What it’s like living in one of the best countries in the world

In 2020, Switzerland was US News & World Report’s Best Country to Live In – this year it is #4.  


Fun fact: Switzerland is the only country with a square flag.


US News & World Report recently ranked Switzerland one of the “four best countries in the world” on its annual Best Countries report. The ranking does not surprise me–life here is pretty good–but it’s far from perfect, so I thought I’d delve into what Swiss life is like for an outsider.


More on the report


The report analyzed 78 countries on attributes that are “relevant to the success of a modern nation” such as: Adventure, citizenship, cultural influence, entrepreneurship, heritage, movers, business, power and quality of life.


“Switzerland is one of the world’s top countries in part because of its progressive social systems, protection of human rights and business-friendly environment,” the authors wrote in their report. Overall, Switzerland scored nine out of ten points on metrics such as “cares about the environment,” “religious freedom” and “cares about human rights.” Switzerland also ranked #1 in safety, #1 in countries to retire and #1 in economic stability.


My take on the report


If I had to pinpoint my top “quality of life” metric about living in Switzerland, it would be safety. Violent crime is basically non-existent here, so I feel safe everywhere. Every street I walk down, every bus I ride, every poorly-lit park I walk through as the sun sets.


It is as if I’ve been holding tightly onto something inside of me–like I might hold onto my purse on a crowded Washington D.C. metro–that I’ve finally released while living in Switzerland. I’m not looking over my shoulder. I’m carefree. And that feeling is worth so much more than I can quantify.


The Swiss protect their green space through a variety of green initiatives and stifled urban sprawl.


Switzerland cares about the environment more than any place I’ve ever lived and it shows in how they protect their green space. Recycling, composting and using public transportation has been ingrained in the Swiss mindset for generations. The Swiss do not brag about solar panels or eating farm-to-table, because it is simply something everyone does daily thanks to the government’s commitment to green initiatives. This country is the perfect example of how small, every day habits can make a difference.


Switzerland is committed to making big changes, too. As far as economic stability, Switzerland certainly lives up to its ultra-wealthy reputation. National debt and unemployment do not often make Swiss headlines…if ever, come to think of it. That said, the Swiss rely on foreign businesses keeping money in their banks and their lenient tax laws may not be sustainable for much longer.


But for an expat family such as my own, it is challenging living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. US News ranks Switzerland’s affordability as 0.4! The average cup of coffee is $4.50, a McDonald’s meal is $15 and a movie ticket is $25. I didn’t move here to eat Big Macs, but even grocery shopping can be appalling.


Thank goodness the best Switzerland has to offer is free: Nature.


Switzerland garnered a whopping 6 out of 100 for sexiness on US News & World Report’s country report. Is it the cows?


Too good to be true?


Switzerland’s “top ranking comes from consistently high scores in ‘soft power’ areas, such as providing an inclusive society and a high quality of life for its people,” writes US News contributor Christopher F. Schuetze, adding that this perception doesn’t take into account Switzerland’s growing issues such as dependency on EU trade and difficulties foreigners have finding jobs. How right he is!


Being a Swiss citizen is good. Very good. If you happen to have been born in Switzerland, you’ve won the jackpot – that is, if you are born to Swiss parents, unlike my two children. (Switzerland is one of a handful of countries that does not recognize naturalization.)


So, you still want to move to Switzerland and become a productive member of its society? Don’t hold your breath. If a Swiss company wants to hire a foreigner it has to first prove that it has advertised to and tried to hire any Swiss citizen who was interested in the position, despite his or her qualifications for the job. And having a job offer on the table first is the only way to obtain a coveted, one-year visa to live in Switzerland. And you will have to do the stacks of paperwork all over again the following year.


Living in the world’s “best country” is good, but that “good” comes with an asterisk. It is good if you have enough money to afford living here and it is “#1 in the world good” if you are a Swiss citizen. Still, we call it home.



This article may be shared and re-published on other websites without our permission, so long as it links back to the original UltraSwiss page.




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