Why is Switzerland rated poorly by its international residents?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Why is Switzerland rated poorly by its international residents?
A Swiss flag balloon sits on snow. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

While Switzerland might be proudly neutral, it strives to be anything but middle of the road. So why did a country that loves to top almost every list imaginable do so badly in the eyes of international residents?


Switzerland was ranked in 30th place overall out of 59 nations studied in the Expat Insider 2021 survey.

The survey was published on Tuesday by InterNations, a group of around four million expatriates around the world.

While Switzerland might be proudly neutral, it strives to be anything but middle of the road. So why did a country that loves to top almost every list imaginable do so poorly in the eyes of foreigners?

Here's what you need to know. 


Not everything was rated poorly

The respondents rated Switzerland highly in several areas. 

Switzerland scored high in terms of travel and transportation (2nd place), quality of the environment (4th), safety and security (6th), economy and employment (8th), and overall quality of life (9th).

For instance, nearly all international residents in Switzerland (99 percent) are happy with the natural environment (versus 84 percent globally), 95 percent are satisfied with water and sanitation system (versus 77 percent globally), 89 percent appreciate the air quality (66 percent globally), 95 percent like the country’s peacefulness (80 percent globally) and its political stability (91 percent versus 64 percent globally).

Another 94 percent are happy with their travel opportunities (84 percent globally), and 96 percent rate the transportation infrastructure positively (76 percent globally).

“Switzerland also performs well in the Working Abroad Index, with an especially high share of expats (85 percent) rating the state of the local economy positively (vs. 62 percent globally)”, the survey’s authors say.

READ MORE: Why Switzerland continues to attract foreign companies despite the coronavirus pandemic

 “I like the security, the beautiful environment, the freedom, and the work opportunities in Switzerland”, a Brazilian national said.

 And a Spanish respondent mentioned that she likes the “high level of economic development”.

This is in line with previous international studies which have repeatedly ranked Switzerland as one of the best countries to live in with regard to work and economic opportunities.

But what got poor marks?

However, when it comes to categories such as affordability and ease of settling in, Switzerland’s ranking falls drastically.

It was the second worst destination worldwide for the cost of living (58th), the survey found. Only Hong Kong performs worse. 

In fact, 65 percent of respondents said they are dissatisfied with the prices in Switzerland (34 percent globally).

In terms of ease of settling in, the country is nearly at the bottom, in the 52nd place.

Further findings in this category show that 28 percent of respondents don’t feel at home in the local culture (20 percent globally), and another 28 percent find it difficult to get used to (18 percent globally).


Moreover, for 61 percent it is difficult to make local friends (36 percent globally), and 32 percent are dissatisfied with the general (un)friendliness towards foreign residents (versus 18 percent globally).

Interestingly, though not surprisingly, more than half of the respondents in Switzerland — 52 percent — are mostly friends with other internationals, an extremely high share compared to the global average of 32 percent, as well as the neighbouring German-speaking countries Austria (44 percent) and Germany (38 percent).

READ MORE: Eight ways to make sure you get along with your Swiss neighbours

What about the impact of Covid-19?

The study also looked at the consequences of the Covid-19 crisis on the foreign community.

It found that the pandemic has upset the relocation plans of 37 percent of survey participants around the world, but only 20 percent of those living in Switzerland. Respondents rarely mentioned any consequences for their health (2 percent) or their finances (4 percent).

This InterNations graphic shows how respondents rated Switzerland.

Image courtesy InterNations.

What about the rest of the study? 

According to the survey results, the top ten destinations for expats are Taiwan (1st), followed by Mexico, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Portugal, New Zealand, Australia, Ecuador, Canada, and Vietnam (10th).

The worst countries for expats are Kuwait (59th from 59 countries), followed by Italy, South Africa, Russia, Egypt, Japan, Cyprus, Turkey, India, and Malta (50th).

More information about the survey can be found here.


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gledhill.mike_607714a2894b8 2021/05/19 08:19
This can be a difficult country to get to know people, but there are plenty of Facebook groups, like Zurich Together, Worldwide People in Zurich, and Outdoors in Switzerland, where you can meet other people (including Swissies !), discover new hikes, and attend events, usually for free. Get involved !

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