There is much debate going on whether Expats should start by learning standard German or Swiss-German. Proponents of learning Hochdeutsch claim that Swiss German is a dialect at best and will not be understood by anyone outside Switzerland (and not even in parts of Switzerland itself). Furthermore, so the argument goes, Swiss German is a spoken, not a written language, so learning Swiss will not help you with reading nor writing. Also, all Swiss do speak Hochdeutsch, so does it not make more sense to learn a language that is used in all German-speaking countries?
Those favouring Swiss German argue that learning it will facilitate comunication and integration. After all, no Swiss person speaks Hochdeutsch, unless forced to and learning Hochdeutsch will not help you to understand a shopkeeper or your neighbour. So, in my opinion, trying to understand some vital Swiss German does matter for integration.
Whilst I would also strongly recommend to start with standard German, it does not mean that Swiss German hasn’t got a place in language courses. A good teacher will point out important differences between the standard German in your textbook and the German you are likely to hear in the street. So, make sure that while learning Hochdeutsch, you make yourself familiar with Swiss greetings, numbers etc. Try to tune in to some Swiss German and gradually, you will start to understand some expressions and words. Try some of the following online resources to get a feel for Swiss German:
How to impress a Swiss: http://www.eldrid.ch/swgerman.htm
Swiss-German phrase book:
A humourous video, showing the differences between German and Swiss-German: