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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

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

Thinking of a move or just want to rub it into your friend in another part of the country? Here's where you can find the good life in Switzerland.

New study ranks quality of life in nine Swiss cities, including Zurich (pictured here). Photo by Henrique Ferreira on Unsplash
New study ranks quality of life in nine Swiss cities, including Zurich (pictured here). Photo by Henrique Ferreira on Unsplash

While the concept of “quality of life” can be based on subjective perceptions, some factual data is also used to define and determine the well-being of the population.

The City Statistics project by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO), examined a number of categories, including housing, health, personal safety, public transport, environmental quality and other factors to rate the quality of life in Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Lucerne, Lugano, St. Gallen, Winterthur and Zurich.

Here’s a look at several categories that contribute to good life quality in each of the nine cities.

Housing

Good housing is important to overall quality of life because it fulfils basic needs for safety, feeling of protection, privacy and personal space, the FSO said.

“A high dwelling rate makes the search for and the choice of accommodation easier and influences the price of housing on offer”, the study found.

This chart shows vacancy rates in each of the nine cities.

READ MORE: Top ten tips for finding an apartment in Switzerland

Infrastructure and services

The quality of local infrastructure is an important factor because it leads to  higher efficiency, as well as overall comforts and conveniences.

This is how the cities fare in this category.

Transportation

The choice and availability of the transport network is important to satisfy daily needs such as work, shopping, and recreation, FSO noted. 

The price of monthly public transport ticket and the number of stops along each route is also taken into account.

Work-life balance

This is unquestionably a major contributing factor to the overall quality of life as it “influences well-being, contributes to productivity in the workplace and helps people remain healthy and happy”, the study found.

In this particular category, the FSO focused specifically on childcare options in each city, as it allows “to reconcile family responsibilities with their work commitments”.

READ MORE: A developing country’: Why do so few Swiss children attend childcare?

Civic engagement

“By taking part in political and social life, citizens express their needs, making a democratic contribution to political decisions”, FSO pointed out.

“This ensures that people are better informed and more easily accept political decisions. Civic engagement strengthens people’s trust in institutions and increases the effectiveness of political action”.

Environment

Pleasant surroundings are essential for good quality of life, while an environment that is contaminated with pollutants or excessive noise “affects the mental and physical health of the population”, according to the study.

This chart shows the average air pollution in the nine cities.

You can see here how these cities are doing in other categories.

And this link includes detailed information about prices and cost of living in each on the nine locations.

Quality of life is not exactly a new concept in Switzerland: the country and its cities are frequently ranked very highly in international surveys.

These are some of the findings of previous studies:

Quality of life: Which Swiss cities are the best to live in and why?

Zurich ranked world’s best city for ‘prosperity and social inclusion’

Why Bern is ranked Europe’s third ‘healthiest’ capital city

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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

What you need to know when taking your clothes off in Switzerland

As you know by now, the Swiss have laws and regulations for pretty much everything — ranging from how to throw away your garbage to how to boil a lobster. But what about nudity? Here's the bare truth.

What you need to know when taking your clothes off in Switzerland

The weather is getting warmer and you may want to shed as much of your clothing as you legally can. But how much skin can you safely bare in Switzerland?

You may be surprised to learn that Switzerland’s, um, penal code does not ban public nudity — as long as it is not indecent.

Interestingly though, the term “indecent” is not clearly defined in the Swiss law, so it is open to interpretation.

Be it as it may, the subject was widely reported in the media in 2009, when residents of Appenzell Innerrhoden complained about people hiking in their mountains, wearing nothing but backpacks and hiking boots.

Their concern had nothing to do with the fact that unclothed hikers took to the mountains in the middle of a cold Alpine winter.

Rather, they disliked that the walkers passed families with children and a Christian rehabilitation facility. 

The case eventually ended up before the cantonal court, which ruled that people should cover up when walking in public places. However, this ruling applies only in Appenzell, not in the rest of the country.

Another example of the liberal attitude that reigns in much of Switzerland regarding nudity has been the Body and Freedom Festival that took place regularly in August in various Swiss cities until 2018.

The festival exposed —  literally — actors performing in the buff in the midst of crowded city streets.

During one such event that took place in Bienne, local officials not only authorised the performance, but also contributed $20,000 of public funds to it.

The only condition they made was that, for safety reasons, naked performers stay clear of traffic, so drivers wouldn’t be distracted.

READ MORE: Naked artists cause stir with Zurich street performances

What about topless bathing in public?

This practice is much more common than walking in the nude (after all, how many naked hikers have you encountered on mountain trails?)

Nothing in the federal law addresses the issue of toplessness; cantons don’t have such legislation either, leaving final decisions in this matter to individual municipalities.

It is perhaps incorrect to say that the vast majority of communes in Switzerland actually authorise topless sunbathing and swimming, but they don’t ban it either.

In fact, there is currently a motion in the parliament (because apparently MPs are not busy enough with more pressing matters) urging Swiss officials to allow toplessness on public beaches.

“Such a topless rule is absolutely necessary in Switzerland”, said Social Democratic MP Tamara Funiciello.  “Women should be able to walk around, swim, and sunbathe as they please”.

Helena Trachsel, head of the Equal Opportunities Office in the canton of Zurich, also believes that toplessness makes sense: “From an equal opportunities perspective, it is clear that the same rules apply to all genders, including women and non-binary people”, she said.

However, Martin Enz, managing director of the Association of Indoor and Outdoor Pools sees no need for action: “If a person discreetly drops their bikini top and does not show off, this is accepted in most outdoor pools. The problem tends to be men who gape”, he noted.

So when and where can you take your clothes off in Switzerland?

What is clear is that you definitely should not walk around naked anywhere in Appenzell.

As far as other cantons and or /municipalities are concerned — whether you want to hike naked in the mountains or swim topless — it’s best to check with your local authorities about what is and is not permitted in your area before you leave your house buck naked.

READ MORE: The 12 strange laws in Switzerland you need to know

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