Hallo Basel answers your questions about moving to Basel

Getting to know switzerland

Swiss flag: Moving to Switzerland

So you are moving to Switzerland?

Moving to a new country always requires some learning and adjustment. Whether you have moved from far across the world to Basel, or whether you’ve moved from closer by, you may find Switzerland different to you home country or other host countries where you have lived. 

Understanding the history, governance and culture of a place takes time, but knowledge can lead to understanding and understanding to patience…and even to love!

This page is intended as an introduction to Switzerland written by those who have made her their home but who remember what it is like to be a newcomer. 

One thing to consider, whether this is your first move or your fiftieth, is that culture shock is a real phenomenon and affects different people in different ways. Learning to adapt to any new environment may take time but it is the key to enjoyment. If you are struggling to settle in, or feeling overwhelmed by learning about your new environment, Hallo Basel wants you know that you are not alone. Send us your questions via this form, even if your question starts with ‘why’! Perhaps we can help, but certainly we can emphathise. 

Key facts about Basel and Switzerland

Basel lies in the North West corner of Switzerland and is divided by the Rhein River. Basel (Basel Stadt) is a city surrounded by Baselland (Basel Country) to the South, Germany to the North and France to the West.

Basel is an old city and some of its buildings date from the 11th Century (the Cathedral, Münster), 13th Century (the main Bridge, Mittlere Brücke) and 15th Century (City Gate, Spalentor).

Basel is also a vibrant, modern city with a thriving business economy and home to the two tallest buildings in Switzerland: Roche Tower 1 and Roche Tower 2.

While Switzerland has four official languages: French, German, Italian and Romansh, the language of Basel is German. The Swiss mainly speak the local dialect of the language of their area. In the Basel area, this is Baseldeutsch or Baseldytsch. However, the written language in the Basel area is German. 

Basel Tourism has a website in English, German, French, Italian and Spanish with information about the city and what to visit.

Basel old town with cathedral and river Rhein

Governance in Switzerland

Switzerland is a Confederacy started by a defensive alliance in the 13th century but formally ratified as a federal republic of 26 mostly autonomous cantons since 1848.

Basel joined the Swiss Confederacy in 1501.

Governance and government in Switzerland are very decentralized. Much is arranged on a local municipality (Gemeinde) level and on a Kantonal level, in contrast to many other countries that are frequently governed centrally at a federal or country level.

This system means your local municipality also gets the largest part of your taxes, followed then by the Kanton, while the federal government only the smallest share of your taxes.

Switzerland has been and still tries to be fiercely independent. While modern times call for greater alliances, the Swiss value their neutrality. Even while Switzerland has increasing numbers of bilateral agreements with the EU, Switzerland is not an EU member state.

Below are two videos about Switzerland. One describes how Switzerland began and what created its distinctive government style. The other explains how Switzerland’s direct democracy works. While non-Swiss citizens may not vote, it is fascinating to understand how our host country makes decisions.

(Hallo Basel does not own these videos and does not control their content. We provide them here with full credit to their creators.)

The economy and pricing in Switzerland

Switzerland’s currency is the Swiss Franc. 

You may have heard it said that Switzerland is an expensive country, and you may also associate Swiss manufacturing with high quality. In reality, Swiss products purchased in Switzerland cost more than they would when purchased in neighbouring countries. This can be frustrating for consumers.

Switzerland’s relatively small population means it relies on part of its workforce coming from outside the country. As a newcomer to Basel, it is very likely you are here because of work. The incoming foreign workforce means cultural diversity can be found in Switzerland, most often in cities like Basel, Zurich and Geneva. 

Cultural Norms in Switzerland

It is a stereotype that Swiss are punctual, but it is not so without good reason! It is said that when you’re right on time for a meeting, you’re still late, because the meeting should have started when you walked in! Should a bus, tram or train be 2 minutes later than scheduled you may notice people checking their watches against the schedule. Should it be 5 minutes late, the delay becomes a conversation amongst those waiting. The Swiss are known to cherish predictability, planning, rules and protocol. The Swiss are not known as watch makers, bankers and insurers for no good reason.

You may have heard that Switzerland is a country with many rules. Most of these rules are regarding social order to make sure you don’t make too much noise and impact someone else’s rest. Some apartment blocks have rules against flushing toilets at night. No disposing of garbage after 5 in the afternoon. 

The Swiss cherish traditions, heritage and localisms. You will not have to live in Switzerland very long before you see some traditional clothing, Alphorns, or hear the Guggemusik. The Swiss relish their festivals including the Spring carnival Fasnacht and their celebrations on the Swiss national holiday (August 1st). The Alpabzug (bringing the cattle down from the farmed alps before the winter) is celebrated even by those who do not live in the mountain communities with many Swiss travelling to see the decorated cows and goats. 

While friendships with local Swiss may take more work to get started, once made they last a lifetime. Acknowledge and assimilate to the new culture you are now living in and you will be rewarded. Like your Swiss neighbours, be consistent and reliable, show respect and consideration, and enjoy Switzerland!

Just for fun

These comedy videos have a little fun with Swiss culture.

Hallo Basel does not control the content of these videos and gives all credit to the video creators.

Do You Still Have Questions?

Moving country or city can generate lots of questions.  You don’t need to struggle alone. 

At Hallo Basel we can point you to the answers.

Ask us a question and we will call or email you back, completely free of charge. No strings attached. Simply a helping hand from those a few steps ahead on a similar journey.