How neighbourhoods in Switzerland work

Whether you’re arguing about the height of a shared hedge, enjoying a barbecue together or rarely cross paths: the relationships we have with our neighbours come in different shapes and sizes. In a study, the GDI examines these various neighbourhood relationships in Switzerland quantitatively and qualitatively.
9 November, 2022 by
How neighbourhoods in Switzerland work
GDI Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute

Neighbourhoods are essential, and became even more so during the corona pandemic. Neighbours helped each other out, taking care of small errands. The conversation from balcony to balcony or in the stairwell was sometimes the only contact with the outside world that people had. Since then, the focus has shifted back to the neighbourhood.

Beyond the pandemic – what does neighbourhood actually mean today? Eighty-three per cent of the Swiss population live in a larger city or its surrounding area. In contrast to rural areas in other countries, those who live in Switzerland are usually surrounded by people they barely know. How much contact do they have? How great is mutual trust? What do people expect from each other? What is working well, and what could be improved? How would they like to live together in everyday life? How meaningful are relationships with neighbours for life satisfaction and well-being? And how have neighbourly relations changed in modern society, especially due to the pandemic?

First Swiss neighbourhood study
The GDI empirically examined neighbourhoods in a representative quantitative survey and a qualitative study in May 2022. We did not focus on the spatial aspect of neighbourhoods; rather, the focus was on the type of relationships that neighbours maintain or desire.

The result: neighbourly relations are intact and in balance. The relationship between neighbours is characterised by distance for the most part, but at the same time, there is a great deal of fundamental trust in one another. Most respondents appreciate the distanced relationship with their neighbours and do not want to take on any obligations in the neighbourhood. But when neighbours need support, they are there as a matter of course, as in the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has not permanently changed how people get along with each other in their neighbourhoods, perhaps because most neighbours were already satisfied with how things were. Why change anything? Most of them have lived in their current community for more than ten years, and the many years of cooperation obviously created trust and stability. 

Download the study now for free (in German, French or Italian).

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