Go Back   English Forum Switzerland > Living in Switzerland > Daily life  
Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 13.03.2021, 15:03
Newbie 1st class
 
Join Date: Mar 2021
Location: Basel
Posts: 12
Groaned at 0 Times in 0 Posts
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
dselar has no particular reputation at present
Language in Basel

Hello everyone,

i am currently considering moving to Basel from the USA with my wife and 2 young kids. We all speak fluently french and english but no clue about german or swiss german. We will be resident in Basel.

My wife will have a job in English and I might be able to work remotely for foreign employers in French and English. However we are really wondering about the need to learn the local language (are official papers: rental agreements, tax forms, application for driving license, company incorporation... in german only or you can always find at least french or english as well?)

What about local websites/organizations...?

Thanks a lot in advance for your help.
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 13.03.2021, 17:42
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Re: Language in Basel

Quote:
View Post
Hello everyone,

i am currently considering moving to Basel from the USA with my wife and 2 young kids. We all speak fluently french and english but no clue about german or swiss german. We will be resident in Basel.

My wife will have a job in English and I might be able to work remotely for foreign employers in French and English. However we are really wondering about the need to learn the local language (are official papers: rental agreements, tax forms, application for driving license, company incorporation... in german only or you can always find at least french or english as well?)

What about local websites/organizations...?

Thanks a lot in advance for your help.
I first moved to Basel 20 years ago, expecting that due to the proximity of the French border there would be many people who speak French. I was sadly mistaken. That part of France is historically German speaking (or specifically the Sundgovich flavour of Ëlsässisch) so in fact the opposite was true, where most of the towns and villages in nearby France had (and continue to have) a significant German speaking population.

So your French will not be much use in Basel, and yes, most officialdom will be conducted only in German. These days you can get by with English in most shops and restaurants, which is a change since I came there, and there are many British and American expats who've never made any headway, or indeed any effort, in learning German.

So don't despair, you'll get by, but of course it would be best to learn German as soon as possible. Try to get your wife's employer to pay for lessons for both of you as part of the relocation package.

I should add that although my schoolboy German helped a little, my wife and I bought a house in France, where our French level was already good enough to do such things without English translations, so my progress in German was even slower than it might have been. The local accent and dialect made it very difficult to equate everyday spoken language with what I'd learned in school, and what with working in English in an international environment it was quite a few years before I got around to improving properly. And then we moved to a French speaking area so I'm starting to lose it again.

Last edited by Guest; 13.03.2021 at 18:07.
Reply With Quote
The following 4 users would like to thank for this useful post:
  #3  
Old 13.03.2021, 20:39
NotAllThere's Avatar
Modulo 2
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Baselland
Posts: 15,032
Groaned at 308 Times in 263 Posts
Thanked 23,184 Times in 9,415 Posts
NotAllThere has a reputation beyond reputeNotAllThere has a reputation beyond reputeNotAllThere has a reputation beyond reputeNotAllThere has a reputation beyond reputeNotAllThere has a reputation beyond reputeNotAllThere has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Language in Basel

First time I came to Basel (2001), like Ace 1, I assumed people would speak French. So at a restaurant I ordered in French. The lady behind the bar called across to her friend - in English - "Hey, Sarah, you speak French, can you take this order?".

"It's ok, I can speak English as well...".

Nowadays, far more people, especially younger ones speak English. Contracts and forms may even be in English, but it's far more common, of course, for them to be in German. Funny thing - when the naturalisation department requested additional information, they sent me an English language form to fill in.

You won't need to learn anything beyond basic German to get around - but it's a lot easier if you do.

Oh, and there are French speakers. Our local Denner seems staffed entirely by French and car mechanics seem to be more often French. The server/db team on my first job were all French, and many of my son's colleagues are French - so there's no way knowing French won't sometimes be an asset.

The local (old) dialect word for a wristwatch is "Gelleratie"... comes from "Quelle heure et-il?". This is true. Of course, the little dormer windows in French are "une vasisdas" (sorry about the spelling). Comes from German "Was ist das?" (what is that?).
__________________
Down with racism. Long live miscegenation!
Reply With Quote
The following 2 users would like to thank NotAllThere for this useful post:
  #4  
Old 13.03.2021, 20:50
RetiredInNH's Avatar
Forum Veteran
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: New Hampshire, USA
Posts: 2,265
Groaned at 13 Times in 5 Posts
Thanked 1,484 Times in 748 Posts
RetiredInNH has a reputation beyond reputeRetiredInNH has a reputation beyond reputeRetiredInNH has a reputation beyond reputeRetiredInNH has a reputation beyond reputeRetiredInNH has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Language in Basel

Quote:
I first moved to Basel 20 years ago, expecting that due to the proximity of the French border there would be many people who speak French. I was sadly mistaken. That part of France is historically German speaking (or specifically the Sundgovich flavour of Ëlsässisch) so in fact the opposite was true, where most of the towns and villages in nearby France had (and continue to have) a significant German speaking population.
Thanks for answering a question I never got around to asking. It had seemed to me that due to its location Basel had to be bilingual.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 13.03.2021, 22:57
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2019
Location: Basel
Posts: 41
Groaned at 0 Times in 0 Posts
Thanked 85 Times in 30 Posts
DarkHarlequin has earned the respect of manyDarkHarlequin has earned the respect of manyDarkHarlequin has earned the respect of many
Re: Language in Basel

We moved to Basel from London in December 2019 with English as a mother tongue and conversational French (me) and Italian (my wife). It’s been fine despite the pandemic putting the scuppers on the plan to learn German as a priority and try to integrate as soon as possible. Our daughters (7 & 4) are in local school and kita and have picked up both German and local dialect without too much trouble.

We still rely too much on English but as others have noted it’s still the more prevalent lingua franca here. My french is useful but sometimes met with blank looks (I speak it with a northern french accent rather than franglais although that’s sometimes seen as worse apparently... ).
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 13.03.2021, 23:21
Bix Tzou's Avatar
Newbie
 
Join Date: Mar 2021
Location: Basel
Posts: 3
Groaned at 0 Times in 0 Posts
Thanked 2 Times in 1 Post
Bix Tzou has no particular reputation at present
Re: Language in Basel

Hello!
Like everyone has mentioned before, German is the official language and it feels uncomfortable not to be able to read letters and contracts - I speak from experience (I live in a building full of expats but our rental contracts are in German and the person from the real estate agency who we need to call when we have issues speaks mostly German, so sometimes that is a bit challenging and google translate has become a good friend when emailing with her!)

You can get by with English but my feeling is that even if your German is super basic, most people appreciate you trying to use German words (instant smile at least 80% of the cases).

Websites that could be helpful:
- for swiss news in English: swissinfo and" the local"
- to meet new people: internations, Baselconnect, meetups
- useful tips for Basel life: lifeinbasel.com

If you have never lived here before, one thing that's pretty different from the US are store's opening hours. Everything is closed on Sundays (except small grocery stores by the train station) and grocery stores tend to close early (7-8pm on weekdays, 60pm on saturdays), so good planning is important. on Sundays, you can enjoy the mountains with the family.

You will hear about "basel stadt" (this is the city itself) and "Basel land" (suburbs but very close; 20 min tram ride or something like that). I wwas told that For families with kids, Basel Land is more convenient from a tax perspective but other people in the forum will know the details on this.

Good luck on your move! You will find lots of Americans here, mostly working for Roche and Novartis.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 15.03.2021, 03:51
Newbie 1st class
 
Join Date: Mar 2021
Location: Basel
Posts: 12
Groaned at 0 Times in 0 Posts
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
dselar has no particular reputation at present
Re: Language in Basel

Hello,


thanks a lot to all for your replies, they are very helpful.
My wife and I are still weighing the pros and cons of the move at the moment.



We currently live in Chicago and have both good and stable jobs although everyone talk about the quality of life in switzerland and we have some family in France so we are still thinking...
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 15.03.2021, 06:42
Medea Fleecestealer's Avatar
Forum Legend
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Switzerland
Posts: 22,790
Groaned at 432 Times in 335 Posts
Thanked 17,882 Times in 10,004 Posts
Medea Fleecestealer has a reputation beyond reputeMedea Fleecestealer has a reputation beyond reputeMedea Fleecestealer has a reputation beyond reputeMedea Fleecestealer has a reputation beyond reputeMedea Fleecestealer has a reputation beyond reputeMedea Fleecestealer has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Language in Basel

Another thing you may need to consider is that you may need to continue to file US tax returns and could owe the US tax on top of local ones. I assume you're on Green Cards so unless you give those up when you leave you will still be subject to filing US tax returns. More on the subject here:

https://www.irs.gov/individuals/inte...-living-abroad

If you do give it up make sure to make a copy of it before you hand it in because it will be the only proof you have that you have abandoned your Green Card.

https://www.uscis.gov/i-407
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 15.03.2021, 10:16
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2021
Location: Basel
Posts: 53
Groaned at 0 Times in 0 Posts
Thanked 61 Times in 31 Posts
Dare is considered knowledgeableDare is considered knowledgeableDare is considered knowledgeable
Re: Language in Basel

Quote:
View Post

The local (old) dialect word for a wristwatch is "Gelleratie"... comes from "Quelle heure et-il?". This is true. Of course, the little dormer windows in French are "une vasisdas" (sorry about the spelling). Comes from German "Was ist das?" (what is that?).

The word you're looking is "Gelleretli", but it's really dated. There's also "Baarebli" (Parapluie), dated as well, and a few others. Sorry, yes, I know what they say about people who correct other people's spelling on the interwebz....
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 15.03.2021, 11:21
Phil_MCR's Avatar
Forum Legend
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Basel
Posts: 14,952
Groaned at 295 Times in 199 Posts
Thanked 19,011 Times in 7,996 Posts
Phil_MCR has a reputation beyond reputePhil_MCR has a reputation beyond reputePhil_MCR has a reputation beyond reputePhil_MCR has a reputation beyond reputePhil_MCR has a reputation beyond reputePhil_MCR has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Language in Basel

Quote:
I first moved to Basel 20 years ago, expecting that due to the proximity of the French border there would be many people who speak French. I was sadly mistaken. That part of France is historically German speaking (or specifically the Sundgovich flavour of Ëlsässisch) so in fact the opposite was true, where most of the towns and villages in nearby France had (and continue to have) a significant German speaking population.
Yup. I was across the border in Hagenthal and was speaking to some of the locals there. Started in French but switched to German during the conversation.

There might be some pockets of French in Basel-Land. I was in Burg im Leimantal and heard only French spoken (but it could have been a coincidence).

For official communications in Basel, expect everything in German only.
Reply With Quote
This user would like to thank Phil_MCR for this useful post:
  #11  
Old 15.03.2021, 11:29
Forum Legend
 
Join Date: Jul 2020
Location: Up there over the fog
Posts: 3,498
Groaned at 411 Times in 307 Posts
Thanked 3,590 Times in 1,859 Posts
JackieH has a reputation beyond reputeJackieH has a reputation beyond reputeJackieH has a reputation beyond reputeJackieH has a reputation beyond reputeJackieH has a reputation beyond reputeJackieH has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Language in Basel

Would you mind living in a smaller town, or more rural area- with a 50 mins commute?

In which case you could look at living in the Délémont region, with good access to Bâle/Basel yia A18 // or train, direct, 30 mins or 40 mins depending on train - so you can be in French speaking area and schools. And then take lessons, and consider moving nearer to Basel at a later stage is you wish.
Reply With Quote
The following 3 users would like to thank JackieH for this useful post:
  #12  
Old 15.03.2021, 11:39
Forum Veteran
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Bern
Posts: 2,288
Groaned at 429 Times in 274 Posts
Thanked 4,750 Times in 1,732 Posts
Susie-Q has a reputation beyond reputeSusie-Q has a reputation beyond reputeSusie-Q has a reputation beyond reputeSusie-Q has a reputation beyond reputeSusie-Q has a reputation beyond reputeSusie-Q has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Language in Basel

You will get by just fine in Basel with English...can hop over the border for shopping in France to practice your French. Alsace is lovely - but doesn't feel entirely French & you will hear a weird dialect now and then.

Will you be moving on a company contract? If so, there should be someone to help you with all of the official documents in German and finding an apartment. I have also downloaded a Photo translator that translates those tricky docs for me (German in official docs is quite formal and hard to understand sometimes). How old are your children? Do they also know French? I don't know if it will be permitted with the visa you will obtain, but you could live in France and commute into Basel so they can attend French school. If you are on one of those typical pharma type contract assignments, they will most likely offer a place in the International School in Basel where English is spoken.

We are also Americans who moved to Basel 10 years ago (now in Bern). Life is good here, you will enjoy it.

Last edited by Susie-Q; 15.03.2021 at 11:49.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 15.03.2021, 12:00
Forum Legend
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Basle
Posts: 2,907
Groaned at 76 Times in 60 Posts
Thanked 2,025 Times in 1,178 Posts
Landers has a reputation beyond reputeLanders has a reputation beyond reputeLanders has a reputation beyond reputeLanders has a reputation beyond reputeLanders has a reputation beyond repute
Re: Language in Basel

Things like your rental contracts will be in German but for other official things you're more likely find them in German, French and Italian than you are in English. Some health insurers don't have dedicated English speakers but will have a French speaking option. Details about permits, driver's licences etc will be available in French.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 16.03.2021, 23:07
Newbie 1st class
 
Join Date: Mar 2021
Location: Basel
Posts: 12
Groaned at 0 Times in 0 Posts
Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
dselar has no particular reputation at present
Re: Language in Basel

Hi, thanks again for your inputs.
We would be moving with a company contract and to get the benefits we need to reside in Switzerland. The company woudl indeed be paying a portion of the private tuition so ISB would most likely be our choice while we will be looking at the french schools too as my kids (3 and 7 years old) speak French.


On my end I would most likely be freelancing for foreign clients.




thanks
Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
basel, language




Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Language Requirement for VINTA C in Basel unbalanced Permits/visas/government 11 25.07.2019 14:15
Master in Basel or Zurich-Language school in Basel. Muratergun Other/general 0 23.08.2012 18:59
Language Exchange in Basel FrenchMatt Language corner 2 05.02.2011 11:50
[Basel] Language Exchange Group paleale Language corner 58 25.12.2008 20:22
language exchange in basel grflw Language corner 0 05.07.2008 01:33


All times are GMT +2. The time now is 08:57.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.4
Copyright ©2000 - 2022, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
LinkBacks Enabled by vBSEO 3.1.0