Etiquette – Switzerland

Switzerland is a country with so much beauty that it beckons a visitor to explore its many attractions.  

Whether you are visiting, doing business, or living abroad through a student exchange program, it is best to know the country’s manners & etiquette to avoid any embarrassment.  

Photo credit: queenof80slasve

Greetings 

This is an area you should try to get right, or things could get uncomfortable. The Swiss, while not the most outgoing individuals on the planet, still like their formal greetings. 

If you’re meeting someone for the first time, stretch out your hand and say grüezi (hello). If you meet a friend, then you kiss them three times: offering first your right cheek then left, then right again. The latter exchange is for women greeting women and men greeting women. The boys stick with a handshake or maybe a man hug. Remember to not actually plant a big smacker on someone’s cheeks: think air kiss instead. 

When you go into a store, say grüezi to the salespeople, and when you leave, say adieu (goodbye). People may also greet strangers with a grüezi when passing in the street, and always on hiking trails. Bitte (please) and merci or danke (thank you) are also appreciated here.  

Do not call someone by their first name 

The Swiss, being conservative, love formalities, especially when meeting and speaking with people they barely know. Learn to address locals by their last name and use titles such as Mr., Ms., Mrs. or their academic and professional titles such as Dr. or Atty., when speaking to them. Reserve using their first names for when you already know them more intimately. 

Be on Time 

Arriving late is never a good thing anywhere in the world, especially for the Swiss, because it shows them just how rude and inconsiderate you are of others’ time, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Always make it a point to come on time when meeting with people in Switzerland to avoid getting on someone’s nerves. The Swiss are known to value discipline and punctuality, something that’s to be expected in a country that makes the world’s best timepieces.

Do not sleep in 

Photo credit: trendymood

It is uncommon for the Swiss to sleep in preferring to hit the ground running as soon as they wake up, which is earlier than most people. Shops open their doors to welcome customers as early as six in the morning, while students probably have their books open by 8 am. When in Switzerland, try to do as the Swiss do and get up earlier than you usually do. Also, shops close at 7 pm and on Sundays. Oh my, I definitely would not survive in Switzerland with my sleeping habits. 🤪

Do Not Ask Personal Questions 

The Swiss aren’t big on small talk, which is why one should be careful not to be too chummy and personal when engaging in one. Avoid asking personal questions regarding politics, money matters, religion, and sex as these might be considered impolite, especially when speaking with someone you’ve only just met. Furthermore, do not share your life story with someone you just met.  

Be discreet 

The Swiss, being a conservative bunch, tend to be very private, and anything that may have been discussed, especially personal matters must be kept discreet. Avoid asking the Swiss sensitive things such as their private wealth and income.  

Do not invade someone’s personal space

Photo credit: abbygerstenberg

The Swiss value their personal space and are a bit apprehensive of strangers at first. Never attempt to hug or kiss someone who you barely know. Also, leaning too close to someone during a conversation might be too intrusive for the Swiss. Make sure to know where your boundaries are. A firm handshake is enough to make a good impression when meeting someone for the first time, so keep the physical contact to a minimum and reserve it for those who you really know personally.  

Do expect personal space invasion when you are out and about 

The Swiss have no qualms getting up in your grill on public transport, nor do they mind if they bump into you while navigating through the streets. An odd form of politeness is to play the Swiss at their own game by apologizing about the mid-street collision and continue on your way.

Stay tuned for Monday’s Part II!

Sending chillaxing weekend vibes! 💋

Feature photo credit: karthik_sharma

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13 Comments

  1. ayrgalaxy

    They’re definitely very conservative / reserved people. I love that they dont use their first names to address each other. It’s one of the things I like about Japan as well.

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