For members


Six services that will make your life in Switzerland easier

If you have just arrived in Switzerland — or even if you've been here for a while — you may not know that there are associations and services which could be useful in your everyday life. We've compiled them for you.

Six services that will make your life in Switzerland easier
Jining a motoring organisation will ensure 24/7 roadside service. Image by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay

Whether you are a foreigner or a Swiss citizen, sometimes you are faced with problems and are not sure who can help you handle them.

Joining a group that will offer practical or legal advice specific to your situation, protect your rights, and generally simplify your life, can be invaluable.

Here are some that are worth the (usually reasonable) membership fee:

Tenants association

If you are a tenant, as most people in Switzerland are, you could benefit from joining your local tenants’ group.

Not only will it be a good source of information relating to your rights and obligations, and answer any questions about your tenancy, but it will also advocate for you if you ever have a disagreement or conflict with your landlord (provided, of course, that you have a defendable case).

These groups are divided according to linguistic regions, which means you can easily find one in your area:

Swiss German
Swiss French
Swiss Italian

The annual membership fee is about 100 francs. You can find out what it entitles you to (and what additional fees there are for specific services) on your section’s website.

Consumer rights group

As is the case with the tenants’ association, consumer protection organisations also provide guidance and legal advice to its members on all kinds of problems they could be facing.

They have experts on all aspects of consumer law handling a variety of complaints — whether relating to questionable ingredients found in certain foods, or unfair/abusive business practices.

Here too, the association has branches in the three linguistics regions — German, French, and Italian — and the annual fee varies according to the branch and membership level.

Automobile club

In Switzerland, the Touring Club Schweiz / Touring Club Suisse / Touring Club Svizzera — TCS — offers benefits that extend far beyond those relating to driving. 

Aside from the very useful 24/7 emergency roadside service, which includes (but is not limited to) changing flat tyres, re-starting batteries, and towing disabled vehicles to a service station — the TCS also provides services that are not strictly associated with motoring.

For instance, once you join the organisation — basic fees range from 55 francs to 111 francs a year, depending on age and whether they are individual or family memberships — TCS will also provide (for an additional fee) services such as medical evacuation and global health insurance that covers the medical costs incurred abroad and not refunded by the Swiss policies.


While primarily intended to rescue injured skiers from mountain areas and other places that are not accessible to land ambulances — its crew consisting of a pilot, emergency doctor and paramedic — this air service is also operating far beyond Switzerland’s borders.

According to Rega website, it can “organise and execute medical evacuations and medically escorted repatriations from virtually any country in the world” back to Switzerland thanks to its three long-range Challenger 650 ambulance-jets, which are fitted out as intensive-care units. 

You can become a ‘patron’ (REGA doesn’t use the word ‘member’) for a mere 40 francs a month.

A REGA helicopter flies above mountains in the Swiss resort of St Moritz. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Switzerland’s air rescue service


Not to be confused with Rega, Reka is not so much a service or an organisation but rather a money-saving voucher system.

It can, for instance, be used for holidays, leisure activities, transport, and meals.

Its main benefit is that you will receive a discount every time you shop with the Reka card or vouchers, and can save up to 20 percent on purchases.

The article below explains this consumer-friendly system.

READ ALSO: What is Switzerland’s Reka payment system and how do I use it?

And don’t forget the apps!

A good way to find your way around Switzerland is to download some very useful apps — they will not only provide important information, but also make your everyday life easier:

READ ALSO: Seven apps to make your life in Switzerland easier

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For members


What shocks Americans most about Switzerland?

When they first arrive, many foreigners find Swiss ways difficult to get used to. But some first-time American visitors have their own very steep learning curve, writes Swiss-based American journalist Helena Bachmann.

What shocks Americans most about Switzerland?

People in America are accustomed to certain things that are rare, or inexistant, in Switzerland. That’s why some of their discoveries about the country are positive, while others less so.

It all depends on how “set” they are in their American ways, and how open (or not) they are to new and different experiences.

We are not referring to ‘usual’ peeves like high prices, early store closures, quiet Sundays, and recycling culture that many foreigners complain about. 

There are some other aspects of Swiss life that can sometimes shock and surprise first-time American visitors.

Here are some of the most common ones: 

Switzerland is not Sweden

Yes, it does sound a bit ‘old’ by now, but there are still some Americans who believe Switzerland and Sweden are one and the same.

They don’t necessarily prefer one over another; they just mix them up, with the only reason being the first two letters are the same and they both are in Europe.

It is useless to point out geographical and other differences right away. They will eventually have  a ‘Eureka’ moment on their own, when they realise that one is cheese and chocolate, and the other IKEA.

There is no ‘Swiss’ language

While most Americans know before they land here that Switzerland is a multi-lingual country (just as they know this is not Sweden), others are still mighty surprised that there is not one main language.

And a few even consider it an affront when someone will not speak English to them.

There is no Walmart

Maybe not specifically Walmart, but the lack of huge malls shocks some Americans.

That’s not only because they think this curtails the shopping opportunities, but mostly because in the US, malls also serve as social venues — places where people hang out, sit in a food court, and power-walk for exercise.

Food portions in restaurants are small

If you have ever eaten in a US restaurant, you know the portions are humongous.

This is what people expect also when they travel abroad; small, human-sized portions served in Switzerland mean they are not getting good value for their money and feel, in a sense, ‘cheated.’

Hey, where is the rest of it? This portion would not satisfy some Americans. Image by Snag Eun Park from Pixabay

By the same token — small portions in supermarkets

Many Americans are stunned that there are no huge, family-sized food and beverages sold in grocery stores — such as a gallon bottles of coke or 2-pound bags of potato chips.

Whether this is because families are larger in America or simply because people there are used to eating more — make of it what you will.

But that’s not all: size really does matter to Americans

Just as they are stunned by small portions in restaurants and supermarkets, they are also surprised by the size of appliances — and especially ovens — in Swiss homes.

As one American woman told her Swiss hostess, “This is just slightly bigger than my daughter’s toy oven. How do you bake a Thanksgiving turkey in it?”

No air-conditioning

Widespread in the United States but non-existent in Switzerland, this is one phenomenon that some Americans have a hard time accepting.

Not only that, but the rules here are blatantly anti-air condition and pro-sweat.

When you tell some Americans the government believes ACs are energy-guzzlers and bad for the environment in general, they will look at you like all Swiss are crazy (and will probably wish they were in Sweden instead).

No free refills

Ah yes. For some Americans accustomed to having bottomless cups of coffee or free soda refills, having to pay each time you order a drink is a shock.

Even more so, as coffee portions here are smaller than the ones from Starbucks, this again feeds into their belief that the people here are being starved and cheated.

No ice

Drinks are not routinely served with ice cubes, even on very hot days.

If you want ice in your coke or ice tea — as most Americans are bound to — you must ask for it. Three or four ice cubes will then be brought to you in a small glass, with a spoon for scooping.

Did anyone say ‘culture shock’?