Are you an expat living in Switzerland and wondering how your decision to live abroad will impact your ability to fall in love and finding The One? Maybe you have heard some horror stories about how difficult it is to date in Switzerland, and you aren’t sure if it is worth your time to dip your toe in the dating pool? Well, today on the blog, Kelly Brandli who is a Scientific Dating and Relationship Coach as well as certified Matchmaker, breaks down all you need to know about the dating scenario in Switzerland as an expat. Let’s see what she has to say!
“I came to Switzerland as someone’s girlfriend. I later became his wife. Then fast forward 10 years later and I was suddenly single again. Here I was, an expat in Switzerland, trying to navigate the dating scene for the very first time as a divorced, single mom. I am happy that my story has a happy end and after several years of trying things the hard way, I was able to meet an amazing Swiss man and today we have an extraordinary
relationship.” Through this experience I now work as a Dating and Relationship Coach and have helped hundreds of men and women create their own love stories. A large number of my clients are expats, both in Switzerland and abroad. Based on my own personal experience, as well as the experience of many of my clients I have learned some important lessons about what it takes to Find Love as an Expat in Switzerland and want to share with you my Top 10 Tips for finding love locally.
1. You may have come here for work, but don’t make it your life
Many of my expat clients have come to Switzerland because of a great career opportunity. Jobs that offer high salaries, exciting travel schedules and benefits packages that entice many away from their home countries, families and friends. Once in Switzerland, without an existing social network to fill your free time it can be very easy to throw yourself into your career. Staying late at the office seems like a better use of your time then heading home to watch television and cook dinner for one.
As an expat on a limited contract, it can be very easy to justify putting all your time and energy into your career. Your stay here is temporary and you want to make a good impression and hopefully land the next promotion that will move you to another exciting destination.
While this may be very tempting, it is important to start creating a social network and connecting with people outside of the work place as quickly as possible. Not only will this help you feel more settled in Switzerland, it will increase your chances of meeting a great
partner. One study by Gina Potarca published in December 2020 showed that the main way couples meet in Switzerland is through friends. It may also be that once you get use to the high quality of life in Switzerland, you decide you want to stay longer than expected and having a strong social network and a partner by your side will help you make that decision a lot easier.
2. Make your Love Life a Priority
Prior to becoming a Dating and Relationship Coach I worked as an Executive Headhunter. I recruited people from around the globe for exiting roles in Switzerland. I stayed in contact with a large number of these people over the years and heard over and over again how they had a great career, were financially doing very well and felt like they had it all – except someone to share it with.
Many expats justify not dating and not looking for a life partner by the fact that they are only here for a short time and it doesn’t make sense to start a relationship when they will leave in a few years. I recommend against this.
Don’t put your love life on hold because you feel like you are not settled. Being settled is more about your mindset than your physical location. As an expat with an international career, chances are you will move around many times in your life. Wouldn’t it be more fun if you had a life partner to share the experience with? You want to look for a partner with similar values, someone who is driven by growth, new opportunities and adventure.
3. Be Careful of Workplace romances
Be careful of dating your work colleagues. While many romances do start in the workplace it can be particularly high risk to your stability and security as an expat in a new country.
Initially your life is focused around your work and your residence permit is also tied to your job. If you do get into a workplace romance and the relationship doesn’t work out you will have not only your private life disrupted but also your security with your job.
It isn’t unusual for people after a breakup to want to create distance and avoid seeing the person as they work through the emotions and heal their broken heart. Now imagine you have to see this person every day because you work on the same team. Without an existing social network to support you through this challenging time it can be very difficult to manage. I have had several clients come to me after a workplace romance ends asking if they should go back home because they no longer feel comfortable at work.
4. It is important to understand the culture
Every country has it’s own unique culture, a fact that makes it both interesting and exciting as well as challenging to navigate when it comes to dating.
As an expat the reality is you will often be noticed because you do things a bit differently. This can be to your advantage if you are willing to embrace it rather than try to hide it. A part of you that attracts the interest of the local Swiss as well as other expats who are curious to learn about your culture.
One difference I noticed in Switzerland vs Canada (where I am from) is that singles tend to go out more to restaurants with friends than meet at their home. For many, an invitation to your home from someone they don’t know very well can be perceived as too forward and may have a hidden agenda.
In these situations, it is important to learn to ask questions, and ask for help when it comes to understanding the cultural differences. Ask your colleagues at work what they think and how they perceive the way you would normally do things. In some situations, you will want to embrace your native culture and stand out and in others you may want to adapt yourself to more of the local customs.
5. It is important to speak (even a little of) the local language
As an expat, you are very likely to meet a large number of fellow expats while dating. There is a good chance that you speak English at work and you will find that in the major cities you get along quite easily without the local language.
This can be a hidden curse though as many who have lived here for years will tell you. Because you don’t “need” the local language, and can get along without it, many expats don’t invest the time and energy to learn.
This can be a major disadvantage when dating locally. Even though a large percentage of the Swiss do speak English at a good level, they tend to be more reserved when approached by someone with perfect English. Having a basic command of the local language will allow you to make small talk and initiate a conversation. In this way, you will avoid the common knee jerk reaction when you meet someone and ask “Do you speak English? Many will respond with an Oh no! even though if you had asked in the local language, they may have appreciated your effort and lack of perfect German, French or Italian and been willing to engage in a conversation with you.
6. Staying updated on what is going on locally
Many expats tend to stay updated on what is going on in their home country but due to language barrier or cultural barriers aren’t so up to date on the local events.
As in point 5 above, having a basic understanding of the local language will allow you to be aware of events and activities going on locally. Switzerland is ripe with cultural, musical and theatrical events which are great places to meet other singles.
Check out your local newspaper for the upcoming community market or funfair, music events or follow groups on social media for the bigger national events which attract large international audiences. Being up to date on local political topics such as the next referendum is often a great way to engage a local Swiss in a conversation. The Swiss can become very passionate about such topics and are happy to share their views and opinions with others who are interested in debating different sides of the argument.
7. Don’t Believe the Myth that Locals don’t want to Date Foreigners
You have probably heard the widespread myth that the Swiss are closed off, don’t like to talk to foreigners and only socialize in their long standing circle of friends. Don’t believe this myth. This excuse is often perpetuated by expats to rationalize why they haven’t been able to date in Switzerland and it simply isn’t true!
The number of mixed marriages in Switzerland is on the rise according to the Federal Office of Statistics. In 2016 about 36% of all registered marriages in Switzerland were to non-Swiss nationals, in 2021 that number rose to 52% of all marriages were to foreign nationals. The numbers don’t lie, the Swiss love to travel, are very open minded and are more than open to dating expats.
The key to opening up the mind and heart of the locals is to make an effort to integrate. Learn the local language, stay up to date on what is going on locally and be yourself open to dating the Swiss.
You have come to the country as the expat so make the effort to create a social network that includes locals and try to get out of the mindset that the locals should be more excepting of people who haven’t learnt their language, don’t make an effort to adapt culturally and don’t understand what is important to them. In another country where there isn’t such a huge English speaking expat population you would need to adapt so get yourself into the mindset that you need to do it in Switzerland too.
8. Take advantage of Online Dating
One study by Gina Potarca published in December 2020 showed that the main way couples meet in Switzerland is through friends followed by a quarter of all relationships starting via dating apps. She also found that couple who meet through dating apps have a stronger intention of living together and starting a family than couples who met offline.
The take away here is that if you are looking for love, you should definitely be active on the dating apps too. This is a great way to build up your social network and meet new people. Remember, if you go on a date with someone and you discover they aren’t the one for you, single people tend to have other single friends. I have had many a client meet a great partner by being introduced to a friend of someone they once dated.
The one challenge for many with online dating is the fear of needing to communicate in a language other than their native language. Again, making an effort by writing part of your profile in the local language will go a long way to connecting with the Swiss and expand your dating pool beyond your fellow expats.
9. Stop Making Excuses
Whether an expat or not, the biggest challenge that I see singles facing when it comes to dating is buying into their own excuses. Excuses like:
- I’m too busy to date
- I travel too much
- There are no good ones left
- I am too old
- I don’t speak the language
- I’m only here for a few year, etc…..
If you want to create a life that is fulfilling and to have a partner to share it with, you will simply need to let go of your excuses, put yourself out there and get your feet wet.
Excuses are simply the justifications we use to explain why we are in a situation that we don’t want to be in. What is more important to you? Your excuses or finding the love of your life?
10. Follow my 3 Date Rule
When dating people from other countries and cultures it can be quite easy to feel turned off by different social norms and expectations. Maybe in your country it is normal for men to pay for a first date but when a guy in Switzerland asks you to split the bill you feel offended and turned off.
To overcome this bias towards your own social norms, and to help you become more open minded and less judgmental of the people you will meet, I always recommend a 3 Date Rule. No, this isn’t about waiting until the third date to have sex. This is about committing to date someone three times before making a yes/no decision (unless there is a very clear dealbreaker in which case you must say no to a second date).
To clarify, a deal breaker is something about the person’s lifestyle, characteristics, values or personality that is so at odds with you that even if everything else was perfect, you wouldn’t be able to build a healthy relationship with this person. If it bothers or annoys you, but it isn’t a deal breaker, it is just a preference and so isn’t enough of a reason to turn down that second and third date.
Kelly Brändli is the founder and CEO of The One Coaching & Matchmaking based in Zürich. She is a Scientific Dating and Relationship Coach as well as certified Matchmaker who has been in the business of connecting people for over a decade. First as an Executive Headhunter, later turned Love Expert, she now helps singles find real love both on and off-line. Through her extensive insight and experience of what makes for a great relationship, she is able to help singles identify and quickly overcome the issues that are holding them back so they can finally find The One and go on to build the relationship and love life of their dreams. Kelly offers Coaching and Matchmaking Services, as well as in-person Dating Mastery Retreats and speaking engagements.
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