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October 13, 2011

Swiss Toll

By Spear's

Who would have thought relocating to Switzerland could be so hard? A conference at the Westbury Hotel in October highlighted the culture shock awaiting British ’migr’s

Who would have thought relocating to Switzerland could be so hard? A conference at the Westbury Hotel in October highlighted the culture shock awaiting British émigrés.

Take parties. Far from spontaneous fun, they’re as perilous as Verbier black runs. According to Diccon Bewes, author of FT-Book-of-the-Year Swiss Watching, you’re supposed to introduce yourself to everyone before you’ve even got a drink. Moreover, you’re meant to remember everyone’s name when saying goodbye.

Those lacking Mensa minds and a sociaite’s courage shouldn’t fret though. The solution is arrive first, which neatly explains the Swiss’ habit of punctuality.

But beyond the social quirks lie tax perks. Everyone knows about the forfait, whereby you negotiate your annual tax rate. But not everyone knows that Zurich’s recent ban on the arrangement will be the exception. ‘The minimal taxable wealth level will be lifted in future, however, from the current annual income of £177,000,’ says Thomas Huber at BDO.

Those set on migrating to Switzerland should think about their timing. They haven’t been helped by the Swiss Franc going into stratosphere in the past 18 months from 1.50 CHF/EUR to 1.03 – driven by being one of the few countries in Europe to run a budget surplus in 2011.

But that trend should reverse, says David Meier at Julius Baer. The reason is that exports, which constitute over 50 per cent of GDP (higher than the BRICs) are increasingly uncompetitive and thus the economy should weaken at the very time that the UK’s strengthens, taking the exchange rate to 1.40.

‘Don’t rush,’ Meier advises. ‘The chances are that in two months you will find a good entry point.’

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