Your guide to expat life in Switzerland

Working in Switzerland

With a strong currency, powerful labour market and booming export industry, Switzerland’s economy has remained stable throughout wider Eurozone volatility. The country offers expats very high earning potential in a diverse and satisfying working environment.

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Doing business

Switzerland’s business friendly legislation, economic stability and highly educated workforce all contribute to its popularity as an expat destination.

The country is a great place to start a business. As well as coming first for overall economic factors in our 2017 Expat Explorer Survey, it was ranked 31st out of 190 countries in The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2017. And as host to an assortment of European headquarters and multinational companies, it’s especially well-equipped for foreign enterprises.

The Swiss try to conduct business efficiently and transparently – so what you see is usually what you get. Progress in the workplace is based on merit rather than established connections and networking, and you needn’t worry about being at a disadvantage as a foreigner.

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Business culture

The Swiss are pedantic and they value punctuality and smart appearances. The country’s business culture is formal with little room for humour or being unprepared.

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Management style

Business structures are hierarchical and managers are expected to lead by example. But decision-making processes are egalitarian – so you can voice your ideas freely.

Work ethic

Salaries in Switzerland are high, but you’re expected to work hard and deliver results. You’ll earn respect by hitting deadlines and arriving well-prepared for business meetings.

Social occasions

The Swiss tend to keep work and play separate – so your colleagues might be reluctant to discuss their personal lives at work.

Fast facts

Business language

English is used in most corporate environments. German, French and Italian are spoken in their respective regions.

Business hours

Usually from 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, with a lunch break between 12pm and 2pm.

Dress

Swiss businesspeople are known for being neat and well dressed. Men usually wear sports jackets, shirts and ties, with dark suits reserved mostly for the banking industry. Women tend to dress conservatively – skirts, dresses and trousers are all acceptable.

Greeting

A firm handshake is the most common business greeting. Address senior colleagues with their formal title until you’re told otherwise.

Gifts

Giving gifts isn’t a normal part of Swiss business culture, but it might be expected if you’re invited to a colleague’s home. Flowers or chocolates are good choices.

Gender equality

More and more women are being appointed to senior positions and they’re treated as equals by their male counterparts.

Expat salaries

Expats earn well because they tend to be employed to make up for local skills shortages.

Far more enriching from a career and social perspective, with greater chances of reaching retirement more efficiently. This country definitely broadens the horizons.

Expat Explorer Survey respondent

View more hints and tips for Switzerland

Making life easier for expats

  • Starting a new life abroad has its complexities.
  • Your finances shouldn’t be one of them.
  • We believe that choosing to live abroad has the power to enrich your life. It can be a journey that leads to new experiences and opportunities. But it can also be complicated. That’s why we’re here to help manage your finances and make planning for the future simple.

Achieve your ambitions at HSBC

HSBC is one of the world’s leading international banks, with a network covering over 70 countries and territories. Our global reach and values-led high performing culture fosters continuous professional development, flexible working and opportunities for you to grow within an inclusive and diverse environment.

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by expatarrivals.com, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in August 2016. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you are aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.