Bern: The Best City in Europe for Expats
Posted by Dannielle Noonan
Bern, the capital of Switzerland, has been named the most ‘liveable’ city in Europe for expatriates. At Medibroker, we speak to people planning a move abroad every day and work hard to understand our customers' needs, so we wanted to find out more about what made the city such a strong contender.
Everything is closed on Sundays, shops close their doors at around 7pm every day and Switzerland has an infamously high cost of living. So what are the redeeming qualities that draw expatriates to Bern?
In the 2014 Expat Explorer survey, Switzerland was named one of the leading destinations for a balanced expat lifestyle. Many Switzerland-based expats mentioned the better work/life balance, availability of outdoor activities, and a family-centric culture as the reasons why they enjoy the Swiss lifestyle.
Switzerland may lack beaches but its tiny capital overcompensates in every way. The picturesque Old Town is built in the loop of the River Aare and has an architectural charm that entitles Bern to its UNESCO World Heritage site status. Sandstone buildings line medieval cobbled streets that are set against a backdrop of Swiss hills adorned with dollhouse-like red roofs, creating an image of ultimate tranquility.
The city itself is a veritable playground for expats; enchanting as it is diverse. Serving as a gateway to the Alps, the landscape equips energetic expats with outdoor activities like cycling, hiking and skiing. Open air vegetable and flower markets are a great place to relax and shop - and the weather won't deter expat shoppers in Bern: with 6 kilometres of arcades, the city boasts one of the longest weather-sheltered shopping promenades in Europe!
In addition, Bern is a citadel of culture, with numerous museums, cafes and interesting landmarks.
Economy in Switzerland
Switzerland’s economy is one of the most robust in the world and expats can enjoy some of the highest global salaries. The quality of living is on par, as expats in Bern or elsewhere in Switzerland will soon discover.
However, a strong economy also signals high prices, though life in Bern comes with a high price tag for a reason. High prices equal efficiency and ease. Public transport is very reliable, but the city is best discovered on foot. Bern’s infrastructure is designed for the general welfare of the people, and the city’s public spaces are incredibly beautiful and well maintained.
“Good air quality, solid infrastructure, decent medical facilities, low crime and health risks have contributed to Bern and Copenhagen topping the global ranking for quality of living for European assignees,” said Neil Ashman, Senior Analyst, Location Ratings at ECA International, the survey that named Bern as the most liveable city in Europe.
ECA International assessed cities on the basis of the climate; availability of health services; housing and utilities; isolation; access to a social network and leisure facilities; infrastructure; personal safety; political tensions and air quality they offered expats. Bern came out on top as the best city for European expats.
Healthcare in Switzerland
The ECA survey functions to help companies establish appropriate allowances to compensate employees for the adjustment required when going on international assignment. They assess factors like climate, availability of health services, housing and utilities, isolation, access to a social network and leisure facilities, infrastructure, personal safety, political tensions and air quality to come to conclusions about how difficult or easy a transition to the city may be.
The city's new label could mean people relocating to Bern for work may receive a less extensive employment package than people moving to other countries.
Because Bern is considered to be an attractive destination for expats and international assignees, employers may feel they don't have to offer staff they post in the city incentives like accommodation and a health plan.
Switzerland has excellent healthcare facilities and health insurance is compulsory for residents in order to promote good general health in the population. Without a comprehensive medical insurance plan you could be denied access to medical attention in Bern or incur high medical costs.
If you are working in Switzerland and your employer provides you with health insurance, you should ensure that it is extensive enough to meet your individual needs. Do you need additional coverage for maternity, dental treatment or something else? Speak to Medibroker.