Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city is camped at the northeastern tip of Lake Zurich. Among the world's biggest financial centers, the city houses a staggering number of financial institutions and banking behemoths. Its attractive tax regime has also made it a favored headquarters among many overseas companies.
Zurich is the country’s biggest transport hub (road, rail and air) and is its most densely populated area. While this may conjure images of heavily polluted, cramped city living, do not despair. Ever since its residents voted in a quantifiable, enforceable climate target of 1 kilo of CO2 per resident by 2050, the city has bent to the task of optimizing its public transport systems, enlarging the cycling network, and enclosing motorways.
As one of Europe’s wealthiest cities, these improvements buff Zurich’s already polished reputation for having an enviable quality of life. Indeed, the city topped British magazine Monocle's 2012 “Quality of Life Survey” for cities in which to make a base. Such a reputation comes with a price tag; Zurich is prohibitively expensive. But if you’ve landed in the city with a high-salaried job, then you are in for an adventure.
Zurich is a gourmand’s paradise, with a cornucopia of culinary temptations. Outside working hours, the city shrugs off its suit-and-tie attitude to unwind in countless trendy and traditional wine bars, clubs and pubs.
The city is also incredibly child-friendly. Most new inner city developments have factored play areas into their design, while villages on the outskirts, such as Thalwil and Schaffhausen, are very popular among families.
What is special or unique about your city?
Zurich—“Downtown Switzerland” as the city's advertisers like to call the “world's smallest metropolis”—has much to offer, such as one of the highest qualities of life in the world. Mercer International, Inc. publishes regular quality-of-life reports on the world's cities and, over the years, Zurich has consistently ranked as 1st or 2nd among the world’s top cities.
The city plays host to numerous major international events and hardly a month goes by without a significant event. Zurich would not be what it is though without its beautiful setting. The broad, open area of the Lake of Zurich lies between two ranges of hills and on a clear day one can marvel at the majestic mountain ranges on the horizon.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
The most striking first impression of Zurich is not only its picturesque location but its cleanliness and, above all, safety. People feel very comfortable in the city center and even walking through town in the evening or after dark does not pose a threat at all. Also, the politeness of its people does not go unnoticed.
Are these impressions likely to change?
These impressions are unlikely to change. Zurich is clean, picturesque and a very safe city to work and live in.
What is the local language?
Switzerland has four official languages: German (63.9%), French (19.5%), Italian (6.6%) and Romansh (0.5%). The principal language spoken in Zurich, however, is Swiss German (Schwiizerdüütsch).
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
English has become the unofficial fifth national language, so you will be able to make yourself understood without any problems. However, road signs will not be written in English, so make sure to learn the basic terminology before venturing out by car.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
The Swiss are a quiet, introverted and polite nation. It is thus advisable to conduct oneself in a manner that is respectful of these norms. Visitors are advised to be mindful of people's privacy and need for “quiet time.” It is advisable to observe how the Swiss behave among themselves as this will be a good indicator of how they would expect to be treated by foreigners.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
The climate in Zurich is best described as moderate. It does not get too hot in the summer (maximum temperature is about 30 degrees Celsius in the summer) and not too cold in the winter (seldom below minus 10 degrees Celsius). This can change dramatically in the mountains just outside the city, though, where snow can become very heavy at times in the winter. Adequate winter clothing is thus advisable for trips to the mountains. Also, winter tires need to be fitted in the winter months (not a legal requirement, but advisable in order to avoid potential disputes with your insurance in the case of an accident).
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
Where possible, use public transportation. The system is outstanding and a dense rail network guarantees time spent on local or long-distance journeys is kept to a minimum.
Zurich is a very safe city but, as in most big cities, it is advisable to be cautious when visiting “hotspots” after dark.