A quick ABC to everyday life in Switzerland

Learn how the infrastructure and practical essentials of everyday life are organised in Basel and Switzerland: Shopping and opening hours, the postal system, monetary transactions, the media and telecommunications, and much more...

A family garden with flower beds. Zoom

More and more young families are interested in a family garden.
Photo: Juri Weiss

The neon sign of the post office on the facade of a building in Basel. Zoom

Swiss Post offers a universal service for the transport of letters, parcels, payments and passengers. Photo: Juri Weiss

A fire engine leaving the Basel-Stadt fire department. Zoom

The Basel fire brigade provides professional assistance to the people of Basel, Riehen and Bettingen. Photo: Juri Weiss

Emergency Contact

 

Banks

Several Swiss banks have branches throughout the city in which all transactions are possible. The opening hours are usually Monday to Friday 8.30am to midday and 1.30pm to 5.30pm. Identification documents must be presented when opening an account.

Cross-border commuters

Around 40,000 people commute daily from Germany and France to work in Basel. They have a special cross-border commuter permit (cat. G). It is usually issued for five years and entitles the owner to apply for a residence permit or a week’s stay. Commuter workers pay tax at source.

Energy and water supply

Industriellen Werken (IWB) supplies the canton of Basel-Stadt with its energy and drinking water. To make sure that you pay for your energy and water consumption correctly, register with IWB, at least one week before you move in (Tel. 061 275 52 52).

Internet access

You can access the Internet free of charge through your own laptop or mobile phone in one of the various cafés – e.g. in the Unternehmen Mitte, the Kabar, the Parterre or at Starbucks.

Leisure gardens

If you do not have a garden, you can lease a leisure garden. The canton leases out over 5,700 leisure gardens in 33 different garden areas around the city.

Media

The largest daily newspaper in the region is the Basler Zeitung. The BaZ Kompakt, containing selected content from the main edition, has been published three times per week since February 2014. Since October 2011, the TagesWoche comes out in print on Fridays and every day online. Even the online web service of Onlinereports is a facet of the regional media landscape. The Basellandschaftliche Zeitung is distributed in Liestal. The main paper in neighbouring Germany is the Badische Zeitung, while in neighbouring France there is the L’Alsace and the Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace. In addition, the free Swiss commuter-paper 20 Minuten is also published; this daily newspaper, with the highest circulation in Switzerland, has a local editorial team and special edition for Basel. The free evening newspaper Blick am Abend also has an editorial team in Basel. In addition to various national radio and TV stations like Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen, there is the German-speaking local radio station Radio Basilisk, Radio Energy Basel, Radio X and Telebasel, which is a local television station. Radio X broadcasts The English Show every week for the international community.

Nannies, au-pairs and babysitters

Nannies who have been working with a family for a long time can apply for a Residence permit B. Permits are only issued to au pairs who come from Switzerland, EU/EFTA countries, the U.S., Canada, New Zealand or Australia. The focus here is on learning the German language and the local culture. The au pair may be engaged in the normal household chores and the care of the children, for up to a maximum of 30 hours per week. Au pairs may not be alone at home all day; at least one parent has to therefore work less than 22 hours per week. Babysitters or household help can be found through job advertisements. Domestic staff must be correctly hired through the usual channels and be insured against accidents and make contributions to an OASI policy.

Naturalisation

Individuals who wish to apply for naturalisation must be able to prove that they have lived in Switzerland for at least 12 years, of which the last two years, prior to submission of the application, were in the community for which the application is submitted (city of Basel, Riehen, Bettingen). The naturalisation process usually takes about two years. Applicants who are married to a Swiss citizen are subject to less demanding stipulations for their naturalisation process: They must have lived in Switzerland for five years, been married for three years and lived for at least one year in the community for which the application is submitted.

Opening times

The shop opening times in Basel are somewhat liberally regulated. The shops can vary their opening times from Monday to Friday between 6.00am to 8.00pm and from 6.00am to 6.00pm on Saturdays. Family businesses, kiosks and shops in the train station can remain open even with authorisation until 10.00pm. Petrol stations are not considered as sales outlets and can therefore keep their affiliated shops open until midnight.

As can be clearly seen, the opening hours are not consistent. Large shopping centres, even those on the outskirts of the city (M-Parc, St. Jakob-Park and Stücki) are open until 10.00pm during the week. Smaller supermarkets usually open at 8.00am and close at 6. 30pm. There are various small shops, selling food and everyday convenience goods, near the train station and in residential neighbourhoods, which are open until 10.00pm. Various petrol station shops, which are in part open until midnight, cater for any late night shopping. Only a few shops are open on Sundays, except on the official shopping Sundays before Christmas. There are no 24-hour shops in Basel.

You can find more information about shop opening times here

People with disabilities

Switzerland and in particular the city of Basel are especially mindful of people with disabilities. Coming from the idea of equality, all people, with or without a disability, should be given the same opportunities. The Canton of Basel-Stadt runs a tram and bus network with low-floor vehicles that have wheelchair access and they have drawn up a mission statement for disabled adults.

Pets

Generally speaking you do not need authorisation to own a pet in the Canton of Basel-Stadt (with the exception of potentially dangerous dogs). However, if animals are to cross the border, many of them are subject to certain vaccination requirements and/or special import conditions. Various regulations must also be observed with regard to how the animal is kept. Therefore, all animals must be housed and looked after in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act. Furthermore, dogs must be registered or deregistered with the Veterinary Office for taxation purposes and also with ANIS; they must also be fitted with a microchip. The training of dogs is a mandatory obligation across the whole of Switzerland, and it applies to all dog owners and to all types of dog.

There is a listing of all the regulations and explanations on the Veterinary Office website under the headings of "Keeping pets" and "Dogs". If you have any further questions or queries, please call the Veterinary Office and they will gladly provide you with the relevant information - even in English, French, Italian or Spanish.
Tel. +41 61 385 32 24.

Post

There are post offices in every neighbourhood. Current opening times are usually from 7.30am to midday and from 2.00pm to 6.00pm. In some districts, the opening times have been reduced, and cash transactions cannot be performed. The main post office in the city centre and the one at the railway station are open all day, and they also offer evening and weekend services for a fee. Letters that have already been franked can be placed into the yellow letterboxes. A-Post letters delivered within Switzerland arrive the next working day, whereas the cheaper B-Post letters arrive within 2-3 days.

Residence permits

Categories:

  • Asylum permit N
  • Short-term residence permit L
  • Cross-border commuter permit G
  • Residence permit B
  • Permanent Residence permit C

For more information about Categories

Shopping for your daily needs

The various major retailers satisfy the everyday shopping needs: Migros, Coop, Manor, Denner and Aldi. This selection is further supplemented by the numerous specialist outlets, do-it-yourself shops and convenience stores.
The City Market in Marktplatz is the place to go for vegetables, fruit, bread and flowers - mostly fresh from the region - from Monday to Saturday. A vegetable market is held every Saturday in Matthäusplatz in Kleinbasel, as well as in Vogesenplatz (St. Johann) and Tellplatz (Gundeli) in Grossbasel. There is the New Goods market in Barfüsserplatz on Thursdays. You can find more information about Basel markets here.
In certain areas of the city, they keep up the old tradition of having a milkman and greengrocers bring fresh produce directly to your door. Gourmet services were first offered on the Internet by pizza couriers and Asian takeaways, but now even large retailers will deliver food ordered online directly to your home.

Smoking

Smoking is not allowed in most public buildings in Switzerland. In the Canton of Basel-Stadt, smoking is also not permitted in restaurants and bars. However, some restaurants offer separate rooms for smokers.

Taxes and the cost of living

Switzerland is a country with a low tax rate, but this varies from canton to canton. However, the taxation system works in a similar way in all the cantons.

Income tax

The tax imposed is based on the taxable income. This is the sum of all forms of revenue, taking into account various deductions (acquisition costs, general deductions, social security deductions). Everybody who lives in the canton, has a property or a business is liable to pay tax. In Basel-Stadt, taxpayers must submit a tax return every year. Members of the Evangelical-Reformed, Roman Catholic and Christian-Catholic denominations as well as the Jewish community also pay a church tax on their income. This is calculated as a percentage of the cantonal tax.

Wealth tax

In addition to income tax, the canton also levies a wealth tax. The taxable capital is the value of all the assets, taking into consideration the various deductions (liabilities, allowances).

Direct federal tax

In addition to the cantonal (and municipal) tax, natural persons resident in the canton must also pay the direct federal tax. This is declared and calculated along with the cantonal income tax.

Links:

Tax administration
Tax calculator

Cost of living

Switzerland is generally considered as being an expensive country. But that is why, by the same token, wages are also relatively high and the rate of tax is lower than in many other European countries.

Telephone, radio and television registration

Telephone lines are basically installed in all homes. When moving into a new home, register your landline with Swisscom or Cablecom to get your phone number.

The reception of radio and television broadcasts is subject to charges. Your registration is managed centrally by Billag, and you will receive annual invoices. With a cable connection you can enjoy over 165 television stations and up to 100 radio stations from all over the world and over 200 TV channels and 130 radio stations via Internet TV.

Tipping

As a rule, all the prices in restaurants, bars, taxis and other services include a service charge. However, if the service is good it is customary to give a small tip.

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