Half a year living in Switzerland! Somebody pinch me. Even though this is all happening to me, it still feels surreal sometimes.
In the past few months, my routine in Zürich has evolved from going to German classes and the Integration course (which I have successfully completed last week :)), to working full time and getting to know the local 9-5, lunch, and after-work world. I feel like I am seeing the city in all new ways, and now a little more from the inside. The funny thing is, the more integrated you become, the harder it is to appreciate it because things get easier and familiar. I make it a personal goal to keep my newbie curiosity 🙂
For this mini-milestone, I thought it would be fun to list 6 things about Zürich that I find unique and that, in one way or another, shape my everyday life.
1. church bells
Dingggg-dingggg-dingggg. I hear church bells at least once a day. Either while still in bed, or when out in AltStadt and Niederdorf, or if I’m passing through Stauffacher. Church bell songs are a constant Zürich companion. They even ring when it’s a quarter of an hour. I never before lived in a city that sounds like a little old romantic European village on a daily basis. And, I never before looked for an apartment in a city where in addition to things like “how close is it to a supermarket/tram stop/park”, you also have to think “how close is it to a church?” those bells are lovely, but they are loud.
how this shapes my everyday life: it’s how I wake up on Sunday 🙂 And also, since underneath my tough exterior hides a romantic, there is nothing that I love more than strolling cobblestone streets of Altstadt to the sound of bells from St Peter church.
No doubt, trams run this city and this city runs on trams. For me, there is not a more classic image of Zürich than a blue and white tram gliding down Bahnhofstrasse. Even though I moved here from Helsinki (which has a famously excellent public transportation), I was still impressed by how easy it is to get around in Zürich. And when I was recently in Milan, within minutes of taking the metro, I was mentally thanking myself that I don’t have to take it to work every day (like I did in Paris). Though you can argue that it’s faster and there is some NYC/big city gritty kind of charm to the subway, I will choose a Zürich tram over it any day.
how this shapes my everyday life: I’m a die-hard pedestrian and I could probably never live in a city that requires constant driving. I love to walk everywhere. I don’t like buses because they remind me of commuting to my university in Canada. I don’t like the metro because it’s an energy sucker even if you take it for 2-3 stops (plus I’ve seen things in the Parisian metro that I, unfortunately, will never be able to unsee..). But trams – trams, I love and trams I can do. So basically, trams are one of the big reasons why me and this city get along.
Zürich in the summer is a rooftop town! While all outdoor spaces get love, nothing is more beloved than a rooftop terrace with a view. I’ve honestly never before lived in a city with so much top floor outdoor space. In Paris, we had balconies and roofs themselves (which you’d climb onto from a tiny window in the ceiling of the building). In Helsinki, balconies are not very popular unless they’re covered (and anyway Finns prefer cottages). In Vancouver, you either have a patio or a glass balcony box. But in Zürich, every rooftop is put to use.
How this shapes my everyday life: I know I am still nowhere close to being a local because I have not been to a rooftop party yet 🙁
Okay, so in Vancouver, there was an ocean. In Paris, there was a river. In Helsinki, there was a sea. In Zürich though, there is a river, a canal, and a lake – and boy, do the locals know how to make the most out of all three. Actually, out of water in general. There is a fountain every several blocks. There are (to my knowledge) at least 5 public baths. There are bars on the water, there are beaches by the water, there are bridges over the water, there are walkways along the water. And everywhere the water is super clean. In the winter you feel it less, but in the summer, the city revolves around its turquoise H2O.
How this shapes my everyday life: Water calms me down so I am grateful to have it nearby all year round. But in the summer especially, the lake and the river become the life. I have yet to float down the Limmat (hopefully soon) but I already know that I can’t think of any other city where you can do that. And I am ready to spend every hot summer day by the lake. My week starts with checking the weather to see when I can squeeze in a swim 🙂
I have raved about this before and I will rave about it again. This city has a chill vibe like nowhere else. You’d think it would feel like a posh and stressful banker town, but you would probably have to break into a meeting room at Paradeplatz to really feel that. Swans glide along the river, people stroll along the lake, glasses clink in old town, young suits share beers at 7pm, birds chirp in the alleyways, bells sing along and maybe only in the middle of a sales Saturday at Bahnhofstrasse you would ever feel a real upbeat in tempo.
How this shapes my everyday life: simple – I love it.
On any given day, walking along the street you can hear French/Italian/Spanish/Russian/etc. While there is no mistaking that Zürich is a Swiss city, you can tell that it’s in the center of Europe and that people from all over the world live here. So as an expat, I don’t feel like an odd duck in a sea of swans. In most cases, locals are welcoming, friendly and curious about my story.
How this shapes my everyday life: As a multi-culture, multi-country child, I just need to be in a place that has other people like me. And as someone who wants to be a “Zürcherin”, it’s important to me that this title comes with an open-minded mentality.
I’m curious to hear if you guys agree with the list and what you would put on yours! 🙂