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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

An Uphill Journey in Switzerland

What life in this country provides with one hand, it takes with the other: a good quality of life is dampened by the high cost of living and the struggle to settle in.
  • Over one-third unhappy with attitude towards expats
  • Great opportunities to travel get high rating
  • Robust economy leads to job security
  • High cost of living considered possible disadvantage
  • Excellent quality of education, yet high costs

Expat Statistics 2016

Expat Statistics for Switzerland — infographic

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Diversity Yes, Foreigners No?

It might be easy to presume that given the cultural diversity in Switzerland, the local population would be welcoming to foreigners. Unfortunately, while there are four different coexisting languages and cultures in Switzerland — German, French, Italian, and Romansh — the acceptance of diversity does not seem to extend to newcomers: 36% of expats in Switzerland say the attitude towards foreign residents is generally bad compared to the global average of 17%. In fact, 67% overall disagree when asked whether it is easy to make local friends in Switzerland.

“The Swiss can be a little private, reluctant to become friends with foreigners.”

There are two disadvantages for expats that seem to arise from the mixture of languages and cultures as well. The first is the struggle to get used to the local culture with 48% generally agreeing that it is easy to get used to, 13 percentage points fewer than the global average. The other problem that could have been worsened by the linguistic diversity is the ease of learning the local language(s) — 55% generally disagree that learning the local language is easy.

Offering a High Standard of Living

While it may be difficult to settle in Switzerland, the quality of life there is still a big bonus for expats. The country ranks 10th out of 67 countries in the Quality of Life Index. There is much on offer, such as the strong transport infrastructure, which only 3% rate negatively compared to a quarter of expats worldwide. Indeed, the Travel & Transport subcategory is ranked fifth, further bolstered by the opportunity to travel, rated very good by 58% of expats in Switzerland.

“What I like most about living in Switzerland: The security, access to good education for my child, the central location within Europe, the local and international diversity, the good quality of life.”

Safety proves to be another benefit of living in Switzerland; the country is sixth in the Safety & Security subcategory. Just 1% have something negative to say about their personal safety in Switzerland compared to 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.

A Worker’s Paradise?

Switzerland seems to be a good country to move to, especially if you work in the pharmaceuticals industry, which accounts for 12% of working expats there compared to just 3% worldwide. Information technology (13%) and financial, real estate, and insurance services (12%) are similarly popular. The country ranks 16th in the Working Abroad Index and offers a higher gross yearly household income than the worldwide average. The largest income group in Switzerland is 100,000–150,000 USD (29% vs. 10% worldwide) and a higher percentage of expats also fall into the 150,000–200,000 USD income bracket — 12% compared to just 5% globally. The top two income brackets are also on average more common in Switzerland than the global average — 14% quote a gross yearly household income above 200,000 USD in Switzerland compared to 5% globally. People in Switzerland also feel secure in their jobs, ranking the country fifth in the Job Security subcategory. This could be due to the strength of the economy, which is only viewed negatively by 3% of respondents compared to the global average of 24%.

The High Salaries Are Necessary

Although most expats in Switzerland say the economy is good and the country ranks reasonably in the Personal Finance Index (29th), the cost of living is very high. In fact, Switzerland ranks almost bottom in the Cost of Living Index at 65th out of 67 countries. Indeed, this is the only factor that a majority of expats in Switzerland (56%) consider as a possible disadvantage before moving there. Once arrived, just 18% of those in Switzerland consider the cost of living to be generally good compared to 49% worldwide.

A Good Standard of Education

Similar to many expats in Switzerland, families do not feel entirely welcomed by the locals with 21% generally disagreeing that there is a friendly attitude towards families with children compared to just 7% worldwide. However, parents do agree that the quality of education is among the best in the world, with the country ranking 3rd out of 45 countries in the respective subcategory.

Overall, expat parents seem to be happy and comfortable with letting their children grow up in this country. Less than 1% state that children’s safety is generally bad compared to 11% globally. Furthermore, just 2% are overall unsatisfied with their children’s well-being. Unfortunately, there are a couple of pitfalls for the Swiss Family Life Index. The availability and costs of childcare and education are not considered so positively, with the country ranking 37th out of 45 in both of the respective subcategories. In fact, close to three-quarters of expat parents (74%) consider the affordability of childcare negatively, against 34% worldwide who are of the same opinion.

Further Reading