Updated 24 July 2023
As an SAP consultant, your specialised skills grant you a certain level of flexibility to choose when, where, and who you work for. Among the myriad of potential destinations, Switzerland often stands out. With its attractive blend of a thriving business ecosystem, rich culture, stunning natural landscapes, and high standard of living, it has become a popular choice for many professionals. However, before you embark on this new professional journey, there are several essential factors you need to consider. Let’s delve into these to better understand what working in Switzerland entails.
The Demand for SAP Consultants in Switzerland
The demand for SAP consultants in Switzerland is consistently high. This demand is driven by several factors that make the Swiss business environment uniquely suited for these professionals.
Switzerland is home to 15 Fortune 500 companies, demonstrating a robust and thriving economy with a diverse mix of industries. These industries – banking, insurance, pharmaceuticals, bio and microtechnology, and import-export sectors – are increasingly reliant on SAP technologies to streamline operations, manage resources, and boost overall efficiency.
These industries present numerous opportunities for SAP consultants to apply their expertise. From system implementation and upgrades to problem-solving and business process improvement, the role of SAP consultants is critical. Consequently, a wide variety of SAP jobs are available, offering different levels of seniority, spanning from junior consultant roles to high-level managerial positions.
Moreover, Switzerland’s international business outlook and the presence of multinational companies mean many positions include added benefits. These benefits often extend beyond competitive remuneration and can include flight and accommodation provisions and expense reimbursements. Therefore, working in Switzerland as an SAP consultant does not merely represent a step forward in terms of career growth, but it also offers a holistic experience that can improve your quality of life.
Salaries, Day Rates, and Cost of Living in Switzerland
The offered day rate or salary may pleasantly surprise you as they often seem high compared to other European nations. However, the cost of living in Switzerland is higher than its neighbouring countries. Hence, you’ll need to factor in the cost of goods and renting, which can vary depending on whether you live in a city or a town.
Although the Swiss Franc (CHF) is a strong currency and provides a comfortable lifestyle, this will depend on your financial commitments.
Cost of Living in Switzerland vs UK
Working Requirements: Limited Companies and Taxes
Switzerland mandates SAP contractors to either work for or own a Swiss-registered company. To secure work and ensure swift payments, partnering with a payroll company is recommended. They handle the visa process, tax issues, and ensure prompt payments.
Swiss income tax rates rank among the lowest in Europe. However, tax calculations can be complex, involving factors such as age, nationality, marital status, spouse’s employment status, number of children, and church affiliations. To avoid this complexity, many SAP consultants—and even some Swiss nationals—opt to use a payroll company.
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.
According to the European Transport Safety Council, Switzerland is the safest country in Europe for driving.
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 license translation.
After a year, you should have converted your license to a valid Swiss license. Again, citizens from the EEA can do this without a driving test.
There are different regulations you will need to consider when driving your car. Drivers from Great Britain, for example, require:
- A GB sticker on the rear of the vehicle.
- Car insurance certificate
- Warning triangle
- Headlamp converters (for driving on the opposite side of the road),
- Motorway sticker (you can buy this at the border)
- Snow chains (if poor weather)
- If you wear glasses – a spare pair. Read more about driving regulations.
Switzerland is a linguistically diverse country, sharing borders with Germany, France, Italy, Austria, and Liechtenstein, and accordingly, the country’s official languages include German, French, Italian, and Romansh, a Latin descendant. Each region’s language generally corresponds to the language of its neighbouring country. For instance, Zurich and Basel primarily speak German, while French is prevalent in Geneva. Moreover, there are regions where bilingualism and trilingualism are common.
Despite the multiplicity of official languages, a significant portion of the Swiss population—around 40%—is proficient in English. However, it’s important to note that English, while acknowledged as a business language, is not commonly used in day-to-day interactions. As such, it’s beneficial to acquire basic knowledge of the official language of your area of residence, not just for practical purposes, but also to aid in your cultural integration.
Cultural Landscape of Switzerland
The cultural landscape of Switzerland is as diverse as its language groups. Generally, the German-speaking regions tend to lean toward calm and orderliness. Conversely, the Italian and Romansh regions promote a stronger sense of community, while the French areas strike a balance between the two.
This cultural diversity is reflected in Swiss cuisine as well. From cheese-laden dishes and quiches in the German regions to pasta and pizza offerings in the Italian areas, the country’s culinary scene is as varied as its languages. In rustic countryside restaurants, known as grottoes, you can indulge in traditional dishes surrounded by scenic forests. And let’s not forget the internationally loved Swiss chocolate, fondue cheeses, and a variety of wines.
While Swiss people tend to be traditionally-minded, reserved, and conservative, this can initially seem daunting for newcomers. However, understanding and adapting to this unique cultural ethos usually comes easily to foreign workers over time.
Given Switzerland’s breathtaking landscapes of lakes, rivers, and mountains, outdoor activities are widely popular. From mountain biking, tennis, and swimming to more unique pastimes such as Swiss wrestling—a traditional folk wrestling style—there’s no shortage of sports for any enthusiast. The presence of vast ski resorts like St. Moritz also makes winter sports such as ice hockey, skiing, and curling a favourite among locals and visitors alike.
Switzerland also boasts a rich heritage in the arts, featuring visual arts, music, dance, poetry, and literature. Traditional crafts like carving and embroidery, as well as a unique architectural style, further enrich the country’s cultural tapestry.
Location location location
The biggest locations for business in Switzerland are Zurich, Basel, Geneva and the surrounding areas, where most of the SAP jobs are also 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.