Life in St.Gallen St.Gallen is a city with approx. 80,000 inhabitants in the eastern, German-speaking part of Switzerland, close to the Austrian and German border. St.Gallen is situated between the Swiss Alps and Lake Constance, nestling in a picturesque landscape. The beginnings of the settlement date back to St Gallus. In 612, he established a hermitage by the River Steinach, which after his death evolved into a place of pilgrimage. In 719, the Alemannic monk Otmar founded a monastery in honour of the monk, Gallus, and named it St.Gallen. The Abbey District with the cathedral and the Abbey Library – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – can still be visited today. International fashion metropolis The city’s economic boom began during the Reformation with the textile industry. As industrialisation progressed, the first embroidery machines were developed in St.Gallen. At the beginning of the 20th century, St.Gallen experienced the high period of embroidery and became an international fashion metropolis. The founding of the University of St.Gallen in 1898 as a trade academy occurred during this time. In 1910, 50% of the world’s production of embroidered goods came from St.Gallen. Textiles for haute couture are still produced in St.Gallen and distributed throughout the world. Traditional and modern The narrow streets of the old town provide an excellent place to wander, with numerous shops, restaurants and cafes. The modern city of St.Gallen also has rich cultural offerings, with theatres, museums and concert halls. St.Gallen has an excellent infrastructure with good connections to the Swiss railway network and is located only an hour from the Zurich Airport. St.Gallen is “young” St.Gallen is very popular among young people and is among the cities with the youngest population in Switzerland. According to the 2011 Statistical Yearbook, St.Gallen, with 17.2% of its population in the 20-29-year age bracket, is even the frontrunner in this respect. With approx. 14%, bigger cities like Zurich and Basel are clearly lagging behind. Switzerland As a federal republic with a system of direct democracy, Switzerland enjoys a high level of political stability. This allows for a productive economy and a high standard of living. Location Switzerland is situated in Western Europe. Due to its central location, the country represents an interface between different cultures and a centre of communication and transport between Northern and Southern Europe. Culture Swiss culture is influenced by its geographic location, its multilingualism and its impressive diversity in architecture, art, literature, film, music and traditions. Politics As a federal republic with a system of direct democracy, Switzerland enjoys a high level of political stability. Its position as a neutral country allows it to play a meaningful role in international affairs and as an intermediary between conflicting parties. Economy The Swiss economy is based on highly-skilled work and well-educated employees. Important areas of the economy include microtechnology, high-tech fields, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and expertise in the banking and insurance industries. Visa Depending on their country of origin, international students will need a visa for their stay in Switzerland. They must apply for the visa as soon as possible at the Swiss Embassy in their home country. Insurance Students are required to obtain Swiss health insurance unless their current policy is accepted by the Swiss authorities. Policies are available with monthly premiums starting at CHF 100. Facts and figures about Switzerland High percentage of international residents: 23.3% of Swiss residents are of foreign origin One of the highest GDP per capita levels in the world: CHF 74,010 Very low unemployment rate: 3.3% Most competitive economy in the world Zurich is the city with the second best quality of life worldwide First place in the Global Competitiveness Report 2012 First place in the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2007/2011/2013 Companies are increasingly relocating their European headquarters to Switzerland to take advantage of the favourable economic conditions and living standards Sources: IMF, SECO/OECD, World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, Mercer Human Resource Consulting’s Quality of Living Survey.