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Living in Switzerland
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Living in Switzerland Part 2

Part one of this series

You've arranged your removal, you've made a stab at saying hello in the local language of the region you're moving to ... now what?

First, my apologies to the French speaking side of Switzerland as my experience is in the German speaking part of Switzerland. I made my home in Zurich and Basel for nearly eight years, so the information I'm providing is slanted towards the German side of the Röstigraben.

Röstigraben? What's that?

The Röstigraben (meaning literally Rösti [hash browns] ditch) is the humorous - but serious - term used to describe the border between the German speaking side of Switzerland and the French speaking areas. In French the term is Rideau de rösti ("Rösti curtain", a reference to the Iron Curtain). Not only is it a linguistic difference, it is also a cultural and political difference on either side of the Röstigraben, and you'll hear it referenced frequently in day-to-day life in Switzerland.

You'll find that even in areas of German speaking Switzerland that border on to France, such as Basel, the language of the city is Swiss German. While many people do speak French, it is not used officially, in shops, signage, etc.

Where you sit in relation to the Röstigraben will make a difference when it comes to your day to day life in Switzerland.

Apartment life in the German speaking side of the Röstigraben

It doesn't matter which side of the Röstigraben you're on, chances are you'll be living in an apartment. In Switzerland, two out of three people live in rented flats (source), and in some cities such as Zurich, competition is fierce.

Some of the key areas which catch unaware expats:

In Switzerland, it is customary to introduce yourself to the neighbours, rather than them introducing themselves to you. You can either knock on their doors individually and introduce yourself (and don't forget to shake hands!) or hold a small Apéro for your neighbours on a Saturday afternoon shortly after moving in. It is expected to at least be on nodding acquaintance with your neighbours.

Official moving dates and logistics

There are two official moving dates in Switzerland - end of March, end of September and in some cases, a third date at the end of June. You can, of course, move at a time other than those specified, but if you're leaving rented accommodation then you'll need to find a new tenant to take your place.

There is no moving on a Sunday in Switzerland, as it would violate the rules regarding quiet.

Frequently, stair cases are too small to accommodate furniture, and outside removals lifts are used where the items are passed through a window and onto the lift.

If you're moving into - or out of - the country, customs documents must be prepared for your entry or exit.

Don't forget to register with the migration office of your new town or city within 14 days of your move - even if you're just moving to a new flat. All residents of Switzerland must be registered at their address, regardless of citizenship or visas. More information, in English, from the city Basel. Other cities will have similar pages and information on their websites.

Moving in to your new flat in Switzerland

Make sure your removal company is familiar with Switzerland and its rules and regulations about moving times, customs checks, etc.

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