Switzerland is not exactly an easy place to settle in and make new friends. Foreigners and expats living in Switzerland often talk about their difficulties to socially integrate. If you haven’t grown up here and made friends in school and jobs on your way, it’s hard to “barge in”. Hard, but not impossible. Although the Swiss are a hard nut to crack, it can be achieved.
A few insights about the Swiss
In general, Swiss people are reserved. It takes them a long time to build trust and let new people into their personal circle. They prefer to approach strangers slowly, so personal questions and pushiness are an absolute no-go for them. But remember: it may take you a bit longer to find your people, but once you manage to do so, your Swiss friend will most likely be a friend for life. Because Swiss are very loyal and value friendship a big deal.
Punctuality is also very important for the Swiss. So always be on time. No matter if you are attending a business meeting or being invited to a dinner party. Swiss people are known to be precise, when it comes to appointments. If you are not, they will connect it with foreign influence.
When moving into your new apartment or house, go and present yourself to the neighbours. You can even bring some food or a present. Although these days this is only being done in smaller villages. If you live in a city like Zurich, it’ will be enough to just present yourself.
When Mr. und Mrs. Swiss go travel
You will never meet a big, loud group of Swiss people when you travel or are on vacations. Swiss are descrete in their own country and even more abroad. Mr and Mrs Swiss prefer to travel incognito, and often try to avoid their fellow countrymen. To them it is a big compliment being mistaken for a local. They study culture and customs of the country they are heading to upfront and try not to cause any attention. Once abroad they also do not like to ask that question beloved of English speakers: “Where are you from?” To insinuate that others might be foreigners in their own country is, in their eyes, an insult.
Check your attitude
First of all, ask yourself the following question: how many times, when you were back home, have you said to yourself or to your friends: “There’s probably some expats out there feeling lonely and in need for new friends; let’s go out and find them”?
Probabely not very often. So keep that in mind and check your attitude when being back in Switzerland. If you want to find friends in this country, you’re the one who has to take the first step and actually go find them. No one is going to knock on your door one day and simply ask to be your friend.
10 things you can do to find friends in Switzerland
#1 Learn the local language
Learning the local language contributes to a smooth integration in the new culture. Most important, it says you are making an effort and that you are here to stay. As a result, people will be nicer to you, even if you don’t speak it flawlessly. With our online course you will be able to speak and understand Swiss German in no time and increase your chances of making Swiss friends.
#2 Understand the culture
In order to avoid any social faux pas, you have to do your homework and understand the new culture you live in. Learn about Switzerland’s history, which you have to do anyway to receive the Swiss passport. In case you are planning on staying longer.
#3 Join a class
To find Swiss friends in Switzerland, join a sports club, an art class or any other kind of regular activity. Seeing Swiss people on a regular basis and having an a common interest, helps to break the ice. Make sure you choose something that you love doing or learning though, because it can take a while until a Swiss person trusts you enough to see you outside class.
#4 Avoid expats
It might sound harsh, but avoid hanging out with people from your own country or other expats in general. If you surround yourself with other foreigners, you will always stay in that bubble, disconnected from Swiss people. There will be no reason for you to learn the language or make the effort. Another downside of having only expat friends is that one day they are here, the next day they may be gone to another destination. So if you are planning to stay in Switzerland for a while, it might be a good idea to try to meet Swiss people
#5 Send your kids to public schools
Education in Switzerland is excellent. There is absolutely no need to send your kids to private schools. In case you are planning on staying for longer, avoid the over-priced international schools and send them to the public one. They will make friends from day one, even if they struggle with the language at the beginning. And through school you have the chance to meet lots of other parents, all Swiss.
#6 Hang out with your work mates
Work is very important to Swiss people. They take it seriously and spend many hours per day in the office. Through your job you will meet many Swiss people, so use this opportunity and try to meet your work mates outside the office. The best way to start a more personal relationship with a Swiss colleague is by inviting him or her for lunch. Over lunch you can discuss job related topics but as well, try to bond on a more personal level. If you get along and feel that the Swiss person is opening up, after a few lunches, you can propose an after work drink.
#7 Sign up for a Swiss online dating platform
In case you are single, sign up for an online dating platform. But make sure it is one mostly used by Swiss and not an international provider. This way you can find both a new partner and new friends.
#8 Learn how to ski
In the winter months you will notice that many Swiss are away on weekends. They all go skiing. The ski slopes and especially the après-ski bars are a good and entertaining way to meet the Swiss. You are also doing an outdoor activity and can enjoy one of the best ski resorts in the world.
#9 Do something good and volunteer
Switzerland is certainly one of the richest countries in the world. But we also have social problems and therefore projects that depend on the support of volunteers. Check out your local community or the websites of Swiss NGOs to find a project that suits you. Caritas, The Red Cross or Pro Senectute.
#10 Don’t give up
Even though you will have to invest a lot of time and patience in order to win a Swiss friend, don’t give up easily. Because usually there is nothing else behind the reserve than shyness. There are many Swiss who appreciate it very much if someone makes the first step. So try your luck and don’t Don’t let a no discourage you.