The final (for now) city report I wrote for Tales from a Small Planet (http://www.talesmag.com) is about Zurich. Its one of the most expensive places in the world to live in, but Zurich offers an amazing quality of living, that far outweighs the costs.
What are your reasons for living in this city (e.g., corporate, government, military, student, educator, retiree, etc.)?
Studied at the ETH Zurich.
How long have you been living here? Or when did you live there?
6 months, in 2008.
Was this your first expat experience? If not, what other foreign cities have you lived in as an expat?
Lived in 3 other countries before coming to Zurich.
Where is your home base, and how long is the trip to post from there, with what connections?
Nowadays, it is in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and it takes a 1 hour flight or a night train to get there from Zurich.
What are the special advantages of living in this city/country (e.g., touring, culture, saving money, weather, etc.)?
Switzerland is the most beautiful country in Europe. Period.
What have been some of the highlights of your time in this city/country?
Participated in the SOLA running race around Zurich. Cycled around Lake Zurich. Partied with the Dutch fans during Euro 2008. Climbed several mountains. Actually learned a few things at the ETHZ, too.
What is the air quality like (e.g., good, moderate, unhealthy, or very unhealthy with comments)?
What is the climate like? Weather patterns?
Winters are moist, and can be snowy. Summers are warm, with regular short thunderstorms in the evenings.
What kind of insect problems are there, if any?
None that I know of.
Are there any special security concerns?
Avalanches in the mountains.
Housing types, locations, and typical commute time?
Apartments, mostly. City centre is prohibitively expensive, but public transport is, well, Swiss-efficient.
Is this a good city for families/singles/couples?
Its a fine city for everyone but rather expensive. The price-quality ratio is superb, that is, you get value for money here.
Is this a good city for gay or lesbian expats?
I guess. Haven’t heard of any major issues.
Are there problems with racial, religious or gender prejudices?
The Swiss are not racist. That would imply they discriminate people. They don’t discriminate except between Swiss (=good) and not Swiss (=mwah).
Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city? Comment:
Lots of cobblestones and steep streets. Public transport and buildings are probably fine.
What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “secret or hidden gems”?
The Uetliberg rising above Zurich is a wonderful place to watch the sunrise, and then hike along the ridge. The botanical gardens, both the old and the new ones, are lovely spots. The many museums of the Zurich University are quite interesting http://www.uzh.ch/en/outreach/museums.
http://www.spottedbylocals.com/zurich has plenty of other useful tips.
Are gyms or workout facilities available? Costs?
As a student, I had access to the facilities of the ETHZ, and they are magnificent.
What fast food and decent restaurants are available? Cost range?
Everything is available, for an exorbitant price.
What is the availability and relative cost of groceries and household supplies?
Everything is available, but its probably cheaper to shop across the border. Germany is only 40 km away, so many people go there for groceries and many services.
What comments can you make about using credit cards and ATMs?
Broadly available and accepted.
What type of automobile is suitable to bring (or not to bring) because of terrain, availability of parts and service, local restrictions, duties, carjackings, etc?
A supercar, so that you don’t stand out in the crowd. Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Ferrari, that sort of thing.
Are local trains, buses, and taxis safe? Affordable?
Yes, they’re fine. Best public transport in the world, no doubt.
How much of the local language do you need to know for daily living?
At least a bit of German would be quite helpful. The Zurich variant of Swiss-German is exceptionally difficult to understand, so abandon all hopes to learn German while you’re here.
Size and morale of expat community:
Huge. Over 30% of the population is non-Swiss.
What are some typical things to do for entertaining/social life?
Hiking is huge here. For the Swiss, any mountain that does not involve technical climbing is considered hiking, so that includes summits like the Dom (at 4545 m, the 5th highest mountain in Switzerland). Zurich has a lively clubbing scene.
What’s the dress code at work and in public?
Buisness, smart casual-plus. Hiking gear in public.
Are there any health concerns? What is the quality of medical care available?
Excellent medical care is available, but can be expensive. Finding a dentist in Germany is a smart move.
You can leave behind your:
Sense of humor. The Swiss don’t get it.
What do you wish you had known about this city/country prior to moving there?
That I should have moved here sooner.
But don’t forget your:
Alpine skills. And your money. All of it.
Can you save money?
What unique local items can you spend it on?
Chocolate, cheese, kirch (cherry schnapps) mountain summits (guided ascends), Swiss army knives, watches.
Knowing what you now know, would you still go there?
Recommended books related to this city (title, author):
The Visit (Der Besuch der alten Dame), Durcheinandertal, both by Friedrich Dürrenmatt.