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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Swiss Expats Quickly Adapt to Life Away from Home

Swiss expats have little difficulty with life abroad: though many move for work-related reasons, they also have great language skills, socialize with local friends, and even fall in love abroad.
  • About one in three moved for their career
  • More than three in four have lived in another country before
  • 49% speak the local language fluently
  • Nearly eight in ten are in a relationship; 42% with a local resident
  • Around one-third are planning to stay abroad forever

Building an International Career

About one-third of Swiss expats (34%) moved for career-related reasons, especially because of a foreign assignment (22%). For many, this seems to have been the right choice: almost three-quarters of employed Swiss expats are happy with their work-life balance (74%), and 73% are generally satisfied with their job. Moreover, 21% are in a management position, as opposed to 14% worldwide. Industries that tend to attract Swiss expatriates include advertising, marketing, and PR (10%), coaching and consulting (9%), finance (9%), as well as manufacturing and engineering (9%).

However, only 17% of Swiss expats state that they earn more than in a comparable job back home. Considering the potential difference in cost of living, however, it’s no surprise that 85% still say their income is enough or more than enough to cover all their expenses. In fact, 45% of Swiss expats have access to an annual household income of 100,000 USD or more (worldwide average: 21%).

Top Destinations and Considerations before Moving

You’re most likely to find Swiss expats in Brazil (6%), the UK (6%), the US (6%), as well as Thailand (5%). For many Swiss respondents, life abroad is nothing new: 76% have lived in at least one other country before, compared to a worldwide average of 68%. More significantly, 22% have previously lived in five or more other destinations — nearly three times the global average (8%)!

Considering the good quality of life at home (Switzerland ranks 8th in the Quality of Life Index), Swiss expats had some concerns before moving: nearly three in ten (29%) considered infrastructure a potential disadvantage, and 28% said the same about both personal safety and healthcare standards. The latter might be the result of Switzerland’s own compulsory — and highly regarded — healthcare system: Swiss insurers are required to offer basic insurance to everyone, regardless of age or medical condition.

On the plus side, over half of Swiss expats (53%) thought the local cost of living abroad would be a potential benefit of moving away from infamously expensive Switzerland. Possible language barriers didn’t seem to worry many respondents either: about one in eight (13%) was concerned about language issues before moving.

A Multilingual Background Makes Expat Life Easier

Speaking a foreign language seems to come relatively easy to the Swiss: just 4% live in a destination where the local language is the same as their mother tongue, but 49% can speak the local language very well, and only 7% admit to not speaking it at all (global averages: 24% and 13% respectively).

With such strong language skills, the majority of Swiss expats (72%) says they have never felt unwelcome abroad due to their language or accent (global average: 58%). Perhaps the lack of a language barrier also helps them to settle in: half of all Swiss respondents say it only took up to six months to feel at home. Also, 28% are mostly friends with local residents (global average: 19%), and only one in five Swiss expats mainly socializes with other expatriates, as opposed to one in three worldwide.

Yes to Romance, No to Raising Kids Abroad

Almost eight in ten Swiss expats (77%) are currently in a relationship, twelve percentage points more than the global average (65%); six in seven of them (86%) are generally happy with their relationship, and 48% say they couldn’t be any happier. However, not everyone is living in the same country as their partner — 17% are in a long-distance relationship.

In addition to work, an existing relationship was another common reason for moving abroad among Swiss expats: one in nine (11%) moved because of their partner’s job or education, and one in ten moved for love or to live in their partner’s home country. Of those who are in a relationship, only one in four is currently involved with another Swiss national; 42%, however, have a partner who’s from their new country of residence. Perhaps this is why 34% of all Swiss expatriates say they may stay abroad forever.

What’s also striking about Swiss expats is that only 16% are raising dependent children abroad (global average: 26%). Another 18% state that they do have children, but they’re already living on their own. The higher-than-average age of Swiss expats (49.4 years vs. 43.5 worldwide) might be one possible reason for this.

Further Reading