Basel and Zug rated most popular Swiss expat cities

Bern's medieval old town: expats say locals are as cold as the river Keystone

Although expats in the Swiss cities of Basel, Zug and Lausanne enjoy a very high quality of life, those in Zurich and Bern struggle with settling in and those in Geneva say finding somewhere to live is a nightmare. 

This content was published on November 20, 2018 - 11:06

The six Swiss cities are among 72 around the world analysed in the Expat City Ranking 2018, published on Tuesday by InterNations and based on its annual Expat InsiderExternal link survey. 

The Swiss cities’ popularity among expats varies quite strongly, with Basel coming 22nd and the capital Bern 61st. Taipei, Singapore and Manama came top, while Rome, Jeddah and Riyadh propped up the ranking. 

Kai Reusser /

Basel (22 out of 72) did very well regarding quality of life (10), with expats particularly satisfied with the transport system. It was also the best-rated Swiss city for “personal finances and housing” (28) and “economic climate” (5). On the other hand, 32% said they didn’t feel at home (compared with 23% worldwide) and 54% said it was hard to forge new friendships (worldwide 34%). 

+ How to meet Swiss people and make friends

Zug (23) is the best city in the world for “economic climate”, “safety” and “quality of the environment”. It also offers the best quality of life in Switzerland (8). However, the cost of living drags it down (62), though it does better there than Zurich (66) and Lausanne (69). That said, 93% of expats say they have enough income to cover their expenses (worldwide 78%). 

Lausanne (44) is also in the top ten for quality of life (9) and almost all respondents are happy with the quality of the environment. They were less happy with their social life (37%, compared with 26% worldwide), and in the “urban work life” category only Bern was worse in Switzerland, with some respondents complaining about local labour laws, career opportunities and the difficulty in finding a job. 

Geneva (56) scored the lowest marks in Switzerland for housing (64) and cost of living (69) – in the latter category only London, Vancouver and New York did worse. Not only do 72% of respondents say it is hard to find somewhere to live (worldwide 30%) but 75% say housing is unaffordable in Geneva. However, they liked the city’s quality of life, quality of the environment and political stability. 

Zurich (57), Switzerland’s largest city, is a difficult place to settle in and make friends, said expats, who have a high dissatisfaction with their social lives (41% negative evaluation compared with 26% worldwide). What’s more, 36% of expats describe the locals as unfriendly (worldwide 21%) and 71% complain about the high cost of living (worldwide 21%). It’s not all bad though: the quality of life is appreciated, the transport network is considered excellent and 93% of expats feel safe (worldwide 80%). 

Bern (61), the Swiss capital, doesn’t have much going for it, at least according to the expats questioned. It’s the second-worst city for settling in (pipped only by Stuttgart), 44% find the locals unfriendly (more than double the global average), the local language (Swiss-German) is seen as a barrier to entry and 63% say it’s hard to find new friends (worldwide 34%). In addition, 52% have problems adapting to the local culture (22% worldwide). The job market is also considered challenging, with 45% rating the career opportunities negatively (27% worldwide) – only in Jeddah, Rome and Athens is the situation worse. Some 42% are also dissatisfied with their financial situation – only expats in Vancouver are less happy.

Expat Insider 2018 

The Expat Insider 2018 survey was conducted online by InterNations between February 15 and March 7, 2018. 

The target audience included 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 18,135 expatriates took part, representing 178 nationalities living in 187 countries or territories.

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