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Planning to retire in Switzerland

Updated on January 9, 2017

Murten, Switzerland

Switzerland is considered one of the most expensive, if not the most expensive country to live in. While some Swiss seek an island paradise to retire in the hopes of lowering their cost of living, there are, however, some people who consider the possibility to retire in Switzerland.

I was born and raised in Basel, Switzerland, one of the bigger cities bordering Germany and France. At 20 I moved to the US and lived in California and in Utah. Exactly 17 years later I packed up my bags and returned to Switzerland with my two boys. But before you can pack up your bags I think it is essential that you do your homework and learn a little bit about the Swiss System and what to expect.

Basic Facts about Switzerland

If you are currently living in a large city and want to get away from the hectic life-style you need to keep a few things in mind before packing up your bags.

Switzerland is a fairly small country. You can drive through it in less than three hours. It is a beautiful country without a doubt. Since the Berlin Wall has come down and Switzerland has signed an agreement with the EU, many Europeans have chosen Switzerland to become their place of residence. On top of that Switzerland has been taken on thousands of refugees on a yearly basis. With a country this small it can get crowded pretty fast. This can be felt in the cities more so than on the country. Crowded streets and increased violence.

Nevertheless, with all the religious attacks by Islamic Terrorists across Europe, Switzerland seems to still be one of the safer places to be.

Residence Permit

If you are 55 years or older you can apply for a residence permit. The government will ask you whether you have certain ties to the country such as relatives or friends. You just have to make sure that you have the financial means to afford life in Switzerland. Most people that choose to retire in Switzerland have some business venture outside of Switzerland that helps them pay for their cost of living.

Cost of Living

Groceries if compared to the US are definitely more expensive but the Swiss don’t have huge refrigerators and usually buy fresh over frozen foods. They tend to go shopping every day or every other day limiting their spending and not buying food they end up throwing away. A family of four will need about 1400 Swiss Francs per month for groceries.

Sales Tax in Switzerland is at 8%, but only 2.5% on groceries.

Health insurance isn’t regulated. It is mandatory to have basic health insurance. You can choose your deductible, whether you want general hospital care, semi-private or private. You have the option to add dental insurance as dentists are expensive. Basic health insurance for a person age 55 would be between 165 – 300 Swiss francs depending on the deductible.

Utilities, TV, telephone and internet can be a bit more expensive as well. You can get digital TV with telephone and internet for around 120 Swiss francs per month. Mobile deals can range from 40 to over 100 per month depending on your needs.

Apartment rent is fairly high if you choose an expensive city like Zürich or Geneva, at least 2000 Swiss francs for a small apartment. Fortunately, there are a lot of places a lot nicer and quieter than those two cities allowing you to rent a big apartment for that same price or even a rustical old farmer house out in the countryside.

Buying homes isn’t that easy. You have to have a b permit. But be aware real estate isn’t cheap and you have to provide a down payment of 20% to purchase a home. But the interest rates on loans are a lot lower than in the States, currently at 1.69 %.

Cars are a bit more expensive than in the States, and the gasoline prices are very high. At the same time the Swiss don’t drive the distances Americans do and can limit their gasoline spending right there. Besides, Switzerland has an incredibly organized public transportation system that you can depend on, and owning a car is not a must. You can get by without a car.


Switzerland is a place of many recreational possibilities from skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing in the winter to hiking, mountain biking, swimming, golfing in the summer. Hiking is considered the folk sport. There are thousands of hiking paths marked by yellow signs which name the destination and how long it will take you to get there. The mountain bikers follow the red bike signs. You can bike across the entire country or even cross the borders on the north, south, west or east, and if you are tired you can load your bike onto the train.

Being accepted as a foreigner

Everybody seems to be accepted no matter what color the skin or which religion, especially if you choose to live in or very near a city. In small villages you can sometimes still witness small town mentality, especially up in the alpine region. While these places are absolutely beautiful it is best to visit them often and enjoy the beauty they have to offer instead of living up there. The summers are usually short and the winters extremely long. You can enjoy springtime a lot more if you live further down in the valley or by a lake, and those places usually have a lot more to offer.


This is one of the draw backs of Switzerland especially if you prefer hot weather. Summers can be warm but occasionally we can get a drop in temperatures with rain and snow in the mountains. For instance, the year before last year we had an extremely cold winter and an absolutely long and beautiful summer. The following winter was very mild, hardly any snow. The flowers were blossoming much sooner than usual, and this summer we had a quick heat wave and now it feels like early fall. So, the weather is somewhat unpredictable. I personally, don’t mind it. But if you are looking for hot weather and hate snow, Switzerland is probably not for you.


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    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 3 years ago

      Thank you for this very informative glimpse into life in Switzerland. Up, interesting and useful.