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Why are French people now crossing the border to dine and shop in Switzerland?

People from France are now crossing the border into Switzerland to go shopping and visit restaurants, reversing the long-standing trend of going the other way. Why?

Why are French people now crossing the border to dine and shop in Switzerland?
Why are Swiss cafes near the French border now suddenly much more popular? Photo: Photo by Johan Mouchet on Unsplash

The Covid pandemic has led to a new phenomenon few living in border areas thought they would ever see.

The French have reversed decades upon decades of one-way shopping traffic and are now heading to Switzerland to go shopping and visit restaurants. 

Up until this point, people from Switzerland were far more likely to cross into France to go shopping and even to eat and drink, due to the comparatively low prices and the relative ease of crossing the border. 

What has led to the reversal of the usual practice where the Swiss go shopping in France to save money?

‘Swiss crush’: Shoppers from Switzerland head to France after stores close

It appears the trend has shifted due to France putting in place stricter rules regarding vaccinations as part of the pandemic. 

In France, 11 departments are now requiring the health pass to enter shopping centres, expanding it from restaurants and leisure facilities where it has been required for some time. 

This the case also in Haute-Savoie since Monday, where authorities said they were concerned about “the very worrying health situation”.

The region, which is adjacent to the Lake Geneva area, now has six shopping centres on the mandatory list, with 350 shopping centres on the list in France in total

France’s health pass requires people to be fully vaccinated, have recovered from the virus in the previous six months or have tested negative in the past 72 hours. 

No such measures are in place in Switzerland at the moment for shopping, visiting bars or restaurants, although those visiting nightclubs and larger events will need Switzerland’s Covid certificate, the Swiss version of the ‘pass sanitaire’. 

UPDATED: How to get Switzerland’s Covid-19 health pass

Not only the retailers, but also bars and restaurants on the Swiss side of the border have seen the influx of French customers,

“We now have 30 to 40 percent more customers (since before France changed the rules)”, Arianit Pira, manager of Auberge de Perly in Geneva, told Swiss news outlet RTS on Monday. 

As a thank you, “we should send a bottle to Mr. Macron”, he added. 

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For members


Where in France do you still need a face mask?

In France, masks will no longer be required on indoor transport as of Monday, May 16th. Here are rules and recommendations that are still in place:

Where in France do you still need a face mask?

Members of the public in France have been asked to wear face masks for the most part of two years, at times even outside in the street.

Since March 14th, 2022, the facial coverings have no longer been mandatory in most establishments such as shops, and as of Monday, May 16th, it will no longer be mandatory on indoor public transport. 

As of May 16th, you will therefore no longer be required to wear a mask in the following transports:

  • Buses and coaches
  • Subways and streetcars
  • RER and TER
  • TGV and interregional lines
  • Taxis

Regarding airplanes whether or not you must wear a mask is a bit more complicated.

On Wednesday, May 11th, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) announced that from May 16th onward it would no longer be required to wear a mask in airports and on board aircraft in the European Union. However, Germany has stated that it does not have the intention of lifting its requirement of wearing a mask on its airlines – this would include the Lufthansa airline. Thus, it will be necessary for passengers to still very to rules each airline has in place, which could be the case when travelling to a country that still has indoor mask requirements in place.

EASA Executive Director Patrick Ky specified that vulnerable people should continue to wear masks, and that “a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, to reassure those seated nearby.”

Masks still obligatory in medical settings

However, it will still be mandatory for caregivers, patients and visitors in health care facilities, specifically including hospitals, pharmacies, medical laboratories, retirement homes, and establishments for the disabled. 

For people who are vulnerable either due to their age or their status as immunocompromised, wearing a mask will continue to be recommended, though not required, particularly for enclosed spaces and in large gatherings.

Masks are also still recommended for people who test positive, people who might have come in contact with Covid-19, symptomatic people and healthcare professionals.

Will masks come back?

It is possible. French Health Minister Olivier Véran does not exclude the return of mandatory mask-wearing, should the health situation require it.

What are the other Covid-19 restrictions that remain in place?

The primary restriction that has not changed is the French government’s regulation for testing positive: If you are unvaccinated and test positive, isolation is still required for 10 days, if you are vaccinated, this requirement is seven days. Isolation can be reduced from 10 to 7 days or from 7 to 5 days if a negative covid test is performed, and symptoms are no longer present.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What Covid restrictions remain in place in France?

The French Health Ministry still recommends following sanitary measures such as: wearing a mask in places where it is still mandatory, hand washing, regular ventilation of rooms, coughing or sneezing into your elbow, and using a single-use handkerchief (tissue).