11 sure-fire ways you know it’s spring in Switzerland

From cleaning frenzies to leaping cows, here's how you know winter is definitively over in Switzerland.

Look past the bunny - it's the mower which tells you spring is here in Switzerland! Image: Viktorya Sergeeva/Pexels.
Look past the bunny - it's the mower which tells you spring is here in Switzerland! Image: Viktorya Sergeeva/Pexels.

Spring cleaning

With the arrival of warmer weather, the Swiss take the chance to clean their houses. But we’re not talking here about a light dusting down of a couple of shelves here. The Swiss version of spring cleaning is more akin to a military operation.

A proper ten-step programme begins with precision planning, some serious de-cluttering and the purchase of an arsenal of cleaning supplies – many of which are on sale to mark the high point of the domestic calendar.

Then it’s time to launch an assault on every possible surface in the house. Not for beginners.

Creepy robot lawn mowers

After their annual hibernation, spring is the time when Switzerland’s robot lawn mowers reemerge and begin the silent business of cutting grass that doesn’t quite need it yet.


Bring on the barbecues

With summer on the horizon (long may it live!), you can barely walk more than a few metres in Switzerland at the moment without tripping over a garden furniture catalogue.

This is the time when Swiss people traditionally spend big on lounge sets, deck chairs and barbecues to make sure they are ready for those days when it is actually warm enough to sit outside.

Those occasions also give men in Switzerland a chance to engage in two national pastimes – showing off their barbecues (the more space-age the better) and their ‘grill skills’. 

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

Smells like spring in Switzerland. Image: Aral Tasher on Unsplash.

Classic cars

If you are looking for a sure-fire sign that it is spring in Switzerland, all you need to do is wait for that magic day when the highways are suddenly full of classic cars (known as ‘oldtimers’ in Switzerland).

We haven’t yet worked out when it is, but it appears there is an official day at the end of winter when all of these cars are taken out of their secret garages and taken for their first spin of the season. Hot tip: a proper ‘oldtimer’ comes with its own separate vintage number plate which is also parked away during the colder months.

Leaping cows

You have to feel sorry for Swiss cows sometimes. They spend up to five months locked away in stalls. It’s no wonder they react like this when they are finally let out.

Traffic jams

While Pentecost, or Whitsunday, means little to people who don’t regularly attend church, the festival has a special meaning in Switzerland.

That’s when thousands of people jump in their cars and spend hours in traffic jams waiting to pass through the Gotthard road tunnel to the promised land – aka the southern, Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, where lakes, palm trees and ice creams await.

READ MORE: Ten strange Swiss road signs you need to know about

The great tyre changeover

Spring means changing the winter tyres on your car over to summer tyres. Or not, as the case may be. While this is a ritual for many people around Easter, there is actually no legal requirement to do so.

On the other hand, if you have summer tyres on your car and then cause an accident in winter, you are likely to run up against the wrath of the insurance companies. You have been warned.

Reader question: When must I change to winter tyres in Switzerland?

Spring decorations

Photo: The Local

The Swiss love to decorate: handicrafts are a national pastime and no café table is complete without an intricate object formed out of twigs, ribbons or even a bit of dried seaweed. And while winter is all about cute snowmen in the windows, spring is all about flowers, rabbits and chickens, or, even better, a combination of the three. 

Packing away winter clothes

Like spring cleaning, this is not a mission to be undertaken lightly.

While we don’t claim to be experts in this matter, a quick ask-around revealed the general idea to be that you wash your clothes first, pack the non-delicate stuff into plastic bins and hang your dresses up.

Hot tip: stick a large-denomination note in your winter jacket.

It will be a nice surprise when next winter arrives. Hot tip number two: don’t decide to donate your money-stuffed winter jacket to charity in the meantime.

Get on your bike (or walk)

Not surprisingly, the Swiss make the most of the better weather to get out into the country’s fabulous outdoors. Bicycles are serviced, huge bicycle markets and held, and Swiss trains are suddenly full of people in checked shirts and very sensible shoes (ie. hikers). Here are some travel tips on where to go this spring.

Asparagus time!

Spring heralds a special moment in the Swiss culinary calendar: asparagus time. The season for locally-produced white asparagus in Switzerland lasts from the middle of May to the middle of June.

During this time do not expect to eat anything else as entire days are given over to consumption of this delicacy. For tips on how to prepare asparagus, see here.

READ MORE: You are not Swiss until you try these seven weird foods

A version of this article originally appeared in April 2018.


Switzerland ranked ‘best country’ in the world

Switzerland has been placed in top spot in yet another international ranking. But does it deserve such a high score?

Switzerland ranked 'best country' in the world

In its annual ranking of 85 nations, US News & World Report has placed Switzerland in top position, based on 73 different criteria.

While it did not come up tops in all of the categories, Switzerland did sufficiently well in others to get an overall high score, as well as high scores in several individual categories.

There are some of them:

Open for Business (100 points out of 100)

This title may be somewhat misleading, as it could be taken to mean that shops and other businesses are open until late hours.

If this were the case, Switzerland wouldn’t get the maximum score; in fact, it would probably place toward the bottom of the ranking.

Instead, this category means ‘business friendly’— and that Switzerland certainly is.

As the report puts it, “The countries considered the most business-friendly are those that are perceived to best balance stability and expense. These market-oriented countries are a haven for capitalists and corporations”.

In other words, the government has created a good environment for businesses to thrive, by offering, for instance, tax incentives and a skilled labour force.

This is actually a good thing because when businesses do well, so does the entire economy.

The proof that Switzerland excels in this category is that it has “low unemployment, and one of the highest gross domestic products per capita in the world”, the report states.

“This helps explain why the country placed first on the list of nations perceived as a good place to headquarter a corporation, as well as scoring in the top five among best countries for a comfortable retirement, green living and to start a career”.

READ MORE: Switzerland ‘an island of bliss’ compared to US, chief economist says

Quality of Life (96.7)

This term could mean different things to different people. But as defined in the report, “beyond the essential ideas of broad access to food, housing, quality education, health care and employment, quality of life may also include intangibles such as job security, political stability, individual freedom and environmental quality”.

Switzerland certainly offers all four. Unemployment is low, which means there are plenty of job opportunities.

The country is politically stable from within, with well established democratic processes — such as referendums — providing security against abuses of power.

Freedom, including the right to ‘self-determination’, is a constitutional right.

And while ecological concerns related to global warming do exist, the Swiss are good at protecting the nature that surrounds them.

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Other quality-of-life categories that weight in Switzerland’s favour include safety, well-developed public education, and a top-notch public health system.

Switzerland has done well across all these categories, but this is no news to anyone who has been following such rankings: the country, or its individual cities, regularly figure among those boasting a high quality of life.

READ MORE: REVEALED: Which Swiss cities offer the best quality of life?

Social purpose (86.6)

This means the country cares about human and animal rights, the environment, gender equality, religious freedom, property rights, well-distributed political power, racial equity, climate goals, and social justice.

Switzerland does particularly well in some of these categories, and less so in others.

In terms of animal rights, for instance, the country’s legislation is among the toughest in the world: as an example, small domestic animals must be kept in pairs to ensure social interaction, and it is illegal to boil a live lobster.

Another category in which Switzerland succeeds possibly better than other nations is the distribution of political power — under Switzerland’s unique system of direct democracy, people, rather than politicians, hold and wield all the power.

READ MORE: How Switzerland’s direct democracy system works

You will find the overall rankings in this link.