Expats bemoan lack of dining options in Swiss cities

Expats love Lausanne's natural environment but are less impressed by the dining options Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

All four Swiss cities in the Expat City Ranking 2022External link have gained places since last year – however, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

This content was published on November 29, 2022 minutes

Basel climbed from 9th to 7th in this year’s InterNations survey, which features 50 cities around the world. Lausanne and Zurich remain solidly mid-table (18th and 20th respectively – up from 21st and 34th) and 34th-placed Geneva again gets the Swiss wooden spoon (although at silver-spoon prices) but has improved significantly from 47th last year (out of 57).

As in previous years, all Swiss cities scored really well for their natural beauty and safety but all were criticised for how hard it is to make friends. Lausanne did best in the Ease of Settling In Index, coming a lowly 27th, ahead of Geneva (36th), Basel (42nd) and Zurich (43rd). Indeed, Zurich is in the bottom ten for all three subcategories: Local Friendliness (44th), Finding Friends (43rd), and Culture & Welcome (42nd).

Overall, Valencia was the place to be, according to expats, defined by InterNations as people who decide to “live abroad for an unspecified amount of time, without any restrictions to origin or residence”. The Spanish city is followed by Dubai, Mexico City, Lisbon and Madrid. The places not to be were Hong Kong, Istanbul, Paris, Frankfurt and, in 50th position, Johannesburg.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the four Swiss cities.

7. Basel: Whining and dining 

Bonnie Basel does best in the Personal Finance Index (8th), ranking second worldwide for both expats’ satisfaction with their financial situation (80% happy vs. 60% globally) and them feeling that their disposable household income is enough to lead a comfortable life abroad (68% have more than enough vs. 45% globally).

In the Working Abroad Index (14th), Basel ranks first in the Salary & Job Security Subcategory, and 79% of expats feel paid fairly for their work (vs. 62% globally). It is also the city with the highest level of overall job satisfaction: 86% rate this factor positively (vs. 64% globally).

On the downside, Basel lands in the bottom three in the Leisure Options Subcategory (48th). One in five expats (20%) is unhappy with both the culture and nightlife (vs. 16% globally) and the culinary variety and dining options (vs. 12% globally) – the city even ranks last worldwide for the latter factor.

18. Lausanne: Green dream

Lausanne performs best in the Quality of Life Index (9th), even ranking first worldwide in the Environment & Climate Subcategory. Expats appreciate the natural environment (1st) and the great air quality (2nd). They are also very happy with the availability of green goods and services (89% happy vs. 64% globally), and 83% agree that the government supports policies to protect the environment (vs. 61% globally).

The only real lowlights in this index are – like Basel – the culinary variety and dining options (48th) and the affordability of healthcare (47th). Also, expats generally consider the local cost of living too high (45th): 72% rate this factor negatively, more than twice the global average (35%).

20. Zurich: Quality of life

Zurich ranks third worldwide in the Quality of Life Index, beaten only by Valencia and Copenhagen. Expats are very happy with the Travel & Transit (10th) Subcategory, and even more so with the Environment & Climate (4th).

The city also performs quite well in the Working Abroad Index (20th), even ranking first worldwide for the state of the local economy: 94% of expats rate this factor positively, compared to 64% globally. More than four in five expats in Zurich (84%) say their disposable household income is about enough or more than enough to lead a comfortable life (vs. 72% globally). “You can afford to lead a comfortable life here where things just work,” says an American expat.

When it comes to the Expat Essentials Index (24th), expats find it easy to pay without cash (97% happy vs. 84% globally) and to deal with the local bureaucracy/authorities (69% vs. 40% globally). However, housing is hard to find in Zurich (41% unhappy vs. 27% globally), and 63% describe it as unaffordable (vs. 43% globally).

34. Geneva: Housing headaches

Geneva ranks last worldwide for the local cost of living: 80% consider it too high, compared to 35% globally – 31% even find it extremely high (vs. 8% globally). While 73% still say that their disposable household income is about enough or more than enough to lead a comfortable life, which is about the same as the global average (72%), the city still ends up in a low 43rd place in the Personal Finance Index. Since housing is not only hard to afford (73% unhappy vs. 43% globally) but also to find (63% vs. 27% globally), Geneva comes 47th in the Housing Subcategory.

Other than that, the Expat Essentials Index (34th) doesn’t look too bad. Expats are, for example, happy with the access to high-speed internet at home (89% happy vs. 79% globally) and find it easy to deal with the local bureaucracy/authorities (54% vs. 40% globally).

On the downside, Geneva ranks 44th in the Leisure Options Subcategory. While 84% rate the opportunities for recreational sports positively (vs. 75% globally), they are dissatisfied with the culinary variety and dining options (17% unhappy vs. 12% globally), as well as the city’s culture and nightlife (28% vs. 16% globally).

Expat City Ranking 2022

The Expat City Ranking, published on Tuesday, is based on the annual Expat Insider survey by InterNations, a global community of people who live and work abroad. For this year’s survey, 11,970 expats representing 177 nationalities and living in 181 countries or territories provided information on various aspects of expat life.

Participants were asked to rate up to 56 aspects of urban life abroad. The rating process emphasised the respondents’ personal satisfaction, giving equal weight to emotional topics and more factual aspects. The respondents’ ratings of the individual factors were then bundled in various combinations for a total of 16 subcategories, and their mean values were used to draw up five topical indices: Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, Working Abroad, Personal Finance, and Expat Essentials. These were further averaged – together with the responses to the question “All things considered, how happy are you with your life abroad in general?” – to create the Expat City Ranking.

For a city to be featured in the Expat City Ranking 2022, a sample size of at least 50 survey participants per destination was required. In total, 50 cities met this requirement.

(Source: InterNations)

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