Switzerland has gained a reputation over the years for being very clean, very organised, and very expensive. And with the population growing from around 4.6 million in 1950 to over 8.5 million today, Switzerland certainly seems like a popular place to live.
But of course, not all of 8.5 million are actually Swiss nationals. In fact, records from 2019 indicate that 25% or just over 2.1 million of the people living in Switzerland are classed as being foreigners. Some of these are foreign nationals born in Switzerland, but others are skilled workers who move to Switzerland for job opportunities.
Foreign workers are important for Switzerland, which needs skilled specialists to fulfil key positions. But despite being attracted to Switzerland by high wages and a high quality lifestyle and the Swiss tax system, a high percentage of immigrants choose not to stay in Switzerland for the long term.
In fact, a recent report released by the federal stats office showed that from the 223’000 people who immigrated to Switzerland in 2011 – 53 % had already left the country by 2021. The nationality and status of the leavers played a key role in the reason why. Here some of the findings:
- Some nationalities left soon after arriving, while others stayed for longer periods.
- 6% of the immigrants came from EU/EFTA states and these left within a decade of arrival.
- However – 70% of North Africans left Switzerland within four years of arriving.
- Other nationalities such as USA, Australia, New Zealand stayed longer but also eventually left.
- The report also gave possible reasons for the people leaving was probably linked to their status. For example:
- 3rd country nationals such as USA, Australia, New Zealand are frequently in demand as professionals.
- The vast majority of North Africans on the other hand come as asylum seekers who must ultimately leave anyway.
In addition to people leaving Switzerland, the migratory route works both ways however, with a trend for people also returning to Switzerland to live now happening.
- 23% of the 188’000 people who left Switzerland a decade ago, have since returned.
- Native Swiss make up 55% of the returnees, while 40% are Swiss who are born abroad.
- More than 25% of foreigners born in Switzerland who had left the country, end up returning.
- 16% of those born abroad also “returned.”
So what is about Switzerland that people love so much they want to come back? It seems to be a consensus amongst those who have left Switzerland, that there are certain things from Switzerland that “stand out” in comparison to other countries and are therefore high on the items “missed” when moving away.
The very efficient Swiss transport system is definitely high on the list of “things missed” when moving away from Switzerland. Every mountain town and small village seems to be connected by the Swiss transport network and not only do busses and trains work seamlessly in terms of the timetables and pricing, but there are rarely any delays. And there is almost always a seat available!
An efficient and modern transport network makes going out and enjoying the beautiful Swiss nature easy. In fact, because most people in Switzerland live in apartments, getting out and enjoying nature is a national pastime. Organised walks and cross country skiing is typical for Swiss society.
Switzerland is clean and tidy it is fair to say that cleaning is almost an obsession in Switzerland. People are taught to respect and look after nature and it is a pleasure to walk around the many beautiful Swiss towns. Littering is not tolerated and anyone seen to litter will no doubt be told to pick up the offensive rubbish by a passer by!
The quality of food in Switzerland is second to none. Swiss chocolate and pastries are world famous, but so also, Swiss cheese and the dishes of fondue and raclette (only “Emmentaler” has holes in it!). With the influx of foreign workers, so the influence on cooking styles has also developed and fusion recipes are now found in many restaurants and in specialist food stores. While traditional menus can of course still be found everywhere, new style cuisine of the highest standard is also readily available.
Lifestyle & Festivals
Compared to other countries where shops and businesses stay open all week and around the clock, Switzerland definitely has its own specific lifestyle, tempo and culture. Shops closed on Sunday may at first seem archaic to the new worker to Switzerland, but an appreciation for “down time” and a slower pace at the weekends, is something which is quickly learned and appreciated.
Playing a huge part in the lifestyle of the Swiss are the numerous unique festivals, events and traditions that are a key fabric of Swiss society. Tradition is important to the Swiss as are the many festivals that support those traditions.
Finally, the location of Switzerland at the heart of Europe means it is easy and relatively inexpensive to travel to neighbouring countries and experience other cultures, climates and foods. Traveling by train for example from Switzerland to Paris, Milan, Munich, or Vienna is comfortable and takes only a few hours.
Switzerland relies on skilled foreign workers to operate successfully. And although many of the immigrants arriving in Switzerland do not stay for the long term, many people do return to Switzerland once having lived abroad. Given the abundant nature, enviable lifestyle and high quality lifestyle of Switzerland, it is not hard to see why.
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