Useful Information on Living in Switzerland

Before expatriating to Switzerland, Keith Michaels has rounded up the essential information that you’ll need to know when driving and living abroad.
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The Language Barrier in Switzerland

In Switzerland, locals speak one of five languages. Whilst German is used most frequently, French, Italian and sometimes Romansh are also spoken, along with limited English.  

Depending on where you are in the country, this will affect the primary language used by locals. Generally, a functional understanding of Swiss German and Swiss French will help you navigate most areas. But you should check the official language of each canton (like a county or similar local level) before you travel abroad, and this will help to ensure that you can more smoothly assimilate into local life and culture.

Weather and Climate

While similar to the UK, Swiss weather can vary in its most extreme parts, such as in the Alps or along the Mediterranean. As a landlocked country, Switzerland holds some incredible variance in its climates, from skiing weather in the mountain ranges to its warmer cities located on the southern edge of the Alps.  

Weather can vary every year in Switzerland, and whilst it’s somewhat predictable, the most extreme regions can seem unreliable.  

British Embassy in Switzerland

British Embassy in Berne

Address:Thunstrasse 50 
3005 Berne 
Switzerland
Phone:+41 (0)31 359 7700 (available 24/7)
Fax:+41 (0)31 359 7701 
Fax (Consular): +41 (0)31 359 7765
Website:https://www.gov.uk/world/organisations/british-embassy-berne
Office hours:By appointment only 

Emergency Services Contact Information in Switzerland

Emergency Service          Contact Number
Police117
Fire service 118
Emergency from Mobile 112
Ambulance144

Health and Wellbeing in Switzerland

Residents and all of those living or working in Switzerland, including expats, must have basic health insurance, which is heavily regulated by the government. While all policies cover the same basic plan, any additional benefits and support, such as private top-ups, can vary between treatment plans.  

Upon registration as an official resident in Switzerland, you have a three-month deadline to find a suitable healthcare plan before you are automatically assigned one, which could either become unsuitable to your needs or costly. It’s advisable to comply with local law and register under a plan that works comfortably within your needs and budget.  

Accessing Healthcare in Switzerland 

In Switzerland, healthcare has a reputation for being reliable and it’s celebrated globally as one of the best systems. Under treatment plans, doctors, along with other emergency services, are relatively easy to contact. 

Driving in Switzerland 

Renowned for its panoramic vistas and scenic roads, driving in Switzerland is a pleasure. 

Under local legislation, you drive on the right side of the road and overtake on the left (only using the right in some circumstances). This is unless indicated vehicles coming from the right have priority at junctions, excluding roundabouts, where traffic on them takes priority.  

Additionally, any passenger over the age of 12 in a car must wear a seatbelt or risk a fine of 60 Francs.  

Getting your Driving Licence in Switzerland  

In Switzerland, you must pass a practical and theory test (stage 1) before acquiring a permanent licence to drive. Once completing stage 1, drivers are put on a probationary licence for three years and, during this time, the driver must pass further tests before they are allowed to move to stage 2, which is a full and permanent licence.  

Legal Requirements for Driving in Switzerland

If you’re caught committing a driving offence, the police will hand out an immediate fine. These can range from 20 to 300 Francs, depending on the seriousness of the offence committed.  

The blood alcohol limit for drivers, aside from those on probationary licences is 0.05%. For probationary licences, the limit is stricter at 0.01%.

You must also present a motorway sticker if you drive on the motorway.