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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Expat Life in Switzerland Is Safe but Lonely & Expensive

Expats enjoy the country’s high quality of life and are happy with their financial situation, despite high costs. But at the end of the day, they are lonely in Switzerland.

Switzerland comes 23rd out of 53 destinations in the Expat Insider 2023 survey. On the one hand, it lands among the global top 10 in the Quality of Life Index (8th), even ranking 1st in the Environment & Climate Subcategory. On the other hand, it is one of the world’s worst-rated destinations in the Ease of Settling In Index (47th). Here, it ends up in the bottom 10 for every single subcategory and factor. While Switzerland ranks midfield in the Personal Finance (33rd) and Expat Essentials (28th) Indices, it claims 12th place in the Working Abroad Index. Overall, 74% of expats are happy with their life in Switzerland, compared to 72% globally.  

Clean, Safe & Stable  

Switzerland has been a top destination in the Quality of Life Index for ten years in a row, and 2023 is no exception (8th). It even comes 1st in the Environment & Climate Subcategory. Expats value Switzerland’s natural environment (97% happy vs. 84% globally), the air quality (91% vs. 66% globally), and the urban environment (84% vs. 67% globally). More than four in five expats (84%) agree that the Swiss government supports policies to protect the environment (vs. 62% globally).  

Expats’ satisfaction with politics in Switzerland goes beyond green policies. More than nine in ten (93%) also rate the country’s political stability positively (vs. 63% globally) — 79% even very much so, more than twice the global average (34%). Since 95% also feel personally safe (vs. 83% globally), Switzerland claims 2nd place in the Safety & Security Subcategory. 

“I love that Switzerland is a beautiful, safe, well-organized country, with lots to see and do.” – US American expat 

A Little Boring If You’re Not into Outdoor Activities 

Switzerland is a great destination for outdoor lovers, and expats rate the opportunities for recreational sports (9th) very well. However, the country only comes 47th in the Leisure Options Subcategory. About a quarter of expats are unhappy with the culinary variety and dining options (23% unhappy vs. 12% globally) and the culture and nightlife (27% vs. 15% globally).  

Easy to Travel within & outside the Country 

Luckily, it is easy to take a trip abroad if you get bored: Switzerland ranks 1st worldwide for travel opportunities. Expats are also happy with the options to get around inside the country, with Switzerland coming 9th in the Travel & Transit Subcategory. More than nine in ten expats appreciate the availability of public transportation (93% happy vs. 73% globally) and the infrastructure for cars (91% vs. 75% globally). Another 94% find it easy and safe to get around on foot and/or by bicycle (vs. 77% globally).  

Expensive, but Expats Can Afford It 

The only downside of the Swiss transportation system is that it is hard to afford (37th). This is also the case when it comes to healthcare (50th), housing (45th), and the general cost of living (47th). Switzerland has always ranked among the bottom 10 destinations for this factor since the first edition of the Expat Insider survey in 2014. “The cost of living is insane,” an expat from Germany complains. Still, 65% of expats are satisfied with their financial situation (vs. 58% globally), and 82% feel that their disposable household income is enough or more than enough for a comfortable life (vs. 73% globally).  

Fair Pay but Long Hours  

With regard to the respondents’ financial situation, it might help that 71% feel paid fairly for their work, compared to 62% globally. The country ranks 6th for this factor. Additionally, it comes 1st for the state of the economy — Switzerland has always made it into the top 5 worldwide here. Still, it does not rank among the top 10 in the Working Abroad Index (12th) in 2023. This is mainly due to its mediocre performance in the Work & Leisure Subcategory (33rd).  

A Lonely Place for Expats  

Lastly, Switzerland continues its tradition of ranking among the worst-rated destinations in the Ease of Settling In Index (47th): it has never managed to make it out of the bottom 10. Expats find the local population unfriendly in general (22% unhappy vs. 16% globally) and towards foreign residents in particular (27% vs. 18% globally). “I am very lonely,” shares a US American expat. In fact, more than half (54%) find it hard to make local friends (vs. 36% globally), and close to a quarter (24%) do not feel welcome in Switzerland (vs. 15% globally). 

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