1. The location
Many former expats told us they miss Switzerland’s fantastic geographic location in the heart of Europe.
“I really miss being able to go on short weekend trips to Italy and France,” says Canadian Chelsea McConnell, who returned to Canada two years ago after several years in Switzerland. “And the ability to travel everywhere by train”.
Matthew Scrivener agrees. The former Lausanne resident, now living in London, says he misses “being able to drive to Verbier in 45 minutes or Chamonix in 1.5 hours… being in the centre of Europe so you can get a train to Germany, Italy, France, wherever you want.”
2. The food
Photo: Mary Lynn
“[I miss] the attitude of quality over quantity to coffee, and to food in general, which is often missing here [in Canada]. In general portions over here are too big, and too salty,” says McConnell.
Chocolate, croissants and savoury ham croissants are all on the Canadian’s miss-list, as well as Swiss McDonald's: “so much better!”
Brit Sian Lye, who returned to Brighton on England’s south coast after several years in Zurich, misses the chocolate shop Sprüngli. “Just anything and everything they sell. [They have] possibly the best cakes in the world, in fact calling them just 'cakes' feels like an injustice… they’re some sort of art form.”
Yes you can buy Swiss cheese and chocolate abroad, but nothing beats finding local treats, feels Scrivener. “Driving back from the mountains, stopping off and buying fresh fruit and vegetables from a farm that you know are organically produced, or going to a winery on a Saturday and ploughing through their collection of wines.”
3. The transport
“Battling the abomination that is Southern trains [a notoriously bad UK train company] makes the Swiss system of all trains being on time, or if they are seconds late, people tutting, seem like an impossible dream,” says Lye.
Scrivener, who now has an hour-long commute to work in London, agrees. “I miss the trains being on time and being super efficient,” he says.
4. The cleanliness
Lye also misses the “beautiful clean pool in Birmensdorf – in fact, beautifully kept pools in general, everything is so clean,” she says.
5. The great outdoors
Lake Geneva. Photo: Marcus Gyger/Swiss Tourism
Everyone we spoke to missed Switzerland’s proximity to nature.
Keen skier McConnell, now living in the Toronto region of Canada, misses “the mountains first and foremost, especially during the winter for skiing. We do ski here, but you can't call our hills mountains unfortunately.
“Picnics by the lake, and drinking outdoors, which must be done discreetly here. Also, the vineyards, and the general beauty of the place,” she adds.
For Scrivener, Switzerland’s outdoor focus and short commutes allowed him a better work-life balance. “On a Tuesday driving away from the office at 6pm, arriving at Préverenges [a beach near Morges] at 6.30pm, putting my swimming trunks on and going paddleboarding, then having a barbecue at 8pm. So just within the space of those two hours in the middle of the week, you can disconnect from work and refresh yourself.”
“I do miss Lake Geneva,” agrees Alexander Theodorou, who lived in Lausanne for several years before moving home to the UK. “Be it as a view from the train, or somewhere to go for a barbecue by a mass of water. I liked the fact that it was used to its full potential. I swam in it, sailed on it, took a speedboat across to France for lunch, had barbecues by it and just sat by it.
“Whilst quite a lot of Switzerland felt quite regimented I felt the lake was somewhere where the shackles were thrown off a bit and you were freer to do what you pleased,” he adds.
6. The lifestyle
And the Swiss attitude to life certainly pushes you to make the most of the outdoors, feels Scrivener.
“I actually really valued Sundays, the fact that you couldn’t go shopping, that you were forced to go out into nature with your family or friends and do something active.
“There’s a tendency in the UK to make arrangements to go to the pub and sit there all day. In a place like Switzerland, yes you can go to a restaurant but the real fun to be had is going out in the mountains or going by the lake and socializing but in a natural setting rather than in an enclosed space.
“The mindset of totally valuing nature and the fact that it’s on their doorstep. They don’t take it for granted, they appreciate it, and everybody does it, of all ages.”
7. The festivals
Basel Christmas market. Photo: Andre Meier/Swiss Tourism
Whether it be wine festivals, Christmas markets or carnivals, the Swiss “know how to throw a good festival!” says McConnell.