20+ Stunning Facts About Life in Switzerland That We Didn’t Know
For several years, Switzerland has been considered to be the best country to live in. It’s not surprising: this is a country of comfort and stunning nature. You can finish working at the office and in 15 minutes, you can be swimming in a lake. But, aside from the famous breathtaking landscapes, tasty chocolate, and reliable banks, the country has something else to surprise its visitors with.
We at Bright Side dove into the culture of Switzerland to find out how people live in one of the richest countries in the world, and to see if the life of immigrants there is nice. In the bonus section, you will see photos that show how detail-oriented the local people are when it comes to comfort, and not only for themselves but also for their pets.
1. Some people don’t believe that this country is really expensive before they visit it.
1 Swiss franc = 1.13 USD
The salaries in Switzerland seem to be extraordinarily high, but this feeling evaporates when you see the prices in even the most regular supermarkets. For example, 1 kg of beef can cost around 40 francs ($45). You can save a little money if you buy foods in German chain supermarkets.
A woman moved to Switzerland and here is what she thinks, “After moving to Geneva, I kept thinking about the prices all the time and comparing them to the prices in my country but, fortunately for my nervous system, I stopped.”
2. But the prices are stable.
At all stores, the prices for products are pretty much the same. The only way to save some money is by buying things at a discount. Most stores cut their prices by up to 50% for certain goods that are nearing their expiration date.
A man from Switzerland shares his experience, “Swiss petrol is, ironically, cheap. In 1979, I remember paying 1.20 Swiss francs per liter. Today, 4 decades later, the price is ridiculously low at 1.70 Swiss francs.”
3. Renting an apartment is a challenge.
Apartment owners are very picky and they ask for a lot of documents that confirm the fact that a tenant has the ability to pay. If you don’t have a job and insurance, it’s almost impossible to find a nice place to live. References from an employer are also often required to prove that you are a reliable person.
A girl that moved to Switzerland had this to say, “The prices for apartments in Switzerland are really high, especially if you want something near a town or near a lake. But even in smaller towns, good places cost a lot.”
Most employers understand how much trouble people go through when moving into a new apartment and they give their workers days off for moving. A couple moved to Zurich and their experience of looking for an apartment left a huge impression on them, “At first, I was looking for an apartment myself. I couldn’t find anything.
After that, we hired a super-expensive agent. In the end, I found a good apartment by myself. To get it, I basically bribed the previous tenant, bought all of his furniture, and he didn’t tell the landlord about the other people who were interested in the apartment. To sign the contract, we had to show papers that confirmed we didn’t have any debt.”
4. People in Switzerland respect insurance.
Local people have to have medical insurance and pay for it. A girl moved to Switzerland with her family, “Every person here pays some sort of a medical tax: adults pay 2,500 francs ($ 2,800). This allows them to have free medical service. But dentistry is separate. This is crazy money!”
5. Expensive medical insurance doesn’t guarantee a serious attitude toward your treatment.
Medicine here is all about “do no harm,” so if there is an opportunity to not intervene, doctors won’t. No doctor in Switzerland will prescribe useless procedures or medications. The locals don’t have regular medical tests — they’re expensive. If you get ill, you can see a doctor about your condition.
A girl living in Switzerland told about her visit to a doctor, “I remember I had a terrible cough. It was so bad that I couldn’t sleep. After 6 hours in a line, the doctors just prescribed me drops for a cough. I paid 300+ francs for the drops.”
6. It’s perfectly normal to get medical help and buy food in other countries to save money.
Many Swiss people that live near Germany, France, and Italy, often go to these countries to buy food there. They also buy clothes there, but there are limitations on the number of goods you can move across the border.
For example, you can’t bring more than 20 kg of fruits and vegetables per person, 5 liters of milk, and 3 liters of juice. Also, you can’t move more than 0.5 kg of meat. Of course, if you are traveling with someone else, you can move twice as much.
7. Fines are another complicated financial issue.
Almost every intersection in Zurich has cameras set there that take photos of every small rule violation. If you break one of these rules, you’ll get a notification in your e-mail that you have to pay a fine. Parking is really expensive and you can only leave your car outside for 1.5 hours. This is why a lot of people have given up on driving cars and use public transportation and bicycles.
But fines are not just for those that drive. You can get a fine for any violation, and a blogger’s story proves this, “The other day in Zurich, a girl boarded a train and bought a ticket through an app. But the conductor said that the ticket was invalid because it was bought 38 seconds after the train started going. The girl tried to explain that the internet was slow and she had a ticket but the conductor gave her a fine of 30 francs instead of 90 (for when you have no ticket at all). The price of the ticket itself is 8.6 francs. Is this crazy or is this fair?”
8. A husband is supposed to provide for his ex-wife in cases of divorce.
In Switzerland, there’s a law that forces husbands to pay alimony not only for their children but also for their ex-wife in case of divorce. In fact, alimony is paid by the partner who has the bigger income. Most of the time, it’s men and they have to pay this money to their ex-wives.
9. The pedestrian crossings in Bern are covered with Swarovski crystals.
While painting the pedestrian crossings, workers mix yellow paint with tiny Swarovski crystals which help to increase the light reflection at night. 500 grams of crystals are needed for 1 square meter. The optimal visibility is achieved when most crystals are in the paint and only 1/3 of the overall number are outside.
10. The locals sort trash and keep everything clean.
“I found a pizza box garbage can in Switzerland.”
The necessary minimum is sorting glass, paper, plastic, and organic waste, but there are also separate containers for fish and meat bones, cream bottles and detergents, and coffee cups. Most people look for these containers because if you throw away your trash after already sorting it, it’s free, but if you collect everything into one bag and throw it away, you need special trash bags. They cost 1 franc per 20 liters. To get rid of something big, like old car wheels, you need to drive them to a disposal yard and pay around $35.
“I met a Swiss guy that came to Russia as an exchange student. We were walking with my friends and invited him to go with us. One guy said, ‘I have never been to Switzerland but I know it’s super clean there.’ The Swiss guy looked at him as if he were crazy and said, ‘Are you joking? It’s a stereotype! Check Google Maps.’ Go to a small village in the mountains. You’ll see how bad it is there.” We took a laptop and decided to check. This is what we saw:
“But this is amazing!”
“Yeah, I’m trolling you. It’s really great everywhere.” © Annike09 / Pikabu
11. Popular food in Switzerland
The price of food is so high because there are no bad products there. The government supports farmers, the laws protect animals, and this is why there is no cheap meat. There’s only high-quality meat. Vegetables and cheese in Switzerland are great. Swiss people love cheese and put it into a lot of meals.
A girl living in Switzerland said, “I’m indifferent to cheese and to chocolate. The local Mövenpick ice cream is not really that delicious. I love bread. Even though it’s pretty expensive, I can eat a whole loaf — it’s so good. By the way, it doesn’t go bad for a really long time.”
Vending machines for selling cheese
12. There are several official languages.
In Switzerland, there are 4 official languages: French, German, Italian, and Rhaeto-Romance. Depending on the city, the language changes but most people here speak several languages. The local German language is really different from the language spoken in Germany.
One girl has been living in Switzerland for 2 years and she’s noticed, “The popular expression hoch Deutsch (which can be translated as ‘high German’), as the original German language is called, really insults the Swiss people. So, the Swiss people really simplify German grammar, and they don’t use articles and endings.”
13. People spend a lot of time outside.
On Sundays, life here freezes. It’s not because the stores and restaurants are closed. Everyone needs a day off, including the people working in restaurants.
Another girl living in Switzerland shared her story, “In Burgdorf, you won’t see anyone in the morning. Maybe, 2-3 dog owners walking their pets. I was shocked and I couldn’t understand where everyone was. Later, I realized that people go out of town the first chance they get or spend their time together watching TV.”
The climate and nature vary from region to region. There’s a stereotype that Switzerland is a country of mountains, fat cows, and chocolate rivers. But in some valleys, there are palm trees that usually grow near the seas. People even grow kiwis and bananas there.
14. People in Switzerland follow a lot of rules.
There are very strict rules here. For example, when you are moving into a new apartment, you have to register yourself in the house within 3 days and read all the rules. For example, in some houses, you can’t take a bath in the evening, and in others — you can’t even flush the toilet. You can’t take a shower after 10 pm and people actually follow this law. When I asked a Swiss man why they had such a law, he said with a serious face, “The water makes noise and prevents the neighbor from sleeping.” — a Pikabu user said.
You can’t throw away trash in other bags — it won’t be taken. And there’s a huge chance that you will get a fine or a warning. Another funny rule is that you have to buy bags for trash in the same district where you live. A girl described her experience, “When we were moving in, we got a manual with 87 pages in German. I got lost on page 3 and missed an important detail about garbage disposal rules. On our first week, we got a fine of 65 francs. It turned out that every district has its own trash bag color. My neighbor saw my black bag among the many white-orange of the community and registered a complaint.”
15. The authorities take good care of people’s safety.
There’s a bomb shelter in every house. It’s a room with a ventilation system reinforced with concrete blocks. There are public bomb shelters for several people with 9 liters of water for every person, dry bread, matches, canned food, and medications.
Besides, people are supplied with special pills if the radiation levels increase. A Pikabu user said, “I found a pack of iodine pills in my mailbox. The military pharmacy sent them. I unpacked it and wanted to eat one. My husband stopped me and said that we get enough iodine from salt. The dosage was crazy. It turned out that free iodine pills are sent to everyone in case of high radiation levels. The instructions on the pack said that we shouldn’t take the pills without a message from the authorities.”
16. Swiss people don’t like washing machines in their apartments.
The locals really respect their tradition of having a laundry room in the basement, one for the entire block. Even if someone wants to have a washing machine in their apartment, they can’t really do it. First, there are no pipes in the bathroom that you can connect the machine to. Second, a washing machine makes too much noise.
To make it possible for everyone to use the laundry room, Swiss people have a strict schedule. It’s a chart where everyone writes their names. You can’t break this schedule, or other people can even call the police.
Even if everyone has their own washing machine, it will still be in the laundry room.
17. The railways are the definition of accuracy.
“I live in Switzerland. This is the train I commute to school with.”
The schedule is planned so that you can reach the necessary location from any mountain village with as few connections as possible. Besides, all trains go once every 30-60 minutes, so being late for a train is not a problem. There’s a lot to see while you’re traveling. A man shared, “In the first 2 years when I was commuting to work, I always took a book so I wouldn’t be bored. In 2 years, I never opened the book once. I always looked out the window.”
18. Milk tastes totally different.
Unlike the cows in other milk farms in other countries that are often given antibiotics and growth hormones, cows in Switzerland eat grass. Milk in Switzerland is extremely pure. Every year, around 270,000 cows go to the Alpine fields. They come back at the beginning of the fall, around the middle of September.
Thanks to the grass, the milk has a higher density and the unforgettable taste of different herbs. Besides, the milk received from these cows can be transformed into unique kinds of Alpine cheese.
19. You can drink tap water and water from fountains.
You can drink from fountains. The biggest purpose of a fountain is to ensure that everyone has access to potable water in Switzerland. There is mineral water coming out from the tap in the kitchen. So, when a waiter at a restaurant brings you a glass of tap water, it’s totally safe to drink.
20. They created a new kind of chocolate — pink.
It’s hard to believe it but this unique color of chocolate is not achieved with colorants, it’s done with red cocoa beans. Colorants and flavor additives are not used. Pink chocolate is literally a breakthrough in the chocolate world. There were only 3 kinds of chocolate before — bitter, milk, and white. The previous new kind (white) was invented in 1930. Pink chocolate has a light berry-like taste.
Tried them a few months ago. It seems they’re being released at selected locations only, tho. I liked them. I was expecting a strawberry-like flavor, but it tasted more like white chocolate to me. © SuperCuteRoar / Reddit
21. Many women decide to have children pretty late.
Women in Switzerland become mothers at the age of 30.7 on average and they are in third place in Europe. Only in Italy and Spain, do women become mothers at later ages. To begin with, now people need to go a much longer way to get an education than they did several decades ago. As a result, the age when you can create a family is higher.
Secondly, girls have become more demanding which results in no good partner choices for a family. Having a child in Switzerland is not cheap. One day at a regular kindergarten costs around $110–130.
22. People take good care of their health and it’s obvious.
Since early childhood, children are taught to eat healthy food. Children get vegetables and fruits for snacks in school. Most people play sports, walk on foot, and ride bikes. It’s trendy and totally natural. Older people also look healthy. In Switzerland, there are not many couples where the partners are of different ages, so you can see men walking with their wives who are the same age. Old people sit together on summer terraces and look really cute.
Bonus: Attention to detail is key to a comfortable life.
The toiletries at my hotel in Switzerland included a rubber ducky.
Ledge for cats
Would you like to live in Switzerland? Share your thoughts in the comment section below!