When you think of Switzerland the one thing that automatically comes to mind is ‘expensive’. While Switzerland is not cheap, there are plenty of reasons as to visit and perhaps even work there. Perhaps your number one reason for wanting to live and work in Switzerland is the lifestyle, especially if you’re a winter sports fanatic – it’s a skier’s paradise.
Of course skiing and snow sports in Switzerland would be the obvious, but another obvious would be the Matterhorn – the pride of Switzerland. If seeing this magnificent mountain that’s surrounded by tranquil beauty is not on your bucket list, it needs to go on there now. Switzerland is not for the fainthearted and it’s the ideal spot for those who love nature and the great outdoors because visiting the Swiss mountains is an absolute must for everyone. There are some beautiful places to visit, amazing architecture to be seen and not to mention the three different cultures in one country – where else in the world would you have 4 native languages spoken in one place?
There’s no doubt about it. Switzerland is a beautiful place to visit and work, but how easy is it to find an ESL job in Switzerland? Competition is tough in Switzerland when it comes to language instruction and most of the work that’s done is freelance work, which means that ESL positions in Switzerland become available at the 11th hour and you’ve got to be super quick. There are a few private language Schools in Switzerland that advertise ESL positions on the ETAS website, however, these are rare and quite often the jobs are snapped up before recruiters even get the chance to advertise them.
It’s not uncommon for ESL/EFL teachers in Switzerland to work part-time at a number of different schools to be able to earn a decent amount of money that’s close to the standards of Swiss living. Full-time ESL positions in Switzerland are like pink diamonds – rare. To score yourself one of these gems, you almost certainly have to have the DELTA (an advanced teaching diploma) under your belt and not to mention a few years of experience as well. Because there are so many potential candidates for one EFL position in Switzerland at times, employers can choose to be picky and it’s not uncommon for you to be asked to give a demo lesson.
In the past, it was Zurich that was the most financially rewarding place for EFL teachers in Switzerland and although it still has the highest number of private English language schools in Switzerland, the economy is not as robust as it once was. These days the place to head to for good ESL prospects in Switzerland is Basel. Famous for its pharmaceutical industry, Basel is much better off economically and there are a number of private schools and businesses willing to hire foreign language teachers.
If you’re lucky enough to find a full-time teaching position in Switzerland, your full-time hours will vary depending on the canton in which you reside. In one part of Switzerland full-time may be 22 hours per week whereas in another neighbouring canton it could be 33.
The next thing you need to legally work in Switzerland is a valid work permit. Due to all the paperwork and costs, there are few language schools in Switzerland ready to sponsor you. The Swiss employer first needs to prove to the canton they can’t find a Swiss candidate to fulfill the position. After this, even though Switzerland is not part of the EU, they must prove they can’t find an EU citizen due a bilateral agreement that was signed, and only then can they hire another foreigner to do the job therefore it’s really difficult for an American, Australian, Canadian, or New Zealander to find a job and get a work permit for Switzerland. So, if you fit into the latter category then you’ve got a better chance of getting this if you’re in a smaller town and not a huge place like Zurich or the capital, Bern.
Another way you can supplement your income while working as an English language teacher in Switzerland is by teaching private 1-on-1 lessons. However, even if you’re teaching these lessons, the Swiss government requires you to pay taxes and social security on everything you earn and this includes private teaching work as well. You’ll need to get an “OSAI” number which will allow you to manage your taxes and social insurance. It’s also important to note that by law, everyone living in Switzerland is required to have Swiss health insurance which is quite expensive with the cheapest costing around CHF 190 per month. Depending on your qualifications and the demand for English teachers in your area, you can however, dictate the rates. Some 1-on-1 language lessons are low starting at CHF 30, but they can also be as high as CHF 130 per hour.
A normal language school in Switzerland pays about CHF 60 per hour, but again this is negotiable if you’ve got the reasons to make your lessons higher for example perhaps you’re teaching medical English to a group of practitioners; in this case you’ll be able to demand more because it clearly requires more work. The high rates may seem really attractive, but the high cost of living will soon bring you back to reality. As most ESL jobs in Switzerland are in the bigger cities such as Geneva, Zurich, Bern, Basel, and Lucerne, it’s a better idea to take a look at the average costs in those areas, however, surprisingly, there’s very little difference in costs between a Swiss village and a Swiss city. Some of the basic average costs include:
- Cost of a cheap meal for one: CHF 20
- Cost of a mid-range meal for two: CHF 100
- Coffee: CHF 4
- Bottle of coke 0.33l: CHF 3.50
- Bottle of still water 0.33l CHF 3.50
- Pint of beer: CHF 6.50
- 1-Way ticket on local transport: CHF 5
- Starting taxi tariff: CHF 6.50
- Petrol (1l): CHF 1.90
- One-bedroom apartment in city: CHF 1,500
- One-bedroom apartment outside city: CHF 1,200
Yes, indeed Switzerland can be very costly after all it is the third most expensive country in Europe, however, if you can find a great job and even supplement it with a few private language courses, you can definitely make a sizable living. In Switzerland they love quality and they’re known for some of the finest products such as watches and Swiss chocolate – Switzerland definitely does crush the competition and you could too if you’ve got the right credentials and sell yourself well.