Expats rate Uganda more attractive than Switzerland

High living standards but difficulty fitting in - that's what expats often face in Switzerland, according to the latest Expat Insider survey Keystone

Switzerland is safe and has a high quality of life with excellent schools, but it is overpriced and unfriendly, according to a global survey of expats. 

This content was published on August 29, 2016 minutes

The alpine nation continues to tumble down the rankings in the 67-country Expat Insider surveyExternal link, “The World Through Expat Eyes”, published on Monday. Overall, Switzerland has fallen from fourth place in 2014 to 14th in 2015 to 31st this year. 

This drop of 17 places made it one of the online survey’s “biggest losers”, on par with Malaysia and ahead of only Hong Kong, Indonesia and the UAE. 

Switzerland fell in all six criteria: quality of life, ease of settling in, working abroad, personal finance, cost of living and family life (it actually stayed in 30th position in this category). This echoes findings published last year by British-based bank HSBC. 

“Taiwan is the new Malta,” wrote the authors of the online survey by Munich-based platform InterNationsExternal link. “While the tiny Mediterranean nation was last year’s breakout star, coming in in third place, newcomer Taiwan has even dethroned the winner of 2014 and 2015, Ecuador.” 

Some Swiss authorities might be irked to see neighbouring Austria in eighth place as the highest-ranked European country, ahead of Germany (17th) and France (41st). Southern neighbour Italy, suffering from a struggling economy, low job security and political instability, came 59th, among the bottom ten. 

The United States came 26th (down from fifth in 2014) and Britain 33rd (down from 21st in 2014), although the survey was carried out before Britain decided to leave the European Union in June. That vote has led to increased political instability and concerns about job security. 

Swiss abroad

What about the Swiss who become expats? The 2016 Expat Insider survey found that the typical Swiss expat “has lived in many countries, speaks multiple languages and often has a lower income abroad”. The top findings were:

Swiss expats often move abroad for love

36% want to stay in their host country forever

19% have lived in five or more countries

No one only speaks their native tongue

31% earn a lot less than they would back home 

End of insertion

The highest-placed African country, Uganda, came 25th

Gulf States were deemed the least desirable places to be an expat, with Kuwait getting the wooden spoon. However, Italy and Greece also made it into the bottom ten. 

Moving for love?

 In Switzerland, the average expat is 41.4 years old and works 41.6 hours a week. More than half (53%) said they were an employee or a manager, 15% were looking for work and 6% were a self-employed professional. Six out of ten are female. 

But what is an expat? The survey identified ten expat types, from the Foreign Assignee and the Travelling Spouse to the (Ex-)Student in pursuit of an education and the Romantic moving for love. 

Quality of life is often touted as Switzerland’s trump card, balancing the high cost of living and difficulties in settling in and making friends. In 2014, Switzerland topped the quality of life category, but it fell to fourth last year and is now tenth. 

“There is much on offer, such as the strong transport infrastructure, which only 3% rate negatively compared to a quarter of expats worldwide,” the authors said. “Indeed, the Travel & Transport subcategory is ranked fifth, further bolstered by the opportunity to travel, rated very good by 58% of expats in Switzerland.” 

The country did above average in “working abroad” (16th), “personal finance” (29th) and “family life” (30th) but was dragged down the overall rankings by its near-bottom performance in “ease of settling in” (64th) and “cost of living” (65th). 

Cold welcome 

The top three reasons for relocating to Switzerland were “found a job here”, “sent by employer” and “moved for partner’s career”. 

The top three potential benefits given by respondents were “general living standards”, “economy and/or labour market” and “personal safety”. The main potential drawbacks were “cost of living”, “language” and “climate and weather”. 

“Unfortunately, while there are four different coexisting languages and cultures in Switzerland, the acceptance of diversity does not seem to extend to newcomers,” the authors noted. 

“Thirty-six per cent of expats in Switzerland say the attitude towards foreign residents is generally bad, compared with the global average of 17%. In fact, 67% overall disagree when asked whether it is easy to make local friends in Switzerland.” 

Indeed, Switzerland came fourth from bottom in the “friendliness” sub-category, with only the Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait saving its blushes. 

However, parents agreed that the quality of education in Switzerland was among the best in the world, coming third out of 45 countries in the respective subcategory. 

Not all bad

 In addition to the high quality of life, safety proves to be another benefit of living in Switzerland, which came sixth in the Safety & Security subcategory. Just 1% of respondents had something negative to say about their personal safety in Switzerland, compared with the worldwide average of 12%. 

The healthcare on offer is also another positive. “While it is considered expensive in comparison to the overall average – 33% say it is generally affordable compared to 55% globally – only 8% are unhappy with the quality of medical care compared to one fifth of all respondents,” the survey found. 

When it came to money, the largest income group in Switzerland earns $100,000-$150,000 (CHF97,750-CHF146,600) per year. This group made up 29% of all income categories in Switzerland, compared with 10% worldwide. 

Also, a higher percentage of expats fell into the $150,000–$200,000 income bracket – 12% in Switzerland, compared with just 5% globally. 

People in Switzerland also feel secure in their jobs, ranking the country fifth in the Job Security subcategory.

Expat Insider survey 2016 

More than 14,000 respondents representing 174 nationalities and 191 countries or territories took part and had their say on moving, living and working abroad. 

For a country to be featured in the indices and consequently in the overall ranking, a sample size of at least 50 survey participants per country was necessary. The only exception to this is the Family Life Index, where a sample size of more than 30 respondents raising children abroad was required. In 2016, 67 and 45 countries respectively met these requirements. 

The online survey ran from February 18 through March 13 and was promoted through the InterNations website. 

(Source: Expat Insider)

End of insertion

Articles in this story

In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

Contributions under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Share this story

Change your password

Do you really want to delete your profile?