Expats in Switzerland report hot scenery and cold locals

How to be both cold and sociable: have dinner in an igloo, such as this posh one in central Switzerland Keystone

Switzerland is the 38th-best country to live as an expat, according to an annual survey. While this is up six places on last year, the champagne corks aren’t popping yet. 

This content was published on September 5, 2019 minutes

Let’s start by focusing on the positive. For the sixth year in a row Switzerland is among the top ten countries for quality of life (5th out of 64 countries), the InterNations Expat Insider 2019External link survey revealed on Thursday. 

Kai Reusser /

It found that almost every expat (96%) is happy with their personal safety (compared with 81% globally) and 75% even say it’s very good (48% globally). Just 1% finds the country not peaceful (10% globally). 

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The political stability is also a plus, with 93% of respondents saying they are happy (61% globally). This compares very favourably with Britain, which has fallen 14 places in terms of political stability amid ongoing Brexit uncertaintyExternal link, now ranking 57th out of 64 for this factor. Overall the UK comes 58th, right behind Greece and Russia. 

Winners and losers 2019

Best expat destinations:
1. Taiwan
2. Vietnam
3. Portugal
4. Mexico
5. Spain 

Worst expat destinations:
60. Turkey
61. Brazil
62. Nigeria
63. Italy
64. Kuwait

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Switzerland also does very well, coming second, for the quality of its environment, with fewer than 0.5% rating it negatively, compared with 20% globally. 

“It’s just amazing to have those beautiful natural locations so close to the city,” says a Spanish expat. 

On the downside 

However, Switzerland’s quality of life comes at a cost: it ranks 62nd in the Cost of Living Index in 2019, ahead of only Denmark and Hong Kong. The affordability of healthcare (61st) and childcare (35th out of 36) are also major issues for expats.  

As in previous years, expats still complain that they find it hard to settle down (59th in 2019). Switzerland thus ranks among the bottom ten in this metric for the sixth year in a row. 

+ How to make friends with a Swiss personExternal link

Expats struggle to feel at home (58th) and to find friends (61st), according to the study. Almost three in ten (28%) consider the Swiss to be generally unfriendly (16% globally), and 34% do not feel at home in the local culture (23% globally). Close to one in five (17%) even think that they will never feel at home in Switzerland.  

‘Get out and meet people!’ 

But despite these gloomy-looking statistics, most expats don’t consider the Swiss to be unfriendly and do feel at home. 

British entrepreneur and author Richard Williams, who has lived in Switzerland since 2004, told in a podcast that you only get out of Switzerland what you put in. 

“Get your toes in the earth. Appreciate the physical beauty. Just get out and meet people – it’s quite straightforward,” he said.  

“Things work here! The trains are on time – it’s remarkable! There shouldn’t be too much complaining if you come here as an expat. It’s probably your own fault if you’ve got any problems because there couldn’t be an easier country to live in!”

Expat Insider 2019

The Internations’ Expat Insider 2019 survey targets all kinds of expatriates: foreign assignees (“expats” in the classical sense of employees on a corporate assignment) and people living and working abroad for various other reasons, members of the InterNations network and expats in general. 

A total of 20,259 expatriates took part, representing 182 nationalities living in 187 countries or territories. 

The main indices are: Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, Working Abroad, Family Life, Personal Finance, and Cost of Living.

For a country to be featured in the indices and consequently in the overall ranking, a sample size of at least 75 survey participants per destination was necessary. The only exception to this is the Family Life Index, where a sample size of at least 40 respondents raising children abroad was required.

(Source: InterNations)

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