Welcome to another edition of Dear Frau. It’s kind of like Dear Abby, except with an international twist. Remember, if you’ve got a question about living in Switzerland or moving to Switzerland, don’t hesitate to contact The Frau.
I am currently investigating the option of expat versus local Swiss contract for work at a company in the Baden area. As an American, what are the benefits of both from your perspective? Also, is there a contact of yours that may be able to share their perspective of a local Swiss contract with elementary-aged children that initially came from the States?
Expat Or Local
Dear Expat Or Local,
|Free flights home: one benefit of an expat contract|
Unless you know you want to live in Switzerland forever, an expat contract is nice work–if you can get it. Unfortunately, more and more companies are taking away many of the benefits typically offered by expat contracts. So it’s hard for The Frau to tell you what’s best without knowing your exact options. However, expat contracts usually are financially advantageous (although they can be emotionally challenging because you’ll probably end up living in limbo).
The Frau has no way of knowing what your expat contract terms may be. So she will make them up, based on what many good ones often include in order to demonstrate why expat contracts are more advantageous to local ones.
Advantages of an expat contract:
Lower commitment level (typically expat contracts are between 1-5 years)
Includes a look-see visit
Air tickets home once a year (big benefit, especially if you have children, it is often hard to find cheap flights)
Tax assistance (big must for Americans)
Tax equalization (pay taxes as though you were living in your home country only)
Education assistance for school children (a company that will pay the CHF 30,000 international school fees for you…)
HR support (The Frau had great support from her husband’s HR department)
Housing stipend (typically over CHF 2000 a month, although it is taxed like income—also why your base salary may end up lower than it would be on a Swiss local contract)
Relocation specialist to help you find and secure housing in CH (necessary if you don’t speak the local language)
International insurance (great benefit, since Swiss insurance is very pricey and does not include dental or eye care…The Frau misses CIGNA International, sigh.)
Moving expenses (both there and back…unless of course, you go local later)
Job security (is a company going to let you go if it will cost them CHF 30,000 to move you back across the ocean?)
Transportation benefit (train passes or car lease, etc., cost also added to your salary and is taxable)
The option to go local later if you love it (like The Frau…)
Advantages of a local contract:
You won’t be living in limbo
You may invest more in learning the local language by knowing you will be here indefinitely
Higher base salary (you’ll need it without all the expat extras!)
Swiss child stipend ((an additional CHF 200/month per child (amount depends on the canton you live in–200 is for Baden) added to your paycheck))
You will be protected by Swiss unemployment (if you end up working long enough and with the right permit...)
Swiss pension (might be good, might not be good—depends on the company)
Paid only in Swiss Francs (a big advantage for Americans now, look at the dollar!)
Anyone else want to chime in and help Expat Or Local, especially those with children that came from the States? Merci vielmal from The Frau.