Alpine Environment

Ever wanted to live in the Alps? Now’s your chance

I was speaking recently to a good friend who lives in a town closed in on both sides by some of the highest peaks in the Alps. “They’re hiring like crazy here,” he said.

This content was published on October 14, 2019 minutes

At the time, I didn’t think the many job openings at the company he works for in the upper Rhone Valley would matter to anyone who subscribes to this newsletter. I was wrong. 

Companies in the region, the German-speaking part of canton Valais, are growing and they are looking at home and abroad to fill – at last count - about 1,000 positions; healthcare workers, cooks and waiters, as well as engineers and technicians, to work in the burgeoning biotechnology sector.

The ground-breaking ceremony for Lonza's new biotechnology production centre in Visp, in the Rhone Valley, took place in 2017. Keystone / Dominic Steinmann

Since the area, like many parts of the Alps, suffered until recently from brain drain, it’s been quite a turnaround. The towns and cities and local businesses have realized that they don’t only need to convince people to stay, but also to attract new residents. 

To that end, the website they’ve created to appeal to qualified job seekers goes beyond listing employment opportunities. It explains how to get a work permit, find a place to live, what to expect from the school system and even how far your salary will go in the Valais compared to a Swiss city like Zurich or Bern. They’re also betting that the mountains on their doorstep, with their myriad of hiking and biking trails and ski slopes, offer a further competitive advantage.

In the first few months since valais4you.chExternal link went online, the regional business association said that about 30% of all visitors to the site were from abroad, mainly the United States, Germany and France. 

But opportunities are not only limited to the Rhone Valley. What’s happening there is indicative of what is beginning to take hold throughout the Swiss Alps. My colleagues, Sibilla Bondolfi, Carlo Pisani and Daniel Rihs, recently travelled across Switzerland to meet professionals who told them why they’d left the cities to live and work in the mountains. Their answers are often inspiringExternal link

Excellent broadband and 4G speeds are two reasons it’s been possible for them to give up urban life without having to make many career compromises. 

Coinciding with my colleagues’ story, the research company, Opensignal, reported that 4G network coverage and download speeds were nearly as good in the mountains as in low-lying regions. The report, “Switzerland’s topography hardly impacts mobile experienceExternal link”, found that people, regardless of their location – high in a mountain village, or low in an urban area - could connect to 4G services more than 85% of the time. While download speeds in the Alps were generally not as good, they were only slightly slower. 

For all the benefits of living in the Alps, there are some drawbacks, especially for families with young children. Switzerland as a whole has a chronic shortage of daycare facilities, and the problem is more acute in the upper Rhone Valley. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper reported that the region is forecasting a shortage of up to 1,000 places in such facilities in the coming years.

Switzerland also ranks low in expat surveys for soft factors, such as the ease of making friends, learning the language, and the cost of living. One such expat survey we watch closely is conducted by InterNationsExternal link.

But if you do move to the Alps, you may begin to hear a lot of people crying wolf. I wrote back in June that Swiss lawmakers were considering weakening the predator’s protection status. Well, parliament has done just that. Read our news story for the details. Parliament’s decision could yet be overturned. Only last week, environmental organisations started collecting signatures to force a referendum on the issue. They’ll be politely howling at people - and it could be you - to sign up.

Would you like to know what it's like to live in the Alps? Just ask: External link

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