Hiking boots on grass

Expat in Switzerland: Long live the Swiss

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Writer and blogger Chantal Panozzo offers tips on how to live like the people with the fourth highest life expectancy in the world.

There was a time when I really wanted to prove that the Swiss were killing themselves.

Let me explain.

I was innocently trying to eat an overpriced meal in an Italian restaurant in Zurich when the person next to me (who I did not know) had the nerve to light a cigarette, just as my meal arrived. As the smoke from my neighbour mixed with the steam from my risotto, I couldn’t think of anything except—I hope you die.

Please excuse me, but I’m an American; I hate smoke.

At home, I looked up statistics, hoping to prove that because Americans smoke less, they live longer than the Swiss. Wishful thinking. Despite their smoking habits, according to Wikipedia, the Swiss have the fourth highest life expectancy in the world (right after Japan, Hong Kong, and Iceland). The Americans? We’re 38th.  

But the Swiss smoke. They eat more chocolate on average than anyone in the world (12 kilos per person, per year). And I haven’t even mentioned their cheese consumption.

Still. Obviously, I’ve got something to learn from the Swiss. And after living as an expat in Switzerland for almost four years now, I’ve observed a few things to think about if you too, would like to live a little longer than average:


  1. Walk. The Swiss walk everywhere. To the grocery store. To the post office. To work. Granted, it helps to have a great public transportation system to cut down on driving, but still. You’ll see people walking everywhere, no matter the weather.
  2. Don’t eat processed foods. Yes the Swiss eat a lot of cheese and chocolate, but visit their grocery stores and you’ll find preservative-free fresh produce, lots of dairy, and almost no pre-packaged foods. Eating from a box, no matter how much I miss Kraft Mac & Cheese, just isn’t possible in Switzerland. And in the end, that’s a good thing.
  3. Make Sundays outdoor days. On Sundays in Switzerland, the stores are closed and the entire population heads outside. Whether to hike in the mountains, bike in a Slow Up event or ski, the Swiss make almost every Sunday an active day.
Hiking boots on grass

If you’re an expat in Switzerland, what healthy habits have you noticed?


Chantal Panozzo is a writer and blogger. She’s the author of One Big Yodel and Writer Abroad. She also blogs for Affordable Calling Cards, a new expat community blog. This blog offers affordable calling cards in Switzerland as well as information about living abroad in Switzerland and in many other countries.

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