Raising kids in Switzerland

Hello everyone,

How is raising kids in Switzerland different from raising kids in your home country?

What are the activities that your kids seem to enjoy the most in Switzerland?

Do you feel that the country is "family-friendly"?

Do you recommend Switzerland as a good place to raise kids? Why or why not?

Thank you for sharing your experience.


Switzerland has great outdoor possibilities: woods, mountains, lakes. Outdoor camping and making open fire is generally allowed and an outdoor holiday is something most kids will definitively love. Scouting and other clubs, as well as schools, will often have outdoor activities as well.

On the more practical side, Switzerland is - let's say - "traditional" when it come to "facilities" like day care, maternity leave, and so on. It is not possible to describe everything in detail, as regulations will vary from canton to canton (you'll get used to the vary-from-canton-to-canton-principle after living one day here).

Primary and secondary education are mandatory and free - the town or village will determine, which school class your child has to attend. The education system is good. Usually, you'll find that your child will go to the nearest school available and if you do not live in remote countryside, your child will usually be able to go to school on foot, on its own, from an early age on. Many towns and villages pay extra attention to traffic safety on school routes and the police will visit schools to explain the basics on traffic safety and traffic rules even to the youngest ones. This means that you don't have to drive long (or even short) distances to bring your child to school. Most schools, in fact, will not appreciate it when you drive your child to school if the school route can be made on foot.

If you want to determine by yourself which school your child should go to, you can ask at the town council, without guarantee that they'll honor your wishes. Alternatively, look for private education, which usually is not free of charge and you will not be compensated for by town, canton or state. Some private schools try to keep fees low by asking parents to actively help in the organisation of the school when it comes to cleaning, repairs and so on. Expect to pay at least 15,000 CHF per year per child for private education. If your employer sends you out as an expat to Switzerland, you may want to discuss "international school" fees with your boss before you leave.

Schools do not generally offer day care from early morning till evening and this means that you have to organise things if all parents in the family are working. Day care facilities do exists, but usually at extra costs. Some towns/villages may compensate full or partial costs (usually depending on your income and on the condition that you use the day care facilities offered/sponsored by the town/village). Simiarly, some employers may offer such facilities including reduced rates and/or securing a minimal number of places for kids of their employers.
In any case: if you need day care for your children, start organising and planning very early. You may be lucky to live in a canton that organises things well and has ample waiting lists (I heard that the canton of Berne should be well-organised in these matters). If you're unlucky, demand in your town is much higher than supply and you could face waiting lists of 1 to 2 years.

Maternity leave after birth is at a minimum of 14 weeks for the mother, starting at the day of birth. The father has a legal right of one day off. Regulations may be more generous at the discretion of your employer. In particular larger firms have more generous regulations; small firms may stick to the minimal.
During pregnancy, women usually go to work "as long as possible" but have the right to leave from their work at any time when the pregnancy makes working no longer possible. Usually, your doctor will "write you ill" some weeks before the expected date and will consider the type of work you have in doing so.

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