Switzerland explained For Members

Is Switzerland really a difficult country to settle in?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Is Switzerland really a difficult country to settle in?
People sit by a lake. Is it hard to settle in Switzerland? Photo: photosforyou/Pixabay

In a recent international survey, Switzerland ranked near the bottom in terms of friendliness of the local population toward foreigners, and the general difficulties they face in the country. But is this assessment justified?


Getting established in a new country is never easy, and Switzerland has the reputation of being very challenging in this respect.

This is one of the findings of the Expat Insider Survey, released on July 11th by InterNations, a network for foreign nationals living in 420 cities worldwide. 

In a category called  Ease of Settling In Index, Switzerland ranks in the 47th place out of 53 countries surveyed — a pretty dismal result for a country that prides itself on its hospitality.

It also ranks low (46th place) in Local Friendliness, and Culture & Welcome, and even lower (47th) in Finding Friends.

READ ALSO : How foreign residents rate life in Switzerland 

This finding will come as no surprise to many foreign residents for whom making friends here is an uphill struggle.

To be fair, however, Switzerland doesn’t have a monopoly on aloofness toward foreigners: neighbour Austria is a difficult country for newcomers as well, the same survey found.

In this regard, “Switzerland continues its tradition of ranking among the worst-rated destinations: it has never managed to make it out of the bottom 10,” the survey found.

"Expats find the local population unfriendly in general (22 percent versus 16 percent globally), and towards foreign residents in particular (27 percent versus 18 percent globally).”

A person sits at a cafe in Montreux, Switzerland.

A person sits at a cafe in Montreux, Switzerland. Photo by Sara Dubler on Unsplash

Culture shocks for foreigners 

While it would not be fair, or accurate, to say that all Swiss are aloof, many are.

Whether it’s because they are actually neutral, or just respectful of other people’s privacy, is hard to say. But you may find it challenging to socialise with the Swiss outside of work hours.

This probably has nothing to do with you personally — the Swiss, especially the older ones, don’t readily socialise after work; they prefer to go home and relax.


Many foreign residents also complain about other aspects of the settling-in process, especially those relating to rules and bureaucracy.

This is especially difficult for people who come from less organised and micromanaged nations — which means, basically, every other country on earth.

That’s because the Swiss have laws and regulations for so many things, it’s often hard to remember them all.

Among them are rules about trash disposal, no-noise Sundays, and ones regulating how and when to register (and re-register) in your commune of residence, to mention just a few.

READ ALSO: 7 common complaints that foreigners have about Switzerland 

Many foreigners have their own peeves about Switzerland, but if you ask them why they are still living in the country if they find so much negativity in it, they will probably realise it offers numerous advantages as well.

In fact, the ‘pros’ of Switzerland outweigh its ‘cons’ by far.


Quality of life, wages, safety and stability

The same survey - but many others as well - found that Switzerland ranks highly in several areas.

For example, it is among the top-10 countries in terms of quality of life; within that category, it is in the first place worldwide for environment and climate, and in the second for these two categories: safety, as well as salary and job security.

It's no surprise that the Alpine country has gained points for its job offers - it is a magnet for foreign nationals looking to climb the career ladder.  

In fact, Switzerland has a large number of international companies: 850 have based their global or regional head offices here.

Zurich, for instance, is home to the Swedish-Swiss multinational automation company ABB, AXA insurance company, UBS and Credit Suisse banks, and the Swiss division of Google.

Meanwhile, two large Swiss healthcare companies - Roche and Novartis - are based in Basel.

READ ALSO: Where are Switzerland's largest companies?

But there are many other ‘likes' regarding life in Switzerland as well (and that's without touching on the amazing Swiss chocolate, cheese and wine offerings). 

More than 90 percent of respondents to the InterNations survey rate the country’s political stability positively (versus 63 percent globally).

The direct democracy model is a unique feature of the Swiss political system. Plus the small country is known to have one of the world’s strongest economies.


A high percentage (97 percent versus 84 percent globally) also value Switzerland’s natural environment, the air quality (91 percent versus 66 percent globally), and the urban environment (84 percent versus 67 percent globally).  

Also, the majority of international residents appreciate the availability of public transportation (93 percent versus 73 percent globally), as well as road infrastructure (91 percent versus 75 percent globally).

This suggests that Switzerland can be both ‘bad’ and ‘good’ (or a bit of both!) - and it can depend on your mindset and your perspective.

What do you think? Let us know if Switzerland is a difficult country to settle in by leaving a comment or emailing us: [email protected] 



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