"Uganda ist top, Schweiz ist flop" lamented a headline in the BZ Basel newspaper this week, after a survey of expats found that Switzerland polled 61st out of 67 nations in terms of friendliness to foreigners.
In a humiliation possibly equal to Switzerland's defeat to Germany in the Olympic beach volleyball competition, the annual Expat Insider survey saw Switzerland finish 31st overall as a top destination for expats – down from 4th in 2014. This year Taiwan topped the list, followed by Malta, Ecuador and Mexico. (Uganda made it to 3rd on the survey’s ‘Ease of Settling In’ index.)
And according to InterNations, the expat organisation which conducted the survey, the big reason for Switzerland's decline is perceptions that Swiss locals are not friendly, families with children don’t feel welcomed and that it’s hard for expats to ‘settle in’ here.
"Unfortunately, while there are four different coexisting languages and cultures in Switzerland, the acceptance of diversity does not seem to extend to newcomers," InterNations said. Ouch.
But as is always the case with surveys of this kind, a little perspective is helpful before comparisons can be made. Few, if any, of those surveyed would have expat experience of both Switzerland and Malta, Ecuador or Mexico.
Perceptions of unfriendliness are unlikely to spur Swiss authorities into a charm offensive any time soon, however. Neighbouring Germany achieved similar results to Switzerland – tops for jobs and among the worst for rudeness. And few expats here will be surprised to learn that Switzerland continues to rank higher than other top destinations on factors such as quality of life, safety, working conditions, family life and transport.
In any case, when Time Out Switzerland talked recently to expats, the prevailing attitude was that while the Swiss might seem unfriendly at first, that perception disappears with time and familiarity. Catherine Nelson-Pollard, author of the Living in Nyon blog, recommends that expats can do their part to melt the ice, too – by joining a local club to make friends, for example. Read more advice from expats here.
So what do you think? Are the Swiss unfriendly? And does it matter? Have your say, and give us your tips on settling into Swiss life below.