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5 Bad Things I Hate about Switzerland

Baptiste Wicht | Updated: |

(Disclosure: Some of the links below may be affiliate links)

No country is perfect. You can relate to that in 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 monthly 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 a simple cold.

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 yearly. 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 Serafe tax is nonsense

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

The Serage (previous 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 music fashion. I do not understand popular music these days.

The problem is that even if you do not consume Swiss Radio or TV, you must pay the Serafe tax. This is nonsense. The tax is 365 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 taxes 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 number of 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 that once the reference goes up, all the rents will go up without asking 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 costs 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 SBB/CFF. 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. When 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. However, 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.

For many years, Swiss bonds have even had a negative interest rate. The best interest rate you can currently get in Switzerland in savings accounts is 1.5%, but only under certain conditions. Awesome, right? 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 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 what 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 I hate paying the most every year because I pay for it even if I do not use any of the services it finances.

As for real estate and the health insurance system, it is too expensive. Compared to many countries, becoming a house owner in Switzerland is tough. 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?

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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. Since 2019, he has been 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.

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

  1. I agree about everything you say here, including the transportation. I decided to ride my bike all the time and will not buy the halb pass this year, because it is not worth it to occasionally use the tram when snowing or raining or just to get to Zurich airport once a year. No matter our salaries, everything is too expensive here, as it is 100% profit driven and very little thought(or money) is given to government subsidies or public services. Only through church-Kanton partnerships can people receive any governmental assistance and mostly it goes to people’s private health insurance when they are poor, only.

  2. I disagree with you on public transport.

    The public transport is pricey but not overpriced by western European standards if you have at least the 1/2-tariff card and you take into account the high average swiss salary. Also, the quality, the number of connections, and the timeliness of the Swiss trains are unparalleled.
    Compare how much e.g. a French nurse makes compared to a Swiss one and what is the price of trains in France.
    Also, there are many ways to save even more with on swiss trains.
    – Tickets-abos for kids < 16 are cheap. < 6 is for free.
    – If you're < 25 you can buy a cheap annual subscription and you ride for free everywhere in the mornings and evenings.
    – There are supersaver tickets you can buy in advance and sometimes save quite a lot of %.
    – You can buy day passes from the commune for ~ 40-50 CHF (even for someone without the 1/2-tariff card, good for a return day trip across Switzerland or if you have friends from abroad without the 1/2-tarif coming to visit.

    Of course, if you have a big family or you like going into the mountains a lot then a car is not only practical and economical but even necessary. No arguments there.

    Also, as a small side note, before they made the latest changes to the billag tax (after the failed referendum), you were able to opt out of paying the TV tax (not the radio tax, though) by simply calling billag and telling them that you have no TV. In my case that meant I was paying only 120 CHF / year. Now that they changed the system, it is not possible anymore to opt out of anything and I have to pay 365/year like everyone else.

    1. Hi Jan,

      Thanks for sharing your opinion on public transportation!

      With commune tickets, you have indeed a good deal and we are always trying to use them. But there are very few of them, so when they are gone, it gets a ton more expensive.
      We recently went to Davos (with our car) and calculated that with county tickets it would have cost us twice more and with normal tickets, four times more, so for me, it’s definitely too expensive.

      It’s true that the quality and timeliness of the trains and buses in Switzerland is quite good. But in my opinion this is not worth the high premium.

      Yes, the new Serafe tax sucks for people who did not pay for TV before :(

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Hello,
    I know this is an old article, but since I have read quite a big portion of your blog (quarantine) and I almost never comment on anything on the internet, I strongly feel that I need to offer a different perspective of an EU-citizen living in Switzerland for a couple of years.
    But first huge thanks for this blog – your writing is engaging and to the point. It introduced me to some new realms and maybe even inspired me to start investing .) I never cared much about my money. I have been earning well and want to keep working till my late retirement just because I enjoy my work; it keeps me feel alive and in contact with the world. I naturally don’t spend much so I do have some decent savings; however, it is always good to look at things differently too. You provided me this view through your blog.

    1. Health insurance.
    I work in the health-care, so I mostly profit from the high costs. However, I also like things to be efficient and not overpriced. At first I was shocked looking at the comparison of health-care costs in different countries finding CH in the top positions just behind the infamous USA. I was also astonished to see how much my patients have to pay. But soon I realized that the costs for single procedures, material, medication are actually not that different from the rest of Europe. What makes this system really expensive is the mentality of the Swiss health-care providers and their desire for perfection. Everything has to be examined to the highest standards regardless of the probability of the certain condition; many of my colleagues feel somehow insecure if the did not order many different tests all at once – not waiting for the results of the “simpler”, hence cheaper ones, and then seek further in more detail. Switzerland is a paradise for any medical student or young resident, because you very often just investigate for the investigation (without any impact on the possibility of treatment or patient’s life). It makes somehow sense in academia, but never at the expenses of the patient. It is crazy. I don’t get this defensive mentality. Suing for malpractice here is by no means as common as for instance in the USA, where it is one of the factors driving the costs so high.
    That said, the price for insurance is actually quite good for what you get. In most of the EU countries with a “free health-care system” and a compulsory medical insurance, you have something like a health-tax (% of your income). This tax is often much higher than what you pay in Switzerland. I also like the idea of deductible – something which should prevent the excessive usage of the health-care system (believe me, the Swiss are much less likely to go to an Emergency department in a big hospital with a splinter than many of their fellow Europeans, who usually have to pay just a couple of Euros for such a visit). I am, however, not very fond of the huge offer of different health-insurance companies. The bureaucracy connected with the health insurance of my patients takes a significant amount of my time.

    2. Swiss public transport.
    You are right, that the prices are insanely high. But everything is much more affordable if you obtain any reduction like for instance the “demi-tarif” (which almost everyone of my friends has – I live in a town). So the prices remain really high for people who use the service very infrequently or those who come to visit, hence for the tourists (all of our friends from abroad come by car btw.). Again, similar to the health-care, you get a perfect service for your money.

    3. Swiss banks
    As many foreigners, I thought that the banking system here had to be something special. After coming here and looking for a first decent bank-account, I was so disappointed. Not just that the offer is/was bad and expensive but the service was not good either. The e-banking was a nightmare, the offer of bank/credit cards a disaster… I still did not find a comparable CHF account to my EUR. So unlike the two previous categories, with the swiss banking the price does not correspond to the service.

    All in all this country has its problems like any other. Nevertheless, regardless of your financial and social status, your life here can be much simpler and nicer than anywhere else in the world.
    I wish you a happy family life and a safe path to achieve your goals. Just don’t forget that saving and money isn’t everything ;)

    1. Hi DH,

      Don’t hesitate to comment on old articles, that’s no issue :)
      Thanks a lot for your kind words. I am glad my blog made you see things a bit differently :)

      1) Thanks for your point of view. It’s great to have information from the inside :) I did not know there was such a defensive system here. I always considered it normal. But now that I think of it, it is true that my doctor has a tendency to do a blood test early on when something is not right. And in the end, they never found anything. So I am wondering if there was any reason to do it in the first place.

      2) You get a good service, I agree. But I do not think this is a fair price for the service. Once you get a demi-tarif, it gets quite fair indeed. But without it, it’s not that good. I would prefer a worse service with older buses at half the price of the current system.

      3) No arguing here, there is really nothing great about Swiss banks for their customers, unless you are rich. But now, some banks are starting to propose some better solutions like Neon and Zak.

      Now, I completely agree that there is no perfect country. But Switzerland is quite close to being perfect. Even though there are things I hate, I would not want to move :)

      Stay safe and healthy!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. One thing I hate about Switzerland is the way they treat unfortunate fates. 10 years ago, I went to a doctor to treat my depression that made me leave grammar school. I was sent to a mental hospital and numbed with heavy drugs. Since then I strictly had to obey orders from care personnel. It’s only now that I have a prospect to maybe work a normal job one day. I’m a healthy, motivated and bright young man and I always was. I don’t know why this country had to steal 10 years of my life just because I wanted a short treatment for my depression. Maybe it’s related to the health insurance industry in Switzerland. I was one of those who had to abuse it by taking extremely expensive drugs I didn’t even need. I’m learning new languages, job skills, social skills all by myself and I do everything to keep myself healthy. But they don’t let me lead a normal life.

    1. Hi Johannes,

      I am sorry to hear about your experience! It is sad that they do not let people choose to have a smaller treatment sometimes! Usually, it’s the contrary, they encourage people to get under-cured.

      Thanks for sharing! And good luck reclaiming your life!

    1. Hi Arthur,

      That’s a great suggestion! I am already using these cards (county day cards, for lack of a better translation) as often as possible. It is really great if you can snatch them up.

      But I didn’t know this website. This is really helpful!

      I never got them so cheap though. In my county, I think they are 36 CHF, last time I bought them.

      Is there really a limit of 2 cards, I never heard about that limit? I was thinking you could buy as many cards as available that day.

      Thanks a lot for stopping by!

  5. One thing that I find extremely lousy in Switzerland (being a father of two) : (nearly inexistant) paternity leave.
    Most companies give one or two days only. One day to drive future mommy to the hospital, one to get her back, I suppose. And don’t talk about false alerts…
    According to the law, no day off needs to be granted at all for daddy !
    You usually get more days off for a wedding ! (3 in my company)
    That’s how Switzerland encourages parenting…

    1. Oh yes, I forgot about this one. I’m not yet a father but plan to be one one day. My company allows me 5 days paternity leave I think. I completely agree that this should be improved. At least 2 weeks ago for the father should be necessary.

      Thanks for stopping by JB!

      1. Oh guess what… They just updated the rules today… daddies get 5 days off too now in my company… dammit we were just 5 months early this year… :D

  6. I think what you are not considering is that in Switzerland salaries are also much higher than in other countries. And while we pay a lot for health insurance so do most other people, they are just often deducted in a different way – for instance in the form of taxes. Could the system be better and cheaper? Yes, but we also get a lot for our money.

    And regarind public transport I would completely disagree: Switzerland has one of the best and in comparison not very expensive public transport systems in the world. Have you been to the UK for instance? For the price of a GA here you might be able to travle in the greater London area for a year. Do you have a “Halbtax”? Because the price you show is probably the price without and the Halfprice Ticket makes sense very quickly. You can also get great offers with “Sparbillete” if you do a bit of planning. If you commute for work and get a yearly ticket it acutally isn’t that expensive per trip (and don’t forget that you can deduct it from you taxes).

    1. Hello Nina

      I’m considering this. I have a good Swiss salary that I guess would seem very high to a lot of other countries. Yes, some countries pay even more than us in health insurance. And some countries pay much more tax than us. We get a lot for our money if we use it. I never had anything reimbursed by my health insurance in more than 10 years. I very rarely go to the doctor. So I’m only using my deductible. And yet, the price still increases steadily every year. All this because some people are abusing the system and the system can be abused. We should get less and pay less. The mandatory health insurance should only cover very few things that people could not cover themselves, hospital for instance.

      No, I’ve never been to the UK ;) Interesting that the greater London area has actually more people than Switzerland. I’m sure our system is not the worst, but it feels really bad to use it. We soon have to take the train. We chose the train only because my previous company would not cover car fees for the trip. That’s their loss, but it ends up being about three times more expensive than going by car.
      Half Price plan is actually a great bargain. It does make sense quite quickly indeed ;)
      I’ve only used once sparbillette (supersaver tickets :P). My problem is that they are not always accessible. But they do offer nice bargains again. I’ve also used many times the daily cards from my county. For a reasonable price, I can travel all day.
      If you commute by work every day and you do a long trip, a GA makes sense, but it depends where you live. In my village, public transportation is very few times a day. I cannot use it for work. For people like me that have a car, public transportation feels insanely expensive because it’s always cheaper to take our car.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  7. I guess health insurance subsidizes hospitalization for does don’t have insurance. It is okay in my opinion. The problem with collecting taxes is they are never spent where they should be. That’s a problem with politicians all over the world. In my state additional property taxes goes towards funding unsustainable pension obligations. As long as there is a need based taxes …it should be okay.

    1. I agree that for hospital, health insurance is great!

      The problem is that people are using it for very small thing. Oh, I got a splinter, let’s go to the doctor, my insurance will pay… The health insurance should not cover this. This drives the price up.
      Yes, it’s difficult to understand exactly what is done with each tax we pay.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      1. “Oh, I got a splinter, let’s go to the doctor, my insurance will pay”. This is how it work in Germany. In Switzerland the deductible is there exactly to motivate people to keep the costs down.

      2. Hi Zoltan,

        I didn’t know it was the same in Germany. The problem is that some people are choosing the smallest deductible and still go to the doctor for splinters :s
        But most people are indeed not doing that because of the deductible! Which is very good.

        Thanks for stopping by :)

  8. I couldn’t disagree with any of those versus the US except for your complaint about health insurance being expensive. I pay $1309 per month for me and my wife here versus your $235. Excuse me but that seems ridiculously low to me, what you pay! The other stuff is high, sure, but you are getting a huge bargain on the insurance I’d say, by US standards anyway.

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