I hope you all had a terrific weekend!
Here’s Part II, to prevent you from making a faux pas and appear like an uncivilized barbarian in Switzerland:
Don’t break eye contact when cheering
When you are about to toast, it’s customary to do the deed with every single person around the table, but you have to look them directly in the eye when you do it.
Always wait for a toast
You should wait until the host offers a toast before sipping on your drink, as it’s considered rude to skip this. If you’re sitting there parched after 30 minutes of waiting, you can always offer one up yourself.
Bring a gift to the host
In the event you are invited to someone’s home for tea, coffee, or drinks. Do not forget to bring a little something for the host, i.e., flowers or a bottle of wine.
Handshake or a kiss?
Normally, a simple handshake suffices for a first meeting (don’t forget that eye contact), but often you’ll be invited to go for either two or three kisses on the cheek, depending on where you are in the country. Always go with your right cheek first to avoid any headbutting incidents.
Do not assume everyone speaks all Switzerland’s national languages
It may be a linguistically, diverse country. Still, it’s a mistake to think all Swiss are fluent in French, German, and Italian.
While many Swiss people are multilingual, don’t expect to be universally understood if you speak French in the German part of German in the French part. Many people across Switzerland feel English is a more useful ‘second’ language than learning another Swiss national language instead.
- The Swiss take punctuality for business and social meetings very seriously and expect that you will do likewise. Call with an explanation if you will be delayed.
- Business cards in English are acceptable. Hand your business card to the receptionist upon arrival for a meeting. Give a card to each person you meet subsequently.
- Generally, English is spoken in business with foreigners. Inquire beforehand to determine if an interpreter is needed.
- The Business climate is very conservative. Meetings are generally impersonal, brisk, orderly, planned, and task-oriented.
- The Swiss tend to get right down to business after a few minutes of general discussion.
- Presentations and reports should be orderly, well-prepared, thorough, and detailed.
- The Swiss are fair bargainers, but not hagglers. Discussions are detailed, cautious, and often pessimistic. Decisions are made methodically.
- It is not acceptable to call a Swiss businessperson at home unless there is an emergency.
- Poor posture is frowned upon. Do not stretch or slouch in public.
- Do not point your index finger to your head. This is an insult.
- Body language varies from region to region in Switzerland.
- Show great respect for the elderly.
- Don’t litter (you will be scolded publicly).
- Don’t chew gum or clean your fingernails in public.
- Refrain from putting your hands in your pockets while talking with people.
- Never put your feet on a desk, chair, or table.
Tipping in restaurants
A firmly entrenched custom in many countries, tipping is not, however, necessary in Switzerland. Staff salaries are good, compared with other countries, and tips are included in the price of your meal. You can certainly leave something if you want, but don’t feel obliged. Restaurant prices are high enough, after all.
Use the word Please
Most Swiss in tourist regions speak good English and are too polite at times when they do so. When starting a conversation in English with the Swiss, always begin with the word “Please.” especially if you have a question to ask.
“Please, could you tell me where the nearest inn is?” or “Please, may I speak with you in English?” The second sentence may seem inappropriate to you but is desirable and considered good manners when talking with a local.
- Appearance should always be clean and neat. The Swiss are known for conservative and smart attire.
- Overly casual or sloppy attire is not appreciated.
- For business meetings, men should wear suits and ties; women should wear suits or dresses.
The Swiss’ conservative nature can be seen in the way they dress: neatly and presentably. When planning a trip to Switzerland, make sure you bring proper clothes because people will eye your way of dressing. Also, make sure that the clothes you pack are appropriate for the climate. Mountain and hiking clothes are perfect for spring and summer, while heavier, cold-weather garments are a must during autumn, winter, and visiting the Swiss Alps. Also, avoid dressing sloppily. It’s considered ill-bred.
Dealing with the staff at restaurants
Another thing to remember: calling out loud, raising your hand, or whistling to get a waiter’s attention is considered poor table manners by the Swiss. The proper way to do so is by making eye contact and gesturing subtly to the waiter that you need assistance with something.
Be respectful of Sundays
Sundays are special for the Swiss, with most of them spending it at home with family. Shops are usually closed on this day to give way for family time. Because of this, try to avoid making appointments or scheduling events that might interfere with the locals’ Sunday tradition. You wouldn’t want someone to intrude on your day-off now, would you?
Low down the volume of your voice
Speaking loudly in public can be considered intrusive, and is widely viewed as offensive by the Swiss. Always keep your speaking voice low to avoid bothering people around you. The conservative Swiss will definitely thank you for keeping your voice down, especially while talking on the phone in public.
The Swiss are proud and fond of their social norms, so as a visitor, it’s good to be respectful.
Did I miss anything? Please let us know in the comments below.
Sending proper happy vibes! 💋
Feature photo credit: karinaklevtsova, Pinterest