Unfriendly and expensive: Switzerland slumps in new ranking of expat countries

Unfriendly and expensive: Switzerland slumps in new ranking of expat countries

The latest Expat Insider Survey by InterNations has ranked Switzerland mid-table when it comes to the best destinations for internationals, falling by four places compared to last year. The study acknowledged that while the alpine nation provides world-beating quality of life and salaries, many expats find it hard to fit in and find a balance between work and leisure.

Expat Insider Survey for 2023

Drawing from its more than 4,8 million members in 420 cities around the world, the 10th Expat Insider Survey by networking website InterNations is designed to find out which countries are the best and worst for expats. Using responses from 12.065 expats representing 171 nationalities in 172 nations around the world, the company rated up to 56 different aspects of living abroad. Each response fitted into 16 subcategories, which fed into the following main categories:

  • Quality of Life
  • Ease of Settling In 
  • Working Abroad
  • Personal Finance
  • Expat Essentials

Scores in each category were then averaged together alongside a general rating of how happy expats were with their lives.

Like last year, Mexico was ranked as the best country for expats to live in for 2023, followed by Spain, Panama, Malaysia and Taiwan. The top five were given high praise in the Personal Finance and Easy of Settling In categories, but few scored well in the Working Abroad and Quality of Life aspects of the survey.

On the flip side, Kuwait was ranked as the worst country for expats in 53rd, with InterNations blaming poor scores for the Working Abroad and Ease of Settling In categories.

Switzerland places mid-table in best expat nation list

In what will prove to be a bit of a surprise for many - given how often Swiss cities and cantons find themselves at or near the top of living standard surveys - Switzerland only ranked as the 23rd best destination for expats in 2023, placing mid-table and four places below its score from 2022. It tops off what was a difficult survey for many top expat destinations, with the Netherlands placing 22nd and Germany ranking fourth worst in the world.

So why has the ranking put the alpine nation in the dog house? Starting with the positives, InterNations said that Switzerland was rated especially well in the Quality of Life Index, placing 8th in the world.

The country scored highly thanks to its natural environment and climate, placing first in the subcategory. Over 90 percent of respondents said they appreciated Swiss lakes, rivers, mountains and air quality - although many criticised the country's lack of things to do for those who don't like nature. 

The country also did well when it came to the stability of government and safety - placing second in the Safety and Security subcategory. “I love that Switzerland is a beautiful, safe, well-organised country”, noted one respondent.

Switzerland ranked near-bottom for friendliness

However, after placing 12th for jobs, work and leisure culture, Switzerland ranked mid-table when it came to Expat Essentials and Personal Finance. The high cost of healthcare, housing and prices in general were all criticised, with one German citizen calling the cost of living “insane”.

Finally, where Switzerland really dropped points was in the Ease of Settling In Index, ranking 47th out of 53 in the category. Of those surveyed, 22 percent of expats said Swiss citizens are unfriendly, while 27 percent thought their ire is targeted specifically at internationals, 9 percent more than the global average. 54 percent said it was hard to make local friends, while 24 percent reported that they do not feel welcome in Switzerland. One American expat concluded, “I am very lonely.”

10 best destinations for expats in 2023

In all, here are the top 10 best places for expats, according to InterNations.

  1. Mexico
  2. Spain
  3. Panama
  4. Malaysia
  5. Taiwan
  6. Thailand
  7. Costa Rica
  8. The Philippines
  9. Bahrain
  10. Portugal

For more information, check out the InterNations website.

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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