The Swiss city of Fribourg is ensconced high upon the Swiss plateau. Straddling the river Sarine, it is the cultural border of French and German Switzerland. Its Old City, perched high upon a rocky outcrop, is one of Switzerland’s best preserved. In its fairytale setting, it is no wonder that Fribourg is rich in tales and legends.
Fribourg is home to Switzerland’s first zero-carbon technoparc, the ‘blueFactory’, which is located in its city center. The city itself is a renowned science center, with an emphasis on health and biomedical materials, plastics technology, nanotech, energy, carbon-neutral IT security and e-governance.
Families relocating here will take comfort in knowing that Fribourg is an extremely safe city in which residents rarely lock their doors. The city has an excellent infrastructure of international schools, universities, hospitals, shopping centers and churches.
For sports lovers, some of Europe’s best alpine resorts are within a 30-to-90-minute drive, making Fribourg an enviable location. Après ski thermal spas in which to soothe aching muscles are in abundance. In summer months, scenic lakes provide a wide range of water sports.
Fribourg boasts excellent gourmet restaurants and is only a 30-minute drive to some of Switzerland’s larger cities. Indeed, with no fewer than four airports inside of an hour’s drive, and with direct train links to major cities such as Geneva and Zurich, Fribourg is highly accessible both for commuters, and for connections to major European cities.
What is special or unique about your city?
Fribourg is one of the three (out of 26) cantons of Switzerland that is bilingual, meaning both French and German are spoken. It's a medieval town, almost perfectly preserved and is one of Switzerland's best-kept secrets. Despite the medieval aspect of some quarters, it is a modern-at-heart student city; it hosts the summer International Jazz Festival, the Folklore Festival, an unforgettable Carnival week-long celebration and many other events. Thanks to its very central location within Switzerland, all the major cities are easily within reach, such as Geneva, Zürich, Bern, etc.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
The city might seem a bit "dull" at first as there are not many people walking the streets in the evenings or Sundays. Shopping can be an initial nightmare for foreigners, especially Americans, as stores close at 7 p.m. and are only open until 4 p.m. on Saturdays and closed on Sundays.
Are these impressions likely to change?
It doesn't take long to realize that Fribourg encompasses an intense cultural life and you will find a wide range of activities to choose from. People who like the nightlife will enjoy Fribourg's bars, with the local Irish pub offering a slightly more international atmosphere and serving as the local expat hang-out. In addition, Bern is not too far away (approximately 30 minutes by car) and has even more shopping and entertainment choices. Every major Swiss city also has a shop open every day of the week until 10 p.m. at the train station ("Aperto").
What is the local language?
Two-thirds of the population are French-speaking, one-third are German-speaking and many people are bi-lingual.
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
English is widely understood; we can even say that most people have at least a basic knowledge of all three languages.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
There aren't any specific ways to say or do anything that would offend residents of this city. People greet each other with three kisses on the cheeks; also, when saying "cheers" while drinking wine (etc.), you should look into the other person's eyes. Before starting a meal, it is appreciated if you say "bon appétit."
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
The weather can change a lot on a daily basis, and so can the temperature. It can rain one day, be sunny the next and then snow the following day. It is not as foreseeable as in some other countries, but this is characteristic of Switzerland. The Old Town of Fribourg, located below the "new town," can be quite foggy in the autumn and winter months, which is good to keep in mind if you are planning on moving to that part of the city.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
Being a small city (around 32,000 inhabitants), it doesn't take long to get to know many people through friends who have friends, etc. Like every small city, people talk and it is best to keep to yourself and observe when you first arrive. Swiss people can seem pretty cold and uninterested at first and it takes some effort to get to know them, but they will most probably be long-time friends once you get to know them. Knowing or learning French will make things much easier, but the Fribourg population is usually quite interested in foreigners, as they tend to bring a "new" touch to the city.