Efficiency at a price: How easy is it to move to Switzerland as an expat?
The latest Expat Essentials Index by InterNations has found that Switzerland is one of the 10 easiest places in Europe to get started as an international. While the alpine nation performed significantly better than some nations such as Germany, the country fell behind others when it came to the high prices in the housing market and difficulty in learning the language.
Expat Essential Index by InterNations
Drawing from the experience of InterNations' 4,5 million members, the Expat Essentials Index seeks to find out which countries around the world are the easiest to get started in as an expat or international. The survey looked at 52 different nations and analysed each through the following categories:
- Digital Life: Quality of internet providers, access to social media and government e-services, and ease of paying without cash.
- Housing: Affordability and ease of finding houses and apartments to rent or buy.
- Admin Topics: Ease of dealing with bureaucracy, opening a bank account and obtaining a visa or residence permit.
- Language: Ease of learning the national language and ease of living in the country without speaking the language.
These factors were deemed by InterNations as “some of the most important elements of getting life started abroad.”
Gulf states dominate expat ranking
This year, it was the gulf state of Bahrain that found itself at the top of the ranking. The organisation said that the country excelled in the Housing and Admin Topics categories, with two-thirds of residents saying it is easy to deal with local authorities, 82 percent reporting that it is simple to find housing in the country, and 83 percent confirming that it's easy to live there without learning Arabic.
The United Arab Emirates and Singapore rounded out the podium, with the two countries praised for the lack of a language barrier and ease of administration respectively. Estonia, the only European nation in the top 10, came fourth.
Switzerland places 20th in global expat ranking
In 2023, Switzerland ranked 20th on the global list and sixth in Europe. The alpine nation's score is roughly in line with InterNation's previous expat-based survey, having placed 19th in 2022.
The alpine nation was praised for its digital infrastructure, placing seventh in the world in the Digital Life category. 89 percent of people in German-speaking areas have access to high-speed internet - perhaps not surprising given that Swiss WiFi and mobile phone providers were ranked as the best in the German-speaking world in 2022. Furthermore, a whopping 94 percent report being satisfied with cashless payment options at Swiss supermarkets and other stores.
Swiss councils and other institutions were also praised highly, with the country placing seventh in the Admin Topics category. 62 percent said that it was easy for them to get a residence permit, 6 percent more than the global average. “I love the uncomplicated bureaucracy here,” one expat from Italy concluded.
Why is Switzerland not in the top 10?
So far, you may be wondering how, with two seventh-place finishes, Switzerland is “only” in 20th. Our first foible comes with the language, with the country placing 30th overall.
Although expats in Switzerland see the language barrier as less of an issue than in Germany and Austria, only 54 percent say they can get by without learning German, French or Italian, and fewer still say it is easy to master the language. "It's pretty hard to learn the language. You have to take courses in High German, but you don't even hear it on the street… the Germans don’t necessarily understand Swiss German," an American expat noted.
Lastly, what hit the final nail into Switzerland’s coffin was the state of the housing market, placing 44th in the world. 44 percent said that they struggled to find housing in the country, 15 percent more than the global average. Furthermore, 58 percent said that they found housing in Switzerland “unaffordable”, with one person studying at a Swiss university telling InterNations that “it is almost impossible to buy an apartment and the rents are very high.”
Easiest places to get started as an expat in the world
In all, here are the 10 easiest places to get started as an expat in the world:
- United Arab Emirates
- Saudi Arabia
On the flip side, here are countries where it's the most difficult for expats to set up their new lives:
For more information about the ranking, check out the InterNations website.
Thumb image: Shutterstock.com / Keitma