Monday, November 16, 2009

Guest Post: Is Switzerland an easy country for expats?

By Chantal Panozzo

A few days ago, I was preparing for a radio interview and one of the
questions was, “Is Switzerland an easy country for expats?”

My answer? Yes and no.

Yes, because it’s easy to find support groups of other expats and make
friends through the expat community.

Here are some of them:

Swiss Expat Bloggers (

International Men’s Club Zurich (

British Residents’ Associate of Switzerland (

Zurich Comedy Club (

Zurich International Women’s Association (

But I also think that Switzerland can be a hard country for expats
because the Swiss culture doesn’t make it easy to feel a part of. It’s
hard to make friends with the Swiss people because they are so
private—I’ve learned from the few Swiss friends I do have that even
the Swiss have trouble making Swiss friends. It’s not just us. It’s
the way the culture is. So don’t feel bad. One of my Swiss friends
just started a new job in Zurich and couldn’t believe no one talked to
him the first few weeks he was there. No one said, “let’s go to
lunch.” He had to ask first. This is typical. And he doesn’t like it

Another reason Switzerland can be difficult for expats is because of
the language. Especially in the German section, the language can be a
barrier no matter what version you learn, because you can’t win. You
learn High German and change every der, den, das, dem, denen, and des
into a “duh”, but you’re still labeled as a outsider no matter how
good those duh’s get. And correct me if I’m wrong, but Swiss German
seems like a hard language to learn because it’s not written at all.
So take your choice—be able to read your Swiss mail and your Swiss
newspaper and communicate with all of Germany or Austria, or learn a
Swiss dialect and be able to talk to the 2,000 people in your town but
not be able to read and write. Hmm.

But enough about what I think. Do you think Switzerland is an easy
country for expats to live in? Why or why not?

Chantal Panozzo is a writer and blogger. Besides keeping her own blog,
One Big Yodel ( and Writer Abroad
( she also blogs for a new expat community
blog ( This blog offers
affordable calling cards in Switzerland
( as well as
information about living in abroad in Switzerland and many other

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