Category Archives: Zurich Living

Burgers At The Helvti Diner, Zurich

I do love a good burger. I even remember the best one I ever had, at the Sheraton Hotel at Malpensa airport, Milan of all places. When I was contacted by the Helvti Diner I immediately arranged a visit to sample the burgers there, as well as being excited by the range of side dishes, drinks and other Americana. We went to the Helvti Diner in Zurich on a Saturday afternoon. It was well patronised but thankfully not full although it did fill up more while we were there. The interior is a pretty faithful representation of an American diner with some Swiss touches like low backs on the booth furniture.

The waitress who took our order was very nice and also asked if we wanted her to speak German or English. We ordered a Swiss Prime burger and a Classic burger which is made from Angus beef. Also available is a wagyu beef patty. I am glad that the words “Kobe beef” we’re not mentioned anywhere because as I recently discovered, real Kobe beef cannot be exported out of Japan. I was pleased that the burger choice was not huge. They have taken the view of offering their burgers in three types of beef and given the customer the choice of size, sauces, accompaniments and how they wish it to be cooked. Some places take a burger, add some cheese and a fried egg and give it a separate place on the menu under a name like the Farm burger or something. I prefer the approach of the Helvti. Take your burger, add what you want and tell us how you want it cooked. We went for BBQ sauce with one and garlic mayo with the other as well as a portion of fries to share. Soft drinks come in a 500ml glass if you so choose. When the food came, I cut mine in half to inspect the cooking. I asked for mine to be medium rare and I would say it was spot on. 

My wife went for well done and again it was good. Well cooked but not dry. We had no complaints at all about the burgers in terms of flavour or quality. Mine left a lot of liquid behind on the plate, I might go for Medium next time but I like a burger to be juicy. The fries were really good, as were the sauces. The BBQ sauce was a different colour to what you would expect (it is in the small glass dish in the photo above this paragraph) and had a nice little spice kick.

We had no complaints at all about the burgers in terms of flavour or quality. Mine left a lot of liquid behind on the plate, I might go for Medium next time but I like a burger to be juicy. The fries were really good, as were the sauces. The BBQ sauce was a different colour to what you would expect (it is in the small glass dish in the photo above this paragraph) and had a nice little spice kick. The garlic mayo was delicious. Both buns were nicely toasted, but I wouldn’t say they added much to the burger. A touch I liked was that the burger is served straight up. In the bun, you get your beef patty atop a slice of lettuce with any cheese you have requested and any extra like the egg. The usual garnish like tomato, gherkin and more lettuce is served nicely presented, on the side, for you to add as you wish. We rounded things off with an excellent dark chocolate milk shake. So, lots to like. The service was very good, the burgers certainly were excellent as were the fries. As I said, I like the way the menu is presented as well as letting you choose how to add the garnishes. In terms of presentation and taste, absolutely no complaints. One negative I have to stress is the price. A bill of 100 CHF for two people is hefty for a burger meal. Here’s our receipt so you can see exactly what we had (click for a larger image): 


12.50 CHF for a 355ml milk shake is extremely expensive, no matter how good, and is something I could not justify choosing again. A prosecco at 9 CHF, however, is decent value for Zurich. There is a reason for the prices. In true Swiss fashion, the prices are justified by the quality of the ingredients. For example, the shake contains three scoops of premium ice cream, no milk powder or artificial flavourings. When it comes to the meat, the burgers contain no filler so no cheaper pork or bread to bulk it up. Their belief is that the Helvti Diner is the only place in Switzerland to feature only 100% beef in its burgers. As we were there on a Saturday afternoon, we did not sample the bar but the selection of drinks and cocktails is impressive. Any bar that offers Hendricks gin knows what they are doing! Worth noting that from October 2012, they are starting a Happy Hour on Fridays from 22:00 to midnight. We will definitely go back to the Helvti Diner, we enjoyed our meal there very much. If prices were more reasonable, I would probably try to get there at least every two weeks. As it stands we will go there perhaps a couple of times a year. I do recommend you try it and decide for yourself. 


Helvti Diner Kasernenstrasse 2 8004 Zürich Tel: +41-43-322-04-24 Opening Hours: 


Monday – Thursday 11.30-14.30  18.00-23.00
Friday 11.30-14.30  18.00-01.00
Saturday, brunch 10.00-16.00  18.00-01.00
Sunday closed

How To Get Your Swiss Driving Licence

There is one piece of administration in Switzerland for Expats that causes a lot of concern. It also seems to create the most confusion and opinion, and that is getting your Swiss Driving Licence. Expats can use their foreign driving licence for up to one year after their registration in Switzerland. During that time you can drive as normal, even use a Mobility car, you just have to email Mobility a scan of your foreign driving licence. They will send you a reminder that you have to send them a copy of your new Swiss licence after a year of residence, otherwise your Mobility membership will be suspended. Once you reach that one year date, it’s time to hand in the licence you have held since your late teens and get a new shiny card-sized Swiss one. For some people this can be quite  an emotional wrench. The licence you have had in your wallet or purse is another reminder of “home” and you may be reluctant to just hand it over but in truth, you have no choice. Driving beyond the 12-month validity of your foreign licence in Switzerland will land you a fine and could cause you problems when you do come to exchange it for a Swiss one. The process of exchanging your driving licence for a Swiss one is straightforward for citizens of EU countries or members of the EFTA. You need to bring the following documents in person to the Stassenverkehrsamt, or traffic office. You can also take them to your local Gemeindehaus or town hall: 


    • This Form (only available in German, correct at time of publishing)


    • Eyesight test, which is provided by an optician completing part of the above form, so bring it with you when you go for your eye test!


    • A colour passport photograph


    • Your residency permit


    • Your foreign/home driving licence, which will be taken from you by the Strassenverkehrsamt or Gemeinde.


    • 20 Swiss Francs


You will also receive a bill a couple of weeks after these documents are handed in. around 50CHF for handling your old licence and 35CHF for issuing your new one. If all goes well, you should have your new licence in your hands a week after handing in the documents above. For non-EU or -EFTA licence holders, you have to hand in the same documentation as above but will be called to take a driving test within three months of giving over your documentation. If you have had any different experiences, and there certainly are people who have see things work differently, please contribute in the comments as we have tried to present the most common scenarios here.  

Interior Design Courses In Zurich

After a successful year hosting Interior Design courses and workshops in Geneva, CREATIVS have expanded their operation to provide Design Coaching (in English), to the local Zurich market and surrounding area. If you enjoy Interior Design and would like professional coaching, CREATIVS offers a range of learning experiences from comprehensive courses to one-day workshops, all popular with non-professional lovers of design.

Interior Design Course:

The ‘DESIGNED BY YOU COURSE’ (20 hours) will explore the golden rules of design, the details that make the difference and teach you how to get the best value for money. Enjoy theoretical sessions and practical exercises focused on your individual project.

Interior Design Workshops:

Experts in the design, implementation and setup of luxury homes and businesses across Europe, CREATIVS shares their knowledge and expertise with people eager to explore the worlds of color, texture, lighting and design. Upcoming workshops and courses (all given in English) include:


    • DESIGNED BY YOU – Course


    • One Life. Style it Well – Workshop


    • Basic Project Management – Workshop


    • Home Staging – Workshop


    • Settling in Style: CREATIVS Welcomes you to Zurich – Workshop


    • Light Up Your Life – Workshop


“Amazing professionals, amazing spirit, amazing location – Creativity Meets Style. Design By You leads you through an extraordinary experience on how interior design reflects your personality. Professional guidance and systematic approach to interior design  for your own needs. The class is fantastic – go for it” N.Hendro  – Course Participant  More information at

Win Tickets To See Pam Ann In Zurich!

We spoke to her last year and due to popular demand, Pam Ann lands in Zurich again in December 2012. To celebrate her return, has two tickets to her show at the Bernhard Theater on December 1st and 2nd 2012.

To win these tickets, just tweet @zurichexpats with your best air travel tip

Pam Ann’s Round The World tour will be at the Bernhard Theater, Zurich, on December 1st and 2nd 2012. Pam takes you on a wildcat journey from boarding to landing. PAM ANN is equipped with shock tactics to make even the most crude people cringe. So prepare to be flown like you‘ve never been flown before! For tickets visit  Some YouTube clips (adults only):    Also coming up is the worldwide release of Pam Ann’s DVD in October / November 2012.

Remember, just tweet @zurichexpats with your best air travel tip

Good luck!

Top 3 City Getaways From Zurich

City trips are a great thing. Zurich is a small city – especially compared to American and Asian metropolises –  and thanks to the many parks and the lake you’ll soon feel at home.  But you know the feeling: sometimes you’ve just had enough of all the asphalt, the buildings and the packed streets at rush hour. The best thing to do to avoid a city crisis is a short get away for one day. has three suggestions for you, which will allow you to clear your head whilst exploring the rural side of Switzerland at the same 

Trip 1: Uetliberg to Adliswil

Panorama From UetlibergWe, the Zurich locals, are very proud of our landmark mountain, the Uetliberg. Compared to the Alps it´s only a hill – but it´s a nice walk (for the lazy traveller: take s-train Nr. 10 from Zürich HB) up to the summit, at 873m. On clear days you can even see a picturesque view of the Alps. Keen adventurers: continue on to Adliswil (duration: 1’30), take the cable car at Station Felsenegg and travel back to Zurich by train from Adliswil.Top Of Uetliberg, ZurichInfo:

Trip 2: Regensberg


View Of Regensberg

Take a short train and bus ride to Regensberg, stroll through the lovely medieval town and enjoy the view over the rural part of the Zurich region. For the best panoramic views, scale the steep steps of the round bastion. Afterwards, visit Weidmann winery, treat yourself with a glass of wine, or buy a bottle as a souvenir. (Weidmann winery is only open to visitors on Saturdays from 15-17h)

Trip 3: The dripstone caverns in Baar

Grotte BaarIf the hubub of the city gets too much, then the dripstone caves in Baar might be just the place for you. Discover a secret world by wandering through the 6000-year-old rock formations.Grotte Baar 2Without a car it takes some effort to get there – at least an hour’s walk through the countryside of central Switzerland. Still the magic of the different shapes and colors of the dripstones is definitely worth it. This is a Guest Post from, the independent travel blog. Find out more!/myfriendfromzh

What Is A Swiss Finishing School?

There was a time when any self-respecting debutante would know that she would spend some time polishing off her etiquette and deportment at a Swiss Finishing School. More recently, you would be more likely to hear a reference to Swiss Finishing Schools in a joke, such as the woman downing an entire pint of beer being told “and are your parents glad they spent all that money on your Swiss Finishing School?” Some people wonder if they still exist, other whether they ever existed at all. Not only are they genuine, but they are evolving with the needs of the modern world. In order to find out more, we asked some cliché-laden questions to the Institut Villa Pierrefeu in Gilon.

The portrayal is of young ladies learning how to behave at formal dinners, gracefully enter and exit a vehicle and carry themselves in a way becoming of a young lady. How does the real world of the Finishing School differ from the misconceptions we may have been fed over the years?

The real world of the Finishing School today is about learning to be a good hostess but also how to understand and appreciate the customs and manners of other cultures, creating a harmonious atmosphere in the home and developing practical skills so as to be more efficient.  The “cliché” of learning how to walk, get in and out of a car and learning to be graceful at a dinner party is only a small part of a very large and varied curriculum.

How does the Finishing School fit in to the education system?

The Finishing School is an excellent complement to academic studies (after secondary school or University), an excellent preparation for one’s future professional and social life or a great addition to this life.

What kind of time commitment does one need in order to attend a Swiss Finishing School? Is it a permanent residence over a year or can someone attend for a longer or shorter period of time?

You can attend a Finishing School in Switzerland for a full school year but will then also learn French or consolidate English, not only have classes of the Finishing programme. Or you can choose to take only some parts of the curriculum, without learning the language and come for one to six weeks.

What would you say is the national background of the attendees at the School?

Students come from all over the world and nationalities vary from course to course.

Does an equivalent Finishing School exist for young men?

For the moment, there is no equivalent Finishing School for men as it developed as a tradition of female education.

Finally, if a parent is wondering what the Finishing School can do for their child, what benefits would you highlight in particular?

Finishing School can give a child greater self-confidence, better general culture and more efficiency in daily practical life. We would like to thank the Institute Villa Pierrefeu for their time and answers. If you are interested in their curriculum or just in learning more about the Institute, the Institut Villa Pierrefeu website contains some great information.

Another Fare Increase From Swiss

Sigh …. Another Press Release from Swiss, another hit in the pocket of its customers.In February 2012, Swiss announced an increase in their Fuel Surcharge due to the increase in oil costs. On the day of the Press Release (February 22nd 2012) the price of crude oil closed at $106.3. Today, they announced another revision of their prices. Not related to the oil price, just a nice revision.But incredibly, although the price of crude oil closed yesterday at $89.9, a drop of more than 15% from the date of the Fuel Surcharge hike, the announcements is of yet another increase. In what is described as an ‘innovation’, they have also scrapped the treatment of sports equipment as separate from the baggage allowance, which meant that you could carry golf or ski equipment for free. From June 1st, this equipment will form part of what they laughingly call the ‘free’ baggage allowance. I say laughingly because it is of course, not free. You have paid for it in your fare. Just as you have paid for the same cheese sandwich on every single flight. Not only is the weight of the item calculated as part of your luggage allowance but the very existence of it means that if you are bringing a pair of skis, you cannot check another piece of luggage without incurring a charge. That’s a truly wonderful Swiss innovation! So my question is, where is the announcement of a response to drop in the price of oil? Can you believe that for a European flight you are paying 44CHF for fuel each way? There has to come a time when the price gouging must stop but what sticks in the throat more is the way Swiss refuses to treat customers fairly and reduce the Fuel Surcharge as swiftly in response to oil price drops as it zealously increases it when the price of oil goes up. For example, the February 22nd announcement states that the Fuel Surcharge increase was because “the price of crude oil and aviation kerosene has seen a massive increase since the airline’s fuel surcharges were last adjusted in December 2011″. Note the use of the word “massive”. When the Surcharge was last raised, the price of crude oil was $100.1. So the increase they describe as massive is from $100.1 to $106.3 – roughly 6%. But as I say, the drop in the price of oil since February is over 15%. So if an increase of 6% is massive, how would they describe a decrease of 15%? It would be nice if the national carrier treated its customers fairly. The February Press Release states “SWISS constantly monitors oil prices, and will continue to adjust its fuel surcharges in response to further fuel price trends on the commodities markets” but that is very clearly not what they are doing. What do you think? Am I being fair or do I have my sums wrong?