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Why are French people now crossing the border to dine and shop in Switzerland?

People from France are now crossing the border into Switzerland to go shopping and visit restaurants, reversing the long-standing trend of going the other way. Why?

Why are French people now crossing the border to dine and shop in Switzerland?
Why are Swiss cafes near the French border now suddenly much more popular? Photo: Photo by Johan Mouchet on Unsplash

The Covid pandemic has led to a new phenomenon few living in border areas thought they would ever see.

The French have reversed decades upon decades of one-way shopping traffic and are now heading to Switzerland to go shopping and visit restaurants. 

Up until this point, people from Switzerland were far more likely to cross into France to go shopping and even to eat and drink, due to the comparatively low prices and the relative ease of crossing the border. 

What has led to the reversal of the usual practice where the Swiss go shopping in France to save money?

‘Swiss crush’: Shoppers from Switzerland head to France after stores close

It appears the trend has shifted due to France putting in place stricter rules regarding vaccinations as part of the pandemic. 

In France, 11 departments are now requiring the health pass to enter shopping centres, expanding it from restaurants and leisure facilities where it has been required for some time. 

This the case also in Haute-Savoie since Monday, where authorities said they were concerned about “the very worrying health situation”.

The region, which is adjacent to the Lake Geneva area, now has six shopping centres on the mandatory list, with 350 shopping centres on the list in France in total

France’s health pass requires people to be fully vaccinated, have recovered from the virus in the previous six months or have tested negative in the past 72 hours. 

No such measures are in place in Switzerland at the moment for shopping, visiting bars or restaurants, although those visiting nightclubs and larger events will need Switzerland’s Covid certificate, the Swiss version of the ‘pass sanitaire’. 

UPDATED: How to get Switzerland’s Covid-19 health pass

Not only the retailers, but also bars and restaurants on the Swiss side of the border have seen the influx of French customers,

“We now have 30 to 40 percent more customers (since before France changed the rules)”, Arianit Pira, manager of Auberge de Perly in Geneva, told Swiss news outlet RTS on Monday. 

As a thank you, “we should send a bottle to Mr. Macron”, he added. 

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Why are Geneva and Zurich high among world’s ‘most liveable’ cities?

Zurich and Geneva have been ranked once again in the top 10 best cities to live in but not everything is so rosy about life in Switzerland's two big cities.

Why are Geneva and Zurich high among world’s ‘most liveable’ cities?

Switzerland is the only country in Europe to have two entries in the top 10 in the new Global Liveability Index: Zurich is in the third place and Geneva in the sixth.

The study, carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit rates living conditions in 172 cities based on more than 30 factors. These are grouped into five categories: stability, health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure. 

Both cities score high across all categories, with highest marks given for heath care (100), followed by infrastructure (96.4), and stability (95).

The difference, though minimal, between the two cities, lies in the culture and environment category, were Zurich scored 96.3 and Geneva 94.9.

The lowest score both got, 91.7, is for education, which is surprising, as Zurich’s Federal Polytechnic Institute (ETH) has been named the best university in continental Europe for several years running, including in 2022.

READ MORE: Swiss universities still highly ranked but slip in ratings

The overall result, however, is not exactly a surprise, because the two cities (and sometimes also Basel, Bern, and Lausanne) frequently rank in the Top 10 places to live in the world.

Paradoxically, Switzerland’s two largest cities also routinely take top spots as the most expensive places to live in. For instance, both were ranked among the costliest for international residents in a survey published on June 14th.

So the obvious question is, how can two most expensive cities also be among most ‘liveable’?

At least part of the answer may lie in different criteria used to measure the quality of life versus costs.

The concept of quality of life defined by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which was also adapted in Switzerland, includes categories such as  health, education, environmental quality, personal security, civic engagement, and work-life balance.

Swiss cities (and Switzerland in general) scores high in all these categories, which explains the overall top rankings.

The cost of living, on the other hand, is determined by calculating prices of goods and services that are essential parts of individual or household spending.

These prices are totalled and averaged, and indexes are created to help compare costs of living in different locations.

As prices for basic necessities such as housing, health insurance, food, and public transportation, are much higher in Switzerland than in most of Europe, the country always ranks among the most expensive in the world.

However, as The Local explained in a recent article, in order to get a more accurate assessment of the cost of living, prices should be looked at in the context of purchasing power parity (PPP) — that is, the financial ability of a person or a household to buy products and services with their wages.

An in depth analysis by a digital employment platform Glassdoor concluded that in Switzerland (along with Denmark, and Germany) the average city-based worker can afford to buy 60 percent or more goods and services with his or her salary than residents of New York.

READ MORE : EXPLAINED: Why Switzerland’s cost of living isn’t as high as you think

And there’s more to the equation…

Most, if not all, participants in the global quality / standard of living indexes are international residents in each surveyed country — people who are typically high earners and have sufficient income to live well. That skews the results somewhat.

For instance, the Quality of Living Ranking conducted annually by asset management firm Mercer, bases its findings on responses by expatriate employees — people who work in high-level, well-paid executive positions — rather than those in lower-level jobs, like in retail or restaurant sector.

 READ MORE: What is the average salary for (almost) every job in Switzerland?