Expatriation in Switzerland: what are the challenges?

Couple préparant leur expatriation en Suisse
What challenges do your foreign employees face when moving to Switzerland?

Ranked 19th out of 52 in InterNations' Expat Insider 2022 report, Switzerland is considered a very attractive destination for foreigners looking to move abroad. A considerable advantage for companies looking for the best international talent! But once the initial excitement has passed, your new employees may be faced with a number of challenges.

As an HR professional or manager, you need to understand the complexities inherent in moving to another country and put strategies in place to:

  • Facilitate your expat employees’ integration.
  • Maximise the chances of success of your international recruitment.

In this article, we look at the main challenges expats face in Switzerland:

  • The language and cultural barriers.
  • The high cost of living.
  • Finding and paying for accommodation.
  • The social isolation.

1. Language and cultural barriers

One of the first challenges your employees will encounter when relocating to Switzerland is the language and cultural barrier. With four national languages (German, French, Italian and Romansh), it can be difficult for newcomers to communicate, particularly in bilingual regions.

Furthermore, Swiss cultural subtleties and social norms differ considerably from those of their country of origin, leading to misunderstandings and a feeling of disconnection.

Two barriers that explain Switzerland's 43rd position (out of 52) for ease of settling in in InterNations' Expat Insider 2022 report.

Our advice:

  • Offer language courses and cultural awareness classes as soon as the employee arrives.
  • Encourage interaction with Swiss colleagues to facilitate linguistic and cultural immersion.

2. High cost of living

According to the same report, Switzerland ranks 31st out of 52 countries in terms of cost of living. In fact, 65% of expatriates surveyed said they found the cost of living too high (compared to 35% internationally). They consider the cost of public transport and healthcare to be particularly expensive.

This new financial reality can therefore cause stress and impact their perceived quality of life.

Our advice: offer "fringe benefits" such as health insurance to all your employees.

3. Finding and paying for accommodation

Finding suitable accommodation when moving to Switzerland is a major challenge for expatriates, influencing their overall experience. A fact confirmed in InterNations' Expat Insider 2022 report:

  • Switzerland ranks 44th out of 52 in the accommodation category.
  • 42% of expats in Switzerland report difficulties finding accommodation, compared to 27% worldwide.
  • 58% express concern about being able to afford accommodation in Switzerland, compared to 43% worldwide.

These figures highlight the financial and logistical challenges faced by new expatriates.

Our advice: offer active support in their housing search by

  • Providing information on affordable neighbourhoods.
  • Setting up partnerships with local estate agencies.
  • Considering housing allowances to ease the financial pressure on new arrivals.

4. Social isolation following expatriation to Switzerland

52% of expats in Switzerland point out the difficulty of making local friends in the Expat Insider 2022 report (compared to 37% internationally), ranking Switzerland 43rd out of 52 in this category.

In addition, 25% of expats find the Swiss unfriendly, ranking Switzerland 44th out of 52 in this category.

Social isolation is a significant challenge for expats. Far from their usual network , their family and friends, they can feel lonely and find it difficult to make new contacts. The difficulty of establishing personal relationships can also affect their emotional well-being.

Our advice: Encourage inclusion by organising social activities within the company and helping newcomers to connect with local groups and associations.

In summary

Moving to Switzerland, while rich in opportunities, presents significant challenges for international employees. As HR professionals and managers, it is crucial you take these challenges into account and put in place strategies to facilitate the integration of your expatriate employees.

By offering linguistic, financial, administrative and social support, you can create an environment where newcomers can not only overcome barriers, but also thrive and make a significant contribution to your business.

Our expatriation support solutions

Formations&Co offers language and cultural courses tailored to the challenges faced by expats in Switzerland. Our "Welcome to Switzerland" programme is designed to:

  • Give them the practical language skills they need to settle in and communicate easily in their everyday lives.
  • Give them a good cultural understanding of Switzerland so that they can integrate well and understand the differences with their country of origin.
  • Support your employee, their spouse and children, depending on their specific needs.

Would you like to find out more? Discover our support solution.

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