'Switzerland works': What Swiss nationals living abroad miss about home
Thousands of Swiss nationals move abroad each year but what do they think about their home country? And do they intend to move back? We asked some of them.
Whether it’s love, better job opportunities, studies, or simply a desire for change, many Swiss dream of moving abroad.
As of the end of 2021, around 11 percent of the Swiss population had made that dream a reality.
But what do those Swiss nationals who move abroad think about the country they left? Do they have the same views of Switzerland as those foreign nationals who move to the country?
We asked five Swiss citizens how they feel about Switzerland from overseas.
'Transport is not reliable like it is in Switzerland'
Germany’s acting scene pulled executive assistant turned actor Mark Harvey Mühlemann (pictured below) across the border in 2013 when he secured a spot at an acting school in Berlin.
“I went to Germany to boost my career and feel a bigger part of the acting world than was the case in Switzerland.”
Mark says that he has since found new friends, built a whole new environment, and immersed himself in the film and theatre world – yet, he harbours a soft spot for Switzerland.
“Perhaps particularly in Berlin I live in a sort of bubble and many people here seem much more open to me. Conversely, a lot of things that appear outdated in Germany, work very well in Switzerland. Be it all the bureaucracy, offices being slower and public transport not being reliable like in Switzerland.”
'I miss the sheer beauty of its towns and landscapes'
Eager to explore life outside of Switzerland, Antoine Belaieff (pictured below) left Geneva for Toronto just short of turning 20 years old in 1993.
“I was determined to live outside of Switzerland because studying at a Swiss university and working in Switzerland did not excite me. I also wanted to stay abroad longer and back then Switzerland had no agreements with the EU to allow that.”
Today, Antoine is the sole Canadian employee of a Swiss company and does work both in North America and Europe, interacting with people in Switzerland for hours each day.
Antoine, who considers himself 100 percent Swiss and 100 percent Canadian, is unsure whether a move back to Switzerland is on the cards for him.
“On the plus side, I miss the sense of history and the sheer beauty of its towns and landscapes, the proximity to the rest of Europe and the public transport system. Oh, and Coop! What would hold me back is a hesitation to uproot myself later in life. And then there’s the heat! The climate is completely different than when I left.”
Still, he wishes that Canadians shared the Swiss environmental awareness and the latter’s more direct democracy.
'In Switzerland I would never have been able to switch careers so easily'
In 2010, Evi Kuster (pictured below) travelled across Australia alongside her best friend when she locked eyes with her former partner in a pub in Alice Springs. Two years later, love made her move down under.
“In Switzerland, I did my apprenticeship at a toy store but when I moved to Australia, I got the opportunity to work in a pharmacy. The first few years I was a shop assistant but then worked my way up and became a dispense technician. In Switzerland, I never would have had the opportunity to switch career lanes so easily.”
Despite the many advantages life in Australia has presented her with - a secluded property surrounded by wildlife being one of them - Evi admits that she misses life in the country she still calls home.
“I miss the four seasons and the smell each season brings, but also how easily accessible everything is.”
'The UK fails to protect its culture as well as Switzerland'
Dual national Leo Calonder (pictured below) left Switzerland for the UK in 2015 and is currently a student at Bangor University in North Wales.
Leo, who is an aspiring journalist, says that moving abroad made him appreciate Switzerland’s community spirit, something he finds isn’t as strongly represented in the UK.
“Since moving to the UK I have realised that Switzerland is special in that in most towns and villages people take the time to get to know each other.”
“In terms of culture, although the UK has an incredibly fascinating and well-studied history, it unfortunately fails to protect its culture as well as Switzerland. Traditional Swiss cultures and identities, which vary from canton to canton, continue to thrive.”
Leo says that, despite the UK’s cost-of-living crisis, he foresees his immediate future in the UK, though he admits: “I pine for the alps, the food and the air quality.”
'Switzerland has changed and I'm ambivalent about it'
Carina Cairns (pictured below) met her husband – a professional jazz musician from Scotland – in 1972 and following 28 successful years in Switzerland, the twosome was Edinburgh-bound in 2006.
“As the children had moved out, life in Edinburgh was a chance for me to pursue some exciting new hobbies. I passed my motorbike licence in November 2006 and joined many a fabulous tour all around Scotland alongside some pit stops in Switzerland.”
Though she considers Switzerland her home, Carina has noticed just how much it’s changed in her absence.
“When we left, Switzerland had a population of around seven million. Now it is over 8.5 million. I can see that when I go home, and I am ambivalent about it. On the one hand, folks have opened up a bit more and you can hear every language under the sun. On the other hand, it brings a certain amount of disruption.”
In Scotland, Carina finds herself missing Swiss trades people. She values “the high standard of their work, their punctuality, and their set break times, which make it easy to deal with a house full of workmen.”