Tl;dr: I recently moved to Zug, Switzerland and started to work in the blockchain industry. I wanted to share my list of things you need to do in order to settle here. I’ve also added an estimate of living costs.
In this article, I will cover the basic activities necessary in order to settle in Zug. This is from the perspective of an employee rather than an entrepreneur. There is a lot of overlap but people who wish to establish organisations in Zug will have additional hurdles to overcome.
Zug is a pleasant place to live. There are many scenic views, a lot of greenery, and I’d bet there is a low crime rate. Tax is very low but everything is expensive.
What needs to be done:
- Bank Account
- Health Insurance
- AHV (national insurance)
- Driver’s license
- Half-price railcard (SwissPass)
Part of my luck in moving from the UK to Crypto Valley involves my blog posts on Steemit. Apparently, from being an active community member for a particular blockchain project, I was also writing technical blog posts to Steemit. Both were taken as evidence as a willingness and competence to work for the project. After a few discussions, I agreed to an offer and moved to Switzerland!
The activities listed above are roughly in chronological order as I performed them. There are numerous websites that offer advice. One of the most helpful was comparis.ch: they have a handy guide in English.
Zug’s town hall (local council) also has a fairly content-packed website in English too that may prove useful: Link.
Estimate of living costs
I have an idea of living costs, but I don’t keep perfect expenses, so these are only estimates.
Before moving to Switzerland I tried to find out what I could about living costs. One forum, EnglishForum.ch, has a couple of topics on this issue. However, the estimates from other posters was pretty scary. Food for a family of four at 1000 CHF/ month. Yikes! Fortunately, I’ve found weekly shopping to be cheaper than expected.
- Groceries (etc) for 2 people ~100 CHF, if you shop at Lidl.
If you go to Coop or Migros then it will be significantly more. In this cost I include food, cosmetics, washing powder etc. This is actually reasonable, but it is also Lidl (I think quality is good enough).
- Rent for a room: 1000–1500 CHF /m.
- Studio / 1Bedroom: 1200–1900 CHF / m.
- 2 Bedroom: 2000–2500 CHF / m.
Rental rates are high. No escaping it. The cost of parking is almost always separate (factor in about 100–200 CHF/m).
- Swisscom 1 GB fibre optic: 90 CHF/m.
It’s fast, but it ain’t cheap. You can add a basic TV package to this for 5 CHF/m, but I haven’t bothered yet. You can go all-in with an XL package for TV, Internet, phone line for about 250 CHF/m (IIRC).
Eating out (brace yourselves!)
- Main course: 20–35 CHF/m. Can find higher / lower, but this is typical.
- Beer (500ml)/Wine (100ml): 7–10 CHF. Not even a pint!
- Dinner for 2: don’t expect much change from 100 CHF.
Coffee can be found from about 5 CHF. Starbucks charge 6.80 CHF for a medium latte. At today’s fx rates, that’s about 5.90 EUR. That’s the most I’ve seen anywhere in the world. London, despite insane rents, is waaaay cheaper for coffee.
What needs to be done (settling in)
First of all, life is much easier if you have an employment contract. I had that already signed and in-hand before I moved. I doubt any of the other steps will be possible without one.
I’d recommend taking your employment contract and passport everywhere while you fill in the various documents throughout the whole process.
This was the biggest pain of all the steps. Availability is poor and costs are high. Set your expectations to pay more for rent than you ever have before. Zug feels more expensive than London, even after doing the FX conversion. Naturally, pay should be higher to compensate.
In order to secure an apartment, I believe that you may need an employment contract. It might be possible to obtain an accommodation contract if you can prove that you can afford to cover the cost of 12 months of rent. Be aware that deposits are typically 3 months of rent, which must be paid up-front.
Short Term Lets
Studio apartments and small rooms with flexible rental contracts (i.e. a few days / weeks / months).
Longer Term Lets
Accommodation where contracts are typically 12 months. The following sites are similar to Zoopla or RightMove in the UK.
Getting a bank account as an employee is fairly easy. Not sure how easy it would be to get an account without having accommodation sorted out. It is possible to get an account with a temporary address, but I’ve heard this can add complications.
The people working in the banks speak reasonably good English, probably a lot better than most other places that you will visit. Despite what people will tell you about Zug, the level of spoken English is not that great. The younger generation seems to be fluent, so if you’re in Starbucks you will have no problem but if you visit many other places you will struggle to get by.
One further point that’s important to highlight is that getting a bank account for a blockchain organisation can be a pain in the ass. It isn’t impossible, but if you plan to liquid crypto assets and send the fiat to a Swiss bank account then expect a lot of hassle. The process of sending the fiat is easy enough, but getting the account can be hard. This is one of the gotchas that aren’t so widely spoken about and you might not read in articles that proclaim Switzerland to be a blockchain nation.
Registering with the immigration office (Amt für Immigration) is easy, at least for UK/EU/Schengen. I believe it can be a lot tougher for people outside of Europe.
To start the process I suggest going to the office and filling out the form in person. I believe you will need to show your passport, employment contract, and accommodation contract. Copies will be made of all documents and then you just have to wait on your permit arriving in the post.
It was a bit of a pain to find the building. You need to leave the main street and cross a car park to arrive at the building at the back.
Amt für Migration, Aabachstrasse 1, 6301 Zug
Registering with the town hall
If I understood correctly this step will auto enrol you with the local Commune/Gemeinde (basically registering at the town hall). I’ve heard this is true of Zug but may not be true of other towns in the Canton, and probably not true of other Cantons in Switzerland.
As according to Swiss law you must obtain health insurance. According to Comparis.ch, this should be done within 3 months of arriving in Switzerland. Well, for whatever reason, Zug Canton requires this to be done within 14 days of arriving in Switzerland!
You need to email the policy document to the town hall (Stadthaus), or bring in a physical copy should you have one. For quite a few days I didn’t think I had a policy document but it was on the insurance provider’s portal. The policy will actually be backdated to the date that you arrived in Switzerland.
AHV: national insurance
This was the last thing I did, at least the last thing in terms of what I believe is mandatory for settling and working in Switzerland. There is a form to fill in and send to AHV who will deduct tax for the purpose of covering your contribution to national insurance. For employees, you will need to fill in the form then give it to your employer to send to the AHV.
I haven’t actually done this part yet, but it is supposed to be done within 12 months of moving to Switzerland. As I haven’t done this I don’t actually know the full process of what’s involved; however, be sure to do it before you have spent 12 months in the country.
Half-price railcard (SwissPass)
I can highly recommend getting the half-price railcard. The trains in Switzerland work well, they tend to be on-time and run fairly frequently but be aware that they are not cheap and don’t run that late at night.
The SwissPass costs 185 CHF but it cuts all train fares in half. This is will pay itself off in no time. If you check the SBB website and buy tickets in advance then you can get even cheaper prices!
Getting the pass requires having a Swiss address as well as a passport picture then you can give them for their records. You can purchase the pass by visiting a train station. Note that you will also need to bring a form of ID with you to purchase the pass. There is no check done to actually prove that you live in Switzerland but if you don’t have an address then you won’t be able to receive the card that’s sent in the post.
Questions / Comments?
You can create a reply to me here on Medium, or reach out to me on Twitter: EAThomson.