What immediately strikes foreigners who decide to move to Switzerland is the Swiss obsession with rules. Switzerland has a special form of direct democracy (any citizen, if he or she collects 50,000 signatures within 100 days, can request a referendum in which the people are called upon to express their opinion on whether or not a law should be retained). This means that citizens blindly follow the rules once they have been decided. The Germans also complain that the Swiss are too strict with the rules, and that is saying something.
If there is no rule, the Swiss must create one. They have rules for everything, for example, it is forbidden to flush after 10pm, so you have to save what you need until the next morning or choose another solution to clean the toilet. It is also forbidden for men to get up at night to urinate, without flushing of course, because the noise could disturb the sensitive ears of the neighbors. It is very easy to behave inappropriately on the street, and just as easy to be caught by a complete stranger waving a finger disapprovingly.
Living in Switzerland – languages to get to know
You should also know that 2/3 of the Swiss who live in the German canton speak Swiss German. Those living in the other cantons speak French or Italian, but are generally bilingual or multilingual, since most jobs are in the German-speaking canton (German-speaking Switzerland).
In truth, most Swiss do not speak English well, especially outside of Zurich and Geneva. In the German-speaking region, people speak a Swiss German dialect, and some older people have difficulty speaking proper German because they never have the opportunity to use it. Among other things, there is no single Swiss German language, but many Swiss German dialects spoken in different areas.
Living in Switzerland – what you should know
Switzerland has preserved its deep rural soul until today. Zurich has about 400,000 inhabitants. Geneva, the second largest city, has less than 200,000. A 10-minute drive from the center of Geneva, you are already in the countryside.
This makes Switzerland a fundamentally conservative country. Most people spend their whole lives in their canton, so the local culture is very strong and people are very proud of their canton, which to them represents the whole world. People have old local friends and are not interested in making new friends. So each canton has its own official religion, which essentially boils down to Protestant or Catholic.
Many Italians live and work permanently or as cross-border commuters in Ticino. The French canton is the one with the largest foreigner presence, as many international non-governmental organizations (United Nations, Red Cross, etc.) are based here, and it is not uncommon to meet blacks. In the German canton, on the other hand, you can walk around for a whole day and meet only white people.
Cost of living in Switzerland
If you have chosen to live in Switzerland, you surely know that living in this country is very expensive. The standard of living here is one of the highest in the world and salaries are just as good, but the cost of living is also high. The general price level is extremely high, certainly one of the highest in Europe.
Imagine that a single person living alone has to calculate monthly expenses on average about 3,000 € per month. 500 € for food, 500 € for health insurance, 1,500 € for renting an apartment and 500 € for utilities. You can make 100K a year, but if you go out to eat every day, you probably won’t make it to the end of the month. Not surprisingly, most people cook at home.
Those who choose to live in Switzerland, in the German canton, know that they are under strict surveillance 24 hours a day. The citizens consider it their duty to point out to you that you have parked your car 20 cm beyond the parking lines. Basically, in the German-speaking canton, every person is expected to obey 100% (99% is not enough) of the laws and regulations.
Citizens feel obliged to reprimand or call the police on those who do not comply. It is a way of life standardized according to the regulations in force, which provides efficiency, stability and trust. Those who do not adhere to the prescribed behavior are not tolerated, whether they are aware of it or not.
Immigrants, especially non-EU ones who can be expelled from the country after 3 fines, live in a state of constant tension, since many behaviors that are normal in their home country are totally unacceptable here. The Swiss Germans take themselves much more seriously than their French and Italian-speaking compatriots.
The French-speaking part of Switzerland is slightly less efficient than the German, but with a much more relaxed lifestyle. People appreciate the good life and good food, are more open and communicative, and are generally friendlier. They tend to be more like their French neighbors
Here, no one will scold you or call the police because you parked 20 cm beyond the parking lines.The people are more sociable, a bit more Mediterranean and the society is much more permeated with foreign immigrants.
The Italian-speaking Swiss are more expressive, chaotic and loud than others. They are also said to have charm and a special talent for beauty and taste, but they would never be given control of the country because they are less organized, less perfectionist and more corrupt. Basically, they look very much like the real Italians. And just like the Italians, the Ticinese consider the German-speaking people more correct and organized, but repetitive and boring.
If you want information about the documents needed to move to Switzerland and how to find an apartment, I recommend you to read the article: Moving to Switzerland