Zurich!

I thought I’d vary from just posting my academic papers and publish some information on my experiences in Zurich. Maybe some of this will assist others visiting the city. I’ll continue to provide updates and edits during my stay in Zurich.

Language
The people here primarily speak Swiss-German, in order to prepare for the trip I’d taken a bunch of lessons via DuoLingo in order to learn at least some German as I couldn’t find any software readily available to assist with learning Swiss-German. Some forums I had read online suggested Swiss-German varied greatly from German to the point that native German speakers couldn’t understand it. I found this not to be the case, what I will say however is that DuoLingo got me to the point I can read most information signs (warning, shopping centre, etc) and understand most of the announcement systems throughout the airport and city. That was about it however, interpersonal communication was almost impossible, I wasn’t prepared for the speed at which people speak.

The majority of people in Zurich seem willing to speak English, as long as you are apologetic about not speaking anything else. Unlike some other countries, the effort to speak the local language doesn’t seem to be required or expected as a courtesy. In the areas further from the city center you will find people who can’t or don’t want to speak English. A cashier at Aldi Z├╝rich-Altstetten for example did not seem to be able to follow what I was saying.

SIM Card
When I travel I make a habit of buying a local sim card / prepaid data plan in order to be able to use Google Maps and Translate. There are a few options available which are documented well here. I ended up going to a Swisscom shop and getting a Natel Easy Smart SIM card for $19.90 CHF. It includes $20 CHF credit, supposedly $2 CHF will be deducted each day for unlimited text/voice/data usage with a fair usage cap at 2GB per 30 day period. It isn’t documented but the card appears to come with 100MB of data prior to the initial daily usage being triggered, I’m still within this at the time of writing. As such I can’t comment on the auto deduction functionality.

On activation you will receive 5-10 text messages in Swiss-German. I didn’t bother to translate these, the important information seemed to be the following two items. First, “Herzlich willkommen Firstname Lastname! Ihre Nummer 4179XXXXXXX ……” The number is your mobile number including the country code. Second, a link to cockpit.swisscom.ch which when accessed over the mobile data network gives you access to your account’s admin panel.

Free WiFi
A large number of shops, public transport stations, restaurants, museums, etc will provide free WiFi. Around 95% of these will require you to provide a mobile phone number, which will be sent a password allowing access. I’m not sure what the justification for this is. These services were all able to accept an international phone number. Access is generally quite good with low latency and acceptable bandwidth for the purpose of uploading images etc. A few of the access points I came across blocked access to non web resources such as SSH and VPN services.

Money
There is a severe shortage of ATMs in Zurich. Given that this city is known for its finance sector this shortage is very strange indeed. I eventually found an ATM using the ATM Locator Anywhere app (I havn’t analysed this app and can’t comment on the security/nature of it).

Most stores will accept Visa/Mastercard without issue, some supermarkets are the exception to this though. I suggest confirming with the cashier that your payment card is accepted prior to shopping. 90% of the time you get a look as if you are stupid, but it saves you from the 10% of the time where you are left without a means for payment (As I experienced at Aldi). The payment terminals at Coop Stores stores accepted all cards I attempted to use without issue, even performing currency conversion based on the currency of the card. There was no option provided to pay in the local currency however, which was a bit disappointing as the conversion rate provided by Coop was about five percent below that provided by my card.

Public Transport
The public transport system is poorly documented compared to that in my home city of Perth. In order to determine which class of ticket I required I used Google Maps to provide directions to my destination using the public transport-planning feature. Subsequently I looked at the ZVV Zone Map to determine which Zones I passed through.

The ticket purchase process is conducted via terminals located throughout the city. For some reason the terminals at train stations do not provide the same variety of tickets as those located elsewhere. As I wanted a six day ticket I needed to purchase this from a terminal located anywhere other than a train station. When purchasing a ticket you need to select the type of ticket you require, which in my case was a six day multi-ticket. Then you must provide the destination suburb for the ticket. The system will offer you direct or indirect tickets which each include different zones, I chose the direct option, as I would be taking the same route each day. Finally the machine will show a summary screen, which also allows you to select your class of travel, concession status, or purchase additional tickets. This final screen had me somewhat confused, as there was no option to complete the purchase. Eventually I figured out that the payment terminal to the side had become active (without any prompt on the main display). I paid with a credit card and now had my ticket.

The sales machines also perform validation of multi-tickets. There is a slot on the left-front of the machine which you can insert a multi-ticket into. The machine will clip one of the tabs from the side marking one day as having been consumed and will stamp it with the current date and time.

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