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8 reasons why Switzerland is better than Silicon Valley for Software Developers

swissgreg profile image SwissGreg Originally published at swissdevjobs.ch ・Updated on ・6 min read

This article was originally posted on swissdevjobs.ch - 8 reasons why Switzerland is better than Silicon Valley for Software Developers
If you happen to have a different view on some of the points, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

Silicon Valley is dead for Software Developers.

You can hear it from more and more people, either those who are living or considering living there.

Why is Silicon Valley dead for Developers?

  • Maybe it is because of the outrageous rents eating over 40% of the salary and houses you cannot afford unless you joined Facebook or Google at the right time?
  • Maybe it is because of the crunch work culture that squeezes out everything out of employees and only gives a payout to founders and VCs?
  • Or maybe it is because of the toxic culture, once welcoming and tolerant but now consisting of outrages on both political sides?

I can tell you one thing:

If you are a Software Developer living in Europe then there is a better place for you - and this place is Switzerland.

There are 8 reasons why I personally find Switzerland much better for the fellow Software Engineer:

  1. Accommodation:

    While Swiss cities regularly take the first ranks in "The 10 most expensive places to live" lists, the rent prices are still more affordable (even for people working outside of Software Development).

    In Zurich, you can rent a whole flat (60+ square meters) for something between 2500-4000 CHF (4000 CHF would be in city center) and if you are single and open to living with other people you can find a room in something called Wohngemeinde for as little as 800-1000 CHF.

    Alternatively, you can rent a flat outside of Zurich for 2000 CHF and have only a 30 min drive to the work with a Swiss train.

    What you will get for these prices in Silicon Valley?

    Sillicon Valley living pod

    A 1200 USD living pod in San Francisco

  2. Working hours:

    Swiss standard work week is 42.5 hours (a little bit more than in other European countries) which might seem similar to SV but there is one big caveat - you are not expected to do overtime, even if you work at a startup.

    There is no weekend grinding culture like in SV. In Switzerland, you give your best form 9 to 6 but after work you have your own life - you can go hiking or swimming in the lake.

    What's the benefit of living in the sunny California if you cannot actually enjoy it?

    Beautiful Grindelwald in Switzerland

    How about spending the weekend here, instead of at work?

  3. Transport and distances:

    Switzerland is relatively small - with the area of 41,285 km2 it is less than 1/10th the size of California. It also has probably the best public transport system in the world. Swiss railways, while being a little expensive, are super punctual and very convenient to use - you can live in the countryside and still have a 30 min commute to your workplace.

    Switzerland has only 8.4 million residents (only Los Angeles itself has 4 million residents) and is far from being crowded.

    Compare it to living outside of San Francisco and having a 2h drive to work EVERY DAY.

    Traffic jam in Bay Area

    How about not spending your entire life in a car?

  4. Money:

    In Switzerland a Software Developer can easily earn over 100,000 CHF (1 CHF is around 1 USD) which is far higher than in any other European country (except maybe for UK/London).

    The ranges based on work experience are the following (base salary):

    • 60,000 up to 90,000 CHF - Junior Software Engineer with 0 up to 2 years of experience
    • 90,000 up to 120,000 CHF - Regular Software Developer with 2 up to 5 years of experience
    • 120,000 CHF and more - Senior Developers with more than 5 years of experience (depends on the company)

    What is important to point out?

    The fact, that in Switzerland the compensation structure is generally 85-95% base salary and 5-15% annual bonus. Companies that offer stock options are generally rare which means less upside potential but you receive more money upfront.

    One could say that this is nothing impressive compared to earning 200-300,000 USD in Silicon Valley but if you account for the cost of living and the fact that only the top developers earn more than 200,000 USD in SV (source: PayScale) then it's starting to look much better for Switzerland.

  5. Taxes:

    If you are outraged by the 35% tax on your income + the California state tax, you will find Switzerland a tax heaven. On average, you will pay less than 25% of your income in taxes (and that includes the 401k social contribution equivalent).

    An important note here: taxes vary much between cantons and even cities and municipalities. You can find places where your total taxes will be around 10% (some cities in the German part of Switzerland, like Zug) but there are some, where it will be around 40% - mostly in the French part (Geneva)

    Taxes comparison countries

    I like my taxes low

  6. Healthcare:

    Switzerland has a quite unique and effective healthcare system which is both very high quality and affordable.

    It is based on an obligatory private insurance where the insurance companies are quite regulated and works as following:

    • You pick your insurance company and decide how much franchise you are willing to pay, between 300 and 2500 CHF
    • Franchise is the maximal healthcare cost that you are going to pay full in a given year
    • After you reach the threshold, the insurance company comes in and you only pay 10% of the remaining costs

    If you want to save on the premium and keep yourself healthy then you pick the 2500 franchise and pay as little as 300 CHF per month for healthcare insurance.

    USA medical bill receipt

    Sorry U.S. - it's only you with the crazy healthcare costs

  7. Inclusiveness and less inequality:

    Swiss society is built on the principle of local communities and public engagement. Swiss people have a high sense of ownership and like to decide on how the things are shaped around them.

    This might seem too restrictive for some people because of some seemingly silly rules, like: no laundry on Sunday but it leads to a generally happy society which is able to solve its problems.

    Swiss direct democracy gives the people the power to directly decide on the issues and initiatives. It is also worth to mention that the income inequality is far less common in Switzerland than in the United States. You will see rich bankers in Ferraris and Lamborghinis but it's very rare to meet a homeless person.

  8. Tolerance and diversity:

    Finally, Switzerland seems far more welcoming and relaxed when it comes to society and culture. There is no public outrage or political correctness that creeps around you and, at the same time, the society enjoys the benefits of diversity - over 25% of Swiss residents are immigrants.

    Swiss Alphorn

    Swiss people enjoying being Swiss :)

If this article got you interested in finding a job in Switzerland you are on the right site! SwissDev Jobs is a job board dedicated for Software Developers - you can check out the job offers here.

We also wrote a Guide how to find a job in Switzerland - check it out!

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Discussion

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freelion93 profile image
Nikita Lvov

If you are into the things that you had described then you have to try out Russia with 13% taxes, free healthcare, cheap accommodations, great territory to explore....

Long story short - way more benefits for good devs rather than any EU country can provide

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lbeul profile image
Louis

But how's the salary in Russia? It has to be somewhat around 7.000.000 RUB to be even comparable to Switzerland, UK or the US.

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freelion93 profile image
Nikita Lvov

Good case to be 4kk RUB (~55k $ brutto) somewhere in Moscow or Saint-Petersburg
... But consider:

  • More cheaper rent
  • More cheaper food
  • Good connection to worldwide destinations (Russia is between Europe and Asia)
  • More paid-off days (28 vacation days + 14 holiday days which are paid by employer too = 42 days vacation)
  • Most of IT-companies offer free gym + free additional medical insurance
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mikaoelitiana profile image
Mika Andrianarijaona

Thanks for sharing this @swissgreg . I personnaly also believe Switzerland is more interesting than SV but I think it's more difficult to get a swiss work permit than SV for non European people. I once applied for one job there and the first question I was asked is if I am european or not, otherwise the company would not even consider my application.

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swissgreg profile image
SwissGreg Author

Yes, indeed it is quite difficult to obtain a work permit in Switzerland when you are not a Swiss or EU citizen. Basically, in order to hire a non-EU resident, the companies have to prove that they could not find a matching candidate in Switzerland or EU (and not many companies are willing to go this hurdle)

The easiest way is probably through the big companies - there are: Google (big office ), Microsoft, Facebook and Apple (smaller offices) in Zurich.

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mikaoelitiana profile image
Mika Andrianarijaona

Thanks for the advice. Also I see there is a "Only with Visa sponsorship" checkbox on your website. Maybe that is a way to find companies that are open to help there.

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swissgreg profile image
SwissGreg Author

This might be helpful as well :)

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acupoftee profile image
Elisabeth Diang 🌻

Thank you for the insightful post. I’ve been searching for alternatives to SV for a while now, and this came at a perfect time since my sister is moving to Switzerland. It certainly is important to discuss since SV is propagated as the bastion for successful engineers while glossing over its trade offs.

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loriick profile image
Travailleur Lorick

I want to work in Switzerland now

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david_j_eddy profile image
David J Eddy

I have looked at Belgium off and on over the years. But now I have to consider Switzerland. Sounds amazing!

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yaser profile image
Yaser Al-Najjar

Thanks for the article!

Out of curiosity, if you don't mind, why do you choose Poland for living as a developer?

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swissgreg profile image
SwissGreg Author

Thanks!

Poland is the country where I come from (despite the nickname). I spent a couple of years working as a Developer in Switzerland but now I am back due to my family.

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eddisonhaydenle profile image
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jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel Fayard πŸ‡«πŸ‡·πŸ‡©πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡¬πŸ‡§πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¨πŸ‡΄

The biggest reason for me to be in Europe is that our cities do not suck.

I was in the Californian suburban wasteland early this year, I do not want to live there!

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igorganapolsky profile image
Igor Ganapolsky

Which Swiss companies you recommend for remote/telecommute software developers in USA?

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swissgreg profile image
SwissGreg Author

It's quite hard, since Swiss companies aren't keen with the remote work culture.

One that I know is: numbrs.com/en_uk/careers/open-posi...

Otherwise, you can have a look at: remoteok.io

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hideodaikoku profile image
Hideo Daikoku

What’s the best way to look for jobs in Switzerland and what are some good companies to work for?

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swissgreg profile image
SwissGreg Author

I wrote a guide about looking for a job as a Software Developer in Switzerland which you can find here: swissdevjobs.ch/blog/how-to-find-j...

As for the good companies: there are many hidden gems - small companies that are doing interesting things, so it's hard to point out only a few. It also depends on which industry you would be aiming to work in.

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jeanbaeez profile image
Jean baez

Right... despite the fact that this article was written for a Swiss webpage.... this is subjective...

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swissgreg profile image
SwissGreg Author

Yes, it is. Therefore, always take the opinion with a grain of salt :)