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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

Reader question: What can residents in Switzerland do about noisy neighbours?

Nothing disturbs your peace more than loud noises made by your neighbours. But Swiss law provides for some specific rules in such situations.

Reader question: What can residents in Switzerland do about noisy neighbours?
You may want to think twice about renting an apartment next to this person. Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

Barking dogs, screaming children, or other noisy disturbances can be a huge headache for people living in apartment buildings where walls are sometimes too thin for comfort.

What is and isn’t considered an excessive noise, however, is not clear. It depends as much on your own tolerance level as what is generally perceived as sounds emanating from normal daily activities.

The latter means that every tenant has the right to use and enjoy their dwellings for activities compatible with daily life — for instance, talking in a normal tone of voice, listening to music playing at a reasonable volume, or taking a shower.

You can hardly complain about any of these activities or expect the neighbours to whisper and tiptoe around.

What does the law say?

Not surprisingly, it requires tenants to be considerate of other residents in the building, though this rather general statement leaves a lot up to individual interpretation.

Still, common sense dictates that playing a drum in the middle of the night or a dog howling at the full moon, are not most people’s definition of being considerate towards others.

Your rental contract may also set out rules to be followed, which could include noise ordinances.

What can you do when your neighbour is too loud?

If it is a rare occurrence (say, a birthday party once year), you may want to let it go. But if the noise is frequent and disturbing, there are some remedies available to you — other than earplugs, that is.

Before you bring out the big guns (figuratively speaking, of course), you could try a bit of diplomacy. Speak to your neighbours directly and nicely, explaining how loud they are being and how it disturbs you and your family.

In the best-case scenario, you will reach an amicable compromise and maybe even have a glass of wine together, which the Swiss are fond of doing in all kinds of situations; in the worst, you might have to file a complaint (by registered mail) with the landlord, detailing the times and nature of excessive disturbances, and asking them to act within a certain timeframe.

You can also, according to an official government website, mention to the landlord “that you will cease to pay rent if no improvement occurs within the said time limit, withholding the money in a separate account. You can ask for a reduction in rent so long as the disturbance persists”.

READ MORE: Nine ways you might be annoying your neighbours (and not realising it) in Switzerland

Should you call the police?

Noise ordinances, and therefore police regulations, vary from one community to community.

Generally speaking, however, the hours between 10 pm and 7 am are considered as quiet hours.

However, these hours may be more flexible on weekends, and certainly during holidays like the National Day and New Year’s Eve.

What else should you know about noise-related rules in Switzerland?

You might have heard that you are not allowed to flush your toilet at night, but this is more of an urban myth than reality —unless your toilet sounds like a jackhammer.

READ MORE: Swiss daily dilemmas: Can I flush my toilet at night?

Also, you must know by now that Sundays are sacred in Switzerland. They are considered as rest days so your neighbours’ (or your) peace and quiet should not be disrupted by a sound of a lawn mower, hedge cutter, or nail being hammered into a wall.

One thing you should definitely not complain about, especially if you are a foreigner, are church and cow bells — no matter how loud and incessant they are.

If you are a light sleeper, don’t rent in a building located near a church or a meadow.

And you should also avoid farmhouses with roosters, unless you live for early mornings. 

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For members

QUALITY OF LIFE

ANALYSIS: Is the quality of life really that high in Switzerland?

Switzerland, as well as some of its cities, regularly appear in international surveys among the nations with the highest quality of life. Why is this so?

ANALYSIS: Is the quality of life really that high in Switzerland?

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.

In terms of quality of life, Switzerland ranks fourth, but it got high scores across nearly all the sub-categories. This is where the country ranks best — and not so good.

READ MORE: Switzerland ranked ‘best country’ in the world

Political stability (100 points out of 100)

Nobody can argue that Switzerland merits to get such high marks in this category.

The country has not been involved in any wars, unrests or upheavals in recent history, protected in large part by its neutrality and pacifism.

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

Economically stable  (100)

Switzerland’s economy has withstood the Covid crisis far better than many other countries, and continues to be strong, partly due to an inflation rate that is far lower than in eurozone nations.

The reason is that Switzerland “combines world class governance with high levels of social capital and high social resilience. It also had strong financial systems, manageable debt levels and good health system resilience”. 

READ MORE: Swiss post-Covid economic recovery ‘fourth best in the world’

Safety

Various surveys have shown that Switzerland is among the top-10 safest countries in the world, and one even rated it the safest in 2022.

This is not to say that there is no crime in Switzerland, but the rate, especially of violent infractions, is relatively low in comparison to other countries.

Even large cities, though more risky than small towns and rural areas, are not crime-ridden.

READ MORE: Switzerland ranked one of the world’s ‘safest countries’

A good job market (92.2)

Switzerland’s unemployment rate has been lower than in many other countries for decades, and it recovered quicker than others from the slowdown that occurred during the pandemic.

Currently, the unemployment is 2.1 percent, versus 6.6 percent across the EU.

There are now 15.6 percent more job vacancies in most industries than at the same time in 2021.

Family-friendly (85.4)

Parents of small children who are trying to find affordable daycare in Switzerland may disagree with this assessment, as these services are expensive and good facilities may be hard to find.

However, there are plenty plenty of benefits for children and families as well.

According to The Local’s reader survey, Switzerland offers an abundance of outdoor activities, the children are safe — whether playing outside or walking to school — and both good healthcare and education system are a plus as well.

Income equality (85.2)

In this category, Switzerland is in the 5th place in the US News & World Report survey, right after the Scandinavian countries.

While there is data showing that  gender gap exists when it comes to pay, a study by the Federal Statistical Office shows that income distribution (between the highest and lowest earners) is fairer in Switzerland than in many other nations.

Public health system (84.7)

Although very expensive with costs increasing each year, in terms of quality and access to care Switzerland’s system is among the best in the world.

Like much of the European Union, Switzerland has a universal health system. However, The system here is fundamentally different in that it is not tax-based or financed by employers, but rather by individuals themselves.

Everyone must have a basic health insurance coverage and purchase it from one of dozens of private carriers.

The system is generally efficient, has an extensive network of doctors, as well as well-equipped hospitals and clinics.

Patients are free to choose their own doctor and usually have unlimited access to specialists. Waiting lists for medical treatments are relatively short.

READ MORE: How is Swiss healthcare system different from the rest of Europe?

Public education system

Switzerland has 12 publicly funded universities (10 cantonal universities and two federal institutes of technology), and a number of public Universities of Applied Sciences.

According to The QS World University Rankings, “Switzerland has the “third best university system in the world”.

The country also excels in vocational training —a three-year, dual-track programme that includes two days in a vocational school and three days getting an on-the-job training in their chosen sector (the so-called apprenticeships).

It includes a variety of fields such as business and commercial, administration, retail, tourism, construction, information technology, arts, wellness services, as well as various trades — in all, 230 professions.

This programme  “enjoys very strong support from Swiss employers, who credit it with being a major contributor to the continuing vitality and strength of the Swiss economy”

READ MORE: Why is vocational training so popular in Switzerland and how much can I earn?

These aspects all contribute to the high score Switzerland obtained for its quality of living.

Not great for affordability

However, there is one negative category in the ranking as well, and it is not difficult to guess what it is: affordability, in which Switzerland’s score is…2.7.

It comes as no surprise to anyone living here (and a shock to tourists and new arrivals) that Switzerland’s cost of living is among the highest in the world, and especially in the country’s two largest cities, Zurich and Geneva.

Everything from food and clothing to housing and public transportation is more expensive than in the EU, with the exception of electronics and lower taxes.

However, there is also another way to look at this phenomenon: that Swiss salaries, which are higher here than in the eurozone, and low inflation rate, offset the prices.

READ MORE: Do wages in Switzerland make up for the high cost of living?
 
 
 

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