The Valley is Dead for Devs. Time to Move to Switzerland?

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 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, 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?

1200 USD gets you a living pod in San Francisco (source)
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?

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 30min 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. 

How about not spending your entire life in a car? (source)

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)

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.

Sorry U.S. – it’s only you with the crazy costs (source)

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 people enjoying being Swiss 🙂 (source)

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