Seven tips to help you settle in Switzerland
Despite its many advantages - safety, education, and low taxes, to name but a few, Switzerland can be a tricky place for immigrants to navigate. Here are a few tips to help make you feel like a local rather than just a visitor.
Learn the language
First things first: Whichever part of Switzerland you find yourself in, the way to the (notoriously reserved) Swiss people’s hearts is through language. It is no secret that immigrants who go that extra mile to fit in are more readily welcomed and accepted by the locals.
While those living in larger cities such as Zurich, Geneva or Basel may very well have an easier time finding people willing to speak to them in English, after a while, the obvious becomes inevitable: If your goal is to feel at home in Switzerland, you best learn one (or more) of its four official languages to break the cultural gap.
So whether you left your home country equipped with a basic grasp of your new local language or find yourself having to start from scratch, the easiest way to get learning is to sign up for language classes – and if you have the funds, tailored private lessons will have you speaking the lingo of your choice in no time!
Go on mini adventures
One of the easiest ways you can combat those budding feelings of loneliness and start to feel more comfortable in your host country is to step outside and explore your immediate surroundings.
Speak to locals, colleagues and classmates and make a list of a few places in your area you would like to visit. Shopping malls, local cafes, town markets, museums and historical sights make a good starting point.
Pro tip: Sometimes, the best way to get familiar with a new environment is to get lost in it first. Why not try an off-the-beaten-path stroll around your new hometown?
Get volunteering and involved in the community
Volunteering can be a very rewarding experience for immigrants looking to integrate into a community, learn new skills, contribute to their new place of residence, and meet other foreigners and locals alike. Whether you have a heart for animals, enjoy teaching English, or wish to advance your career by volunteering for a large organisation, Switzerland has opportunities for everybody!
Take up a social hobby that aligns with your interests
Even if your goal isn’t to meet new people immediately, there are many activities you can pursue that will get you out of your house and embrace the local culture.
Join cooking classes to learn how to cook up yummy national dishes (yes, they extend beyond fondue!), attend a nearby book club event and dive into Swiss literature (again, there’s more to it than The Swiss Family Robinson), or find yourself a local hiking buddy that may very well share the odd insider tip, because if there is anyone that knows the place you have moved to – it is the people that live there.
Break a sweat for free
Exercise not only helps you feel good about yourself and boost your endorphin levels (yay!), but it also gives you a chance to connect with like-minded people that may even live in the same neighbourhood.
Now it’s a common misconception that your natural starting point is your nearest gym or sports club, and while getting a gym membership is an excellent way of linking up with fellow sports lovers, there are countless ways to keep fit without a hefty price tag.
Switzerland is, after all, a hiker’s paradise, making it just as common to meet people while taking in the beautiful Alps - whether on a hike, while out trekking, or enjoying a casual jog, as it is breaking a sweat at your local health club.
There are arguably many disadvantages that come with modern technology, but if you find yourself in a new environment, logging into social media may not be the worst idea.
Join a local community group on Facebook to keep up with upcoming events or clubs in your area, or use Instagram to your advantage and share your favourite pastime with fellow hobby enthusiasts.
And while out and about, why not check out your local mall’s bulletin board? You never know what you might find!
Adopt man’s best friend
Dogs undoubtedly deserve the title of "man’s best friend": they are loyal, intelligent, affectionate, and can boost our mental health and fitness. But besides providing their owners companionship (a big plus when moving to a new country), dogs can also help create human-to-human friendships and offer social support.
For those not in a position to get their own pup, consider picking up dog-walking, and you’ll find yourself bumping into neighbours and other dog walkers on the regular!
And lastly, give yourself time and be patient with yourself. Moving abroad is no small feat, so remember to give yourself credit for making such a giant leap!