Each country has its own cultural characteristics. What is perceived as polite in Japan can be a total affront in France. The same Switzerland, there are a number of special characteristics in dealing with Swiss that you should remember as a foreigner living here.
The Swiss are considered very polite and respectful. When listening to Swiss people talking to each other or ordering something at a bar for example, you will notice an excessive use of the subjunctive. If it was possible, could I please, I might perhaps…. Such expressions are the order of the day and reflect very well the politeness in this country. Direct questions are generally considered rude in Switzerland.
The most famous virtue of the Swiss is punctuality. If the SBB timetable states that the train leaves at 13.09, then you better will be on the train by 13.08 at the latest. Otherwise you will miss it.
What are only 5 minutes…
In Switzerland, 5 minutes is a lot. Punctuality is extremely important when dealing with friends and acquaintances. Delays of more than 15 minutes are classified as extremely rude, the tolerance limit of a Swiss is somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes. If you are more than 5 minutes late, it is advisable to inform the person who is waiting for you via whatsapp. And don’t forget to apologize!
Appear on time for your meetings
If you are invited to a business meeting at 2 p.m., it means that the meeting starts at 2 p.m. sharp. It does not mean that the participants will be arriving at that time. Be sure to arrive 10 minutes before the official start, you will be surprised to see that you won’t be the only one. This will also give you enough time to get acquainted with everyone and to get a cup of coffee. Walking into a meeting late that has already started is considered very unprofessional and does not earn you any points. If it happens, you better have a very good explanation ready.
Zero tolerance for littering
The Swiss like their country clean. You’ll find a garbage can at every corner. Use it! Disposing of waste on the street or in nature does not go down well at all. Even cigarette butts belong in the public ashtrays above the garbage cans.
Return invitations to dinner or grill parties
You will be invited to a dinner or a barbecue by friends or maybe neighbours. Of course you go. Firstly, because you will meet new people and secondly, because the cancellation of invitations is not very well received. For example, if you refuse an invitation from the same person for several times, you will be deleted from his or her list.
After you have attended a party, it is time to return the favor. With something of equal value. So if you’ve been a guest at a fancy dinner, you can’t just invite the hosts for afternoon tea your home. Something more exclusive is expected. The biggest faux pas you can commit is to say to your hosts that you will invite them. And then not to do it. The Swiss punish noncommittal by breaking off the contact.
Not without my aperitif
When it comes to meals, lunches and dinner, the Swiss have their own set of rules. A meal with friends in a restaurant or a private dinner party always begins with an aperitif. The Swiss really celebrate this drink before the actual dinner. It serves as a warm-up phase and is intended for small talk, especially when people don’t know each other yet. Very important, and this is true in general: Swiss toast with their drinks. And they do it right. Swiss toast with their drinks. And they do it right. This means that one looks into one’s eyes when saying cheers, simply holding one’s glass without looking at the person opposite, is perceived as extremely impolite. It’s also important to avoid toasting someone over the cross. One waits politely until the path is clear.
Please be quiet
Swiss avoid attracting attention or being loud. So if you are a larger group and dine in a restaurant, be careful not to make too much noise. Loud talking, yelling and giggling will be considered rude and will bring you evil looks from the other guests.
The dear tip
There’s no rule of thumb about how much to tip. Everyone decides for themselves on the basis of the service and the quality of the food. Waiters in Switzerland do not live from tips, unlike in other countries. It’s also absolutely ok not to tip if you weren’t satisfied.
Be sure to follow the house rules
Every apartment building has its own house rules. Not only does it hang at the entrance to the house for decoration, but it is also intended to remind tenants how to behave. A house regulation is not a matter of interpretation.
When it says that no loud music may be heard after 10 p.m., people take it seriously. So if you haven’t turned the music down by 10.15 p.m., you can count on the doorbell ringing and a more or less angry neighbour complaining to you. If you’re unlucky, he’ll call the police and report you for disturbing the peace in your house.
The same applies to the use of the laundry room. If you’re not allowed to do laundry on Sundays, then everyone sticks to it. Don’t make yourself unpopular because you are running out of clean clothes.
Looking for even more does and don’ts?
Then join our online class today. You don’t only learn how to speak Swiss German, but also get familiar with the local habits.