Stunning scenery and high-quality education are just two reasons expats enjoy living in Switzerland.
The results of a survey conducted by HSBC of 20,460 expatriates from 46 countries showed that Switzerland was the preferred place to live and work for the third year in a row.
About 93% of respondents reported an improved quality of life since moving to Switzerland and voted it as one of the top three countries, along with Australia and New Zealand, for general well-being.
For Honor Jackson, 29, a doctoral assistant at the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland’s main attraction is its “beautiful natural features”, with plenty of hiking in the mountains and valleys to explore.
It’s beautiful, it’s an amazing country,” Jackson told CNBC by phone.
Jackson also noted how much cleaner the air is compared to the British capital, London, where she moved in 2018 with partner Alex, a full-time stay-at-home dad to their two-year-old son.
The cost of living is high, but she said there is an emphasis on selling locally grown produce and fewer imported goods, and everyone is paid “well”. She earns about 70,000 Swiss francs ($76,303) a year. In 2020, the Swiss canton of Geneva introduced a minimum wage of 23 Swiss francs per hour, said to be the highest in the world.
Jackson said she and her partner pay about 1,100 Swiss francs a month to rent their three-bedroom apartment in Neuchâtel. According to the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, the average rent in Switzerland in 2019 was around CHF 1,362 per month.
Residents of Switzerland do not pay a national insurance tax, other taxes are “relatively low” and the cost of healthcare is “expensive,” Jackson said. In Switzerland, residents are legally required to pay a health care insurance fee to live in the country. Data from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office found that in 2019, CHF801 per person per month was spent on healthcare.
Jackson said the quality of healthcare in Switzerland was “amazing” but the cost was a “shock” from the UK, which has a tax-funded National Health Service.
She also loved how “family friendly” Switzerland was and the fact that it gave her son the opportunity to become bilingual, learning French at the “kindergarten”, while also speaking English at home.
At the same time, she said there could be some “conservatism”.
“For example, Alex is a stay-at-home dad and there can be a little bit of confusion about who’s working and people will tend to address Alex as the one in charge of the money and things like that,” she explained.
Jackson and her family are soon due to relocate to Los Angeles for a year, where she has received a grant from a Swiss national authority to fund some research leave, but they plan to return to Switzerland after that and stay long, if possible.
“There is no way, if I had a choice, I would leave,” she said.
Paula Thibaud, a 39-year-old independent English teacher, also loved the Swiss education system enabling her three children to become bilingual.
She moved from York, UK, in 2006 to work as a husband at university for a year and then stayed after getting a job at a residential site for people with disabilities, where she met her husband.
Thiebaud was also impressed by how safe the place she and her family lived in Neuchatel and the slow pace of life.
“Everything is closed on Sunday, you can’t do anything on Sunday except go to the pool or go to the movies – it kind of makes you prioritize a little differently,” she told CNBC by phone.
While Thibaud thought the cost of healthcare insurance in Switzerland was “exorbitant”, she said the system provided faster access to services than would have been possible through the UK’s NHS, such as her son’s ADHD assessment.
One drawback, she said, is that the childcare system can be complex, especially for those who work in the sector. In Switzerland, schools usually do not serve lunch, so children go home or parents have to find childcare for that part of the day.
Thibod said she has set up a lunchtime babysitting group, where children can also come to learn English. However, she said in her county restrictions that only five children could attend her group, which includes her children, while other regions did not have the same rules.
Thibaud, who earns between 2,500 and 3,000 Swiss francs a month, also said the cost of food, especially meat, can be expensive but she likes the quality of Switzerland’s seasonal produce.
She said she would eventually like to go back to the UK and buy a house, because doing so in Switzerland is not “economically viable”. In fact, the home ownership rate in Switzerland was just 36% in 2019, according to the Swiss Federal Statistical Office. In comparison, British government data published in 2020, showed that 63% of households in England owned their homes in 2018.
Sam Bourgeois, 34, a lecturer at the University of Lausanne, earns around 3,000 Swiss francs a month. He lives in Biel Township, also known as Bienne, with his wife Catherine and their son, after they moved from where he was studying in Texas in 2013.
Bourgeois told CNBC in a video call that one of the advantages of Switzerland is the fact that it is quite “stable”, especially in terms of politics.
“I mean, it’s nice that things work in organizations and you can count on them,” he said.
However, he added, there may be a bit of cultural “conservatism” that comes with this stability.
“So I mean, when I go for walks, if I dare go off the trail, there’s a little bit of ‘Oh, you can’t go off the track,'” Bourgeois explained, saying he missed some ‘American wildness’ as he grew up in Vermont.
Bourgeois said he found the health care system in Switzerland more “liberal” than in the United States because it was not tied to your work.
“A lot of people I know keep their jobs just because of healthcare, even though they’re completely unhappy there,” he said.
Bourgeois is applying for a two-year academic scholarship in the UK but is also applying for Swiss citizenship.
He added, “The only reason for me to come back to the United States, for example, is because somehow I was offered something…it had to be at least an equivalent lifestyle if it was better, which is unlikely to happen.”