SUISSE news Spring 2018
Tourism | Law | International Affairs | Switzerland-Canada Comparisons
May 2018

How Expats See Canada and Switzerland

(Kurt Schläpfer)
The term "expat" is not clearly defined. In the Cambridge Dictionary, an expat or expatriate is someone who does not live in his own country. Usually, an expat is defined as a person sent by his employer (company, organisation or government) to live abroad for a defined period of time.   

A worldwide organization of expats, called InterNations, asked about 13,000 persons to rate different aspects of life abroad. The report Expat Insider 2017, now appearing in its fourth year, is offering an informative analysis of expat life across the globe. The picture that emerges is interesting, as some of the results differ noticeably from other country rankings. Particularly interesting is the fact that, in this analysis, Switzerland earns far poorer ratings than Canada. 

The following text presents an abridged version of how expats of different countries rated Canada and Switzerland in the Expat Insider 2017.     

Expats in Canada: "Far away but worth a lengthy stay"

Many expats in Canada may have worried about the long distance to travel from home to Canada, but the great quality of life and friendly Canadians are more than a compensation. In fact, 45% of respondents in Canada say they may stay forever. The most common reason for moving was for a better quality of life: 17% of respondents said this was their main motivation, and three-quarters also considered general living standards a potential benefit prior to moving. Respondents are particularly happy with their personal safety as well as peacefulness.

Three-quarters of respondents are generally satisfied with the affordability of healthcare, and Canada’s nature does the rest: an impressive 91% of respondents rate the quality of the environment positively. Canada offers a clean environment and plenty of leisure activities — the majority (52%) rates the latter as excellent. However, respondents are less happy with the country’s cold climate. Luckily, the welcome expats receive in Canada is less frosty than the weather. Over four in five respondents (81%) regard the attitude towards foreign residents as friendly.

General satisfaction with work, however, does not necessarily mean high salaries. Close to three in ten (28%) find their disposable household income isn’t enough to cover their living expenses. When it comes to family life in general, a large percentage of expat parents are very happy with their children’s health (49%), safety (72%), general well-being (41%), as well as the available leisure activities for kids (51%).

Expats in Switzerland: "More than just clocks, chocolate & cheese"   

Many expats are not particularly satisfied with Switzerland as host country. The more than 400 expats interviewed are primarily concerned with the high cost of living and the discontent at getting settled in. Respondents often don’t feel at ease in the Swiss culture, perceive the local population as rather unwelcoming toward foreign residents, and struggle to make friends. Close to seven in ten expats in Switzerland agree that it’s difficult to make local friends and just half give the general friendliness of the population a favorable rating. According to a US American respondent: "People in Switzerland have a culture of being reserved, they are friendly, but not actually looking for friends".

Incomes in Switzerland are higher for over three-quarters of working respondents (77%), and 44% even say it’s a lot higher. In contrast, the country ranks second to last in the Cost of Living Index, with close to three-quarters (73%) rating this factor negatively. The majority of expats also gives the affordability of housing (67%), healthcare (50%), and childcare (71% of parents) a negative rating. Despite the infamously high costs, nearly seven in ten expats (69%) are generally satisfied with their financial situation in Switzerland. The quality of life in Switzerland seems to make up for such high living expenses.

The destination has even more to offer. Around seven in ten respondents give the opportunity to travel (69%) and the local transportation infrastructure (74%) the best possible rating. Switzerland only loses ground due to the healthcare costs — both the quality of medical care (85%) and of the environment (98%) are rated favorably by the vast majority of respondents.

How expats rated their host countries: 


Rank out of 65 countries




General satisfaction



Cost of living



Ease of settling in



Quality of live



SCCC Corporate Members
  • Zurich Canada
  • Laderach (Canada) Inc.
  • Custom Spring Corporate
  • Rolex Canada Ltd.
  • Lette LLP
  • Roche Canada
  • Swissmar Ltd.
  • Switzerland Tourism
  • Swiss Business Hub
  • Endress + Hauser Canada Ltd
  • Swiss International Air Lines Ltd.
  • Habib Canadian Bank  (Subsidiary of Habib Bank AG Zurich)
  • Hilti (Canada) Corporation
  • Mazars LLP
  • Canadian Tire Corporation