IT Contracting in Switzerland: Living & Working

Contracting in Switzerland:
Living & Working

Profile written by Matt Walters of Capital Consulting
(updated January 2016).

Languages

While the official languages of Switzerland are German, French, Italian and Rumantsch, the main immigrant languages are Spanish (1.7%), Serbo-Croat (1.4%), Portuguese (1.3%), Turkish (1.1%) and English (1%).

For the English-speaking contractor, the language barrier is not a problem as a large number of people in Switzerland speak English as a second or third language.

While this depends on the area, the sector and a range of other factors, a grasp of the local language and a willingness to make an effort will go a long way.

Accommodation

There is a strong rental culture in Switzerland, as is the case with many European countries, making it relatively easy to find a property for the duration of your contract.

Prices for accommodation will of course vary depending on size and location, but a guideline figure of EUR 2400-3000 may be quoted for a small apartment in central Zurich.

Travel

Switzerland's key advantages in the view of many contractors are its central European location and copious travel links with the UK.

i. Air

The key airports of Zurich, Geneva and Basle-Mulhouse, provide speedy links to all main UK airports by Swiss, BA and easyJet among many others.

ii. Rail

The rail journey from Zurich to London (St. Pancras), takes just under 10 hours while from Geneva it is just over 8 hours, with regular departures.

There are regular trains from Zurich and Geneva to all major European destinations, including sleeper cars for longer journeys.

iii. Road/Ferry

The drive from Zurich to London is just over 1'000km, while from Geneva is just under 1'000km and, using the various ferry companies, the crossing alone can take from 35 minutes to over 5 and a half hours.

The main crossings are: Dunkirk – Dover (Norfolk Line 2 hours), Le Havre – Portsmouth (LD Lines over 5 hours), Calais – Dover (P&O Ferries 1 hour and 30 minutes), Calais – Folkestone (Eurotunnel 35 minutes). Using the Eurotunnel, the driving time is approx. 10 hours.

Switzerland has historically been very open to foreign contractors due to its peaceful, prosperous and stable modern market economy. Its large technology centres in Zurich, Basle and Geneva provide numerous contract opportunities.

Switzerland has much to offer the foreign contractor in the way of culture, gastronomy, sports activities and tourism, while its proximity and good transport links to the UK allow for an easy return home.

Public holidays in Switzerland include New Year's Day, Ascension, the Swiss National Holiday (August 1) and Christmas Day (December 25). All other holidays are canton-dependant.

Official Languages: German, French, Italian, Rumantsch (official), English widely spoken.
Capital: Bern
Timezone: GMT +1 (+2 in summer)
Currency: Swiss Franc (CHF)
Emergency Numbers: 112 (all), 117 (Police), 144 (Ambulance), 118 (Fire)
Key Airports: Zurich (ZRH), Geneva (GVA) and Basle-Mulhouse (BSL)
Population: 8,121,830 (July '15 estimate)
Elecricity: 230V
Tax Year: 1st January – 31st December
National holiday: 1st August
International dialing prefix: +41
Internet domain suffix: .ch
Cost of living: Zürich is 3rd and Geneva is 5th in the Mercer Worldwide cost of living Survey. London is ranked 12th (2015).