Destination… Switzerland!

content switzerland mountains train

[Before you read on, please imagine you haven’t seen the title of this article or the accompanying photo]

In which country can you work in one of the world’s major and most historic financial hubs, while also being able to enjoy stunningly dramatic landscapes of snow-capped mountains and green-fringed lakes, a healthy work-life balance, skiing and snowboarding, great chocolate, a very famous tennis player (who? See below) and precise time-keeping?

Yes, Switzerland, of course!

Beren Mallory ACCA, Basel

‘Switzerland is an incredible country that has so much to offer professionally but also in terms of nature and culture. The size of the larger cities are very manageable and allow you to build a professional network quite quickly,’ said Beren Mallory, a manager in Financial Analysis Partnerships and New Markets at BeiGene Switzerland.

‘At the same time, depending on your hobbies, you can drive to a mountain range to ski or hike within one-to-hours hours from your place of work. I don’t know many other countries that offer this option. It’s also a hybrid of cultures and has four official languages. You can really feel the culture of the language in each of the different cantons.’

Mallory has been living and working in Switzerland for eight years, the first seven in Geneva,  where she worked for Deloitte and Ahold Delhaize before moving to BeiGene in Basel. ‘I take full advantage of the mountain life in Switzerland. I like to ski tour during the ski season, which can last up to four months, and hike and trail run in the summer.’

Mallory’s top Switzerland tips

Embrace the smaller city lifestyle: ‘I moved to Geneva from Kuala Lumpur. I had a tough time the first six months moving from a dynamic Southeast Asian city, where stores are open after midnight, to a smaller and quieter city. This seems to be a struggle for those that expect a city life experience. However, once you embrace the kinder work-life balance, building a smaller yet closer community and having the mountains and lakes a one-hour trip away, Switzerland is a great and rewarding place to live.’

Accept that different work-life cultures exist: ‘Work-life balance is very important in Swiss culture, and I think that’s great. People take a lunch break and stop working earlier on Fridays to spend time with family and friends. Instead of only conversing about work, I also find that colleagues like to discuss hobbies and what you do in your spare time.’

Learning a language helps with integration: ‘I would also highly encourage anyone considering moving to Switzerland to learn the language of the canton they decide to move to. Take beginner lessons, practice in social environments, go to apéros — it will help with the integration process a lot.’

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Alicja Księżak ACCA, Baar

Another mountain sports enthusiast, Alicja Księżak, who spent several years at EY and KPMG in Zurich before moving to her current role in controlling and reporting for commodity trading at mining company Glencore, loves the work-life balance and proximity to nature.

‘I am naturally a very active and social person that enjoys challenges, learning new cultures, meeting inspirational people from all over the world, staying creative, exchanging ideas, building global connections, creating together new initiatives and bringing out the best in people,’ she said.

‘At the same time, while I enjoy new and exciting opportunities, I do care about a balanced, well-rounded life to build the foundations for long-term success. In Switzerland I’ve found a way to have both a rewarding professional life while also enjoying hobbies — working full-time in one of Europe’s biggest financial hubs and being able to pursue my love for mountain sports — winter sports and summer hiking, as well as finding my private time for volunteering for causes that genuinely speak to me.’

Księżak’s top Switzerland tips

Think before you leap: 'I highly recommend choosing Switzerland as a place to live. However, due to the country’s specifics/uniqueness there are high barriers to entry and exit, and significant time investment needed to settle in, making this is a serious decision with a multitude of factors weighing in, including personal preferences. ‘

Climate and lifestyle: ‘If you prefer to live in a warm climate by the sea, or in a very big extremely active city like London or New York, Switzerland might not be a perfect match. Then again, if you are looking to connect with nature and be close to the Alps, smaller but active towns with a culture of truly caring about sports, health and the environment, with a structured and orderly set up, this might be just the right place for you.’

Language savvy: ‘I’d recommend learning at least one of the official local languages. And no, Swiss German is not the same as German, as most foreigners naively hope. Knowing the language is a great asset when looking to stay for the long term, to better understand the cultural nuances and speed up the integration process.’

Plan ahead: ‘In terms of logistics, it’s worth mentioning that the real estate market can be challenging, so plan ahead to find the right living arrangement.’

Culturally diverse: ‘Not everyone is aware that different parts of Switzerland can feel like living in an entirely different country. For example, Geneva, in the west, is culturally closer to France, while Lugano in the south is reminiscent of Italy. It’s worth considering cultural implications when choosing a city to live and work in.’

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