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Of all the annual expat surveys it is perhaps the HSBC Expat Explorer survey which is most eagerly anticipated.
With over 22,000 survey respondents from expats living in 39 countries around the world it is one of most extensive such surveys – and as a result offers some of the most intriguing insights.
The Expat Explorer survey aims to ask respondents about a range of factors pertaining to their experiences living and working in a foreign country.
These range from their feelings about job security, to salaries, to personal safety.
These various responses are then grouped into a number of categories such as “economics”, “experience” and “family”. From here an overall rating can be calculated, helping to provide details on the “best” countries for expats.
With over twice the respondents of last year, the 2015 edition of the survey is perhaps the most detailed and fair view of expat life ever published by HSBC.
What is perhaps even more interesting than just the overall scores (covered elsewhere on the Expatriate Healthcare blog) are the changes. Most notable of these are how different last year’s results for Switzerland are in comparison to this year.
Indeed, according to the 2014 edition, Switzerland was crowned as the top expat destination in the world.
It benefits from a very strong economy which can result in higher-than-average salaries, good public services and high levels of job security.
Switzerland also boasts a highly-rated public schooling system and a very low crime rate. Indeed it is really only the level of taxation that has caused concerns in the past among some expat workers.
Oh, how things have changed this year. Last year’s #1 winner has in 2015 fallen to an overall ranking of 10th. This is of course still a very impressive ranking, and sees it outranking heavyweight expat destinations like Hong Kong, the USA and Qatar. But it is still a shocking drop from the number one position last year.
So what are weaknesses revealed in this year’s survey results which have led to such a precipitous decline in Switzerland’s rating? Firstly, come the costs of living.
It’s no secret that Switzerland’s impressively clean cities and reliable public transport network are paid for through taxation, but this isn’t the only financial drain that expats in the country can anticipate.
Ranking poorly in this year’s survey are the costs of both rearing children in the country and the property prices to be found in many of the major urban hubs.
However possibly even more disturbing are the difficulties that many expats feel about integrating into the local culture. Switzerland scores poorly for “integration”, “social life” and “making friends”.
Some expats report that the Swiss are typically quite conservative and reserved; they tend to keep themselves to themselves so making new friends can be problematic.
It certainly seems from other expats that considerably more effort must be made when moving to Switzerland in order to become part of the general populace than one may need to make in some other competing expat destinations.
Of course it’s not all doom and gloom; Switzerland would never sit inside the top 10 if it weren’t for an awful lot of benefits. The health service, quality of life and personal safety all rank incredibly strongly, and represent some of the highest scores seen for any country.
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