Büsin­gen am Hochrhein is a Ger­man city with a lot of Swiss char­ac­ter. This is because this small town on the Rhine is com­plete­ly sur­round­ed by Switzer­land. Like many ter­ri­to­r­i­al enclaves, Büsin­gen has absorbed many host nation forms and con­ven­tions.

Büsingen am Hochrhein

Entry relat­ed to place: Europe

The peo­ple of Büsin­gen speak Swiss and pre­fer to use Swiss Francs instead of Euros. In fact, Büsin­gen did not even accept the Deutsche Mark until the late 1980s. Even the post office in Büsin­gen only accept­ed Swiss francs for Deutsche Marks. Although the chil­dren go to the local Ger­man school, many high school stu­dents end up on the oth­er side of the bor­der. Most Büsin­gen res­i­dents work in Switzer­land in near­by Swiss cities and are paid in Swiss francs.

Büsingen am Hochrhein

Even their elec­tric­i­ty comes from Switzer­land. How­ev­er, they pay Ger­man income tax­es because tech­ni­cal­ly they are still Ger­man cit­i­zens. There is a lot of dual­i­ty in Büsin­gen. Res­i­dents can choose between the two postal codes, and phone ser­vice providers from both coun­tries com­pete with each oth­er for cus­tomers, as do insur­ance com­pa­nies. You can find both Ger­man and Swiss sock­ets in peo­ple’s homes and hotels. They even have two police depart­ments. A trou­ble­mak­er caught in Büsin­gen can be tried in either a Ger­man or Swiss court, depend­ing on which police force was involved in the arrest.

Büsingen am Hochrhein
So how did Büsin­gen end up in this strange posi­tion? It all start­ed with a fam­i­ly feud in 1693. At that time, Büsin­gen was under the con­trol of an Aus­tri­an feu­dal lord named Eber­hard Im Thurn. Eber­hard belonged to a Protes­tant fam­i­ly, but after a quar­rel with the pas­tor of the city, Eber­hard was accused of being an under­ground Catholic.

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Short­ly there­after, he was kid­napped by his cousins ​​and hand­ed over to the Swiss author­i­ties in Schaffhausen. Eber­hard spent six years in prison before being returned to Büsin­gen with phys­i­cal and men­tal injuries. Upon his return, Eber­hard actu­al­ly con­vert­ed to Catholi­cism. The kid­nap­ping and impris­on­ment of Lord Büsin­gen at the hands of neigh­bor­ing Swiss near­ly led to war between Aus­tria and Switzer­land. Decades lat­er, when Aus­tria sold its local pos­ses­sions to the Swiss can­ton of Zurich, it decid­ed to keep Büsin­gen. In the end, this part of the Aus­tri­an Empire was absorbed by Ger­many, and Büsin­gen became Ger­man ter­ri­to­ry.

Büsingen am Hochrhein
But the peo­ple of Büsin­gen did not like being under Ger­man rule, and in 1918 they held a ref­er­en­dum to decide on which side the city would be locat­ed. About 96 per­cent of the vot­ers vot­ed for the Swiss side, but since the Swiss could not offer Ger­many any ter­ri­to­ry in return, Büsin­gen remained Ger­man. Anoth­er exam­ple of such a set­tle­ment with­in Europe is Baar­le-Nas­sau and Baar­le-Her­tog in Bel­gium and the Nether­lands.

Final­ly, in 1967, Büsin­gen offi­cial­ly entered into a cus­toms union with Switzer­land, mak­ing it the only Ger­man ter­ri­to­ry that is not part of the Euro­pean Union and there­fore EU eco­nom­ic rules do not apply there. This made Büsin­gen a tax haven of sorts. When res­i­dents buy goods in the EU and export them to Büsin­gen, they can claim back the VAT paid on their pur­chas­es. Pur­chas­es are sub­ject to Swiss VAT, which is low­er than in Ger­many. Res­i­dents of Büsin­gen also do not pay prop­er­ty tax.

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On the oth­er hand, the income tax is high­er than in neigh­bor­ing Swiss cities, which makes many young peo­ple leave Büsin­gen for Switzer­land. But the sit­u­a­tion changes when a per­son retires. Retirees, like the rest of Ger­many, pay lit­tle to no tax on their pen­sions, so for many Swiss, Büsin­gen is the per­fect place to retire.

city ​​border

As for the locals, many believe that life would be much eas­i­er if their city was part of Switzer­land. But this is unlike­ly to hap­pen. So peo­ple just pre­tend to be Swiss. They fly the Swiss flag and cel­e­brate Swiss fes­ti­vals.