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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Switzerland Offers Costly Housing in an Amazing Setting

Expats in Switzerland find it takes more than a great quality of life to truly feel at home abroad.

Following 23rd place in 2023, Switzerland lands in the lower half of the Expat Insider ranking, placing 34th out of 53 countries in 2024. Expats still love the country for the Quality of Life it offers (12th) but continue to struggle with the Ease of Settling In (46th). Working Abroad (20th) in Switzerland and handling the Expat Essentials (30th) both have their ups and downs, while Personal Finances (39th) could be better.

How Expats Rate Life in Switzerland

High Incomes to Combat High Costs

Three in five expats (60%) are dissatisfied with the general cost of living in Switzerland, compared to 39% of respondents worldwide. Luckily, this is somewhat made up for by high incomes: 58% report a gross yearly income of at least 100,000 USD (vs. 20% globally). Consequently, 57% agree that they’re satisfied with their financial situation (vs. 54% globally), and over three-quarters (76%) find that their disposable household income is enough to lead a comfortable life in Switzerland (vs. 70%).

Sorting Out the Basics Is (Mostly) Easy

High costs are an issue when it comes to accommodation, though. Over three in five expats (63%) rate the affordability of housing negatively, compared to 47% of respondents worldwide. Close to a quarter (22%) even give it the worst possible rating (vs. 16% globally). And finding housing in the first place is difficult according to around half of expats (49% vs. 34% globally). So, Switzerland cannot escape a bottom-10 placement in the Housing Subcategory (46th).

“It’s an impossible housing market, both for rental and purchase.” – British expat

However, it’s not all bad news in the Expat Essentials Index, where Switzerland ranks 30th overall. Thanks to readily available high-speed internet (10th), unrestricted access to online services (15th), and the online availability of administrative services (16th), Switzerland ranks 12th for Digital Life.

It lands in the same place in the Admin Topics Subcategory (12th). More than half of respondents (54%) find it easy to deal with the local bureaucracy (vs. 36% globally), and 63% say the same about getting a visa (vs. 53%). Expats should just make sure to practice the language spoken in their new home: a third (33%) say it’s difficult to live in Switzerland without local language skills (vs. 33% globally).

Finding Friends Is a Struggle

Speaking the local language can only help when it comes to the Ease of Settling In — Switzerland’s 46th place here is its worst result in an index. The country ranks in the bottom 10 for all but one factor of this index (38th for feeling at home). Expats struggle to get used to the local culture (47th) and don't feel welcome in the country (46th).

Less than half of respondents (46%) think that the people in Switzerland are friendly towards foreign residents (vs. 61% globally), and over three in five (62%) say it’s difficult to make local friends (vs. 41%). Unsurprisingly, expats in Switzerland are less happy with their social life compared to other expats (42% positive ratings vs. 52% globally).

“I wish locals were more open to expanding their social circles. It is almost impossible to make friends here.” – Indian expat

Great Transportation & an Amazing Outdoors

The one big benefit to living in Switzerland, though? The quality of life! Switzerland only just misses the top 10 for this index, ranking 12th in 2024. Expats feel safe in the country (11th) and love the clean air (8th), the urban environment (7th), and the natural surroundings (2nd).

In fact, not a single respondent has something negative to say about Switzerland’s nature (vs. 7% globally). To keep this natural beauty alive, expats can make use of readily available green goods and services (6th), while the government supports policies to protect the environment (10th).

“The outdoor scene is amazing, and the mountains and lakes are incredible. Plus, its central location in Europe means access to the rest of Europe is pretty good.” – New Zealand expat

Switzerland ranks 1st for the opportunity to travel — over nine in ten expats (93%) give this factor a positive rating, 10 percentage points above the global average of 83%. And 72% even say it’s very good (vs. 55% globally)! Expats appreciate the local infrastructure for cars (8th) and agree you can safely get around on foot or by bicycle, too (7th). Plus, a staggering 93% rate the availability of public transportation positively (vs. 72% globally). However, they’re less enthusiastic about its costs (21% negative responses vs. 15% globally).

Healthcare in Switzerland paints a similar picture. Respondents appreciate its quality (17th) and the fact that it’s easy to get equal access to all kinds of medical services (20th). But they rank the country in the bottom 3 for the affordability of healthcare (51st), with close to half (47%) giving it a negative rating (vs. 22% globally).

Work’s Pretty Average

Expats widely praise the state of the Swiss economy, with 89% giving this factor a positive rating — that’s 30 percentage points more than the global average of 59%!

This doesn’t automatically translate into amazing careers, though: expat’s views on the local job market (31st) and their personal career opportunities (30th) are nothing to write home about. Still, for three in five (60%), the move has improved their personal career prospects (vs. 56% globally) — good news for the 48% who relocated to Switzerland for job-related reasons (vs. 35% globally).

Overall, satisfaction among those working remains rather average: 64% are happy with their job in general (vs. 60% globally), 59% view their work–life balance favorably (vs. 60%), and 57% are satisfied with their job security (vs. 56%). But at close to two-thirds of respondents (66%), expats in Switzerland are more likely to agree that they’re paid fairly for their work (vs. 58% globally).

The Typical Expat in Switzerland

Further Reading