Where do Switzerland’s foreigners all live?

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Where do Switzerland’s foreigners all live?
A lot of foreigners live in Lausanne and surrounding areas. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

A new study shows that, unsurprisingly, the largest number of foreigners are living in big Swiss cities and areas surrounding urban centres.


Two researchers from the University of Geneva, who conducted the study, found “a strong foreign presence” in and around large cities, which are close to economic centres and job opportunities — such as the shores of Lake Geneva or Lake Zurich. 

The highest concentration of foreigners (62.4 percent) can be found in the Crissier suburb of Lausanne, according to the study.

The Lausanne area and nearby towns are home to several big international companies where many expats work — Philip Morris International, Nestlé, Medtronic, and Federal Polytechnic Institute (EPFL), among them.

The lowest number of foreign nationals, on the other hand, is in Röthenbach, located in the Bernese Emmental region, where there are 37 foreigners among 1,172 residents.

The distribution of different nationalities across Switzerland varies widely and in many cases is language and geography-based. For instance, Germans, French, and Italians live mostly in their respective linguistic regions.


The Portuguese are mainly in French-speaking cantons and the Turks in the German-speaking regions.

READ MORE: Swiss history: The story of Switzerland's first popular vote on foreign migrants

As for North Americans, the study shows that more than half live in the three cantons: Zurich, Vaud and Geneva, where the most international environment and professional opportunities can be found.

Researchers also reported that among the foreign population, the Portuguese and Turks are usually concentrated in neighbourhoods with relatively cheap housing, regardless of the canton.

“One can wonder about the existence of network effects, which would push the new members to establish themselves in the immediate entourage of the diaspora”, the study’s authors noted.

Some 2,125,410 foreign nationals were resident in Switzerland at the end of March 2020, including 1,452 421 from the EU, as well as from Norway, Iceland, and the United Kingdom. 

The highest number of foreigners come from Italy (15.3 percent), Germany (14.6 percent), Portugal (12 percent), France (6.7 percent), Kosovo (5,4 percent), and Spain (4 percent).


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