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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Predictable Switzerland: Safe, Stable, Very Expensive

Switzerland is particularly safe for expats, as well as being politically and economically stable, but high prices and unfriendly locals pose problems.
  • Expats rate Switzerland the second-most politically stable country in the world.
  • 96% of expats feel personally safe in Switzerland.
  • Switzerland ranks 62nd out of 64 in the Cost of Living Index.
  • 68% of expats have a gross yearly income above 75,000 USD.
  • 19% are unhappier after moving abroad (vs. 16% globally).

Switzerland Remains Neutral for Expats

Switzerland ranks neither towards the top nor the bottom of the 2019 league table, but in a rather average 38th place out of 64 countries, six places up from its 44th position (out of 68 countries) in 2018. In fact, 77% of expats in Switzerland are satisfied with life abroad in general, just about the same as the global average of 75%.

However, Switzerland does rank among the top 3 for the factor political stability, placing second for the third year in a row. In a typically Swiss manner, the neutral country seems to be unaffected by the changing political environment in Europe: nearly three-quarters of expats in Switzerland (73%) consider its political stability to be very good (vs. 30% globally). To put things into perspective, France and the United Kingdom, two fellow European nations, have dropped 16 and 14 places to 35th and 57th, respectively, for political stability in 2019.

Better but Not Cheaper: Local Quality of Life

Political stability is a factor of the Safety & Security subcategory in which Switzerland places 3rd out of 64 countries in 2019. Switzerland is considered a safe place to live, with 75% of expats in Switzerland rating their personal safety as very good (vs. 48% globally) and just 1% rating the level of peacefulness there negatively, compared to 10% globally. The Travel & Transportation subcategory is another area where Switzerland does well, with the country placing 4th out 64 destinations. One Dutch expat particularly likes Switzerland’s “proximity to other countries in Europe and the ability to travel easily”.

It’s just amazing to have those beautiful natural locations so close to city life.

The environment is also a highlight for expats in Switzerland. An expat from Spain enjoys “the outdoors” because “it is just amazing to have those beautiful natural locations so close to city life”. In fact, Switzerland ranks second for the quality of the environment in 2019, one spot higher than last year. Fewer than 1% of expats in Switzerland are unhappy with this factor, compared to one out of five expats globally (20%).

However, Switzerland’s great quality of life comes at a price. Switzerland places 61st out of 64 countries for affordable healthcare in 2019. Nearly half the expats in Switzerland (48%) rate this factor negatively (vs. 26% worldwide). One Greek expat states: “The healthcare system is very good, but the fact that you have private insurance companies as mediators makes it complicated and really highly priced.”

is not just healthcare in Switzerland that remains very expensive: The country ranks third from the bottom (62nd out of 64 countries) in the 2019 Cost of Living Index. In Switzerland, 64% of expats are unhappy with the cost of living, almost double the average for expats across the world (34%).

Strong Economy but Poor Work-Life Balance

Expats rank the state of Switzerland’s economy in 2nd position out of the 64 countries in the 2019 survey: it’s beaten only by Luxembourg. In comparison to the global average of about one in four expats (24%), three out of five expats in Switzerland (60%) rate the state of the economy as very good. To put Switzerland’s ranking into perspective, in its German-speaking neighbors, Austria and Germany, only 41% and 49% of expats rate the state of their host nation’s economy equally well.

Despite its highly rated economy, Switzerland isn’t necessarily a great place to work for expats. Out of 64 countries the nation ranks 48th for job security and 45th for work-life balance. Only 15% of expats in Switzerland are completely satisfied with their work-life balance (vs. 20% globally). An expat from the Dominican Republic even claims that “the workload doesn’t give me time to lead a satisfactory personal life”.

Difficult to Find Swiss Friends

Switzerland ranks 61st out of 64 countries in 2019 for finding friends. With only Kuwait (62nd), Sweden (63rd), and Denmark (64th) performing worse, it would appear Switzerland is not a great destination for expats to make friends. The friendliness — or lack thereof — surely can’t be helping: only one out of ten expats in Switzerland (10%) describes the attitude towards foreign residents as very friendly, in comparison to over one out of four expats worldwide (27%).

Sometimes, the conversation feels very forced and not fluent.

Over half of the expats in Switzerland (51%) describe their friends as mostly other expats, whereas globally, just over one-third of expats (34%) describe their friends abroad in that way. A Russian expat thinks that “it’s difficult to connect with the Swiss, and sometimes, the conversation feels very forced and not fluent”.

High Salaries Offset by High Costs

Expats in Switzerland enjoy a higher salary than back at home. Almost half the working expats in Switzerland (49%) rate their current income as a lot higher than back home, while only one-quarter worldwide (25%) describe it in the same way. On top of the generally high salary levels, this could be partly due to the fact that expats working in Switzerland are somewhat more likely to be in a senior/specialist position (35% in Switzerland vs. 30% globally).

However, while 68% of expats in Switzerland have a gross yearly income above 75,000 USD, with just 31% of expats worldwide saying the same, Switzerland ranks below average (34th out of 64 countries) for the disposable household income being enough to cover the costs. Switzerland’s high cost of living could be seen as a major frustration for expats: despite the country’s high salaries, it only places 29th in the Personal Finance Index.

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