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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Zurich: Breathtaking Scenery, High Living Costs

Zurich is a great place for both work and relaxation. But connecting with the local population remains a challenge.

Zurich ranks 16th out of 49 in the Expat City Ranking 2023. Expats who move there for their career find themselves with good prospects — Zurich ranks 4th for the local job market — and fair pay for their work (6th). The city also offers the best economy worldwide, with nearly everybody (97%) rating the state of the economy favorably, compared to just 62% of respondents worldwide. However, these great results are somewhat tempered by mediocre satisfaction levels when it comes to working hours (32nd) and expats seeing a purpose in their work (31st). As a result, Zurich secures the 10th place in the Working Abroad Index.

This Swiss city is not only good for careers but also delights with a great Quality of Life (4th). Not a single respondent feels unsafe in Zurich (vs. 8% globally). And expats love the Environment & Climate (2nd) — only Lausanne (1st) ranks even better in this area. In fact, a staggering 98% give the natural environment a positive rating (vs. 84% globally). “I love the ability to travel by train quickly and to enjoy nature: the mountains, lakes, and breathtaking scenery!” a Ukrainian respondent shares.

Zurich even ranks 1st for the opportunity to travel, and expats are happy with the ease of getting around on foot or by bicycle (2nd), as well as the availability of public transportation (3rd), too. The culinary variety and dining options could be better, though, with Zurich landing in the bottom 10 for this aspect (44th).

The city also can’t impress when it comes to the topic of settling in. Expats struggle to get used to the local culture (41st) and to make local friends (44th). So much so, that more than half (55%) say their friends are mostly just other expats, compared to 33% of respondents worldwide. Or as a US American points out: “It’s easy to make friends with expats, but the locals are a bit more reserved when it comes to friendship it seems.

At least the practical aspects of finding your feet in Zurich are not an issue: the city ranks 16th in the Expat Essentials Index. Expats find it easy to deal with Admin Topics (5th), including the local bureaucracy (5th) and getting a visa to move to Switzerland (8th).

And Zurich does well when it comes to the Digital Life (4th), too. Over nine in ten expats agree, for example, that it’s easy to pay without cash (95% vs. 84% globally) and to get high-speed internet set up (93% vs. 80% globally). Plus, not a single respondent found their access to online services such as social media restricted (vs. 6% globally).  

The topic of Housing (33rd), on the other hand, is not viewed as favorably. Just 28% agree it’s easy for expats to get (vs. 49% globally), and an even smaller share of 13% find it affordable (vs. 38% globally). Speaking of money: 64% of expats in Zurich regard the general cost of living there as too high (vs. 35% globally). Luckily, incomes match costs enough, so that an above-average 86% agree that their disposable household income is enough or even more than enough to live a comfortable life in Zurich (vs. 73% globally). This means that Zurich finds itself in 22nd place for Personal Finance.

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