Working as an SAP contractor gives you the freedom to choose when, where and who you work for. One popular destination is Switzerland – the benefits include the culture, the scenery, the cities and the outstanding quality of life in general. Before you pack your bags though, there are a few things you need to consider.
Demand for SAP consultants in Switzerland
SAP consultants are always in demand in Switzerland. With 15 Fortune 500 companies based here, the economy relies heavily on the skilled workforce – the strongest sectors being banking, insurance, pharmaceuticals, bio and microtechnology and import-export sectors.
You will find a wide variety of SAP jobs in these industries as well as a range of seniorities. The inclusion of flights, accommodation and expenses varies from role to role.
Salaries, day rates and cost of living in Switzerland
You will be pleasantly surprised at the day rate or salary you are offered, as this will seem high in comparison to elsewhere in Europe. However, the cost of living in Switzerland is higher than in its neighbouring countries so this needs to be factored in. The cost of goods and renting also vary depending on whether you live in a city or a town, you can see here for average prices of goods and services.
The Swiss Franc (CHF) is a very strong currency, therefore people in Switzerland are able to afford a comfortable lifestyle, but this will naturally depend on your financial commitments.
Are limited companies required to work as a contractor in Switzerland?
In Switzerland, you are required to work for or own a Swiss registered company. This means that if you are a contractor, the easiest way to secure work and have your payments processed quickly is through a payroll company. Whilst this is an expense, the benefits are they will handle the visa process, prompt payments and all tax issues.
Income tax in Switzerland
Swiss income tax rates are some of the lowest in Europe. Calculating tax is complex as there are many things taken into account, including age, nationality, marital status, spouse’s age and employment status, number of children and their age, and any affiliations to a church. For this reason, the easiest way to manage your wages if you are an SAP consultant is by using a payroll company, a method even used by some Swiss nationals. To ensure compliance and avoid the burden of risk that usually falls onto the director of the company, many Swiss companies often also prefer to use payroll companies to manage their contractors.
All foreign workers require a permit to be able to work in Switzerland. There are different permits depending on your country of origin, your skills and the immigration quotas.
If you are a citizen of the European Economic Area (EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway), you can be in Switzerland for up to three months to visit, to look for a job or to work, without a residence permit. Once you start working, you are required to register your employment. If you are an SAP consultant working for three months only, we still recommend you to apply for a residence permit as this will allow you to be prepared in case your contract gets extended after the three month period – applications can take time to process and you could end up working illegally if you don’t have a permit. Also, permits are not guaranteed even with a work contract regardless of your country of origin. There are lots of different permit categories; a good option for consultants commuting on a daily or weekly basis is the G permit, for cross-border commuters.
If you are from a non-EEA country, you must have a guaranteed work contract from an employer as well as an appropriate work visa before arriving. If a large company is supporting the visa process (via a work contract), obtaining a work permit generally has a higher chance of succeeding.
Read more on Switzerland’s work permits and status for British citizens following Brexit.
In Switzerland, the culture in the workplace is very formal – office wear and referring to colleagues by their last names is the norm. Some other things to take in consideration:
- Organisation, productivity, punctuality and tolerance are core values in the workplace.
- Companies discourage overtime and encourage employees to take vacation time.
- Unless it is an emergency, it is not acceptable to call co-workers after office hours.
- Business meetings are usually brief and to the point. Bringing a small gift to give at the end is a good idea – a notebook, coffee mug, or pen with your company’s logo.
- People do not kiss in the cheek unless it is a close friend or relative. A handshake and eye contact is the norm when greeting others, especially in business meetings.
- If you receive an invitation to someone’s house, you should always accept it. Taking wine, flowers or chocolate for the host is considered polite.
- Spouses and long-term partners are generally welcome to business dinners and holiday events.
Switzerland is the safest country in Europe for driving, according to the European Transport Safety Council.
All foreign driving licenses are valid in Switzerland for a year as long as the driver is 18+ years old and the license is in a language recognised by the Swiss authorities (English, French, German or Italian); otherwise you will require an International Driver’s license or an International Driving Permit (IDP), which includes a translation of the license.
After a year, you should have converted your license to a valid Swiss license. Citizens from the EEA are able to do this without a driving test.
There are different regulations you will need to take in consideration when driving your own car. Drivers from Great Britain for example, require a GB sticker on the back of the car, a car insurance certificate, a warning triangle, headlamp converters (for driving on the opposite side of the road), a motorway sticker (you can buy this at the border), snow chains (if poor weather) and if you wear glasses – a spare pair. Read more about driving regulations.
Switzerland shares borders with Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein and also shares its languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh (a descendant language from Latin), with German being the most predominant. As a general rule, the language spoken in each area of the country would be the same as the language from the nearest neighbouring country, i.e. Zurich and Basel would be predominantly German speaking while people in Geneva would speak French, but there are also bilingual and trilingual areas.
In addition to their four official languages, currently 40% of the Swiss population speaks English. Although English is a business language, it is not widely used day to day, therefore it is beneficial to learn the basics of one of their official languages, which will also help you adapt to the community.
With a difference in languages, culture can also be different in different parts of the country, with the German speaking area being quieter and organised, the Italian and Romansh areas having a more community atmosphere and the French area somewhere in between.
You can also see the influence in the food – with some dishes involving potatoes and cheese or quiches and tarts, but also with pizza and pasta options. You can find traditional dishes in the grottoes – countryside restaurants usually surrounded by forest. Other traditional products are chocolate, fondue cheeses and wines.
Culturally, Swiss people are very traditional, reserved and conservative which can make some new arrivals feel lonely, however, once they understand the culture, most foreign workers adapt quite easily.
Due to the beautiful landscape with lakes and rivers and the proximity to the mountains, sports and outdoor activities are very popular. Mountain biking, tennis, swimming, sailing, fishing, shooting and Swiss wrestling – a style of folk wrestling native to Switzerland – are popular, but there is also a range of winter sports like ice hockey, skiing and curling that people enjoying practicing in the wide range of ski resorts like St. Moritz.
On the cultural side, visual arts, music, dance, poetry, literature are part of the Swiss heritage, as well as carving, embroidery and architecture.
Location location location
The biggest locations for business in Switzerland are Zurich, Basel, Geneva and the surrounding areas, where also most of the SAP jobs are based.
Zurich is the financial hub of Switzerland and the heart of the world’s largest stock exchange. It is a beautiful city with great infrastructure and considered one of the best places to live in the world. English is widely spoken in Zurich and therefore one of the preferred locations for SAP consultants. There is lots to do in Zurich, from museums and galleries to a visit to the medieval old town or a stroll along the river, but it is also really close to areas for hiking, wake boarding, sailing, cycling and climbing.
Basel is in the border with France and Germany. It is a cosmopolitan town near the famous river Rhine where locals and tourists swim in the summer, and with plenty of historic sites and beautiful modern architecture. Basel has a high quality lifestyle, and as it is not as big as Zurich and Geneva, it is easy to get around by bike and starting to recognise other locals, giving a village-like feeling and making it a great place for families.
Geneva is the second largest city in Switzerland and the headquarters of the United Nations and other international organisations. The population is multilingual, with people speaking French, English, Spanish and German. Geneva has great transport and cycling networks, has lots of parks and museums and it is really close to Lake Leman. Due to the limited housing options and high cost, workers from Geneva tend to leave across the border in neighbouring France where they can find larger family homes.
Other good reasons to move to Switzerland
If you haven’t already made up your mind, here are some other things to help convince you:
- Per capita, Switzerland has the highest consumption of chocolate in the world.
- Half of the world’s luxury watches produced are made in Switzerland.
- Switzerland is home to the world’s largest nuclear shelter, the Sonnenberg Tunnel, which can house up to 20,000 people.
- The Anti PowerPoint Party is a political party that promotes the decrease of PowerPoint in presentations. Last year they received over 4300 votes!
- Foreigners make up 25% of Switzerland’s population.
- Switzerland has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe.
- The World Wide Web was invented by Tim Berners Lee whilst working as a contractor at CERN, Geneva in 1989.
If you would like to know more about our current SAP opportunities in Switzerland, get in touch with one of our specialist DACH region consultants.