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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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France extends again its €38 restaurant voucher scheme

France's Finance Minister has announced another extension to the €38 restaurant ticket limit that aims to help the country's battered hospitality industry.

France extends again its €38 restaurant voucher scheme

More than 4 million workers in France receive tickets restos, which can be spent in restaurants or at the supermarket or other food shops. They are often distributed to workers whose companies do not have a subsidised canteen.

They are usually limited to €19 a day, but when lockdown ended and restaurants reopened, the limit was raised to €38 a day, in order to help the battered hospitality sector.

The new limit has already been raised several times, but on Thursday Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire announced that it will continue until the end of June.

The limit was increased to €38 for tickets used in restaurants in June 2020 and has been extended twice – in December 2020 and August 2021. The new end date – the last extension, France’s Finance Ministry has said – is June 30th. 

It had been due to revert to its earlier maximum of €19 per day at the end of this month. Tickets spent in supermarkets will continue to have a daily limit of €19.

These tickets can also continue to be used on weekends until June 30th, Le Maire said on BFM TV, in order to “support our restaurant friends”. 

The deadline for using any leftover tickets restos from 2021, however, remains set at March 15th.