When we think of Switzerland, what first pops to mind is the amazing chocolate and wide array of cheeses. While Switzerland’s tasty trademark, alongside beautiful alpine mountains, and quality watches, are important to their culture—their lifestyle is a vast wonderland of its own.
Their habits can seem weird to the rest of the world, eccentric even. However, eccentric in the best way possible. Their daily ‘quirks’ have made them develop a set of unwritten rules that most love to follow. To an outsider, it might be hard to grasp such a thing, but people in Switzerland revolve their whole lives around these rules.
Here we have a little list that intends to explain interesting facts about the Swiss which make them Swiss.
1. Being on Time
The Swiss are nothing if not punctual. They’re probably the only people in the world that will apologize for being 2 minutes late. Being on time is not only something they like, but it is also expected of everyone and not meeting this criteria could potentially anger them. Whatever appointment they may have, being on time, or even 5 minutes early, is a must. Even trains have a strict rule of arriving within 3 minutes of their estimated time of arrival.
Being on time is their way of telling you they value yours, and by extension—value you. It’s only natural for them to expect the same from you and feel offended if you don’t reciprocate. So, if you’re thinking of moving to Switzerland, get yourself a good Swiss watch and expect to arrive everywhere on time and learn the ABC’s of punctuality.
2. Greeting Strangers and Being Polite
The Swiss, though not particularly sociable people, tend to be naturally polite people. So much so, that greeting strangers on the streets is no strange concept to them, if anything it’s almost second nature. If you find yourself in Switzerland, feel free to say “Hello” to a person passing by and watch them return it, completely unfazed. Odd, isn’t it?
Apart from street friendliness they also have a good amount of social niceties. Here are some of them:
- Introducing yourself on the phone before getting to the call explanation.
- Waiting for a toast from the host before drinking wine.
- Bringing gifts to children if invited to a meal.
- Calling before dropping for a visit.
- Saying “bon appétit” before eating a meal.
3. How Swiss People Travel
People in Switzerland are not very big on cars, and that’s a deciding factor in how they choose to travel. They’re more likely to leave their four-wheels at home (that, if they own any) and opt for public transportation instead. And with their transportation system, who wouldn’t?
The Swiss are known to have one of the most fascinating and extensive railway systems in the world. That, combined with their love of punctuality, makes it easy to get from place to place, and very fast at that.
4. Swiss Food and Meal Schedules
We all love eating, but the Swiss love to do that too, properly and on a strict schedule. When it comes down to food, their meals have a timeline. And not only their meals but their snacks are planned and have their own meal names too.
The Swiss diet tends to change from workdays to the weekend. While during the week they go for faster options, they make up for it by having glorious meals during the weekend. They even have food that, alongside being to die for, is the food you’ll only find in Switzerland.
Swiss meals that start with Z
Their food alphabet is covered in Zs, and it goes like this:
- Zmorge– this word translates to ‘in the morning’ and it means breakfast. During weekdays, this meal is eaten from 6:30 am to 7:30 am, and on weekends it’s usually eaten around 9 am.
- Znüni– this word literally means “at nine” and refers to a snack eaten around 9 am to keep levels of productivity up.
- Zmittag– this is a meal (usually a hot one) eaten at midday, which to the rest of the world means lunch, is eaten anywhere from 12 pm to 1 pm.
- Zvieri– this is another snack time that, again, literally translates to “at four”. As you probably guessed by now, this is a light snack eaten somewhere around 4 pm.
- Znacht– this is a Swiss dinner that usually consists of cold food. It’s to be enjoyed on a balcony or a patio around 6 pm to 7 pm.
5. Resting and Being Active
In Switzerland, their time to get things done and time to enjoy themselves both have very special spots in their life. During weekdays, they milk their productivity as much as they can. On weekends, however, if they’re not found skiing on the beautiful alpine mountains or swimming in the nearby lakes, they’re definitely at home munching on their late (but scheduled) and luxurious zmorges. Their healthy habit of balancing work and rest has a lot to do with the fact that they’re surrounded by nature and keep in tune with it.
Their nature is rich and has a lot on the table—from high mountains for skiing, hiking, and cycling to swimming and sunbathing around lakes that promise nothing but fun. With nature as blooming as theirs, no wonder they’re so attracted to the outside and tend to be more outdoorsy people. This is especially true on Sundays; their official leisure day.
Make no mistake though; their Sunday is not your typical Sunday. While most of the world hangs out around malls for fun, the Swiss see shopping as a chore, hence the closed shops on Sundays. You can do practically anything else, except for shopping. From sports to eating out and visiting museums, you name it. This, to them, is a great way of recharging their batteries for a busy and hard-working week.
6. Swiss People Are Mostly Multilingual
When you’re home to four native languages, multilingualism hardly comes as a surprise, if anything it is to be expected. But the deep appreciation that this nation has for their languages and their development is another story. Four languages didn’t just stumble in Switzerland and become official, this was their successful attempt at unifying nations and giving them cultural freedom. The four official languages of Switzerland are French, German, Italian, and Romansch.
Swiss people and their government pride themselves on being high up the cultural diversity ladder and that can be seen in their schools. Every canton has the freedom to select their own language of instruction and choose a secondary one to accompany it throughout the school years. Lately, there’s a trend of English catching up in Switzerland, and that’s either a threat to their multilingualism or an opportunity to expand it further. However, as for now, the Swiss have a lot of linguistic capabilities to take pride in and continue to be a step ahead from most of the world in that department.
7. Organizing & Designing
One look around Switzerland is enough to make you see just how much into design and organization they are, and how great things can look when these two go hand in hand. From their homes, roads, and walls to their clothes and watches—they offer an insider look to this very specific form of self-expression they hold.
This not only comes from their love of design but their natural ability to organize it all too. As mentioned before, Swiss people love their rules, and what good are rules if they’re scattered around and incomprehensive? This is exactly when organizing gets all too important, and allows them to have a clear image of their ideas and what’s going on in their lives.
From architecture to graphic design, the Swiss have a distinct way of going about it. They even had a movement in the ’50s called Swiss Design (which to this day is a widely used term in graphic design), with a style called International Typographic Style. This style stated that the designer’s subjectivity be left out of the picture and that would ultimately make the content a centerpiece. This minimalistic and modern approach continues to be cherished and applauded in today’s design world.
With their history of design and love of organization, no wonder their lives aren’t hectic and every corner looks picturesque.
8. Being a Private Person
What you won’t ever hear coming out of a Swiss person’s mouth is bragging, not even to their friends. Don’t get this wrong, they love being successful and having nice things as much as the next person, they just don’t necessarily enjoy being “show-offy”.
Another thing they’re not into is throwing the concept of privacy out the window as soon as they meet a new person, and sharing life stories with them. Being nice and polite might be the trademark of their personality, but so is being reserved and keeping to themselves. The road to befriending them might be bumpier than you’d think and may pose more than a few obstacles. This is rooted in the great value they put in friendship and how they nurture it when it’s established. And something of that importance is not just handed out to anyone
Another side of their privacy is valuing others’ privacy just as much. Questions about your family, job, hopes, and dreams aren’t something they’d go for upon meeting you, and they expect nothing less in return. Besides not pestering the average person, Swiss people can’t be seen fawning over celebrities either. With their views on privacy and discretion, you could sit them next to Beyoncé and they’d hold on to a nonchalant expression.
These were the few of many things that differ life in Switzerland from anywhere else in the world and where their odd habits are rooted. As for everyone, it depends on the actual person how ‘Swissy’ they are, but there are some things that are the backbone of this nation, and no matter who it is, they’re sticking to it. So, if you’re moving to Switzerland, you’re gonna have a great time discovering all the little quirks in their lifestyle.