'Five years to make friends': The ups and downs of life in a Swiss village

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
'Five years to make friends': The ups and downs of life in a Swiss village
Foreign residents see advantages of living in Swiss villages. Image by Denis Linine from Pixabay

What is it like for foreigners to live in Switzerland’s rural areas? We asked our readers to shed light on the pros and cons of life in a Swiss village.


Last summer we appealed to our readers to share their experiences of living away from the hustle and bustle of cities, in the quieter Swiss countryside.

We asked them what the positive and negative aspects of living in rural communities are, and what advice they would give to other foreigners considering a move away from urban centres.

READ MORE: Tell us: What is life in a Swiss village really like?

These are some of the responses we got:

‘Beautiful and peaceful’

For Barbara Erskine, who used to live in Russin, a small community in canton Geneva, the experience was “just incredible. Everyone knows each other, and there are plenty of village events — picnics, parties, meals in the streets".

Concerning the downsides, the USA native found  lack of transportation to be a problem.

“You need a car to drive everywhere. Even if you want to use the train, it's not always practical for grocery shopping.”

Also, “you don't have so much choice of cafes, restaurants, and stores”

Her advice to anyone thinking of moving to a small community: “Make sure you know the local language. And don't give up when your initial attempts to make friends are rebuffed”.

The latter requires time and patience, Erskine said. “Five years is about right”.


‘Real Swiss living’

Adam Aspinall from London, who has been living in St .Cergue nearly for nearly three years, appreciates “the opportunity to be immersed in local culture, local food and drink, sense of community, and stunning scenery” that the small hillside Vaud commune offers.

On the flipside, "the journey to work is slightly longer".

As for his advice to others thinking of settling in a village, "get to know your neighbours, make an effort to speak the language, join in community activities", he points out.

In other words: "Don’t be the foreign outsider”.

‘Damn churchbells’

While the ringing of bells on the village church “every 15 minutes, every hour of every day, all year round”, is a definite disadvantage of living in Büsserach — as it is for many other residents of Swiss villages — “I got used to them after a few months”, said Stephen Farmer, who came to the Solothurn community from Scotland via the USA and Sweden in 2013.

Also, “living in a village is less convenient for shopping or going to the cinema, but that’s a minor thing for me. And there’s always the excellent Swiss public transport”.

In fact, Farmer sees many more pros than cons in rural life. For instance, "the people are much friendlier than in the city and the surrounding countryside is beautiful. Housing is also considerably cheaper, which was my initial reason for moving here".

But that’s not all: "There’s a great pub five minutes’ walk away and the beer is much cheaper than in any pub in Basel".

His recommendation on finding contentment in a small community: “Integrate and socialise with the locals. It’s well worth the effort".


For Ava from the UK, living in a small community in central Switzerland presents more down- than upsides.

Among the hardships she found are "isolation, difficulty integrating with people whose families have been here for thousands of years and are extremely resistant to change".

She is also bothered by the village grapevine — not the actual grapes, but the gossip.

“Everyone is everyone else's business", she said.

Unlike other respondents, Ava doesn’t see many positives in the rural Swiss life. “Yes, it's beautiful but the downsides can easily outweigh the positives", she said.

Her advice: “Choose your village very carefully".

‘Spectacular views’

An American reader praises not only picturesque views the Swiss countryside is known for, but also the “kind and friendly neighbours, fresh air, cultural immersion, and hiking from your doorstep".

In terms of negatives, the respondent cites “distance to airport, cultural events are less frequent, few restaurant choices and the smell of fertilizer on pastures".

Those who do move to a rural community should “embrace the differences and look for positive commonalities", the respondent said.


'Less stressful life'

The results of this latest survey are similar to the one The Local carried out in February to assess why foreigners leave urban areas to move to the countryside. This question was especially pertinent at the time, as studies had shown that the pandemic pushed many people to move away from the cities.

Most respondents cited a desire for a simpler, greener, and less stressful life, better quality of living, and lower taxes.

The most scathing response in that survey came from a reader who made the move from Geneva to Valais. She described her new home as "super backward, sexist, and xenophobic, and job hunting is a nightmare here”.

READ MORE: ‘The right decision’: Why foreign residents move to the Swiss countryside



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