Welcome to Basel!
Basel is a cosmopolitan city home to global corporate headquarters, universities, renowned art and theatre and a diverse population. Basel has a beautiful medieval old town centre, a vibrant Carnival, and several world class art museums built by architects like Renzo Piano, Mario Botta and Herzog & De Meuron. Basel is also rich in architecture old and new, with a Romanesque Münster (cathedral), a Renaissance Rathaus (town hall), and various examples of high quality contemporary architecture. Basel lies in the heart of Europe on both banks of the Rhine. The city is the center of the idyllic border triangle of France, Germany and Switzerland – lying between the Swiss Jura Mountains, Germany’s Black Forest, and the Vosges in Alsace.
As a newcomer to the area, the American Women’s Club welcomes you and provides a support network to help settle in and adjust to life in your new home.
If you have recently moved or are trying to make the relocation decision, please join one of our events to expand your network and get your questions answered.
Information listed below is basic and provided as an overview. For the most up-to-date information please refer to the appropriate Agency.
Excellent medical care is offered throughout Switzerland. All residents must purchase basic health insurance. In Switzerland, it is normal to arrange medical and accident insurance privately. Rates for your health insurance premium are also based on the type of hospital accommodation you require. There are three types of hospital accommodations available in Switzerland: ward (allgemein), semi-private (halb-privat) and private (privat). A ward has multiple beds in one room (usually four to eight); semi-private has two beds; and private has only one.
Choosing a physician and dentist in Basel poses the same problems as it would anywhere. Ask friends, relatives, neighbors, business associates, your local pharmacist, your local hospital or cantonal medical society for recommendations.
Finding housing can sometimes be a challenge. Demand for certain types of housing far exceeds supply. Rents are higher than in most US cities and vary according to location, neighborhood and type of building. Both houses and apartments are usually smaller than their US counterparts and contain smaller rooms. The purchase of a house or apartment by foreigners is highly regulated in Switzerland.
Light fixtures, draperies and closets are typically not included in rental apartments and houses. Most rentals will have washing machines and dryers, but many buildings only offer shared facilities.
Apartments and houses can be found through print and online advertisements or through real estate brokers and relocation specialists.
Real Estate Brokers and Property Management Firms
Real estate brokers are listed under the classifications “Immobilien” and “Liegenschaften.” They have a very limited listing of houses or apartments at a given time, and you must call them weekly to find out if they have new possibilities. There is no fee charged to the tenant.
Relocation Specialists work on an independent basis to assist with housing searches. Many of these specialists provide additional services such as helping set up utilities, registering with local authorities and finding schools.
The national languages of Switzerland are Swiss German (Central and Eastern Switzerland), French (Western Switzerland), Italian (Southern Switzerland) and Rhaeto-Romanic (South-Eastern Switzerland). German is spoken by 69 percent of the Swiss population, 20 percent speak French, 10 percent Italian and 1 percent Rhaeto-Romanic.
The language spoken in Basel is referred to as Swiss German. It sounds and looks very different than High German. Swiss German is used for almost all oral communication, but High German is used for all written communication, such as newspapers. Fortunately, Basel is a cosmopolitan city, and many people are fluent in more than one language. English is widely spoken and understood.
Most foreigners here learn High German, though many master a few key phrases in the Swiss German dialect. There is a wealth of language schools in the Basel area offering High German classes. The majority of schools offer total immersion courses, meaning the courses will be taught entirely in High German. New classes are starting all the time, and price varies depending on class frequency, class size and your level in the language.
Does Basel have a good public transportation system?
Basel has an excellent transportation network. Trains, buses and trams are part of Basel’s impressive transportation system. One of the many advantages of this integrated transport system is that you do not need separate tickets for the various stages of a journey. You can purchase an annual U-Abo card for the local zones which includes buses, trams and trains. On regional trains outside the city, tickets can be purchased at the train station. Ticket machines are usually found at city bus and tram stops. For more information, please visit www.bvb.ch and www.sbb.ch. If you travel regularly on the train investigate if a halb-tax (half tax) card or GA card are a good investment. The half tax card reduces the price of all train travel in Switzerland by half and the GA card is an annual cost to ride the trains across Switzerland for free.
What is the school system like in Switzerland?
Basel offers excellent public schools and a large selection of private and international educational facilities. Each canton in Switzerland makes its own laws about schooling, allowing for locally adapted solutions. The obligatory school system in Canton BaselStadt includes primary education (Primarschule) and secondary education (Sekundarstufe I). Before that, children in Canton BaselStadt are required to go to two years of kindergarten. At the end of primary school (or at the beginning of secondary school), pupils are separated according to their capacities and career intentions in several sections.
Students who aspire to an academic career enter high schools (Gymnasium or Kantonsschule) to be prepared for further studies and the Matura (normally obtained at the age of 18 or 19). Students intending to pursue a trade or vocation complete only three additional years before entering vocational schools. Vocational training consists of a practical, hands-on role at the company and a general studies course. In all, the traineeship takes about three to four years. Two-thirds of young adults in Switzerland choose this path for career training. The dual education system creates a high level of general education in the population and ensures a steady supply of skilled workers.
In addition to its excellent public schools, Switzerland is home to numerous private schools. The greater Basel area has several English-speaking schools (with an international curriculum) and numerous bilingual schools. Children in Basel are guaranteed an outstanding education and a smooth transition to other schools and universities around the world.
Where are the US Embassy and Consular Agencies located?
The American Embassy in Switzerland is located in Bern, the capital of Switzerland. US citizens residing abroad should not only have a valid US passport but should also have in their possession several certified true copies of birth and marriage certificates, divorce or annulment decrees for use as the need may arise. While it is not mandatory for US citizens residing or visiting abroad to register with the nearest US Embassy, it is advisable to do so in order that the consulate can better assist in cases of lost passports, serious illness, accidents, death, disappearance and other issues. It is important and strongly recommended that persons report to their consulate, as soon as possible, the birth, death or arrest of a US citizen within their consular district.