Ten facts about Switzerland’s foreign residents

Written by
Caroline Bishop

If you’ve been living in Switzerland over the past year, your ears must have been plugged with melted Gruyère not to know that the issue of immigration has been hotter than a freshly fried rösti. With the Swiss narrowly voting in favour of the reintroduction of immigration quotas for EU citizens, and the subsequent frosty relations between Switzerland and Brussels, foreigners in the country have been left wondering what the future holds.

With its camera-ready scenery, high quality of life, bumper salaries and instant access to chocolate, it’s no wonder so many foreigners want to live here – a huge 23.8 percent* of Switzerland’s eight million resident population is foreign-born. But, we wondered, where exactly are some of them from?

1. There are a whopping 298,875 Italians in Switzerland, the biggest foreign population in the country. That’s about the size of Venice, Italy’s 11th biggest city.

2. Switzerland is home to 292,291 Germans, on a par with the south-west German city of Mannheim, whose citizens certainly know how to get about – Karl Drais created the world’s first bicycle there in 1817, while some 50 years later Mannheim engineer Karl Benz invented the motorcar.

3. The 253,227 Portuguese who have made Switzerland home outnumber the population of Portugal’s second city Porto, meaning only the capital Lisbon houses more Portuguese than Switzerland.

4. The 110,103 French-born Swiss residents would fit into France's 32nd biggest city Rouen, where French heroine Joan of Arc was burned at the stake by the English in 1431 during a hundred-year tricky period of Anglo-French relations.

5. There are 90,704 Serbians in Switzerland, on a par with the population of Subotica, Serbia’s fifth biggest city.

6. There are only around two million people in Kosovo, yet a rather substantial 86,976 Kosovans live in Switzerland, more than in Kosovo’s second biggest city Prizren. Only the capital Pristina has more.

7. Switzerland is home to 75,300 Spanish. That’s about the same number that live in the central Spanish city of Toledo, a place where different cultures and faiths coexisted for centuries.

8. The 70,440 Turks in Switzerland would fit into the Turkish town of Burdur, which claims to have been inhabited as far back as 7,000BC.

9. The 62,633 Macedonians in Switzerland outnumber the residents of Macedonia’s fifth biggest city, the culturally diverse Tetovo.

10. If all 40,898 British Swiss residents lived together, they’d create a place about the size of humdrum Somerset town Yeovil - which is probably reason enough not to live in Britain.

Who else? Not making the top ten, but still some other vocal members of Switzerland’s foreign resident population are Croatians (30,471), Sri Lankans (27,074), Dutch (20,144), Americans (19,784), Brazilians (19,243), Eritreans (16,584), Canadians (6, 888) and Australians (3,184).

...and the 858 New Zealander Swiss residents would win a tussle with the residents of Russell, the first permanent European settlement and port in New Zealand.

*Immigration figures as of 31 December 2013, published by the Swiss Federal Statistics Office.
World city population stats from http://www.citypopulation.de

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