At the crossroads of Switzerland, Germany and France, huddled over the Rhine, lies Basel, Switzerland’s third-largest city. Some 32.3% of its residents are expats, attracted by the city’s unique concentration of innovative companies, research institutes and academic institutions. It is also one of the most important trade fair and congress centers in Switzerland.
This predominantly German-speaking city is as family-friendly as it is business-friendly. Its sumptuous standard of living, mild climate and reputation for being safe and clean, make it an easy place in which to work and live. Residential areas range from hip and trendy to quiet and tasteful. Restricted car traffic in residential areas has created a safe haven for children and public parks and playgrounds are in abundance. As for places to settle, with suburbs camped in German, Italy and France, you have the pick of three worlds. Kleinbasel is becoming increasingly popular among international families. Elsewhere, Riehen, a Basel suburb, was recently dubbed the sweetest spot to live in Switzerland by Idheap, (the Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration), and the eastern Swiss city of St Gallen, ranking second and third.
A liberal scattering of theaters, galleries and museums, and the world’s oldest art collection on offer, make Basel a cultural cornucopia. Its award-winning theaters, such as the Theatre Basel, and its wonderful medieval festivals are also a huge draw. The charm of the medieval Old Town on the South/West bank will not be lost on you. One of the best-preserved and beautiful historic city centers in Europe, buildings dating back to the 15th century are on almost every corner. Here and in surrounding districts, lies Greater Basel (Grossbasel) where you’ll find the business districts, upmarket retailers and Basel’s best nightlife. Basel is a compact city with an excellent transport network and a bar or café on nearly every corner. With the EuroAirport in easy striking distance no matter where you are, most European cities are within two hours' travel time.
What is special or unique about your city?
Located on the Rhine River and bordering France and Germany, it is the third-largest city in Switzerland. Basel has a wonderful "Old Town" center, but it also has modernized architecture, as well as many beautiful parks. It is a central transport hub, making all of Europe accessible.
Known for its production, Basel is home to the headquarters of some of the world's largest chemical and pharmaceutical companies. Once you get settled in to your new home, we feel you're going to love it!
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
Typically, newcomers are taken aback by the city's cleanliness. Also, the locals are very polite and courteous, leaving a lasting impression of kindness and warmth. Another facet that leaves a lasting impression is the very comprehensive public transport system, which is clean and reliable.
Are these impressions likely to change?
Not likely. Although the town and surrounding suburbs are calm, there are many events planned by the local authorities. The town is clean and the public transport system is great. People are polite and helpful if you ask for help. Many expatriates have very fond memories of their time in Basel.
What is the local language?
The official language of Basel is High German (Hochdeutsch), but people speak a Swiss-German dialect called “Baslerdeutsch." Baslerdeutsch is not a written language, which means that newspapers, books and magazines are still written in "official" High German.
There are four official languages in Switzerland: German, French, Italian and Romansch. A few people speak Romansch, but this is confined to the southeastern corner of the country. Many people know at least three languages, including English.
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
Basel is full of people with international backgrounds, so you will find a great many people speaking numerous languages and at least some English.
Although German and French are widely spoken, Baslers do not expect newcomers to speak their dialect and are happy to practice their English. However, they appreciate when newcomers make an effort to learn German.
Here are a few words and phrases to help you when you arrive:
My name is…
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
People in Basel tend to keep themselves to themselves, so it’s best to be discreet in public (i.e., don’t talk too loudly on your mobile phone).
Some other tips to avoid offending residents of Basel are:
- When entering a Swiss store or shop, it is considered common courtesy to say "Hello" to the clerk.
- Show special consideration to the elderly, as it is important in this culture.
- Avoid washing your car or mowing the lawn any day of the week between noon and 2 p.m. and after 8 p.m. and especially on Sunday morning.
- Try not to be loud or noisy after 10 p.m.
- You can expect the Swiss to pay close attention to your posture and behavior.
- Keep your hands out of your pockets, especially when talking.
- Slapping someone on the back is considered rude and is not appreciated.
- The handshake is the most common greeting in Switzerland.
- When you are meeting a group of people, wait for another person to initiate the introductions.
- Wait to be invited before addressing people by their first names.
- You should rise when being introduced to someone.