7 things expats in Switzerland need to know about in December 2022
With new federal councillors to elect, motorway vignettes to buy, Christmas markets in Switzerland to visit and glühwein to drink, there are plenty of important things happening in the alpine nation in the coming month. Here are seven things expats need to know about in Switzerland this December:
1. Swiss parliament to elect two new federal councillors
After Ueli Maurer announced his retirement and Simonetta Sommaruga said she would be withdrawing from the council to care for her ailing husband, the seven-member executive branch of the Swiss government - the Federal Council - is in need of two new members. Federal councillors are in charge of government departments and are vital for the functioning of the state.
A joint assembly of both houses (National Council and Council of States) are set to appoint the two new councillors at a vote on December 7, 2022. While one member is guaranteed to be a member of the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), and the other from the Social Democratic Party (SP), both must command a majority of all members (including those from other parties) to be made a councillor.
For the SVP, Albert Rösti from Canton Bern is facing off against Hans-Ueli Vogt of Canton Zurich. For the SP, Canton Jura’s Élisabeth Baume-Schneider is up against Eva Herzog from Basel. Interestingly, if Albert Rösti is elected, the Federal Council will not include anyone from Canton Zurich.
2. New motorway vignette available in Switzerland
From December 1, drivers in Switzerland will be able to purchase the new motorway vignette for 2023. The sticker will be available in petrol stations, garages and branches of the post office and will cost 40 Swiss francs, again.
The vignette allows free access to Swiss motorways for a year and must be purchased and attached to your vehicle by January 31, 2023. Anyone caught driving on the motorways without the vignette after this date risks a significant fine by the Swiss police.
3. Swiss government to reduce cost of medicine
As part of its plan to reduce health insurance costs in Switzerland, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) has announced that it will be reducing the price of more than 300 medicines by 10 percent, starting from December 1.
The government expects the move to save customers around 60 million francs a year. The policy will come as welcome relief to consumers, who have already seen the cost of basic and supplemental health insurance rise by 6,6 percent on average this year.
4. Switzerland to celebrate St. Nicolas Day
On December 6, Samichlaus (Switzerland’s version of Santa Claus) and his sidekick Schmutzli will return to Swiss towns and cities. The Swiss Christmas tradition has the pair arrive in each town to much fanfare, before interacting with local children.
When meeting the two, if the child has been good and promises to be good next year, Santa gives them treats like chocolates and mandarins. Traditionally speaking, if they are bad, then Schmutzli is meant to punish them by whipping the naughty children - although of course in 2022, this would never happen. The St. Nicolas Day celebrations are traditionally accompanied by music and food, especially if the town has a Christmas market ongoing.
5. New SBB timetable released
With passenger numbers returning to pre-pandemic levels, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) has revealed its new timetable, to be put in place from December 11, 2022. Some of the new additions include a night train to Leipzig and new services from Geneva to areas in the Swiss mountains like Chur - the gateway to the ski resorts of Davos, Arosa and St. Moritz.
Despite some Deutsche Bahn services being cut due to excessive lateness, the majority of the changes will see public transport expanded across the country. For more information, check out our guide to the SBB timetable for 2022 / 2023.
6. Winter school holidays in Switzerland begin
For children in Switzerland, December will also see the start of the school holidays. Those in the Swiss school system and international schools will get between two and four weeks of holiday, typically starting in mid-December and ending in January.
With most COVID restrictions gone, many families will be headed to the airport to visit destinations abroad. For those staying at home, there is still plenty to do, with the holidays providing an excellent opportunity to visit Switzerland’s stunning lakes, historical sites and mountains.
7. Christmas Day in Switzerland
Finally, people across Switzerland will be celebrating the Christmas holidays. Unfortunately, both Christmas Eve and Day fall on a weekend, meaning no holiday for workers in Switzerland. However, in a piece of good news, Boxing Day, which is a working holiday in German-speaking areas of Switzerland, does fall on a Monday.
Whatever you end up doing this December, we all hope you have fun!