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KEY POINTS: What changes in Switzerland in December 2022?

Helena Bachmann in Geneva
Helena Bachmann in Geneva - [email protected] • 1 Dec, 2022 Updated Thu 1 Dec 2022 11:11 CEST
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Fireworks behind the village of Cully on the shore of Lake Geneva on Swiss National Day, August 1st 2018. Expect fireworks on New Year's Eve. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The holiday season is just around the corner. But there are plenty of other events that will take place is Switzerland in December. Here's a look at what to expect.

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One major change this year from past Decembers is that there are no Covid-related restrictions planned. That is one positive development we can look forward to. 

This what lies ahead:

While some Swiss ski resorts are in operation already, most will inaugurate their season during December. This link lists dates for all openings.

As for Christmas markets, which are plentiful in Switzerland throughout December, you can find out more about them here.

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December 1st: New highway vignette goes on sale

It won't have to be affixed to the windshield of your car until January 31st, 2023, but you can purchase the sticker from service stations, garages, post office counters, automobile services or even customs offices from December 1st.

It costs the same as in previous years: 40 francs.

Note that from February 1st, you could be fined 200 francs if you drive on a Swiss motorway without the sticker.

READ MORE: Swiss vignette: What you need to know about Switzerland’s motorway charge sticker

December 1st: Cheaper drugs

The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) has reduced the price of more than 300 medicines by an average of 10 percent in 2022, a cut that will go into effect on December 1st.

This move means that savings of at least 60 million francs can be expected. In fact, lowering the price of drugs is one of the measures that Swiss government wants to take in its efforts to cut soaring healthcare costs in 2023.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How Switzerland wants to cut soaring healthcare costs

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December 6th: St. Nicholas Day

As in a number of other countries, kids in Switzerland will commemorate St. Nicholas (so named after Nicholas of Myra, Patron Saint of children).

This Swiss version of Santa Claus is called Samichlaus in the German-speaking part, and Saint-Nicolas in the French. He is typically dressed in bishop’s robes, wears a mitre on his head, and carries a staff.

He is accompanied by a donkey (which totes a sack filled with chocolates, peanuts, and mandarines on his back), and his helper, “Schmutzli”. Called “Père Fouettard” in French, this evil sidekick carries a bunch of twigs for punishing naughty children.

Needless to say, this tradition started long before laws against whipping children were introduced, though Schmutzli never actually whips anyone. But his menacing presence is supposed to be a deterrent to bad behaviour.

December 7th: Two new members of the Federal Council to be elected

With the departure of Finance Minister Ueli Maurer and Transport and Environment Minister Simonetta Sommaruga on December 31st, two new Cabinet members will be elected by MPs on December 7th from among several who had put forth their candidacies for the posts.

The Federal Council consists of seven members, each heading a specific Ministry and representing different political parties, so that the balance of power reflects that of the parliament.

As Maurer is from the Swiss People’s Party and Sommaruga from Social Democratic party, potential Councillors will be chosen from these parties.

READ MORE: A foreigner’s guide to understanding Swiss politics in five minutes

December 11th: Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) release their 2023 timetable

As it does each year on the second Sunday of December, SBB will publish its new timetable on December 11th.

Among the changes, SBB will expand their existing service to tourist regions.

A Swiss train.

A Swiss train. Photo by Victor He on Unsplash

For instance, while currently it is not possible to travel from the French-speaking Switzerland to Graubünden without changes, two direct trains will link the region with the canton’s capital, Chur on weekends.

The Verbier Express train, which connects Geneva Airport to Châble, as well as the VosAlpes Express train, linking Fribourg to Châble, will be circulating on weekends and public holidays during the winter of 2022/2023.

As for international connections, additional night trains from Zurich will go to Prague via Leipzig and Dresden. Also, an additional train will run between Zurich and Stuttgart. More seats on night trains to Hamburg, Berlin, Vienna and Graz will be added as well. 

December 24th and 25th : Christmas

This year, both Christmas Eve and Day fall on a weekend, which means no time off from work for those who haven’t taken vacation during the holidays.

December 26th, however, is a public holiday in Swiss-German cantons, so some people will at least get three days to celebrate.

Photo by: Monika from Pixabay 

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December 31st: Home-working tax breaks for French cross-border employees could end

Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, teleworking cross-border commuters from France have benefited from a special, favourable tax arrangement under which they paid taxes in Switzerland.

However, France wants this system revised by December 31st.

For the employees, this means they will have to pay social security contributions and tax charges in France rather than in Switzerland, which would be much higher.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What cross-border workers should know about taxation in Switzerland

December 31st: Farewell to 2022

As this year is drawing to a close, we can be grateful that it wasn't quite as awful — in terms of pandemic — as 2020 and 2021.

However, it was replaced by other challenges, such as the war in Ukraine, rising inflation, and the energy crisis — all of which (we can only hope) will be resolved in 2023.

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Helena Bachmann in Geneva 2022/12/01 11:11

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