In my previous article, “Surviving in Canton Zurich“, I wrote a lot about essential things you need to know if you want to live in Switzerland, or at least specifically in Canton Zurich. Here, on the other hand, I’ll be covering some little details that I wasn’t expecting to find in Switzerland, and which I consider fun and interesting to know.
Switzerland is known mainly for three languages: German, French and Italian. However, there is a fourth official language, Romansh, a minority language spoken in the Canton of the Grisons.
Speaking of languages, names of many Swiss German places don’t seem to use umlauts (e.g. ä, ö, ü) or ess-tsets (ß), and instead use their simpler equivalents (ae, oe, ue and ss). This is evident in examples such as Uetliberg, Oerlikon, Bahnhofstrasse (or any other street name), but is not a general rule (Hardbrücke being a notable counter-example).
Another interesting pattern is the number of places ending in -ikon (e.g. Oerlikon, Dietlikon, Pfaffikon, Wiedikon to name a few) and -wil (e.g. Thalwil, Oetwil am See, Wädenswil, etc). The former seems to be a contraction of “-inghofen”, which roughly means “the people of the farm of”. -wil, on the other hand, means “hamlet” or “village”.
The similarities between names of towns and villages aren’t restricted to suffixes. There are a lot of names that are confusingly similar, such as Dietikon and Dietlikon, or Uerikon and Uetikon. You’ll also find the same names in different cantons, such as Egg (Zurich and Schwyz) or Pfäffikon (Zurich and Schwyz), in which case the abbreviation of the canton usually follows (e.g. Pfäffikon ZH). It seems like the Swiss aren’t very creative when it comes to naming things, although from an English-speaking perspective, Switzerland has its fair share of odd names (Rapperswil anyone?).
Switzerland is known for many things: banks, watches, trains, chocolate and more. Not as well-known among visitors is V-Zug, a brand of modern high-quality household appliances. V-Zug makes everything from dishwashers to tumble dryers, and it enjoys a very good reputation. When an apartment is advertised as having V-Zug appliances, it basically means that they’re the best on the market.
Many Swiss villages are extremely well-equipped. You can live in a village of less than ten thousand people and have lots of amenities (e.g. multiple supermarkets, a school, a sports complex, a church, etc), live in a modern apartment with lots of high-tech appliances and Gigabit internet, and have great transport connectivity that can take you to the nearest city in 20-30 minutes (thanks also to the small size of Swiss cities).
Speaking of transport, you already know that Switzerland is known for its trains among other things. But did you know that some of the trains split in two? If you chance upon one of them, you had better board on the right half if you want to reach your destination on time!
Shops Close on Sundays
The Swiss take their work/life balance very seriously, so availability of shops and services is limited over the weekend. In the Zurich area, all shops (including supermarkets) close on Sundays except at the Zurich Hauptbahnhof (central station). Most offices and services, including banks, are also closed on Saturdays. So if you need someone to fix something in your apartment, no matter the emergency, you might have to wait until Monday.
Tree on the Roof
If you see a tree on top of the roof of a newly built house, that’s a Swiss tradition. The builders put the tree up there to celebrate completion of the project and to indicate that the place is now fit for people to live in.