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ZURICH

Ten things Zurich residents take for granted

If you’ve ever lived in Zurich, you might forget how special some of these things are. Here are ten things (some) Zurich residents take for granted.

A sign in the Swiss city of Zurich which says
Is this the most Zurich thing ever? A sign in the Swiss city of Zurich which says "Zurich: Safety through politeness". Photo by Michal Matlon on Unsplash

Whether you’ve lived in Zurich for a month or a decade, it can sometimes be easy to forget how special the city is. 

From its international flavour to its geographic location, Zurich has so much to offer. 

Here are ten things you might take for granted.

Think we missed any or disagree about our list? Get in touch at [email protected]

An international flavour

An estimated 25 percent of Swiss residents have a foreign origin. By some estimates, this figure jumps up to around 50 percent in the city of Zurich. 

The consequence is a cosmopolitan city with a true international flavour. 

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This can be seen in the diverse cultural festivals that the city has, along with its culinary scene, which is arguably the best in Switzerland (no hate mail please Geneva). 

And while we don’t share the opinion that traditional Swiss food is bland, if you are of this mindset, then Zurich will have an everlasting array of options for you. 

Multilingual communication 

“Hallo, ich hätte gerne einen Cappuccino, bitte.”

“Pardon. Bonjour, je voudrais un café au lait s’il vous plaît.”

“Oh I see. Hi. I’ll just get a flat white thanks.”

“Sure thing, coming right up.”

As the largest city in a country with four official languages and a strong international contingent, Zurich is truly multilingual. 

It is not unusual to hear conversations jump from English to German to French and back to English – with a variety of other languages sprinkled in.

Opinion: 12 things that surprised me about moving to Zurich

In Zurich you are surrounded by linguistic diversity pretty much anywhere you go. 

There are parts of Zurich where it is easier to navigate with English than with German, given the presence of international workers in the city. 

While whether that is a good thing or not is a question for another day, but being able to genuinely speak at least three languages in a city is relatively rare. 

A beautifully preserved old town

So this one can again be filed under the category of ‘most of Switzerland’ rather than just Zurich, but for a large, bustling metropolis to have such a beautiful old town is relatively rare.

The Zurich old town on a clear day seen from above

The old city in Zurich. Despite being a bustling modern metropolis, Zurich still has a charming old town. Photo by Patrick Federi on Unsplash

The reasons for this are different depending on where you’re from. Some cities had their old towns devastated due to wars or new modern developments, while others are too new to even have an old town to start with.

Zurich versus Geneva: Six big differences between Switzerland’s two biggest cities

But while many Swiss villages have an old town to be proud of, Zurich manages to blend its old city charm with that of a cosmopolitan, international metropolis.

Excellent public transport networks wherever you live

OK so this is something which applies across much of Switzerland, but living in Zurich it’s easy to forget that great, punctual and clean public transport is in fact not the norm the world over. 

A car is seen as a necessity in many of the world’s largest cities, but in Zurich it is certainly a luxury. 

EXPLAINED: How to find cheap train tickets in Switzerland

Fresh, tasty water wherever you go

Now this is a true example of something where you don’t know how good you’ve got it until it’s gone. 

Whether you are living in Zurich or just visiting, you never need to buy bottled water. 

READ MORE: Why have Swiss cities become ‘more liveable’ during the pandemic?

This is because of the city’s estimated 1,200 drinking fountains dotted across town, each of which offers fresh, clean and tasty Zurich spring water for free. 

Going to another (non-Swiss) city, you’ll have a quick look around before you realise that there’s not a water fountain in sight. 

Being rich

OK so not everyone who works in Zurich is rich, but the wage in almost every job is likely to be far higher than the same job in other cities, no matter where you go. 

READ ALSO: Salaries in Zurich hit record high

Wages are also higher than in other regions of Switzerland, regardless of the job. 

As The Local reported in 2020, wages for teachers are higher in Zurich than most other cantons – and well over the Swiss average. 

In Zurich, teachers earn between CHF86,000 and CHF 112,000, which is between 5,000-15,000 more than the Swiss average. 

READ MORE: What do teachers earn in Switzerland – and where do they earn the most?

Cleanliness 

From the parks to the lakes to the city itself, Zurich prides itself on being clean. 

While there are more than 300 recycling collection points in the city as well as garbage receptacles everywhere, it’s the cultural commitment to cleanliness which really makes the city spotless. 

READ MORE: These are the friendliest – and least friendly – cantons in Switzerland

Even the Langstrasse district – which is known as the city’s nightlife area and red light district – might be spoken of as the gritty and colourful part of the city, but it would be one of the cleaner streets in cities like New York, Paris and Berlin. 

A swimmable river and lake

Although this might tie into the above point about cleanliness, Lake Zurich and the Limmat are well worth their own mention – particularly in summertime. 

READ MORE: Eight great swimming spots in Switzerland

Although fewer Zurchers swim to work than claim they do, the fact that it is possible for part of the year is something truly special. 

Swimming in the middle of the city on a warm summer's day is certainly possible in Zurich

People swimming at Wasserwerkstrasse 89 in central Zurich. Photo by Teo Zac on Unsplash

So whether you visit a Badi – Swiss swimming bath – or you go it alone in the river or the lake, just remember that this is a pleasure denied to residents of Berlin, New York, London, Paris, Brisbane and countless other cities. 

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Being on the doorstep to nature

OK so despite Zurich being the largest city in Switzerland, with a population of 400,000 – which extends to 1.5 million if cantonal boundaries are included – it doesn’t rank that highly compared to other global metropolises. 

A consequence of this is that even if you live in the middle of town, it’s not long at all until you’ve left the town behind and you’re in the middle of the forest or on a mountain hike. 

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During the warmer months there are hundreds of swimming and hiking spots not far away, while in winter you are on the doorstep of some of the world’s best ski slopes. 

Wake boarding, sailing, cycling, rock climbing and other outdoor activities are all also in reach. 

So whether you’re a solo sports lover or you’ve got young children just itching to get outside, Zurich will have something for you. 

READ MORE: What childcare options do I have in Zurich?

Low crime rates

While no city is crime free, Zurich is about as safe as it gets when it comes to crime, whether it be of a petty or violent nature. 

Zurich consistently ranks as one of the world’s safest cities. 

A study commissioned by Zurich city police found that 98 percent of residents feel very safe or fairly safe in the city during the day. 

Safety in Switzerland: Which areas do Zurich residents avoid at night?

It is at night however where things take a (very slight) turn. 

Almost one in five (19 percent) said they feel slightly or very unsafe at night in Zurich. 

Almost half (47 percent) said they avoid certain places at night due to safety reasons. This was slightly lower than in 2016, when 51 percent said they avoid certain places at night. 

 

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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

Switzerland ranked ‘best country’ in the world

Switzerland has been placed in top spot in yet another international ranking. But does it deserve such a high score?

Switzerland ranked 'best country' in the world

In its annual ranking of 85 nations, US News & World Report has placed Switzerland in top position, based on 73 different criteria.

While it did not come up tops in all of the categories, Switzerland did sufficiently well in others to get an overall high score, as well as high scores in several individual categories.

There are some of them:

Open for Business (100 points out of 100)

This title may be somewhat misleading, as it could be taken to mean that shops and other businesses are open until late hours.

If this were the case, Switzerland wouldn’t get the maximum score; in fact, it would probably place toward the bottom of the ranking.

Instead, this category means ‘business friendly’— and that Switzerland certainly is.

As the report puts it, “The countries considered the most business-friendly are those that are perceived to best balance stability and expense. These market-oriented countries are a haven for capitalists and corporations”.

In other words, the government has created a good environment for businesses to thrive, by offering, for instance, tax incentives and a skilled labour force.

This is actually a good thing because when businesses do well, so does the entire economy.

The proof that Switzerland excels in this category is that it has “low unemployment, and one of the highest gross domestic products per capita in the world”, the report states.

“This helps explain why the country placed first on the list of nations perceived as a good place to headquarter a corporation, as well as scoring in the top five among best countries for a comfortable retirement, green living and to start a career”.

READ MORE: Switzerland ‘an island of bliss’ compared to US, chief economist says

Quality of Life (96.7)

This term could mean different things to different people. But as defined in the report, “beyond the essential ideas of broad access to food, housing, quality education, health care and employment, quality of life may also include intangibles such as job security, political stability, individual freedom and environmental quality”.

Switzerland certainly offers all four. Unemployment is low, which means there are plenty of job opportunities.

The country is politically stable from within, with well established democratic processes — such as referendums — providing security against abuses of power.

Freedom, including the right to ‘self-determination’, is a constitutional right.

And while ecological concerns related to global warming do exist, the Swiss are good at protecting the nature that surrounds them.

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Other quality-of-life categories that weight in Switzerland’s favour include safety, well-developed public education, and a top-notch public health system.

Switzerland has done well across all these categories, but this is no news to anyone who has been following such rankings: the country, or its individual cities, regularly figure among those boasting a high quality of life.

READ MORE: REVEALED: Which Swiss cities offer the best quality of life?

Social purpose (86.6)

This means the country cares about human and animal rights, the environment, gender equality, religious freedom, property rights, well-distributed political power, racial equity, climate goals, and social justice.

Switzerland does particularly well in some of these categories, and less so in others.

In terms of animal rights, for instance, the country’s legislation is among the toughest in the world: as an example, small domestic animals must be kept in pairs to ensure social interaction, and it is illegal to boil a live lobster.

Another category in which Switzerland succeeds possibly better than other nations is the distribution of political power — under Switzerland’s unique system of direct democracy, people, rather than politicians, hold and wield all the power.

READ MORE: How Switzerland’s direct democracy system works

You will find the overall rankings in this link.
 

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