Happy Expats?

A recent survey carried out by HSBC on expats around the world investigated, amongst other things, quality of life, raising a family, and cost of living. Switzerland ranked first amongst expats when these measures were combined. The survey can be found here:


I, for one, am happy to be here. At the same time, I acknowledge some of the expat benefits apparent in other regions of the world. My last position was in China, where teacher salaries are amongst the highest in the profession – high enough to cancel out the pollution levels, for a period of time in any case. Previously we lived in the Philippines, a nation that has been ranked as amongst the happiest in the world. And we left behind New Zealand, ranked by HSBC as the best place to raise families.

Consequently, like you, I can reflect back on previous experiences and relate them to our day-to-day lives in Switzerland. In a conversation with a colleague, a few things became apparent. Foremost was the relationship we have with landscapes: Here’s mine…


It seems as though we relate to the landscape of our youth, and this becomes the yardstick against which we measure everything else, for better or for worse. Don’t get me wrong – Switzerland is stunningly beautiful (I love mountains, and living with a view of the Alps is certainly ‘uplifting’) – it just doesn’t have that smell of the Atlantic, the sea breeze, the crisp sand. And perhaps this is the nub of the question: Can ‘different’ be as good?

I also wonder how much our reflections bring to bear when we compare all those things we leave behind. We bring with us a range of memories apart from ‘landscapes’ – essentially, landscapes of the mind – memories of previous schools for example. In doing so, we always compare that which is new (ISBerne) to those schools of our past.

I’m not sure of how to end a reflection such as this. Perhaps a reiteration of the fact that we are happy in Switzerland, but cognizant of what we leave behind. A topic for a future Pechakucha?


Richard Swart

Director ISBerne

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