Just arrived in Switzerland … New to everything? Feeling a bit out of sorts? It’s completely normal … Switzerland is a gorgeous, beautiful place but there are many things that may help to ease your transition – especially if you’re a parent moving with children – to help you feel more on top of things.
New to Switzerland doesn’t have to be stressful. We’ve compiled a few helpful tips that may be useful over the next few weeks and months to feel more at home.
- Always have your blue car parking display disc with you. It can mean an hour (or more) of free parking. Just display your blue disc with your arrival time, when you see the parking disc symbol.
- For children, car or booster seats are required up until the age of 12 or 150cm.
- Winter tyres – you’ll need to book your car in and switch your summer tyres over from the start of November to the beginning of April’ish to ensure you’re covered by insurance.
- You need to display a vignette to drive on any Swiss motorway – purchase from petrol stations or the post office at 40 CHF for the year.
- Speeding – Switzerland is very hot on speeding and has a number of fixed and temporary cameras around the region. Be alert for large, grey aluminium boxes, by the side of the road that look much like a utility service.
- In Geneva itself, you also need to display a ‘SwissAir’ sticker available from the canton offices (emissions category)
- Don’t forget to exchange your driving licence for a Swiss one, before the end of your first year in Switzerland. Being late may mean you need to sit a Swiss driving test!
- Download the SBB and or TPG app to travel around via bus and train. The SBB App in particular is amazing for planning routes and buying tickets, but also tells you which platform your train departs from. Swiss attention to detail is fantastic here!
- Check out the great value Junior Karte and Children’s Co-Travelcard (both 30CHF for the year). This gives free travel on public transport throughout Switzerland (and discounts on some European train routes) when a child is accompanied by their parent or specified adult (e.g. nanny)
- Children under the age of 6 travel for free on all public transport.
- Children can cycle on the pavement until age of 12 years
- 24-hour medical services: Geneva (022-321-2121 / SOS Medecins 022-748-4950) or Vaud (0848-133-133). As GP and Paediatrician offices often close when they take holidays, these numbers can be invaluable.
- kids.latour.ch is an online tool from La Tour hospital to direct you to appropriate emergency care for children. Appointments can often be booked here too.
- Call 144 for health emergencies
- No shops are open in Switzerland on a Sunday, with the exception of the Migros at Geneva airport and the main train station. However, supermarkets are often open in France on Sunday mornings.
- Cross-border shopping: Check out your limits. You can be stopped up to 3km after you cross the border. And don’t forget alcohol limits, unlike food limits, don’t apply to children, just adults! Current limits can be found here.
- La Poste – This can be a confusing place!
- They don’t accept credit cards, so always have your debit card, cash or TWINT (see local resources section for more on TWINT).
- To send an international parcel you need to create your label online, and take a barcode into the post office for them to print, or print the label at home. Go to www.post.ch/en/custom to find out more, it’s worth creating an account to save time.
- The Swisspost app is very useful and will notify you of parcels being delivered/when, or awaiting collection. A UK photo driving licence is not considered to be photo ID, they will want to see your resident’s permit or passport.
- Always say bonjour, and be extremely polite. If you can make friends with Monsieur or Madame La Poste then you’re winning!
- Customs/Taxes on parcels – it is not unheard of for a postman to arrive with a parcel for you and ask for customs or duties to be paid before he’ll hand it over. So ensure any parcels sent to you from family/friends are marked as a gift and with a value lower than 60chf.
Great local resources
- TWINT: It’s brilliant! Many things online are a bit behind in Switzerland but by jove TWINT is amazing to pay bills / friends / general stuff.
- Know It All Passport (website and book) a little bit of something about everything to help you with life in Switzerland.
- Want to practice your French? Watch the local news on channels RTS1 & RTS2
- Swiss News and information in English – WRS (Radio); The Local and Swiss Info
- Get to understand your dechetterie! This is so important. What you are expected to do with your recycling and waste varies between communes and whether you are in an apartment or a house so we can’t give you specific info. But our top tips are:
- don’t lose your dechetterie card (you will be charged to replace it)
- learn where everything goes, and follow the system
- check if your dechetterie has an area for “brocante” – free books, toys, crockery in need of a new home. Great to offload to as well as pick up!
- The HUB…..check out HUB Highlights for tried and tested providers of great local information.
And finally, Swiss culture …
- National and Cantonal holidays – there are a few throughout the year. Check them out, and be careful of cantonal variations!. Jeûne genevois is coming up on 9th September for Geneva only and Bettagsmontag on Sept 19th for Vaud (but not Geneva). Shops will be closed, so best to plan around these dates.
- Be on time for appointments and say ‘bonjour’ to all that you meet to be friendly – especially when entering shops or at a till.
What are your experiences if you are new to Switzerland?
Smooth-sailing or making you tear your hair out ? Either way we’d love to hear how things are going.
And if you’ve been here a while, is this making you feel nostalgic for the early days? Share your top tips with us or stories of early fails when new to Switzerland.
Together we are stronger.