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Opinion: why Zug is becoming the best place to live in Switzerland

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Opinion: why Zug is becoming the best place to live in Switzerland
"You don’t need a car, everything is in walking distance." Photo: Zug Tourism
11:32 CEST+02:00
When I moved to Switzerland in January 2011 and lived in French-speaking Nyon, near Geneva, I would not have imagined myself saying that Zug is now becoming the best place to live in Switzerland.

This is not just because of the growing expat community that has made the place home but also because of how Zug has quickly adapted to its increasing popularity.

Read also: Where in Switzerland do foreigners choose to live?

Ask people in Switzerland and abroad about Zug and most will still tell you that, while they have heard of it, they don’t know much about it. And if they do know anything, it is most likely the fact that Zug is the canton with the lowest tax rates in Switzerland.

Guggiwiese with stunning views of the old town, lake and mountains in Zug. Photo: swiss-image.ch/Markus Buehler-Rasom

But there is a lot more to the 800-year-old city of Zug than its fiscal advantages. Zug has undergone a major transformation in the last 50 years. Having been the capital of the poorest canton in the country, it is now a thriving metropolis of around 30,000 people and a burgeoning tourist destination.

Nicolas Ludin, the Managing Director of Zug Tourism summed up Zug’s identity perfectly: “Zug is international, traditional and local.”

A commercial and tax haven

So why is Zug becoming the best place to live in Switzerland?

Let us get the corporate advantages out of the way first. It is true: in Switzerland where every canton and even individual communes have different tax rates, Zug is a tax haven. This has attracted the likes of former German tennis champ Boris Becker and the people of many different nationalities that make their home here.

Depending on your personal situation – including, for example, not just what you earn, but whether you have children or are married, among other factors – income tax can be as low as 3 percent but is typically 10–20 percent.

Compare that to Nyon, in canton Vaud where I was originally based, and where the income tax rate could be a high 27 percent.

Then there are the over 31,000 international companies, including the likes of Johnson & Johnson, which are registered in Zug. In fact, until recently, the number of companies here actually outnumbered the number of residents.

Working in the communications field, I found it infinitely easier to find a job in the Zug–Zurich area than anywhere else.

Gaining expat and local approval

Intrigued to find out what fellow Zugerians thought, I went in search of an opinion or two from both foreigners and locals. Lucia Baumgartner, born in Steinhausen close to Zug, and a German teacher by trade, had this insight from her students.

“The general opinion is that there is a nice blend of small town community mixed in with the international flair of a big town,” she says.

For Tobias Stracke, originally from Hamburg and a hairdresser with the Toni and Guy chain, Zug’s stunning location is a particular draw card.

“You don’t need a car, everything is in walking distance and you are just a few minutes from nature,” he says.

Food and shopping opportunities

Zug’s services and offerings to both expat and local communities continue to improve. No longer do you have to go to Zurich for a bit of high-street shopping. The big labels are here, alongside fashionable boutiques and the Swiss brands.

Zug’s gastronomy scene has also multiplied in choice in the last couple of years. My particular favourite, the Aklin, has been around for generations, but Zug now has specialist sushi, salad and pasta outlets, together with Spanish, Italian and Asian restaurants. Fear not, Swiss fondue is also readily available.

The Aklin restaurant in Zug.

James Heffron, who moved over from the UK with his family a couple of years ago, marvels at Zug’s seasonal culinary delights.

“In spring, you see an abundance of asparagus and exotic mushrooms. During the summer months, Zug is brimming with cherries and in October it is the game season with an influx of wild boar and venison," he says.

Education

Zug’s increasing popularity has meant that key services like education have had to keep pace with the influx of families. There is an abundance of Montessori schools, nurseries and international schools like Elementa, which come highly recommended. The local school system is renowned in this region and welcomes both local and foreign kids. With Zurich, Bern and Lucerne close by, there is no shortage of universities either.

Location, location

Zug’s location and geography are the best in Switzerland. Being central, Zug is just 25 minutes away by train from Zurich, as is Lucerne. Meanwhile, Bern and Basel are just over an hour away. And some of the most famous ski resorts in the world are no more than an hour or two’s drive away.


As Ludin from Zug tourism puts it: “You are never more than a five-minute walk from nature and Zug has an ideal blend of city and landscape. People know about Zurich, but Zug has yet to be properly discovered.“

Zug has to guard against the challenges of mass tourism

With Zug now an up-and-coming tourist destination, and with growth increasing at a rate of knots, the need for appropriate infrastructure is critical.

For Ludin, it’s about striking the right balance between involving the locals, welcoming travel groups and channeling the opportunities that the expat community creates.

“The locals need to feel local and we want to inform visitors coming to Zug about the town’s traditions,” he said.

Zug is dealing with this transition as well as it can, undoubtedly helped by having a ‘local but international’ identity.

Consider Zug seriously

From a personal viewpoint Zug has improved considerably from when we first moved here four years ago.

Make no mistake, it was tough to adapt to – the German versus French thing exists, and the language barrier and the culture all take time to get used to.


Photo: Charlie Inglefield

However Zug is worth the persistence. Give it a while, pitch in and make the effort and you will be rewarded with an excellent quality of life and living experience.   

Charlie Inglefield, a sports journalist, moved from Sydney in 2011 to Geneva before moving to Zug in 2014 (@charlieirugby).

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