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Expats in Switzerland
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Expats in Switzerland

In all statistics worldwide, Switzerland is always at least in the top 10 when it comes to the living standard. It is therefore hardly surprising that the country attracts foreign nationals. Cantons such as Zug, Zurich or Geneva are extremely popular with expats. In Zurich, for example, it is normal for people to be able to speak English in everyday life. But who are these expats and are there different types? In this blog, I will look at some of the different categories of expats, and the unique challenges and characteristics of each of these expat categories.

Types of Expats

The Optimizer

Share of Swiss expats:  18 percept

Reasons for moving: The search for a better quality of life, financial reasons or politics, religion, and personal security.

Characteristics: The optimizers move because they see many advantages in living abroad. Most of them are then very satisfied with their decision, work full-time and no longer complain about their financial situation. In addition, these people have few problems settling into their new home and quickly find their way around the new culture.

This is what distinguishes their life abroad: They have a mediocre knowledge of the local language and are rarely mainly friends with locals. However, they often stay abroad permanently.

The Assignee

Share of Swiss expats: 16 percent.

Reasons for the move: The decision came from the employer.

Characteristics: Almost every expatriate is employed full-time and works an average of 46.1 working hours per week. Worldwide, more than three out of five expatriates are satisfied with their career opportunities, and almost seven out of ten consider their job to be secure. But 60 percent also think it is likely that they will return to their home country sooner or later. One of the reasons for this could be that one in five expatriates living in a relationship has travelled abroad alone and has a long-distance relationship.

This is what distinguishes their life abroad: The expatriate has a mediocre knowledge of the national language and is rarely friends with natives.

Accompanying partners

Share of Swiss expats: 6 percent.

Reasons for the move: The partner moves for his or her work.

Almost nine out of ten characteristics: Nearly nine out of ten accompanying partners are female. Since they move because of their partner's job, it is often the case that these expats mainly take care of the home and the children. Usually, they are also looking for work. They find it more difficult than average to settle in abroad, and more than half of them do not feel at home in the host country. Finding friends is also considered very difficult.

This is what distinguishes their life abroad: The accompanying partners often have a mediocre knowledge of the local language and are rarely mainly friends with locals.

These are just a few of the different types of expats that live in Switzerland.

However, despite offering a high standard of living a recently published survey by Internations, an international network for expats showed that on a scale of 65 countries, Switzerland only ranks 27th out of a total of 13,000 respondents.

Despite offering a high standard of living, why Switzerland ranked 27th on this survey? The expats surveyed in Switzerland cite the high cost of living and "settling in" as the main reasons. Almost seven out of ten report having difficulties in making friends. For other reasons, such as the difficult language, Swiss culture, and the large expat community, almost half of those surveyed are almost exclusively friends with other expats.

That's a pity in today’s global environment. An international company like Fragomen, in particular, shows that embracing diversity and new cultures allows better collaboration and teamwork. One should not forget that Switzerland, in particular, offers enormous diversity and quality of life. The country, for example, offers excellent schools, international networking opportunities, geographical advantage, and four national languages.

What is needed is a little courage and open-mindedness on both sides. We at Fragomen, therefore say: Dear expats, welcome to Switzerland!

If you have any further questions about moving to Switzerland, please contact Cesare Annecchiarico: