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Six things you need to know before moving to Zurich

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected]
Six things you need to know before moving to Zurich
What you need to know before moving to Zurich. Photo by Henrique Ferreira on Unsplash

With its international companies and global organisations Zurich attracts thousands of foreign workers. If you are set to move to Switzerland's biggest city here are six things to keep in mind..


Embracing Züritüütsch is a must

While the Swiss are more than happy (okay, maybe not quite that thrilled) to accommodate your language needs and dust off their standard German skills for the occasion, coming to grips with the Zurich dialect early on will not only help you win over locals – who if you haven’t noticed aren’t keen Hochdeutsch speakers -, but more importantly, it will enable you to feel at home quicker.

Start with a few beginner words, such as Grüezi (Hello), Bitte (Please), and Adie (Goodbye) to build your confidence and if you’re up for a real challenge, you can always sign up to in-person or online Swiss German classes with Migros Klubschule. The latter have three schools spread across the city of Zurich.


Remember: Don’t get too hung up on perfecting your Züritüütsch. Chances are you will meet Swiss people from other places during your time in Switzerland and though dialects differ from canton to canton (and sometimes town!), most of them will be understood. So, relax. It’s the effort that counts.

Finding an apartment can be challenging

It is no secret that living space is scarce in Switzerland, the reason being that relatively little is being built, while the population is increasing at a fast rate. However, nowhere is the situation quite as dire as in the canton of Zurich, with the city of Zurich particularly affected.

Though there is no magic solution to finding an apartment in Zurich and you may face hours-long viewing queues when an affordable option finally comes up, there are a few ways to score an apartment even in a city as expensive and population packed as Zurich.

If you’re not opposed to sharing your space, you can find suitable flatshare options on and

For those preferring to live alone, apartments in the city are usually advertised weekly in Zurich's daily newspaper under 'available apartments'. The rental process runs online via the 'E-Rental' platform, but keep in mind that there are no waiting lists! You can also browse, and for suitable apartments throughout the canton.

Unique public holidays may mean no work day

With the exception of August 1st – Switzerland’s only federal holiday- all 26 cantons decide their public holidays independently of each other. This means that when you’ll be entitled to time off work can depend on your employer, canton, town – or even village.

While Zurich shares the main public holidays, such as Christmas, Easter and New Year’s Day, with the other 25 cantons, it also has a fair share of holidays you may or may not get to have off additionally.

Among them are the Sechseläuten, which is Zurich’s traditional spring holiday unique to the city, and Knabenschiessen, a target shooting competition held in September that most employers are kind enough to let you enjoy on a day or half-day off.

Public transport is second to none

Anyone moving to Zurich and eager to explore their new home will be happy to find that getting around the city is easy on foot, by bike, taxi or train and doesn’t have to cost the world.

Photo by Henrique Ferreira on Unsplash

Zurich has a well-developed network of trams, buses and trains that connect every part of the city making it super easy for residents and visitors to get around.

If you’re looking to travel the Zurich residential and economic area on a regular basis, your best bet is the Z-Pass, which offers one single zone fare and a uniform range of tickets for journeys between the Zurich Transport Network (ZVV) and neighbouring networks from 54 francs with a Half Fare Travelcard.

With the Z-Pass, you basically purchase a ticket or travelcard for the zones you'd like to travel in or through, and not for a specific route from A to B. You can travel between the ZVV and its neighbouring networks by using various means of transport, such as trains, buses, trams and, in Zurich itself, even by boat. The price will differ depending on which zones you choose to travel that day. 


Remember: The Zurich (110) and Winterthur (120) city zones each count as two zones on account of their greater density of public transport services.

Buying bottled water is a waste

Switzerland is widely known as one of the countries with the cleanest drinking water and it’s actually a lot more accessible than you might think.

In Zurich, there are over 1,200 fountains - every single one with first-class drinking water – around 320 of which are fed via a separate 150-kilometre-long spring water network. Most of the fountain water of the latter comes from springs that originated in the hills around Zurich in the 15th century.

The other wells are connected to the normal distribution network (Züriwasser) of the water supply and - like the households - are supplied with a mixture of 70 percent lake water, 15 percent spring water and 15 percent groundwater.


In bygone times, fountains were a place of conviviality with women and maids coming to wells several times a day carrying pitchers and buckets. Not surprisingly then that the Swiss grow up gulping down fountain water on school trips, hikes with family, or whenever their pet dog needs a sip on a hot summer's day. On that note, in Zurich - and wider Switzerland - it is not advised to let your dog drink directly from the fountains, but rather bring a dish along or use your hands if they feel thirsty.

Shop ‘till you drop – or not

Whether it’s luxury brands, international items, local produce or sustainably produced goods, in Zurich you’re at the right address. Each district in the city offers its own shopping experience, from smaller fashion boutiques and watch shops in Zurich’s old town to local, urban labels in Zurich West. In Zurich you can shop until your heart’s desire. Well, almost.

In Switzerland, most shops open between 9:00 am and 6:30 pm during the week with occasional stores staying open until 8 p.m. On Saturdays, shops tend to open at around 9:00 am and close anywhere between 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm while most shops are closed on Sundays altogether.

But don’t let the early closing times put you off shopping in the city. In the summer, you can rummage a handful of weekly markets in Zurich and the surrounding region in the daytime, selling flowers, vegetables, local specialities, second-hand clothing, and antiques. In the winter, the city vows locals and visitors alike with its Christmas and food markets, the latter offering dishes from around the world.


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