Zürich is the most vibrant and biggest city in Switzerland, and no, it is not the capital of Switzerland. Bern is.
Zürich is a really great place to live with the highest living standards in the world, but still, even paradise has some cons.
In Zürich, you will find great career opportunities, fast-track access to the Swiss Alps, but at the same time, you will have to manage with high prices and traffic jams.
Let us have a look at pros and cons of living in Zürich.
Living in Zürich pros
Big career opportunities
As said earlier, Zürich is the biggest city in Switzerland with a population close to 400 000, but when you connect the surrounding areas, villages and small cities, you will get 1 million pretty fast.
It is a vibrant environment with the best new business ideas (Switzerland is very often number 1 in the world amongst the most innovative countries and Zürich is the center of it).
If you work in the IT business, you will find countless opportunities from huge companies to small start-ups. Everyone will find something for themselves.
But IT business is just part of a big puzzle. Everyone who works in pharma, arts, services, production, and anything else, can find their chance in Zürich.
There are always thousands of open positions in Zürich at any given time. Just have a look here: Jobs in Zürich.
Does not matter if you have just started your career or you are already an established professional in your field – there are opportunities for everyone in Zürich.
Zürich is city number two in Europe if we look at the sizes of salaries. Number one is a neighbour city of Zug (but that is due to the fact that Zug canton pays the lowest income taxes in Switzerland).
The average salary in Switzerland is above 6000 euros and with an average wage, you can have a really nice life in Switzerland.
With such a salary, you will be able to rent a really nice place, enjoy the local restaurants, travel around and so much more.
Of course, the situation can change if in the family only one partner is working and you have a couple of kids, then 6000 euros in Switzerland will be a challenge.
But if both partners are working, a family of 4 should have no problem of having a good life on two average salaries.
Explore Switzerland: Top 25 places to visit in Switzerland.
Zürich is clean
Zürich is really clean and Swiss like cleanliness. The city is very often cleaned: the streets, trash bins, lake and all other public areas. They take it seriously and if you do not respect that order, you can get fined very fast.
Even disposing of your own trash is strictly regulated and better not to break these rules, because locals will not accept any shenanigans. If you want to live in a clean city, everyone must follow the rules. But in the end, everyone enjoys it.
Zürich is as well takes care of old houses and abandoned places with renovations or new paint jobs.
People in Zürich love their public transport and bikes, so the air as well is pretty clean and not that dirty as in some huge cities.
The old city of Zürich is charming and cozy, but as well in the surrounding areas you will find clean parks, walking areas and much more.
Zürich lake attracts thousands of people each day. It is a vibrant territory especially next to the bridge.
The lake is huge, really huge, clean and on a good day, you can get clear views of the Alps. Swans are as well frequent guests on the lake.
Zürich lake has as well a great public ship transport system. If you are just visiting the city, jump on a boat and explore the surroundings from the water.
If you are a local and live further from the city, but close to the lake – this transportation option is an excellent solution to reach the city center. The are mutliple small ports on the lake and just imagine each morning jumping on a boat and going to work. Pretty cool, uh?
Nature is close, the Alps are close
When I was writing about pros and cons of living in Basel (I live there), I mentioned that one of the biggest cons in Basel is that the Alps are quite far, but in Zürich, it is not the case. It is very close. On a good and clear day, you can see the Alps straight from the city center. Imagine that, a magnificent view.
Some really nice mountains you can find already in Schwyz canton which is only 50 minutes away. Mount Rigi – only 40 minutes away. It is really close.
But that is not it: there are dozens of beautiful villages all around Zürich where you will meet cows, goats, see beautiful pastures, hills, local farms (where you can always buy fresh local food), and much more.
If you want to get a perfect view of the lake and surroundings just hike straight from the city center to Uetliberg (less than 2 hours hike) – especially beautiful at night when all the lights are on.
Public transport is often picked as the best in the world and heck yeah it is.
Switzerland has an extensive trains network on which you can get to the most fascinating places as Swiss mountain passes, isolated charming Swiss villages and beautiful valleys. The trains go very often, they connect many places and they are often right on time. Working like a Swiss watch – maybe working like a Swiss train?
In Zürich, you will find as well a very reliable tram network, bus network (reaching places outside Zürich), and boat network on a lake. No matter where you live in Zürich, you will find a connection to your destination.
The English language is widely spoken
Zürich is a very international city.
A lot of people from neighbouring countries and all EU want to live in Switzerland and a big chunk of them land in Zürich. Because of the huge salaries in Zürich, the local companies are as well able to hire many Americans and people from Asia and other places. It is really a mix of cultures in Zürich.
Because of that, English is necessary for everything: shops, transport, guides, services, and all other activities. Conclusion: pretty much everyone speaks English in Zürich. I myself would find it really bizarre if you would get into a situation in Zürich where a local does not speak English. I have not yet been in such a situation.
So if you come to Zürich and you do not speak German, do not worry, English will be more than enough to get around.
Living in Zürich cons
Huge salaries in Zürich naturally make Zürich one of the most expensive cities in the world. If Zürich is not always in the top 3 most expensive cities, it is always in the top 10.
While food prices, some attractions, and even restaurant prices are quite similar in the whole Switzerland, rent prices are really high in Zürich, and especially if you want to live in central Zürich.
If you want to rent a 2 rooms apartment in Zürich, you will easily pay 2000-3000 CHF a month, if you want to get 3-4 rooms apartment, then it jumps to 4000-5000 CHF and so on. It is not cheap.
But there’s an easy solution, quite many people live in surrounding areas and there rent is smaller. You won’t find something cheap, but it will not be that high as in the city center. In surrounding areas, you can find nice huge apartments for a family of 4 or 5, for 3000 – 3500 CHF. And remember, Zürich has amazing public transport, so even if you do not live in the city center, you will be able to reach all places very fast.
If you do speak English, that shouldn’t be a bother to you, because you will immediately begin to communicate in English, but for people speaking in German, the local dialect can be very confusing.
As you may know, Zürich is in the german speaking part of Switzerland, BUT the locals speak so-called Zürichdüütsch (Zürich German) dialect which can sound almost as a completely alien language to you.
I myself can communicate pretty well in German, but Swiss german is a challenge for me and sometimes I do not even understand whole sentences. It is very rough, they pronounce words in a totally different manner and use a lot of different words.
One good thing: all public signs, information, and documents are in High German, so it won’t be a problem to read and understand the public information, but speaking is different.
Another good thing: all Swiss people speak perfect High German – so when you start to speak, they will feel that in pretty much one word and switch immediately to High German.
Shops are closed on Sundays
That is the law in Switzerland, and yes, all big supermarkets and shops are closed on Sundays.
So if you want to do some shopping on Sunday, forget it – everyone is resting on Sundays.
It can be a challenge if you suddenly need some clothes or other goods on Sunday, but with food, it is not that big a deal.
On Sundays quite many small local shops are open, petrol stations and shops in the train station are open, so you will get around. Small local shops do not have a very wide variety of foods, but you will for sure find vegetables, fruit, bread and much more.
Integration with locals
Well, yes, that can be a problem if you come to Zürich as an adult and finding friends can not be very easy.
I think Switzerland is not some kind of exception here (even though many expats consider locals as unfriendly) because it is normal that adults mostly not looking for new friends and not especially looking for new friends amongst expats.
So if you do not work in some big international company with a very friendly staff, establishing your social life can be hard.
I would suggest joining some local clubs if you have a hobby: chess, tennis, running, hiking, etc. There you can not only find some international people but locals as well. The same hobbies can easily connect people.
I am myself in the running club where I met a lot of friendly Swiss people and run with them 2-3 times a week.
There are as well many Facebook groups where expats meet, learn the language, exchange information – that can be a good way to meet new people as well.
City can get jammed
Well, Zürich is the biggest city in Switzerland and that is only expected that traffic jams are a part of life. On weekends Zürich is full of tourists, so the city center can be jam-packed with people.
Many people here travel with public transport and bikes – so no traffic jams for them, but with your own car it can get challenging sometimes.
I would especially avoid the highways around Zürich during rush hours as traffic jams there get huge and waiting times exceed 1 hour easily.
Jump on a bike or a train and travel care-free.
Zürich is one of the most interesting places to live not only in Switzerland but whole Europe.
It is vibrant, always growing, changing, and is full of opportunities.
If you get a chance to continue or start your career in Zürich: grab that chance and don’t look back. You are going to enjoy this beautiful, big, but humble city right next to the most beautiful mountains in Europe.
I hope that this list of pros and cons of Living in Zürich gives you a good overview.