very few people here speak English. 


Where will you live?


Switzerland has four official languages. Different areas speak different languages, determined by which country they share a border with. German is spoken by approx 74% around Bern, Basel and Zurich, French by 21% around Geneva and Montreux, Italian by 4% around Ticino and Lugano and Romansch by 1%. Although English is taught at school it is usually the third language children learn and unless children go to University they may only learn it for only 2 or 3 years. Think about how good your high school French is and then you will have some idea of what I am talking about.


swiss wife blog

What about the doctors?


Most professionals do speak some English, doctors and dentists for example, but that's not to say it's easy to find a doctor who is confident that he or she speaks English to a level where they would be happy to treat you. It is more difficult to find a doctor with a receptionist who can speak English and they are the ones you need to communicate with to book the appointment, so you see how that can be a problem. I managed to find a great doctor, but he is a 20 minute drive away in the nearest city and I still communicate with the receptionist via email as my written german is better than my spoken.


What should I do to prepare?


With the benefit of hindsight I really wish I had put more effort into learning German before the move. I have a German speaking husband and plenty of ‘beginners guide to German’ books so I don't really have a good excuse. I guess I just wasn’t really motivated to sit down and study…. but believe me that certainly changed as soon as we arrived.


It quickly became very clear that my inability to communicate in German would be a problem when I couldn't communicate with the workers from the moving company, the agent who worked on behalf of the landlord, the guys who came to install the Internet or even the postman. I was reduced to pointing at things I wanted in the bakery or using a dictionary in the local restaurant and feeling very, very stupid. There are even some of my husband’s relatives with whom I have never been able to have a conversation with.

This gave me the kick I needed to start learning and so for three months I went to German school everyday for 4 hours. I learnt a lot. The basics of grammar, sentence structure and lots of vocabulary…. Then I continued learning having 2 private lessons per week via SKYPE. 

I switched to SKYPE lessons as school had taught me to understand the basics of German but I really needed to develop my confidence to have conversations, make mistakes and learn from them. As I travel a lot SKYPE also gave me the flexibility I needed and no excuse to quit. I could have lessons wherever I was as long as I could get an internet connection.  


High German or Swiss German?


Two years later I encountered my next problem…..Schweizerdeutsch or Swiss German. 

This is the spoken language of the people who live in the 'German Speaking' part of Switzerland. Swiss German and High German are as different as Mandarin and Cantonese are to each other. Sure the people who talk in Swiss German can all read and write High German...but they don't speak it as their normal everyday language... And as I’m often told by friends and family they don't like speaking it. It's quite a tough job to get people to participate in a high German conversation. 


How can I prepare?


If you are planning a move to Switzerland don’t let the language barrier put you off, Switzerland is a beautiful country with a very high quality of life.

My advice would be to learn as much as you can before you get here, maybe download something like Michel Thomas to your iPod and play it in the car or load Rosetta Stone on your computer. If you are moving to a German Speaking part you can always add Swiss German conversation classes later, but a solid understanding of German will help with that.


As with most countries an attempt to speak the local language with a smile goes a long way.

Local News in English

The Local

This is an independent English-language site that covers local events and happenings. It also has job postings, accommodation listings and a community page.


Country Information 

Location: Euro

Capital City: Bern

Other Important Cities: Zurrís, Geneva, Zurich, Interlaken, Basel.

Currency: Swiss Franc

Language: German, French, Italian, Raeto-Romance

Calling Code: +41

Internet TLD: .ch

Electricity: Switzerland runs on 230V 50Hz. Electricity is provided by a number of companies:







BKG FMB Energie



Kraftwerke Oberhasli AG






Emergency Numbers:

Emergency Rescue: 144

Fire: 118

Police: 117

Country Information  

Embassy Information

Find your local embassy in Switzerland...

Residents Visa and Work Permit information

Schengen visa regulations apply when visiting Switzerland. Nationals from certain countries are exempted from visas for up to 90 days; this includes the US and the EU. Other nationals will have to apply for a Schengen visa at a Swiss embassy or consulate.

General document requirements, not limited to:
  • Valid passport, minimum 6 months
  • Completed Schengen visa application form
  • Proof of solvency or finances that can cover entire stay in the country
  • Payment receipts of corresponding processing fees

Expats who intend to stay in the country for more than 90 days will have to apply for a residence permit. This permit allows them to live and work in Switzerland. These permits are issued by the Cantonal Migration Offices. There are three types: short-term residence, less than 1 year; annual residence, limited; and permanent residence, unlimited.

EU/EFTA nationals and non-EU/EFTA nationals have different terms and requirements. The Swiss government site has outlined these:

EU/EFTA short-term residence permit:

EU-25/EFTA nationals are entitled to this permit provided they are in possession of an employment contract valid from three up to twelve months. Employment contracts of less than 3 months’ duration within a calendar year are not subject to a permit but are regulated via a registration procedure. For nationals of EU-2 member states (Bulgaria and Romania), all employment is still subject to a permit. In addition, the temporary regulations will apply until approximately 2016. The period of validity of the permit is identical to the term of the employment contract. It can be extended for a total period of less than twelve months. Provided the new quota has not been exhausted, the permit can be renewed after an overall stay of one year without foreign nationals having to interrupt their residence in Switzerland. L EU/EFTA permits without gainful employment are granted to job seekers from all EU/EFTA states. However, this practice does not create an entitlement to social insurance.


Non-EU/EFTA short term residence permit:

The residence permit with gainful employment is intended for members of the families of intergovernmental organisations and for members of foreign representations. This concerns the spouses and children up to 25 years of age. The validity of the permit is limited to the duration of the main holder's function.

Expats who have obtained employment with a local Swiss company will be assisted by their employers in the residence permit application process.


The expat population in Switzerland is growing, with a number of foreign skilled professionals entering the work-force of multi-national corporations. The most popular places of residence in Switzerland are Zurich and Geneva. Granted, the cost of living, including accommodations are steep, however foreign employees will find that their salary/wage packages are adjusted accordingly to ease this burden. Most of the time, the employer, in some cases, will provide for accommodations a sum will be allocated as living expenses in their contracts.

Living in apartment buildings is the more preferred mode of housing in Switzerland. A majority of the local populace rent apartments, which leaves a short supply of listings for expats. It can be a strenuous activity to find accommodations, so expats more often turn to real estate agencies to facilitate the search and the process of securing a unit and a rental contract.

Competitions are fierce for accommodation; even after a prospective tenant signs up for a particular unit, they will have to provide a number of documentary proof including personal information, financial stability, and even rental history from previous landlords. If the tenant is selected, after all the requirements and screening, they will have to pay the first month rent plus a deposit, which is 1 to 3 months’ rent. Deposits are refundable after the contract has ended or terminated. Contracts usually run for 12 months. Earlier termination dates are usually included in the contract, should a tenant choose to discontinue the lease much earlier than the contractual date.

Geneva is the more international city in Switzerland; being the EU, UN, WHO and multinational corporations’ headquarters, the influx of expatriates within the city makes Geneva a crossroad of cultures. For foreigners with families, it’s a good place to live in with spacious living conditions, international schools, medical facilities and government buildings in close proximity. Finding accommodations here is a tough completion, but expat employees are usually aided by their employers. As initially stated, cost of living is steep with single bedroom apartments starting  at $1,800 per month.

Driving License

Expats may use their domestic license, provided it is recognized by the country, to drive legally in the country for up to 12 months. Legal residents who are going to stay for much longer than that have either the option of exchanging their license for a local Swiss one or securing one as a first time applicant. Nationals from these countries may exchange their license by taking a theory examination: the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and Singapore. Others will have to take both theory and practical examination at the Strassenverkehrsamf road traffic authority.

Documents required:
  • Completed application form
  • Original domestic/foreign license with translation (if not in English)
  • Eye test certificate from registered optician
  • Photo
  • Residence permit, permit ‘L’
  • Certificate of residence
  • A valid ID

For more information please visit: (German)


Switzerland is known for its top quality and high standard of medical services and treatments. Both public and private facilities offer virtually equal quality of services. Waiting time isn’t even an issue in government hospitals. Some specialist treatments are only available through private institutions. Private health insurance is mandatory in Switzerland, and should be arranged by the expat within 3 months of residence.


Insurance Companies

Allianz Worldwide Care

A wide range of International Healthcare Plans for individuals working or living away from home





Geneva Medical Center

Ideally located in the center of Geneva, the Medical Center Rue de Lausanne provides personalized health care in a modern environment. The medical center takes part in a project of health system innovation with the ambition of becoming a regional reference in community health care.

Address: 80 rue de Lausanne, CH - 1202 Genève, Switzerland

Tel: +41 22 908 33 33

Fax +41 22 908 33 08

Email: [email protected]



Centre Medico-Chirurgical Vermont Grand Pre

Vermont Medical Center-Grand-Pré was founded in 1985 by the team of the Medical Services of the former Servette. Since its founding, the number of services it provides to its patients is increasing. The main concern of the Medical Center is to provide care center nearby and accessible to all. Its prime location between the train station and Geneva Cointrin Airport; it close to the Place des Nations.

Address: 9a, rue de Vermont, Geneva, 1202, Switzerland

Tel: +41 22 734 51 50



Clinique Belmont

Belmont Clinic, was established in 1978, is a pioneer in Switzerland in the treatment of addictions and eating disorders.

Address: 26, route de Chene, Geneva, 1207, Switzerland

Tel: +41 22 735 78 11



Clinique Generale Beaulieu

They are the first clinic in western Switzerland to be certified to IS 9001 standards. They feature the latest technology in healthcare, including the da Vinci surgical robot and isotopic PET/CT imaging.

Address: Chemin Beau-Soleil 20, Geneva, 1206, Switzerland

Tel: +41 22 839 55 55

Fax: +41 22 839 55 56



Clinique de Joli-Mont

This is a public medical facility in Geneva, focused primarily on the consequences of treatments for medical and surgical conditions. The property offers a multidisciplinary approach to rehabilitation of quality, also offering any specific geriatric care.

Address: Avenue Trembley 45, Case postale 62, Geneva, 1211, Switzerland

Tel: +41 22 717 03 11

Fax: +41 22 717 03 10



Clinique La Colline

Clinique La Colline is a multidisciplinary medical and surgical facility that is equipped  to accommodate patients in inpatient or outpatient. It has six operating rooms that meet the latest standards which can be performed all surgeries.

Address: Avenue de Beau-Sejour 6, Geneva, 1206, Switzerland

Tel: +41 22 7 022 022



Hospital Universitaire de Geneve

The hospital has specialities in hepatobiliary and pancreatic diseases, cardiovascular health, oncology, as well as genetic medicine and vaccinology

Address: Rue Gabrielle Perret Gentil 4, Geneva, 1205, Switzerland

Tel: +41 22 372 33 11


Clinique Dentaire de Geneve – Nations

Address: 29, Avenue de France, Geneva, 1202, Switzerland

Tel: +41 22 735 73 55


The Geneva Smile Center

Address: 2 Quai Gustave Ador, Geneva, 1207, Switzerland

Tel: +41 22 700 78 56

Fax: +41 22 700 78 57