Starting a new life in a foreign country isn’t easy, whether you’ve made the decision to move for employment, education, or for family. Simple things you took for granted back home are more difficult – finding a place to live, learning where to buy your groceries, figuring out how to find a doctor. We’ve now been through this exhausting but rewarding process twice in just over a year and hope that some of these resources in Switzerland will be helpful to other foreigners who’ve chosen to call it home, even if only temporarily.
Travel – Lodging
TripAdvisor – My favorite place to check out popular attractions at different travel destinations and to read reviews from other travelers. Be on the look-out for “Traveler’s Choice” Winners from previous years…they tend to never disappoint.
Airbnb – Great site for finding quirky, inexpensive, and intimate lodging options all over the world. Booking online is easy, hosts (in my experience) tend to accurately represent their lodging and provide services above and beyond any hotel experience, and customer service from the company is stellar.
anibis.ch – My personal favorite, though it’s only available in French. More of these listings tend to be private party (without the extensive rules and hassle of property management companies). This is also a great place to search or advertise for a flatmate.
Shopping – Groceries & Household
Lidl – This German-based discount chain has over 10,000 stores and offers some of the lowest prices in Switzerland. Besides groceries, they also offer misc. discounted seasonal items, clothing, and household goods. We do most of our grocery shopping here. Unfortunately, many of their locations don’t show up in Google searches but if you go to their website (which is only in French, German, and Italian), you can search for the store nearest you.
Migros – Look for the big M, sometimes the only indicator of these grocery store which are often hidden in malls or “galleries.” They have stores virtually all over, not surprising since it’s Switzerland’s largest retailer and largest grocery chain. Migros is a co-op with over 1/4 of the entire Swiss population belonging as members. In addition to groceries, you can buy tickets, view a calendar of events, and enter local contests. They even offer travel deals and discounted classes in art/dance/language.
Coop – If you don’t mind paying higher prices for groceries and prefer Bio, all natural, organic, etc, head to Coop. If you’re looking for specialty or hard-to-find items, this is also the place to go. Stores also sometimes have additional floors with non-grocery goods.
Manor – Great department store that offers new clothing, household items, electronics…just about everything. Prices are a bit high.
Aldi – Another inexpensive store similar to Lidl that sells groceries and limited discounted household goods, sporting goods, and non perishables.
Emmaus – If you like thrift stores shopping, are on a budget, or are new to Switzerland and need to furnish your place, you have to visit this place. It’s like a giant Goodwill or St. Vincent de Paul. Items are typically in superb condition, and they offer free or cheap local delivery. If you don’t live near Fribourg, they also have stores in Bern, Zurich, Geneva, Lausanne, etc.
Coup d’Pouce – Like Emmaus but smaller, this thrift store has multiple locations: Fribourg, Bulle, Estavayer, Romont, etc.
anibis.ch – My favorite place for finding everything used: furniture, household goods, cars, etc. (like Craigslist). Site is in German, French & Italian only but if you set your computer settings to auto translate to English, you’re golden!
ricardo.ch – Switzerland’s largest online marketplace (like eBay). Site is in German and French only.
General Resources in Switzerland
English Forum – This is a great forum made up of a huge group of expats from all over the world. You can search for items other expats are selling, post a “wanted” ad, browse recipes, or search for previous threads to find helpful tips about Customs fees, housing, transportation, relocation, employment, etc. It’s in English. Sometimes folks are a bit negative, but sometimes they’re incredibly helpful, and sometimes it’s just good entertainment!
Taxes – US Filing Resources in Switzerland
Taxes for Expats – Tax firm based in New York that specializes in filing US taxes for Americans living abroad. We hired them to do our taxes for the year we lived in Switzerland. They are not cheap (we paid about $400 for very few forms filed), but they are exceedingly responsive, professional, and competent. If you have to file taxes as an expat, they’re one of the best resources for Switzerland.
TurboTax – Who hasn’t used TurboTax? In the US, we always filed our state and federal taxes with this popular software. During our second year in Germany, we opted to use TurboTax to file our own US taxes. Combined Oregon State and federal cost about $110 minus a 15% coupon from Oregon Community Credit Union.
Qualipet – With stores in multiple locations and a huge number of products, they’re a good bet for finding what you need for your furry friend.
Maxi Zoo – Similar to Qualipet, Maxi Zoo has multiple locations and tends to have a large selection of animal brands and products. Plus, you can get a punch card for discounts if you’re a frequent visitors.
Helvetia – They offer everything from mandatory renter’s and accident insurance to car and life insurance. If you’re in the Fribourg area, I’d highly recommend Benjamin Blanc as an agent (and no, I don’t get paid to endorse him). He does home visits, speaks English, and went above and beyond for us, even calling the Swiss “DMV” for us when we were planning to leave Switzerland to help us figure out how to transfer our car insurance to Germany. Above and beyond.
SwissCare – If you’re in need of international student, travel, or medical insurance (which is mandatory in Switzerland), SwissCare offers some of the best rates around and superb customer service. As a “student” (post doc), my husband maintained a policy with them for just over a year in 2014/2015.
CSS Insurance – An alternative option for medical insurance (and the one I used since I didn’t qualify for SwissCare), this provider also has great rates, in part due to an option for Telmed, where you can discuss your symptoms with a doctor without a physical appt and have them call or fax your Rx directly to a pharmacy. It keeps your premiums low and is a great option when you’re sick.
Do you know of other great expat resources in Switzerland? Let us know by dropping a comment below!
Were you looking for our expat resources for Germany and arrive here by mistake? Then head to this link!
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