5 Bad Things I Hate about Switzerland

By Baptiste Wicht | Updated: | Financial Independence, Switzerland

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No country is perfect. You can relate to that with your own country. It is the same for me and Switzerland. While I like Switzerland and plan to spend all my life here, there are some things I do not like about it. This article discusses the five things I hate the most about Switzerland.

I am not about to leave Switzerland, and I hope I will never have to. I also wrote about the things I love about Switzerland! There are more things I like than things I hate. But I think it is essential to realize that no country is perfect. Some things should be improved in Switzerland.

Of course, these things will probably differ from one person to another. I know that some people like some things from my list. Please tell me what you do not like about Switzerland in the comment!

1. Health insurance  system is crazy

In Switzerland, health insurance is mandatory.

That means every Swiss people is insured for health issues. The idea is excellent, but the execution is not great at all.

First of all, it is incredibly expensive. I am using the highest deductible (2500 CHF) and paying 235 CHF per month for my insurance. I still have to pay the first 2500 CHF if something happens yearly. I have never got anything from my insurance in the last five years. I paid 10’000 CHF for insurance and about 4000 CHF for health fees.

One of the reasons it is so expensive is that people that do not use it pay for people who are using it too much. Some people go to the doctor if they have a slight fever. And that drives up the cost of health for everybody. Health insurance should only be mandatory for big things. It should not cover fever, cold, or a scratch on the ass.

Second, it is getting more expensive every year. In 2014, I was paying 209 CHF for my insurance. It is a 12% increase over four years. This is much more than inflation in Switzerland. Again, mainly because people are abusing the system. And another problem is that the cheapest insurance is never the same each year. So you should change your health insurance each year.  The system encourages you to change frequently.

And this is also a business for insurance advisors. You can change your insurance until one month before the end of the year. By the end of the year, advisors will try to call you many times to make you change insurance.

And they rarely offer you the cheapest insurance. Since it is mandatory, it should be the same state insurance for every person in Switzerland. But when the Swiss people voted about that, they said no (to my distress…).

The fact that everybody has health insurance is good. But mandatory health insurance should only cover important things (not a damn cold…). And it should be the same insurance for everybody. And it should be managed by the state.

To avoid this issue, you should read my health insurance guide.

2. The Billag tax is nonsense

This is probably the single thing that I despise the most about Switzerland.

The Billag tax is here to pay for Swiss Radio and Television. I do not have anything against this.

But I do not watch TV, and I do not listen to the radio. I do not even have TV channels at home. I only watch TV Shows and Movies. No need to waste time with advertisements. And in my case, I much enjoy my music and not the crap that is generally the current fashion of music. I do not understand popular music these days.

The problem is that even if you do not consume Swiss Radio or TV, you have to pay the Billag tax. This is nonsense. The tax is 450 CHF per year. Entirely wasted. And the worse is that we could have changed this.

In 2018, we had to vote to cancel this tax. The Swiss people refused to let go of a tax. We like paying tax in Switzerland, it seems!

The only good thing about this vote is that the tax was reduced to 365 CHF in 2019. Still too much, but a small saving nevertheless.

3. Real Estate in Switzerland is overpriced

Small houses in Switzerland
Small houses in Switzerland

I am not fond of Switzerland Real Estate.

Houses are costly. In my region, you rent a four-bedroom villa for about 2000 CHF. You can buy it for at least 600’000 CHF. And these are the lowest price here. And my region is not very expensive compared to some parts of Switzerland. That is already a price-to-rent ratio of 25, which is considered high.

Some regions and cities have much higher price-to-rent ratios. There is another big issue with owning a house in Switzerland. Even if you live in your house, you pay a tax as if you were getting rent out of it. It does not make sense. No wonders Switzerland is one of the countries with the lowest homeowners. The only advantage is that home loans are currently very low.

Even renting is very expensive here. And what I dislike the most is that most owners are protected. The rental leases are highly binding. You can only change to a new apartment on set dates around twice a year. And you have to pay a big guarantee for the rent.

In Switzerland, rent price is indexed to a reference interest rate. If the reference goes down, rents should go down. But you have to ask for a reduction yourself. It means hundreds of thousands of people are paying too much because they never ask for a reduction in rent. I can guarantee you that once the reference goes up, all the rents will go up without having to ask for it…

Overall, renting and buying a house in Switzerland is very expensive. And even with very low interest rates, buying a house in Switzerland is not a very good investment. I do not think it is a smart investment move to buy a house in Switzerland for living in. It is another story if it is the only way to live exactly where you want. And if you buy to rent to other people, it could be interesting. I am not entirely set on this subject. I do not like the current state of real estate in Switzerland.

4. Swiss Public Transportation is too expensive

Train next to moutains in Switzerland
The train next to the mountains in Switzerland

I hate the Swiss Public Transportation system. I did not realize this until I went to other countries. It is not the worse quality for sure. But the price is insane. It is not public transportation. It is rich transportation.

Going from my home to the city center costs 7.60 CHF. It is only a 20 minutes trip. And if I want to go back, I have to pay it again. No return ticket… Come on! Trains are even more expensive. A return ticket from my city (Fribourg) to Geneva cost 84 CHF! That is one hour and a half train. If you do not have an all-inclusive subscription, it is always better to take your car.

I am not the only one thinking like this. I have discussed this issue with many of my friends. They all think the same. If you live outside of a city, you must have a car. It is pointless to take public transportation. Even driving to the airport and paying for the parking for your car for several days is cheaper than going by train.

I have tried public transportation in Paris, Berlin, the US, and China. Everywhere it is better than in Switzerland. Our buses are changed way too regularly. But who cares if the bus has new seats every year. If I could pay five times less and take a bus that was 20 years old, I would!

Another big problem, in my opinion, is the train company. Before, it was a public company from the state. Now it is a private company but principally owned by the state. So the state is forcing the company to make a profit for the state. In many other countries, the state is financing public transportation to be public.

And things get even more expensive when you have several people. As soon as you have two or more people, a car is always cheaper, even factoring in the parking.

So yes, trains are always on time. Yes, they are generally clean and comfortable. But the price you pay for this premium is just insane. Everybody wants you to take public transportation, but nobody wants to lower its price…

5. Swiss Banks are not great

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Most foreigners are aware of Swiss banks. They have been known to be a tax haven for many years. Although this is not entirely true anymore. This makes most foreigners think that Swiss banks are great. But they are not. The Swiss bank offer is quite poor. Fees are high, and interests are low.

Currently, Switzerland bonds have a negative interest rate. And the best interest rate you can currently get in Switzerland in savings accounts is 0.2% but only under certain conditions. And checking accounts have up to 0.05% interest. Awesome, right? And it has been going down for a while now. Several banks are thinking of applying negative interest rates. Even third pillar accounts (retirement accounts) have incredibly low interests.

And the offer for credit cards is not very great either. They offer a very low bonus or very high fees. When you compare it with the US, it is a joke.

Only my emergency fund is in a bank account. If I find a better-yielding account, I will switch to another bank. If they start with a negative interest rate, I will invest most of it to avoid the negative yield.

And this is not the only problem with Swiss banks. Most of them have not evolved in a long time. They have bad applications, very long transfer times, and such.

Over the recent years, there have been some good changes. Today, the best banks are more digital than ever.

Conclusion

These are the things I hate the most about Switzerland. The public transportation system is probably the one thing I dislike the most about Switzerland. It is simply way too expensive. It is too fancy. I am also very vocal against the Billag tax. It is probably the bill that I hate paying the most every year. Because you pay for it even if you do not use any of the services it is used to finance.

As for real estate and the health insurance system, it is too expensive. Compared to many countries, it is tough to become a house owner in Switzerland. And finally, Swiss banks have an international reputation, but they do not offer anything good to ordinary citizens. They are just rich banks for the rich.

However, these things are far from enough to make me dislike Switzerland. I like living in Switzerland a lot. I like the mountains, the lakes, the calm, the chocolate, the cheese, and many other things. However, I wish these five things could be improved. If you are interested, you can also read about the 11 things I love about Switzerland.

Do you agree with me? Is there something else you hate about Switzerland?

Baptiste Wicht started thepoorswiss.com in 2017. He realized that he was falling into the trap of lifestyle inflation. He decided to cut his expenses and increase his income. This blog is relating his story and findings. In 2019, he is saving more than 50% of his income. He made it a goal to reach Financial Independence. You can send Mr. The Poor Swiss a message here.

43 thoughts on “5 Bad Things I Hate about Switzerland”

  1. The author wrote “I like living in Switzerland a lot. I like the mountains, the lakes, the calm, the chocolate, the cheese, and many other things”. The author didn’t know that all these exist in other places without negative sides of Switzerland and even more, swiss chocolate costs less in the US and Canada:-0

    1. I am well aware that most of the things I like about Switzerland exist in other countries.
      You mention Canada and it’s indeed a beautiful country (and not the only one matching some of these things). I also mention the smallness of Switzerland as an advantage and Canada is more than 200 times larger than Switzerland, definitely not in the list of small countries :)

    2. The things you mention may exist in America and Canada (except the cheese, it’s awful in America, and so-so in Canada which seems to ape America in a slightly more socially aware manner). But as for things like lakes, calm and mountains: sure they’re there, but (especially in the USA) completely inaccessible to a huge proportion of the population given the inequality. And America in particular is violent, with a huge underclass. Switzerland is not as extreme in these things. The cost of Swiss chocolate might be less in these places, but that’s a trivial benefit, and a completely irrelevant benefit to the hordes of people living in poverty. If I were poor, I’d much rather be Swiss than American, or even Canadian. Although if I were from the 3rd world, any of the 3 countries would be an improvement: which is probably why Switzerland puts up barriers to stop people from places like India etc. piling in – they’d be overwhelmed with people.

  2. Are you aware that the swiss federal government spends more for trains per capita (by far) than all the countries you have mentioned? The SBB gets subsidised quite heavily and your statement is defacto wrong.

    If you get a half-fare card (which is around 160CHF annually) most fares are halfed, meaning cheaper. Also I won’t even start comparing the prices to the UK where an annual ticket for one (!) train between two stations roughly 50min away is easily £2500 – 3000£ – you can get a GA for this amount in Switzerland which gives you access to all public transport in the whole country. If you do it smart public transport ia actually quite cheap.. it’s just expensive for the ones who use it very little ;)

    About the rents/housing market:
    Also, i can only compare it to the UK because that’s where I’m currently living:

    I thought it was great that your landlord (in Switzerland) can only adjust your rent if the reference interest rate changes. Here in the UK you get a 12-month contract (so you can’t move out 2 or 3 times a year like in Switzerland and after that your landlord can ask for more, there is no cap for how much they can increase the rent (welcome to capitalism). The market is absolutely not regulated and tennant’s protection is horrible. In Switzerland, if your tennant is moving out, you also can’t just increase your rent for the next tennant without adding value to the property whereas here in the UK (and I’m sure in the US as well) you can.

    Many major swiss cities also have a set proportion of non-profit housing from cooperatives “Genossenschaft” where you can get rents 40%-50% below the “normal” market price.

    I think it’s great that people who just come for big bucks pay “more” for their living (because they don’t quite know the system but also don’t care that much) and an average swiss person knows quite well how to live cheap-ish :-)

    1. The situation in Australia is similar. And housing in the big Australian cities is much more expensive than Switzerland and (apart from London too), unless you live in a sprawl suburb 50 miles out of the centre. You won’t get a 2 bedroom flat close to the city in Sydney or Melbourne for less than about AUD$1 million (about CHF750.000), and it will be in a rubbish new development too. Rents are consistently about 4-5% of total value p.a, so maybe not too expensive, but very expensive when you consider the average wage is less. Average couples now in Australia can never afford to own a home owing to rampant immigration levels (highest in OECD) and generous tax benefits to property investors (e.g. negative gearing and capital gains tax reductions of 50%). It’s a property disaster for young people. I own my own home in an inner suburb I bought 20 years ago: it’s not a grand house and worth over $1.5million now: ridiculous – it’s fake profit – if I sold it I’d just have to buy another one at an exorbitant price! I still think the Swiss model of property is superior, and life-long renting is a much better proposition than in Australia where you can only get a 12 month lease at the most.

    2. You can’t always just move out from houses here . Some places do have a yearly contract or so at a minimum . ALSO genossenschaft is for those with lower income . If you have a good job with a good income you are not likely to get a genossenschaft house

  3. In USA, it used to be people say they don’t take bus because they want the flexibility.
    Now, they changed. No, they still want the flexibility, but they complain that buses are dirty and not comfortable. blah blah.

    I live in LA. I don’t drive. I have been taking bus all my life. The buses are ok. They clean bus frequently. Of course, if you want 7 stars buses, that is not going to happen. It is up to standard. The problem is many American love to deface the public property. You just cannot do anything. Switzerland wants to make 7 star public transportation and make whoever operate make money. In USA, it is losing business. The government has to to subsidize buses and rails. For this, Republicans want to change (that scary, that mean 95% of public transportation will be eliminate) ok so much for politics

    I can see the irony that public transportation is so expensive that you have to make some money to use in Switzerland. That should not be the case. That should be more affordable. In USA, people (they claim they don’t drive) that they want the convenience and 7 stars. Did they say affordable? Good thing is USA, public transportation does not cost that much. Bad thing is, it does not go anywhere. In between, it is not fancy public transportation.

    One reason I want to travel to Switzerland is public transportation.

    Thanks for the heads up. Except to pay uber price on Switzerland public transportation.

    I cannot complain because I don’t drive

    1. Hi Traveller,

      Thanks a lot for sharing! It seems like the big difference is in the mentality of these two services.
      I have taken public transportation quite a few times in the US (in Berkeley/San Francisco mostly) and found it very affordable and absolutely acceptable in comfort. I would prefer this system than the one we have. But I think the big issue in the US is when you want to leave town, right?

  4. If you think peice-to-rent ratio of 25 is too high, come to Bavaria. Here 35 is considered cheap. Also mandatory health insurance in Germany is more expensive but quality is getting worse every year.

      1. I pay 465 euros for public health insurance including care insurance. Public health insurance offers very limited services so I have to pay extra for quite many things.

  5. Very interlist and You are bang on on housing and health insurance. However, while I get that you are annoyed at having to pay the Bilag although you do not use TV or radio, remember that the majority of people do. Even if you don’t that doesn’t mean you should not have to chip in. Such taxes can not exempt some people.

    Also, as someone who grew up in a different country, I fully get that you thonk that the Swiss public transport is too expensive, so do I but, and here’s the big but, unlike in many other countries, the Swiss public transport is among the most punctual in the world, is clean, modern and you can get to most places without using your car, even smaller villages. This punctuality and cleanliness would not be possible without the costs and many Swiss people are used to pay a high price (as you said, living here is expensive).

    Written by a Swiss Person.

    1. I would think that this should be included in what people pay for their TV subscriptions. They would then pay for what they consume and it would make more sense to me. That would also give an incentive to the public TV to get more consumers since today they basically get the subscription regardless of whether they do something good or not.

      It’s true that it’s punctual and clean. As for little villages, I do not really agree. Yes, you can get most places, but not always. For instance, in the village where I lived before, there was no service on Sundays. And at this time, there were three buses a day, that’s not very convenient.
      And there are many countries where you can get anywhere with public transportation once you combine subway, bus, and train. And so much cheaper…

    2. I do not agree with you at all.
      The trains are not punctual at all, they are also not clean.
      I have been in 50 countries so I can compare.
      I live in Morges, I worked in Lausanne.
      Almost everyday it was delay 3-15 minutes!!!!
      One day I was in Geneva, smth happened with the train and we needed to wait for bus, it was winter. We waited for it 1 hour, finally we returned to Geneva and took the car for 120 chf to go back to Morges.
      Young Swiss, they leave everywhere dirty and package after Mcdobalds, I mean in the train.

      1. Hi Nat

        Thanks for sharing. I never had many issues with punctuality, but I also had twice a train canceled and then had to take a bus and the information was really bad and we arrived at the destination several hours late.
        And many trains are not that clean indeed.

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