Zurich For Members

The key signs you've become a local in Zurich

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected]
The key signs you've become a local in Zurich
True Zürchers value local traditions. Image by Jörg Vieli from Pixabay.

Whether you moved to Zurich for university or work, with time, you will begin to feel and act more like a local. What are the obvious signs you have "gone native"?


Located at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich, Switzerland's largest city is widely recognised as the country's economic capital and is renowned worldwide for its financial district.

It’s precisely these reasons which also make it one of Switzerland’s most attractive cities for foreigners as it offers many job opportunities and high salaries.

But while Zurich may feel overwhelming when you first arrive, you may find that you’ve turned into a seasoned ‘Zürcher’ before you know it.

Here are all the tell-tale signs you’ve become a true local:

You get a kick out of practicing Züritüütsch

English is the most commonly spoken non-national language in Switzerland. 

It is regularly spoken by 45 percent of the population in Switzerland although it is more prevalent in German parts of the country than French and Italian. It is also more widely spoken in Switzerland's big cities such as Zurich.

It is no surprise then that many foreigners living in this vibrant city don’t even bother to learn basic German.

However, if you have long mastered standard German and are busy adding to your Züritüütsch (Zurich’s Swiss German dialect) vocabulary, it may be a sign that you are swiftly turning into a real Zurich local.

You defend Zurich to others saying its bad reputation is unjustified

It is no secret (to the Swiss) that in Switzerland – and specifically the German-speaking part – Zurich and its people enjoy a bit of a poor reputation, and some would argue not without reason.


In fact, Zurich’s locals are often described as uptight, pretentious, and arrogant know-it-all’s who think they’re better than the rest. The rest being anyone outside the city borders.

But if you’ve lived in Zurich long enough, you’re likely to find that most locals are simply reserved, serious, goal-oriented people like you and I who are trying to get through another day’s work.

Or maybe you’ve just become one of them?

On the weekend you head to the Uetliberg

Located next to the city of Zurich is Uetliberg, the tallest hill in the area, measuring at 870m. Providing great views of the city (and the Alps to the south), there are numerous reasons why this hike is popular among locals. One of which is the accessibility on the way up.


There are numerous ways up the hillside, from an easy route to narrow and steep pathways. There is even a station perched atop the hillside, so hikers can opt for a ride down instead of walking back down. There is also a hotel and restaurant offering overnights and packages.

With public transportation, Uetliberg can be reached in about 20 minutes. Otherwise, it’s about 15 minutes by car. The hike is between a T1 and T2 difficultly and takes between 45 and 90 minutes from the bottom to the top, depending on the route you use and your fitness level.

READ MORE: Local knowledge: Four spectacular hikes around Zurich

You would never miss Zurich’s local festivities

Every year, Zurich locals patiently await a range of annual festivities held in the city that celebrate local culture and tradition.

In the spring, the city kicks off its festival calendar with the Sechseläuten, a centuries-old tradition which sees guild members dressed up in historical costumes followed by the burning of the Böögg.


Every three years, Switzerland’s largest festival – the Züri-Fäscht – welcomes around two million visitors in the summer, while locals set out for the Street Parade in August.

One of Zurich’s most popular celebrations, the Knabenschiessen, is the place to be in the autumn. Contrary to its name, the festival does not in fact see little boys get shot, but rather originated as a rifle shooting competition for local boys – and since 1991, girls. Every year, both have the opportunity to test showcase their shooting skills in front of a wide audience.

If these key festivities have become a regular fixture in your calendar, it’s safe to assume you feel pretty at home in Zurich.

You think twice before moving house

Anyone trying to rent an apartment in Zurich, or simply following the real estate news, will know that finding a reasonably priced accommodation in or in close vicinity of the city is very difficult.

This is due to several factors, including the recent influx of immigrants, the lack (and expense) of building land and — consequently — slowed-down construction activity.
This means that demand far outstrips the supply — more people are looking for housing, while less of it is available.

So, even if your flat sharing arrangement is beginning to feel a little snug, as a Zurich resident, you know that moving house on the fly is simply not an option.


In the summer you can be found at a Badi

Zurich has a rich outdoor bathing culture and though a fair chunk of outdoor swimming pool facilities – locally referred to as Badis – will require you to pay entry, locals (like you) know which river pools in the city won’t charge a dime for a swim.

One popular choice with locals is the Oberer Letten river pool – only a few minutes’ walk from Zurich main station - where you won’t be required to pay up and can swim in the Limmat for free.

At the nearby Unterer Lette – or "Underi Lätte" - Zürchers also float down the river without worrying about paying admission. The facilities also include a non-swimmer pool, a children’s paddling pool, and a three-metre diving board.

Other pools where you can mingle with locals for free are the Männerbad Schanzengraben (exclusively for men) and the Flussbad Au-Höngg.

True Zurich locals know that swimming in the river is for good swimmers only.

You’re an expert bargain hunter

Living in one of Switzerland’s most expensive cities, you’ll need to be somewhat of an expert at finding bargains all over the city. Anyone living in Zurich knows that if you’re looking to avoid Zurich’s high price tags, the city’s flea markets are your best bet.

From snagging a pre-loved necklace at Zurich’s biggest and arguably best flea market, Bürkliplatz (Saturdays, 7am-5pm) at Bahnhofstrasse, to making your apartment your own with a restored vintage table-and-chair combo from Möbel Zürich (Saturdays), and swapping clothes at the Walk-in Closet, as a local you know just how to make the most of your money.

READ MORE: How you know you've been living in Switzerland 'too long'

You know the places to avoid

Though Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city, the metropolitan area surrounding Zürich is by no means overly densely populated by European standards.

Anyone who has lived (or visited) Zurich will soon learn that even the most tourist-friendly places in the city, such as the Bahnhofstrasse or the Swiss National Museu, don’t appear too busy when compared to a metropolis like London.

Yet, there are some places a seasoned local may still choose to avoid.

Some Zurich residents feel particularly uncomfortable in the Langstrasse district, the city’s party strip and red light district, while others find the District 4 (Aussersihl) and District 5 (Industriequartier) makes them feel uneasy. 

…and the hotspots

While you may choose to avoid certain places, especially at night-time, you also know where to find the good stuff.

Zurich’s movie buffs, for instance, are known to visit old RiffRaff for the latest independent, non-mainstream films, while the Schiffbau theatre (set in an industrial warehouse) shows plays that aren’t widely known.

Another place loved by locals is the Im Viadukt shopping area where you’ll run little risk of bumping heads with tourists. The 500-metre meeting spot for locals which houses some of Zurich’s trendiest shops, clubs, restaurants, cafés, clubs, and social events.

Lastly, if you reside in Zurich with your family chances are you’ll be familiar with the 17 community centres scattered across the city. The centres provide various activities and course for young and old, such as nice outdoor areas, playgrounds, restaurants, and cafés.

You’ve long located Zurich’s finest diners

They say in order to find a city’s best restaurants, you have to eat where locals eat.

In Zurich, one such establishment is without a doubt the Sternen Grill at Bellevue. The restaurant went from a small family business and snack bar to a local insider tip famous for its sausage paired with mustard.

Those in the mood for traditional Swiss food and a table for regulars will dine in the Weisses Kreuz at the Bahnhof Stadelhofen. The diner serves Zurich favourites such as Züri Gschnätzlets, Zürcher Chümmi-Chuttle (tripe), and Chääs-Röschti (Rösti).

Another local favourite is the Frau Gerolds Garten based in Zurich West. The restaurant is hosting Micas Fondue Tipi from October 5th-21st where visitors can warm up over a pot of fondue provided they book a table in advance.



Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also