Living in Switzerland For Members

Are large Swiss cities really the best place for foreign residents to live?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Are large Swiss cities really the best place for foreign residents to live?
Small towns in Switzerland offer a great quality of life. Photo: Pixabay

When foreign nationals come to Switzerland, they tend to settle in or near the country’s largest cities: Zurich, Geneva, Basel, and Lausanne. Are they the best choices or should they opt for smaller towns?


This choice is logical, as these large cities are home to a great number of international companies, which offer job opportunities as well as higher-than-average wages to qualified employees.

READ ALSO: Where are Switzerland’s biggest international companies? 

There are other reasons that push foreigners towards urban centres: there are more recreation and entertainment options, more schools (including international ones), and generally more social interactions with other foreigners.

In large cities, for instance, where international community tends to congregate, it is much easier to find other people from the same country and speaking the same language than in small towns and, even less so, in rural areas..

This has been shown by a study from the University of Geneva, which found “a strong foreign presence” in and around large cities,

“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.

Cost of living and housing

However, while living close to the ‘action’ has definite advantages for many people, there are a number of minuses as well.

It is a well known fact that the general cost of living in cities like Zurich and Geneva, among others, is very high.

READ ALSO: Why Zurich is the world's most expensive city to live in 

By the same token, housing in these cities is not only scarce but also more expensive than elsewhere in Switzerland.

Of course, those who have high-paying jobs may not mind the prices as much as those whose wages are closer to a median Swiss salary.


So would it make sense to opt for smaller towns or even rural communities?

It all depends on factors such as your cost of living, and also whether your housing or renting situation would be better.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to move somewhere where very few people live, and all of them are Swiss — unless, of course, your ability to integrate is better than average.

For this reason, you should probably stay out of the village of Corippo (Ticino), which counts only a dozen residents.

But there are a number of places that are within an easy commute to larger cities and yet have maintained the small-town feel.

A quality of life study commissioned by the daily newspaper Handelszeitung looked into several criteria to determine the best places among small towns. It evaluated 944 municipalities with more than 2,000 inhabitants to make the ranking.

These are the findings :

Cham, canton Zug

Zug, canton Zug

Risch, canton Zug

Altendorf, canton Schwyz

Walchwil, canton Zug

Meggen, canton Lucerne

Meilen, canton Zurich

Hergiswil, canton Nidwalden

Hünenberg, canton Zug

Baar, Canton Zug


As you can see, all of these small communities are located in the Swiss-German part. But there are also quite a few worth looking into in the Geneva — Vaud area.

For instance,

Nyon, canton Vaud

Morges, canton Vaud

Vevey, canton Vaud

There are also a number of villages surrounding Geneva, but because they are in such close proximity to the city, housing process there are — no pun intended — through the roof.

The good thing about the towns listed above is that, although they are relatively small, they have a well-developed infrastructure, including public transportation, schools, and hospitals.


Yes, but how easy or difficult is it going to be for a foreigner to integrate into a small Swiss community?

The answer to this question can be gleaned from a survey of The Local’s readers who were asked about the pros and cons of life in a Swiss village.

As is often the case, divergent views emerged.

Those in the ‘con’ category mentioned “the isolation, and difficulty integrating with people whose families have been here for thousands of years."

Another reader mentioned that the incessant ringing of bells on the village church “every 15 minutes, every hour of every day, all year round”, is a definite disadvantage of living in a small community.

Those in the ‘pro’ camp, on the other hand, mentioned “the opportunity to be immersed in local culture, local food and drink, sense of community, and stunning scenery.”

And as another reader pointed out, living in a small community is “just incredible. Everyone knows each other, and there are plenty of events — picnics, parties, meals in the streets".

"Housing is also considerably cheaper, which was my initial reason for moving here".
READ ALSO : The ups and downs of life in a Swiss village
In the end, it all depends what your personal preferences (and financial situation) are.



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