Category Archives: Zurich Living

Interview With Ray Bär, Zurich Comedy Club

The Zurich Comedy Club presents their production of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband from May 2nd and we took the opportunity to ask a few questions of Ray Bär, President of the ZCC.

Can you give us a background of the Zurich Comedy Club?        When the Zurich Comedy Club was founded there were very few activities with, for or by English speakers. In 1954 a group of English ex-pats got together and put on a play, ‘just for fun’…. first in the Neumarkt Theatre and then in the old Kaufleuten Theatre.

The activity of play reading and socializing on Monday evenings, combined with play production at least twice a year attracted an enthusiastic membership, which now numbers 135.

What role do you think it plays for Zurich’s English-speaking expat community?

The Club is a very important part of many members’ lives. It is where we go on Mondays to meet friends or, if new to Zurich-to make friends-, chat over a drink, and take part in…or listen to…the play of the evening.

We communicate entirely in English, which is especially reassuring for ex pats who haven’t yet picked up German.

What about aspiring performers? Can they play a role in the Club?

Everyone can play an active role in club life, whatever their interest. Our activities are all in English, and this includes the plays we stage. If you enjoy acting and speak English well enough to take a part in one of our productions, and do well enough in the auditions to convince the casting committee that you are perfect for the part you want….then that’s all that’s needed.

In addition, there are so many teams involved in staging a play that anyone can have a great time without actually appearing on stage.

Something a little personal, what are your thoughts about living in Zurich?

I have lived in Zurich for over 50 years now and the Zurich of today is a wonderful city in which to live. It is a busy place that functions well. Public transport is clean and punctual and reliable and nothing is too far away.

The mountains, countryside, Italy, France Germany and Austria are all within easy reach. The food is lovely , the air is clean…and this is where my friends are.

Off the top of your head, one place in Zurich you consider to be a well-kept secret.

There is a little patch of green grass, just outside Zurich, where I swim in the lake when we get those warm summer days. Not many people know about it, but my friend and I will picnic there and bask in the shade or sun and swim… It’s like being on holiday!

(Editorial Note – Ray is no fool, she doesn’t actually tell us where this place is!)

Finally, who would win in a fight between a one-armed Karate expert and a one-legged kick boxer?

The winner would be the last man standing!!

Many thanks to Ray for her answers.

An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde plays from May 2 – 5 and 9 – 12. Tickets available from TicketCorner and more information on the Zurich Comedy Club is available at their website.

What Next For Swiss / European Union Relations?

In 2011 Switzerland took some drastic steps to limit its exposure to the Eurozone debt crisis, including pegging the franc to the euro at 1.20. How might relations between Bern and Brussels fare in 2012?

1. For one the Swiss National Bank will continue to keep down the value of the franc at whatever cost. In 2011 the SNB bought something like €45bn to prevent the franc rising too much against the euro (which had absolutely hammered its exports until then as investors sought a safe haven.) This looks set to continue, as the markets continue to view Switzerland as a safe option. The trouble is that if the Eurozone implodes, suddenly Switzerland is left with countless billions in useless euros. That could spell disaster!

2. In addition, tensions regarding banking secrecy in Switzerland could easily boil over. Eurozone countries including Spain and Italy are imposing huge spending cuts right now, and as a result are clamping down on tax evasion in a big way to boost revenues. In consequence, Switzerland has become a big target for Eurozone ire as it’s believed tens of billions in lost revenue are being held in Swiss banks. These banks might hence be forced to hand over the names of their clients in 2012.

3. Swiss independence of the European Union looks set to be eroded. Right now, the Swiss government passes equivalent laws to the European Union as they impact Swiss-EU relations. The problem though is that as these relations become more complex, Swiss independence becomes more of a problem. For example, in 2010 a Swiss refusal to extend the Schengen agreement to Romanian and Bulgarian citizens (granting them free movement inside Europe) could have resulted in the annulment of several free trade agreements. (In the event the Swiss people agreed to the extension.) Brussels will therefore pressure Bern to give up more of its sovereignty, to try and speed up changes.

4. In other ways the European Union will become more like Switzerland. The Swiss government passed a balanced budget law in 2003 that has since become the envy of Europe, as Swiss debt drops to just 1/3 the European average. Last December the Eurozone imposed an equivalent law, requiring all members to run a balanced budget from now on. The question of course is: will Eurozone members be able to restrain themselves from spending, and match these good intentions?

So how might all this affect expats living in Zurich? It could contribute to a general feeling of unease, as these are turbulent times that make people worry about their job security among other things.

In addition, there’s likely to be a sense that all is not well between Bern and Brussels, as both sides strive to defend their interests. On the other hand, it means that transferring money to and from the Eurozone will become easier, as the Swiss National Bank holds fierce to its 1.20 peg.

Michael Smith at foreign exchange specialist Pure FX

Don’t Get Ripped Off For “Materials” At German Classes


Recently I started a Language class at the Alemania Deutchschule. While the course is quite reasonably priced at 580CHF for 4 weeks of intensive beginners classes, I was not prepared for the additional charge of 70CHF for the “materials”. Assuming the materials were books I decided to do some of my own research and try and source some cheap or second hand books from the internet before the class started.

My search was not too fruitful, especially as the schools secretary had not been very forthcoming with details as to what constituted 70CHF of materials and had not provided me with the exact name of the book we would be using. But there was the suggestion that any German course book would be available in the Orell Fussli bookshop here in Zurich, but unfortunately I had left it too late to go shopping as it was Sunday and I did not even specifically know what books I should be buying.

As a result I ended up attending the first day of class empty handed and was given a book, cheap ugly school bag with “alemania” written on it and a pencil. Since I then knew exactly what book I needed I later that day went to the Orell Fussli on Fusslistrasse 4, this is the biggest bookshop in Zurich and has 4 floors of books. Armed with a photograph the cover of the book I found it for 21.90CHF there. A massive saving of 48.10 CHF.

Then when I went to pay on day 2 I said I had bought my own book and returned the brand new one I had just bought along with the other “materials”, the receptionist really didn’t give me any problems about this, and I only paid 580CHF for the classes.

The “materials” cost quoted on my invoice was 70CHF, which I find ridiculous considering that the book is 21.90 CHF and the only other materials I received during 3 weeks are a pencil, a really ugly cheap school bag (which I returned) and 10 photo copied pages. This book (A1/1) is used until half way through the second month of classes, when at this point the school will once again try to charge 60CHF for the next level book (A1/2) which is also just 21.90CHF .

I would recommend that anybody doing any German classes at any school here in Zurich purchase their own books, especially if they are not included in the price of the classes. Make sure to tell the person that you book the class with that you intend to buy your own book and would like to know the exact name of the book you will be using. Zurich is already so over priced that you should not let yourself be massively over charged because you were to lazy to buy your own books.

Cakefriends review

I recently visited Cakefriends, which is a lovely little cafe here near Bellevue.

The atmosphere is really cosy but modern and the cake and coffee was very good, as it was my friends birthday we decided to get the tasting platter. which was very reasonably priced if you consider the cost of an individual slice. The thing though is that you don’t get to pick which slices you wa, as it is a standard selection. The cakes are very well presented on a siler platter and all the accoutrements that accompany the cake are very tasty.

Pets and the holidays

So after a prolonged stretch of time in Zurich many people will inevitably have picked up a pet along the way, or sometimes even arrived with one.\r\n\r\nPets like children are sometimes an unexpected but much loved part of the household.\r\n\r\nUnlike children though pets can be difficult to travel with and will result in you jumping loops though a series of complicated and expensive procedures and requirements for transport or holiday care

Holiday care –




EF petsitting

network Kennels

 travelling with the pet 

moving your pet flights

car train boat

It’s Good To Be The King (Of The Dreikönigskuche)

I am the King!Today, January 6th, sees people across Switzerland buying their Dreikönigskuchen (three kings cake) and sharing them with friends and family. Similar to the ha’penny in an English Christmas pudding, finding the King is considered good luck. I am pleased to say that I just picked the piece of cake with the King in it and here he is — 20120106-101329.jpgIt was tense, of the six pieces (the centre piece never contains the King), only two were left meaning that if I chose wrongly then only the King piece would remain. Although I have to admit that a low carb start to 2012 means I didn’t eat the cake.Note that if you accept responsibility to get the cake, don’t let your colleagues down, it is something that is genuinely looked forward to and get the traditional fruit instead of chocolate!

Cheap Train Tickets In Switzerland


As someone who has just arrived to Zurich I have not yet purchased a “half price” train card or a “GA” reduction card. Especially since the cost of using public transport encourages me to cycle as much as possible. This however has its drawbacks and the exorbitant costs of full price train tickets becomes painfully clear when you try to book an intercity train.

Paying anywhere in the region of 6-60 Swiss francs for a one way ticket is not the ideal situation for someone on a budget. However there is hope for people here visiting or just without a card, as the National Swiss train company the SBB are currently running a “Supersaver” ticket scheme. This scheme allows you to book tickets on line at a much cheaper price than buying them at the train station.

Supersaver Tickets can be a whopping 60% cheaper than the regular fare, making them even cheaper than what you would pay with the half price card. The supersaver tickets are also available for half price card holders, but here the reduction is only a few swiss francs.

The catch. Obviously this is not just a cheap ticket free for all, and there are only a certain amount of cheap tickets available per route. Also the tickets are not usually available for more popular travelling times. The most important point to note these tickets are only available until the 20th of February 2012.

While the scheme is limited until the 20th of February it has been popular before and this is the 4th time these types of tickets have been available, so hopefully they will relaunch the scheme again after February or even make it permanent.

A couple of quick tips on Supersaver tickets.


    • the ticket is only valid for the train you booked so don’t try and change it after


    • you can only book the ticket a maximum of 14 days in advance


    • print your ticket at home. you can not print them at the train station and they do not accept smart phone screen shots


    • be flexible as the availability of tickets can sometimes be limited


    • make sure you type in Zürich correctly with the “ü”. The search wont recognise the city with out it.


However on one of my journeys the first train was delayed and as a result I missed my connection. Worried about receiving a fine I went to the ticket office and the clerk stamped and signed my original ticket making it valid for the next train. Remember though I missed the connection because the train was late, not me.

Another point to note about buying tickets at the train station is that recently they have added a 10CHF charge for this service. Kinda of like a tax for the non computer savvy. But I suppose there is a point to this concept and the SBB could only be considered to be falling in line with cost reduction policy’s that certain airlines have been pioneering for quite some time.

So if you are planning on travelling around Switzerland and need to book a train do it on line and print it at home.