The pros and cons of moving to Switzerland with children

Switzerland has a lot to offer expat families, from great school options to a range of outdoor activities, high-quality healthcare and reliable public transport. However, it also has some negatives, particularly related to cost. The quality of life might be high, but the cost of living is just as inflated. School fees, healthcare policies, rental charges… it all adds up for those moving to Switzerland with children.
Here we look at some of the keys areas to consider for expat families relocating to Switzerland, with both the pros and cons.

Education and childcare

When you’re moving to a new location with family, one of the key considerations is making sure your children get a good quality of education. Luckily, Switzerland is known for its high standard of schooling, though it is decentralised and each canton may be slightly different.
School is generally compulsory from the age of five, and there are various school stages just like in the UK. Primary education lasts for six years and then Secondary I is three years. Compulsory schooling sometimes ends at age 15 in Switzerland, however many children will continue into Secondary II. A high number of pre-school children also attend kindergarten before starting school. This does vary by individual canton though, so it is worth checking before moving. In some cantons, pre-school or continued secondary education is also compulsory.
Many expats will choose to send their children to local schools, if they are young enough to pick up the language. Some classes may be offered in English, but this certainly can’t be relied upon, so an intensive course in the local language could be required. If your children are just starting school and you are planning to be in the country long-term, this is a good option for helping them to settle in, adapt to the new culture and make local friends. There are many advantages to using the local schools: they are free to attend, they are of good quality, your children will benefit from becoming bilingual and they will build a varied social life.
There are also international and private school options, which offer English-speaking classes and some follow the British curriculum. There is also the option to study for the International Baccalaureate, which is particularly useful if you are planning on moving again during their school years. The downside of using the private education system is that it is, like most things in Switzerland, very, very expensive. There are also long waiting lists, especially for the international schools, which are limited to the main cities and are very in demand.
For those with younger children, childcare needs to be considered. Childcare is extremely expensive and will take a large chunk of salary, so it’s important to take this into consideration when planning the move.

Finding a home

When moving to Switzerland with children, you may have to adapt to a smaller living space. One of the downsides for expats in Switzerland is that there are fewer family homes available and they are very expensive.
It is a very competitive market, so you may have to lower your expectations when looking for a property. For example, getting somewhere with a private garden is very difficult, so you might have to compromise on outside space – luckily Switzerland has plenty of public open spaces to enjoy. Apartment blocks often have some shared facilities, as well as strict living rules and regulations.
On the plus side, the standard of living is high, with modern, comfortable apartments available, with up-to-date appliances, parking spaces and close proximity to public transport.

Things to do

One thing for sure is that children won’t get bored in Switzerland. The lifestyle is very much based on being active outdoors and there are fantastic facilities to accommodate that. Many families head to the mountains at the weekends, and walk or cycle the many, many miles of well-maintained paths and trails.
There are also the beautiful lakes, which are great for swimming in or taking part in a range of watersports. It’s a good opportunity for children to try something new and get involved in a sport that will help them to make friends and settle in. Of course, there are also the more traditional family days out to enjoy, such as parks, zoos, farms and museums.
If you’re moving to Switzerland, find out how our international removals team can help to arrange packing, storage and transportation on your behalf.