Do you intend to use your „Feriä“ (en: holidays) to visit friends in „dr Schwiiz“ (en: Switzerland)? Do you think it will be easy to manage things on your first trip to this country? It may be so, but it is still useful to learn some local manners so that your holiday is not spoilt by any social or cultural faux pas. This little guide to etiquette in Switzerland should see you on your way to making a good impression on all and sundry.

Phone ahead

Phoning ahead of a meeting
Phoning ahead of a meeting

Has it been a while since meeting up with your friends and are you looking forward to seeing the happy expressions on their faces when you drop by unannounced? You are more likely to trigger „s Gegeteil“ (en: the opposite).  In Switzerland, people never just pop in; they announce their visit by phone call ahead of time.

Remember: Always let your friends know that you intend to visit them.

Grüezi!

Communication amongst friends can often lead to amusing little moments. It sounds cute when your friends add a „-li“ (diminutive form) to every word. But be aware that your Swiss friends do not find it amusing at all to make fun of their language. The best way to prevent misunderstandings is to learn Swiss German. (Yes, we are the right people to turn to for that!) Learn to use the right words and expressions; ignorance of the subtleties of a language can lead to insults being percepted.

 

A hand shake is the most common form of greeting amongst men. Women usually exchange three kisses amongst themselves and when greeting men. „Grüezi“ (with emphasis on the E) is used when greeting a stranger or on more formal occasions: an informal common greeting for friends is „Hoi“. „Adieu“ or „Ade“ means goodbye and „Tschüss“ can only be used very informally. This is in contrast to Germany where it is a common way to say goodbye.

Remember: In Switzerland, people speak Swiss German and not German.

Order is the first law

Table manners
Table manners

Have you been invited to a barbeque and asked to bring your own meat? It may seem strange, but this is not impolite in Switzerland; it is the normal way of grill parties here. Make sure you arrive punctually to the „Ässä“ (en: meal) and, even if you haven‘t seen each other in a long time and are dying to tell all your news, make sure that your conversation partner gets more than just a word in. Always mind your table manners (and make sure your children mind theirs as well). Swiss do not like messy manners at table; order and cleanliness are of prime importance.

Remember: Swiss are very conscious of order and cleanliness.

Have a sense of humour

The Swiss have a very black sense of humour and one liners are often delivered with a straight face. Make sure you pay „Beachtig“ (en: attention) to the subtleties and even if you do not get the joke, make an effort to laugh. Your friend will not appreciate it if you do not.

Remember: Rather chuckle a little too often than not at all.

When in Rome, do as the Romans

It is always nice to end the day with a good meal amongst friends. However, never ask your friends to join you for a a cheese fondue in summer; this Swiss speciality is eaten solely during the winter. If it is winter and you get the chance to enjoy a fondue, keep in mind that there is a special etiquette for this meal as well. If a man loses his piece of bread in the fondue, it is customary for him to buy a round of drinks. A woman‘s penance for the same mishap is to kiss all the men.

Swiss Müäsli
Swiss Müäsli

Politeness is generally very important in Switzerland and there is no better time to display your manners than at an „Apero“. This is a much loved gathering in Switzerland at the traditional cocktail hour. Do not forget to clink glasses (usually of wine or orange juice) with everyone and to look into their eyes when doing so.

A little aside:  „Müsli“ means „little mouse“ in Swiss German. If you do not want the waiter to bring you a little rodent, make sure you order a „Müäsli“.

Switzerland may be in Europe, but do not make the mistake of assuming that things are the same as in the EU. Swiss take great pride in their individuality, but are always happy to engage in political debates concerning both Switzerland and the wider world.

And yes, please tip after a meal; it is not just considered to be polite, it is expected.

Remember: Switzerland does not belong to the EU!

Did you put your foot in it?

Even if you made a minor faux pas at dinner, you can make things right again the next day by calling to say thank you for the pleasant evening. And if you are still feeling bad about your mishap, why not invite your friends for a „Kafi“ (en: coffee)? This is a popular way to meet up in Switzerland.

Remember: Invite your friends for coffee. Often.

 

The Swiss, like any other citizens in the world, have their own country-specific peculiarities. We have put together a series of articles to make it easier for you to navigate the ins and outs of living in Switzerland. If you have any other questions, feel free to drop us a line. We would love to help.

An important aspect of integrating into Switzerland is speaking Swiss German. Our course uniquely combines learning the language with finding out more about the country. Join our community and you will soon be quite the expert!

 

Vocabulary list

Schweizerdeutsch English
1 dr Schwiiz Switzerland
2 Feriä holidays / vacation
3 s Gegeteil the opposite
4 Grüezi common Swiss German greeting
5 Ässä meal (or food)
6 Beachtig attention
7 Müäsli muesli
8 Müsli A little mouse
9 Kafi Kafi

 

Etiquette in Switzerland
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