Lausanne and Geneva rated poorly in ranking of best cities for expats

Lausanne and Geneva rated poorly in ranking of best cities for expats

A new ranking by InterNations has revealed which cities around the world are best for expats and internationals in 2023. This year, three Swiss cities were included in the report, but despite excelling in some categories, none ranked among the higher echelons and some even found themselves in the bottom 20.

The best (and worst) cities for expats in 2023

To create the report, 49 cities were ranked based on survey results given by 12.065 expats representing 171 different nations. Participants in the survey rated up to 56 different aspects of life in each city, which were all fed into five categories. These are:

  • Quality of life: Travel and transit, environment and climate, leisure options, healthcare, safety and security.
  • Ease of settling in: Local friendliness, ease in finding friends, culture.
  • Working abroad: Career prospects, salary and job security, work and leisure balance, work culture and satisfaction.
  • Personal finance
  • Expat essentials: Digital life, administration topics, housing, language.

To calculate each city’s score, ratings in each category were averaged together and added to participants’ responses to the question: “All things considered, how happy are you with your life abroad in general?”

Spanish cities rated best for expats in 2023

In the report for 2023, three cities in Spain occupied the podium places, with Málaga placing first. Alicante and Valencia rounded out the top three, followed by the UAE cities of Ras Al Khaimah and Abu Dhabi.

InterNations noted that Málaga placed top for local friendliness and excelled in the settling in categories. The city on the banks of the Med also rated second for overall quality of life, with living in the area classed as both affordable and accessible. Overall, 88 percent of expats in Málaga said that they were happy with life overall, 16 percent higher than the global average.

With the most affordable housing and the second-best ease of settling in score on the list, it’s little surprise that Alicante found itself in second. The Spanish cities in general were praised for their great balance of quality of life to cost of living.

Swiss cities struggle in InterNations ranking

Sadly, much like InterNations' country ranking, the residents of Switzerland have to peer a long way down the list before we encounter home, with Zurich ranking in just 16th place. Lausanne and Geneva, the other two Swiss entries, came 29th and 30th respectively.

In their report, InterNations made the point that while Zurich ranks fourth out of 49 for quality of life - earning the best score in safety and security and achieving top 10 finishes in travel and transit, the environment and overall happiness categories - its performance in other areas ranged from mediocre to poor.

Cities in Switzerland rated poorly for friendliness towards expats

For instance, while 97 percent of expats said the economy of Zurich is great, many said they weren't happy with Swiss working hours and overall work-life balance. The ongoing housing crisis and rising cost of living also meant the city was not classed as very affordable either.

However, the fatal blow for Zurich was how hard expats feel it is to settle and integrate into local life. In the survey, more than half of respondents said internationals make up the majority of their friendship group, with the city placing 40th out of 49 for ease of finding friends, and 37th for local friendliness.

Lausanne and Geneva among the 20 worst cities for expats

This issue worsened in Lausanne, with the city placing fifth-worst in the finding friends category. The expats of Vaud also criticised the unaffordability of healthcare, housing and the overall cost of living. However, with its stunning lake and mountainside views, the city did rank first in the world for environment and climate.

Finally, the worst-rated Swiss city on the ranking was Geneva, ranking 30th out of 49. InterNations explained that the city has the same problems as Zurich and Lausanne, without the top scores in quality of life, economy and environment to propel it up the ranking.

Best and worst cities in the world for expats

In all, here are the 10 best cities for expats, according to InterNations:

  1. Málaga, Spain 
  2. Alicante, Spain
  3. Valencia, Spain 
  4. Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates
  5. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
  6. Madrid, Spain
  7. Mexico City
  8. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  9. Bangkok, Thailand
  10. Muscat, Oman

By contrast, these are the 10 worst cities for expats:

  1. Milan, Italy
  2. Rome, Italy
  3. Vancouver, Canada
  4. Hamburg, Germany
  5. Berlin, Germany
  6. Dublin, Ireland
  7. Istanbul, Turkey
  8. London, United Kingdom
  9. Paris, France
  10. Seoul, South Korea

For more information, check out the official report.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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