Swiss-based expats report a mixed experience

It is the economic opportunity, more than the welcome, which keeps expats in Switzerland. Keystone

This content was published on September 27, 2017 - 03:00

Switzerland has ranked 11th in the annual HSBC Expat Explorer study, an overall drop only mitigated by its continued dominance in the area of economic attractiveness.

The tenth edition of the reportExternal link, which surveys foreigners living abroad on the quality of their new lives, paints a mixed message for expats based in Switzerland.

For the third year in a row, the report finds, the alpine nation is top of the pile when it comes to economic pull. Swiss-based expats, with a gross personal income of $193,006, enjoy the highest earnings anywhere in the world, almost twice the global average.

Of course, this figure needs to be put in the context of steep living costs and prices in Switzerland, also among the highest in the world.

But as a destination to advance and save, Switzerland still does well: three-quarters of expats surveyed said they have more disposable income due to the move, while 66% manage to save more in Switzerland than in their home countries.

Money can’t buy me love

However, under the other two pillars of the HSBC report, ‘experience’ and ‘family’, Switzerland comes out somewhat worse, with scores that also drag down its overall average (from 6th place last year to 11th this year).

Under experience, which covers areas such as quality of life and integration, expats in Switzerland report finding it difficult to penetrate into the local culture and people; just one-third say that it is easy to make new friends, well below the global average of 53%.

On family, which (predictably) focuses on the education system, social life, and raising children, the situation is similar. Although many note a better quality of life for their children, the difficulty of building relationships, as well as gripes with the childcare system, pull the country down to 35th.

The results chime strongly with a recent InterNations survey of global expats, which also found that a strong ranking in terms of jobs, infrastructure, services and safety were offset by problems of settling in, feeling welcome and making friends.

In fact, that survey found, due to the insularity of the Swiss, expats tend to make friends among other expats, which might explain what the 18% of HSBC respondents who said they enjoy a “more active social life” are doing in the evenings.

Ultimately, it seems, it is politics and economics that seem to be keeping the foreigners coming to the heart of Europe: a whopping 93% of Swiss-based expats feel confident about political stability, while 89% say they are confident about the local economy.

HSBC Expat Explorer

HSBC interviewed 27,587 expats across the globe for this year’s study, asking questions about their finances, experience, and family. Some 372 respondents were Swiss-based.

The top three overall countries in the survey, of 46 ranked, are Singapore, Norway and New Zealand.

An ‘expat’ is defined simply as “anyone over the age of 18 years, currently living away from their country of origin/home country”.

The top employment sectors from which respondents were drawn included financial services, education, and telecoms and the IT sector.

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