1. Tiny – After coming out of a culture that prizes the large; large homes, cars, highways, shopping malls, and people, witnessing life on a smaller scale is rather refreshing. From small apartments, little refrigerators, quaint alpine homes, to grocery stores, and the mere size of this country – tiny has now become a welcome way of life. Oh, except for the Alps – those mountains go BIG in every way!
2. Expat Life – Life in Basel can feel pretty comfy as an Expat. With roughly 30% of its residents coming from outside of Switzerland, the city can feel rather easy to establish oneself. Most individuals within the city speak English (and many other languages for that matter) making eating out, traveling and getting “set – up” as an Ausländer relatively easy to do. And if you have children, know that living in and or around Basel is truly an oasis for the little people in your life. With an array of playgrounds, public swimming pools, museums, the infamous Basel zoo, fantastic schools and relatively low crime rate, your whole family can ease into your knew life of living abroad.
3. Cleanliness – Each time I travel to another country and step foot into a restroom, I am quickly reminded why I love Switzerland. With squeaky clean public bathrooms, streets, buildings (except for the plethora of graffiti) you cannot help but relish in this super tidy country. Sometimes though, it might just get a bit annoying, so when the cleanliness and order get to be too much, head out of town to remind yourself what it means to encounter a bit of dirt.
4. The Alps – Simply put, the Alps are magnificent. From breathtaking, well – marked trails, to sunrises and sunsets that etch themselves into your being, the Alps are just one of the reasons why living in Switzerland is so unforgettable. For the newcomers to Switzerland and for visitors who are looking for a memorable weekend away, why not consider one of our few favorite towns? Mürren for its’ car – free, pedestrian friendly village with gorgeous hikes and child –friendly trails should be high on the “To do list.” Engelberg offers a quick weekend retreat from Basel with beautiful lakes and the incredible, heart pounding suspension bridge at the top of Mount Titlis. And finally, our family favorite for the remote location, views that give more than the eye can take, a playground our children adore and hikes that remind us why we love Switzerland – pack those bags and head to Grindelwald. Leave the hustle and bustle of the town and find a hotel high above the village, where the roar of the tourists is replaced by the sounds of waterfalls, and paragliders overhead.
5. Public Transportation- This is the only country I know of that provides efficient, reliable and incredible public transportation to even the most remote locations. Having come from a two-car family, we know the conveniences that come with owning a car and hopping in at a whim, but having easily survived in Basel for the last six years car free, we are grateful for this city and this country for making it so damn easy to get around. Hop on trains, buses, trams, gondolas, funiculars and boats that will transport you to mountains, lakeside villas, city scenes and castles on a hill. It is all within reach!
6. Fasnacht- Each year during February or March, for exactly 72 hours, Basel lets her hair down and embraces carnival. A mix of non-stop crazy parties, fueled by political messages and floats that are so intricate and well – made, onlookers cannot help but partake in the madness of it all. With candy, roses, and oranges lining the streets, confetti so deep on the ground you will still find remnants of this three– day party for months to come. The piccolos and drums will ring in your ears and the smiles will dance across your face just long enough to keep your warm throughout the winter months.
7. Christmas Markets –As if Christmas and the holidays are not magical enough, add a splash of color, miniature houses that sell unique and intricate gifts, open fires, plenty of activities for the children and you might just have the perfect holiday. Each year Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz are transformed into memorable locations for the entire family. Mark your calendar for the end of November through the 23rd of December to absorb all the Christmas markets have to offer. Don’t forget to enjoy the cups of rich hot chocolate, glühwein and flamkuchen as the snow begins to slowly fall around and you wonder if this whole experience is indeed real.
8. The Rest of Europe is Within Reach – Thanks to speedy trains and low cost airline carriers that leave directly from Euro Airport, a trip to most of Europe is within reach. Had a busy week and need to dip those stressed out toes in the warm blue sea? No problem – in one or two short hours you can be stretched out on a beach in Spain, France or Italy entrenched in a new culture with delicious food, welcoming smiles and a fresh change of scenery.
9. Closed on Sunday – For the most part, all shops including grocery stores are closed on Sunday (except for the grocery stores at the train station). I do believe this is Switzerland’s way of saying, “Prepare ahead of time people.” Or better yet, “Allow everybody one day of rest, just as it was intended.” It is refreshing that for a single day out of each week the need to consume is overtaken by the desire to spend quality time with family.
10. Chocolate and Cheese – If you are connoisseur of well-crafted cheese and/or chocolate, Switzerland might just be your true country of bliss. With fresh Alpine cheese available virtually everywhere, including in tiny refrigerators in the Alps, and chocolate stores on every corner, one cannot go far without experiencing the joy of delicious Swiss cheese and chocolate!