Swiss cities among most expensive for expats

Geneva and Zurich are the world's fifth and sixth most expensive cities for expatriates, the latest Mercer Worldwide Cost of Living Survey has found.

Swiss cities among most expensive for expats
Dan Moyle

Geneva has remained in fifth position while Zurich has risen one position to sixth place, which it shares jointly with Singapore.

Bern has also climbed two positions to 14th place, making it the fourth most expensive European city in the survey.

The study noted that the majority of European cities had dropped in the rankings due to the weakening euro, while Swiss cities bucked the trend thanks largely to the strong franc.

Tokyo knocked Angola’s capital, Luanda, from the number one spot. Osaka takes up third position, with Moscow in fourth. Karachi, at position 214, was found to be the world’s cheapest city for expatriates.

The survey covered 214 cities across the world and compared the costs of over 200 items including household goods, food, travel and housing, usually the biggest expenses for expatriates. New York, the most expensive US city in 33rd position, was used as the base city.

Some of the largest jumps in the rankings were seen in New Zealand, where Auckland and Wellington each leaped a massive 62 places to 56th and 74th positions respectively.

External link: The top 50 cities in the Mercer rankings.

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Can I have a fire in my backyard or courtyard in Switzerland?

The winter months are on their way and the weather is getting colder. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard, can you light a fire?

White marshmallows toast over a fire
If you want to toast marshmallows in your backyard in Switzerland this winter, first make sure it's OK. Photo by Leon Contreras on Unsplash

Even if you own a property, the rules for what you can and cannot do in Switzerland can be relatively restrictive. 

As we covered in the following article, laws or tenancy rules can prevent you from doing several types of activities in your own backyard, including felling trees or washing your car. 

You can also be prevented from certain activities on particular days. For instance, rules, bylaws and tenancy arrangements may prevent you from mowing your lawn or hanging out your laundry on a Sunday. 

READ MORE: What am I allowed to do in my backyard or apartment courtyard in Switzerland?

As the weather gets colder, you might be tempted to stock up the fire pit, fire basket or fire bowl with wood and set it alight. 

The rules for lighting fires are also relatively complex. What you are allowed to do will depend on your canton, your tenancy arrangement and the type of fire. 

Can I light a fire on my own property in Switzerland? 

If you’re living in one of the few Swiss houses to have a fireplace, then you are presumably allowed to use it, unless tenancy regulations prevent it at certain times. 

You are also usually allowed to have a barbecue or grill either on your balcony or in your backyard, provided the noise and smoke is not excessive. 

READ MORE: Can I have a barbecue on my balcony in Switzerland?

Whether or not you are allowed to have a fire in your backyard however will depend on the rules in your canton. 

You are generally prohibited from burning any waste in Switzerland, other than typical forest or garden waste (i.e. wood, grass, twigs, sticks and leaves). 

That however can also be restricted at certain times of the year.

In Zurich, for instance, fires in backyards are only permitted from March to October, meaning that you will need to find other ways to stay warm in the winter months in Switzerland’s most populous canton. 

Even if lighting fires is permitted, you may want to check with the rules of your rental contract to see if you are technically allowed a fire. 

What about fires in the forest or open parks? 

A campfire might also sound like a nice way to spend a winter evening, but this may be restricted or completely prohibited depending on the circumstance. 

There is no federal ban on fires in forests and other outdoor areas, provided you are not burning waste (other than garden waste etc) and you are not producing excessive emissions. 

The rules are the same on August 1st, Swiss National Day, where special bonfires usually require a permit. 

Note that there are special rules for burning old Christmas trees, which is prevented by law.