Expat life in Switzerland – parts of it are excellent

Cycling with a view of the Bernese Alps: expats in Switzerland appreciate not only the scenery but also the transport opportunities Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

What have Mexico, Indonesia and Taiwan got that Switzerland hasn’t? Friendlier locals and better personal finance for starters, according to a survey of almost 12,000 expats around the world.

This content was published on July 12, 2022 - 09:00

Switzerland has come 19th out of 52 countries – sandwiched between Malaysia (18th) and the Czech Republic – in the ninth InterNations Expat Insider surveyExternal link, published on Tuesday. Mexico, Indonesia and Taiwan were the big winners this year, with Kuwait failing to impress and coming last.

Still, 76% of expats are happy with their life in Switzerland, compared with 71% globally.

Winners and losers 2022

Top 5

Mexico (1)

Bottom 5
Hong Kong
New Zealand
Kuwait (52)

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A new methodology has removed the Cost of Living index, in which high-price Switzerland always did abysmally (last year it came 58th out of 59 countries). As a result, Switzerland’s overall position has jumped from 30th to 19th, but as InterNations points out, it’s no longer possible to compare the 2022 results with previous years.

‘Safe and orderly’

So what is the verdict on Switzerland this year? Of the five main indexes, expats rate Switzerland best for Quality of Life (6th). It does even better in two subcategories, coming second for Environment & Climate as well as Safety & Security.

“Switzerland offers a high standard of living. It is very safe and orderly,” says a Brazilian expat.

Respondents regard it as the world’s politically most stable destination: 93% rate this factor positively (vs. 64% globally) and another 94% are satisfied with their personal safety (vs. 81% globally).

What's more, 98% are happy with the natural environment (vs. 83% globally), ranking the Alpine country first worldwide. It also makes it into the top ten for similar factors, such as air quality (4th) and the availability of green goods and services (4th); 86% rate the urban environment positively (vs. 67% globally).

Switzerland also does very well in the Travel & Transit subcategory (6th). It gets another first place for the travel opportunities (95% happy vs. 82% globally). Expats both love the infrastructure for cars (93% happy vs. 75% globally) and find it easy and safe to get around on foot or by bike (94% happy vs. 77% globally). The only downside is the affordability of public transport (38th).

Affordability is also an issue when it comes to healthcare. Expats consider its quality very good (86% happy vs. 72% globally), but 41% consider healthcare services unaffordable, compared with 21% globally.

Switzerland also struggles in the Leisure Options subcategory, coming 41st. While 88% of respondents appreciate the opportunities for recreational sports (vs. 75% globally), 26% are unhappy with the culture and nightlife (vs. 16% worldwide), and 21% miss culinary variety and dining options (vs. 12% globally).

Paid fairly

Switzerland ranks 16th in the Working Abroad index – even coming first in the Salary & Job Security subcategory. This is mostly due to the state of the economy: 94% are happy with it (vs. 64% globally). What’s more, 70% feel they are paid fairly for their job (vs. 62% globally), and 65% agree that moving to Switzerland has improved their career prospects (vs. 60% globally).

However, Switzerland doesn’t do particularly well in the Work & Leisure subcategory (39th). More than one in five (21%) are dissatisfied with their working hours (vs. 17% globally). On the somewhat brighter side, according to 66% of expats, the local business culture supports policies such as remote work and flexible working hours (vs. 60% globally). Overall job satisfaction is fairly high (71% happy vs. 64% globally).

Expats not only feel they are paid fairly, 69% are also satisfied with their financial situation in general (vs. 60% globally). Another 80% describe their household income as enough or more than enough for a comfortable life (vs. 72% globally). Indeed, 56% (vs. 21% globally) have an annual gross income of at least $100,000 (CHF97,000). Despite that, Switzerland places slightly below average in the Personal Finance index (31st), which is mostly due to living expenses: 62% describe them as too high (vs. 35% globally).

Tricky making friends

In the Expat Essentials index (20th), Switzerland performs very well for Digital Life and Admin Topics (7th for both). Expats are happy with the unrestricted access to government services online (92% vs. 82% globally) and high-speed internet at home (89% vs. 79% globally). Three in five (60%) also consider it easy to deal with the local authorities (vs. 40% globally).

However, the Housing subcategory (44th) hurts the index ranking: 42% say housing is hard to find for expats (vs. 27% globally). Another 58% consider it hard to afford (vs. 43% globally). “Buying a flat is almost impossible, and renting is very expensive,” a French expat reports.

In the Ease of Settling In index, Switzerland features among the bottom ten. Expats rate the country particularly poorly in the Finding Friends (43rd) and Local Friendliness (44th) subcategories. One in four (25%) describes the local population as unfriendly (vs. 17% globally), and 52% have difficulties in making local friends (vs. 37% globally).

Unsurprisingly, 32% are not happy with their social life (vs. 26% globally), and 45% are mainly friends with other expats (vs. 33% globally). Just 7% are mainly friends with local residents (vs. 17% globally).

“It can take years to get into Swiss social life,” another French respondent explains. “Most of my contacts were with other expats at first.”

The InterNations Expat Insider 2022 Survey

For its annual Expat Insider survey, InterNations asked 11,970 expats representing 177 nationalities and living in 181 countries or territories to provide information on various aspects of expat life, as well as their gender, age and nationality. 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 destination was necessary.

Participants were asked to rate up to 56 different aspects of life abroad on a scale of one to seven. The rating process emphasised the respondents’ personal satisfaction with these aspects, considering both emotional topics and more factual aspects with equal weight.

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 indices were further averaged together with expats’ general satisfaction with their life abroad in order to rank 52 expat destinations around the world.

(Source: InterNations)

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