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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

‘The right decision’: Why foreign residents are moving from Swiss cities to the country

For some international residents surveyed by The Local, moving away from Switzerland’s urban centres is the right move — literally and figuratively. Here’s why.

‘The right decision’: Why foreign residents are moving from Swiss cities to the country
Off to the country: Many foreign residents are leaving cities for rural areas. Photo by PhotoMix Company / Pexels

The transition from town to country  is not a new phenomenon but it has grown significantly since the start of the Covid pandemic, when many people — Swiss and foreigners alike —  moved from cramped cities to smaller towns and villages.

To many people, this kind of relocation made even more sense given the work-from-home requirement that had been in place off and on during the pandemic.

“There was a Covid effect on a desire for the countryside. We can say that the coronavirus worked as a kind of trigger”, Joëlle Salomon-Cavin, lecturer at the Institute of Geography and Sustainability at the University of Lausanne (UNIL), said in an interview with RTS public broadcaster.

The pandemic, however, has not been the only catalyst at play. A study carried out jointly by UNIL and the Federal Polytechnic Institute of Lausanne found three major reasons for the move: the search for a better balance in life, the desire for a less urban and more ecological way of life, and the quest for personal well-being.

Foreign residents are no exception when it comes to a desire for a simpler, greener, and less stressful life — at least this is what emerges from the answers to The Local survey.

On January 25th, we asked our readers to share their experiences of moving from cities to countryside, including their reasons for doing so, and whether they are happy with the choice they made.

READ MORE: Have your say: What to expect when you move to the Swiss countryside

This is what they told us

Most respondents had mostly positive things to say about the move.

Stephen Farmer moved from Basel to Büsserbach in canton Solothurn because he wanted to buy a house with a garden “and get more peace and quiet”.

In hindsight, “it was absolutely the right decision and I’ve never been happier”.

Before he moved, “several people told me that rural Swiss don’t like foreigners and it would be difficult for me to be accepted. But the people in my village are friendly and I found it easier to make Swiss friends here than in Basel”.

Many foreigners prefer living in Swiss countryside. Photo by Tim Trad on Unsplash

Steve Fors relocated from Zurich to Remigen in Aargau “for more space and slower pace”.

“It was the best decision”, he said. “We love our flat and village. We’ve found great friends in our neighbours and I work remotely three days a week”.

No regrets either for another reader who moved from Zurich to Walensee in St. Gallen “in order to be closer to nature and enjoy three to four times more space for the same rent”.

Since making the move, he “found more time to read and focus on things I was passionate about”.

His conclusion: “I would never move back to a large city, especially after the past two years”.

Yet another reader relocated from Basel to Lenzerheide in Graubünden but rented out the Basel apartment “in case we want to move back one day”.

So far, however, there are no regrets or desire to go back. “Quality of life is much better here and taxes are lower. I can also ski for an hour at lunchtime or go for a hike”.

Das moved from Bern to Frauenkappellen. While he was surprised by the lack of non-Europeans in the village, “it was a good decision otherwise, both in terms of people and space”.

Sometimes, the readers are brave enough to move from one linguistic region to another, as was the case for John Aran, who relocated from Swiss-German Schaffhausen to Valais in the French-speaking part.

He found the people in his new home “much more friendly”.

“I hope I won’t regret it”

While most of the responses to our poll were positive, some readers were less enthused about their move away from larger cities.

Filip, who moved from Zurich to Wädenswil to be closer to his son’s school, said their new small town “feels lonely somehow. There is hardly anyone around during the day”.

Another transplant, Sandra Shibata, who left Geneva for Valais, found it harder to make friends in her new town. “I hope I won’t regret this decision”, she said.

One reader who also made the move from Geneva to Valais offered a more scathing review of her new home:  “Valais is super backward, sexist, and xenophobic, and job hunting is a nightmare here”.

READ MORE: Where do Switzerland’s foreigners all live?

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FAMILY

EXPLAINED: Why so many baby names are banned in Switzerland

These days, it’s not just celebrities who seem to have a penchant for ruining their child’s life by bestowing him or her with an odd moniker. In Switzerland however, there are several rules about what you can - and cannot - name your child.

EXPLAINED: Why so many baby names are banned in Switzerland

Whether its hanging out your washing on a Sunday or flushing your toilet after 10pm at night, Switzerland has several rules which can be surprising to foreigners. 

One such example is what you are allowed to name your kids.  

While from time to time, parents’ failed attempt to give their child a unique name might make the news, there are in fact an extensive variety of rules about which names can actually be chosen in Switzerland.

Sticklers for the law as they are, the Swiss have several rules controlling what baby names can be given. 

No names which will damage a child’s well-being

Although this appears incredibly difficult to define, there are several actual examples which have been rejected for breaching the well-being rule. 

In considering this, Swiss authorities will look at whether “the child will be exposed to ridicule because of its name.”

This includes ‘Grandma’, ‘Rose Heart’, ‘Prince Valiant’ and ‘Puhbert’. 

REVEALED: The most popular baby name in each Swiss canton

They specifically prohibit giving your kid a name which will damage his or her “well-being”. Names aren’t allowed to be offensive either. 

Twins

Twins must not have names that are too similar to each other. 

The names must not be either spelt or pronounced in the same way. 

Swiss media gives the example of calling two boys “Philip” and “Philipe”. 

No villain names

Switzerland – or at least large parts of it – remain relatively religious, which is probably why choosing a bible villain name for your child is verboten. 

Newspaper Telebasel reports that the name Judas has already been rejected by Swiss registry offices – and will likely be rejected again. Satan, Cain and Lucifer are also banned. 

Boys are boys, girls are girls

Ever the traditionalists, Switzerland has tight gender rules for naming children. 

Specifically, a name must clearly indicate a person’s gender. 

Girls cannot be given a boy’s name and vice versa. 

If a name does not clearly indicate the person’s gender, then the child must be given a hyphenated double name or a second name to make this clear. 

Numbers or letters

In 2017, a Swiss court said ‘J’ was not appropriate as a middle name. 

The court held that allowing ‘J’ would be similar to letting people have a name made up of numbers – although ‘Jay’ a la Homer ‘Jay’ Simpson would presumably be fine. 

No place names

While the world might be debating how to cater to non-binary people who want to be identified as ‘their’, identifying as ‘there’ is a big no go in Switzerland. 

Place names for people are forbidden in Switzerland. 

This may not be interpreted incredibly strictly – Dakota Fanning and Brooklyn Beckham will be OK for now – but if you want to name your little boy ‘Matterhorn’ you may come across some resistance. 

READ MORE: How much does it cost to raise a child in Switzerland?

No product names either

No matter how much you love a particular product, you will be prevented from honouring the brand by naming your child after it. 

That means Ovaltine, Rivella, Chanel or Ferrari are off the table. 

You’re also banned from naming your child after a plant or after an animal. 

What about foreign names? 

One major question – particularly among Local readers – is whether foreign names are banned. 

The main question is whether the name appears in the ‘Internationalen Handbuch der Vornamen’ – the International Handbook of First Names. 

This book – which does not appear to exist in English – expressly lists acceptable first names. 

If it appears in the book, it’s OK with Swiss authorities. 

Which names have actually been banned in Switzerland? 

Suissebook has listed several baby names which have been banned in Switzerland for breaking at least one of the rules listed above. 

In addition to all of those mentioned so far in this article, it includes Bierstubl (place name), Troublemaker (well-being), Mercedes (brand name) and Sputnik (not sure if that is a place or a thing, but either way it’s banned).

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