Some people refer to Switzerland as a “small village,” where most people are friendly, and they frequently greet each other. Many things define Switzerland as a country, from its traditional food, picturesque lakes, and many mountains to its people.
So, what are Swiss people like, and what are some of their characteristics?
If there is something that the Swiss take quite seriously is punctuality. For Swiss people, a punctual person is considerate, and with their punctuality, they show respect for the other person. Apart from Switzerland’s people, its trains are the epitome of punctuality; they’re always on time.
Let’s not forget that the Swiss dominate watchmaking and that the term “Swiss made” is often used for the world’s most reliable and well-crafted products. The acceptable amount of time to be late is no more than 3-5 minutes. If you can’t be on time, it is expected of you to notify the person you’re supposed to be meeting.
Now, even though punctuality is a good thing, it has its drawbacks. With the Swiss being always punctual, coffee shops at coffee breaks tend to be overcrowded.
Politeness and Friendliness
The Swiss give the impression of people who live in the same village when you see them greet their neighbors every time they see them. One typical Swiss characteristic is that they consider greeting people they meet in public spaces polite. However, they respect discretion and privacy, and strangers are not usually expected to talk to each other.
However, when it comes to friendliness, the same rules do not apply. They might be hesitant to make friends with foreigners at first, although once you break down the friendship barrier, they are the warmest people you will meet.
Homelife and Parenting
An interesting thing about home life in Switzerland is that many Swiss people take off their shoes before entering their houses. Therefore, if you’re visiting a Swiss friend, make sure to ask them if you should take your shoes off. Keep in mind that this is not a formality—sometimes, the answer to that question will be yes. But, don’t worry, most probably your friend will offer you a pair of slippers.
Another part of their life at home is Swiss parenting, and it is not very unusual or different from other countries in Europe. What is distinctive is that Swiss parents are hesitant to hand their children to childcare providers. Mothers of young children don’t usually work full-time, and something prevalent is grandparent care.
Moreover, unlike in many other countries, Swiss parents are encouraged to let their kids go to school by themselves. Children often spend their time outdoors, be it in suburban or rural areas.
Money and Tipping
As most people know, discussing sex, religion, or politics with people you don’t know well is not advisable. In a country such as Switzerland, where there is no wage transparency, a subject that shouldn’t be brought up is money. Therefore, if you wish to be invited back to your Swiss friend’s house, avoid asking them about their salary.
As far as tipping in Switzerland goes, it’s a little different than in the US. You don’t necessarily have to tip the waiter who served you all night, the taxi driver, or the hairdresser in Switzerland. The Swiss usually round up the amount of money they’re paying for a coffee or a drive.
Environment and Activities
As you may know, Switzerland is home to some of the cities with the highest quality of life. It’s only natural that Swiss people like their country clean, and they try to keep it so. Throwing garbage in the streets or nature has zero-tolerance for them. There are garbage cans in every corner; it would be wise to use them. In addition, they also try to use public transport and encourage their kids to either walk or bike to school to keep the air cleaner.
Their environmental friendliness comes from the love of nature they have. It is easy to see why they care so much for protecting nature, considering they relish in many outdoor activities. From the alpine mountains to lakes and rivers, the Swiss try to take care of their rich landscapes and enjoy recreational activities.
Invitations and Table Culture
If you’re planning to have a party in Switzerland, it is expected of you to inform your neighbor. If you’re planning to invite someone over, you should do it beforehand and not at the last minute.
The same applies if you’re being invited, the Swiss expect you to be on time and return the favor. Meaning, if you’ve attended a fancy dinner, make sure to invite the hosts at one of your own, or you risk losing contact with your Swiss friends.
When it comes to table culture, the Swiss have their own set of rules. It’s important to know that when you make a toast in Switzerland, you’re supposed to look in each other’s eyes when saying cheers. Therefore, not maintaining eye contact is perceived as very impolite. As a sign of respect, eye contact should be maintained even if you’re speaking to a child. On that note, make sure not to toast someone over the cross.
Art and Culture
Swiss people have a deep appreciation of art and history, which can be seen by the number of museums. Whether it’s art galleries, opera houses, art galleries, or museums—they enjoy making and displaying art.
Not only do they enjoy it, but they also take pride in it. Apart from visual arts, they are known for great story-tellers like Herman Hesse, and their traditional music is rich. They also have great architecture and design to show off, which goes to show much art is apparent in everyday Swiss life.
Animals and Pets
If you search Switzerland, you will likely see many pictures of cows with bells. This should serve as an indicator of how Swiss people feel towards animals.
The Swiss have strong laws and regulations regarding animal protection, and they don’t tolerate any kind of cruelty. One of these laws is that it is illegal to keep “social” animals—fish, ferrets, mouses, parrots, guinea pigs, pigs, and others—unless they’re a pair. The basic principle is that no one should subject animals to pain, harm, suffering, or fear.
Many unique Swiss characteristics differentiate them from other people around the world. However, in some ways, they are the same as other cultures. Although these characteristics are typically Swiss, they can always change from person to person. Not every Swiss person you meet will abide by these rules, but it’s good to keep them in mind.
Very Educational and informative.Thank you
That’s a really useful information. It helps me. THANK YOU
To be honest some of these informations are not even true, swiss people (especially the elder ones) are pretty rude, you cannot ask your swiss neighbor if you can park on their parking lot cause they’ll never allow that, sometimes when you meet them outside they greet you and sometimes they pretend to not even know you
Thank you.. this is very helpful! I am part Swiss, and I really want to learn more about my background. This article really came in handy. 🙂
they’re not friendly mostly
The saying hi every time you meet someone is right but so fake and emotionless.
They’re racist and homophobic. specially in the villages
I lived over in Basel, and around Zurich for a couple of years, and agree, the Swiss are the warmest people I’ve ever known. The best thing is that those who speak English, or, deal in business and banking they’d go out of their way to help a stranger, or, visitor. It’s more than just ‘The land of Heidi’ it’s almost 800 years of tradition, and hospitality that makes it great.
Very helpful. Many thanks.
“What is distinctive is that Swiss parents are hesitant to hand their children to childcare providers. Mothers of young children don’t usually work full-time, and something prevalent is grandparent care.”
– this is completely misleading and in my view incorrect. Swiss mothers often do not work / work part time because 1) the cost of child care is so high that financially it is better to for a parent to stay at home, 2) swiss work place is man-dominated and there are fewer opportunities for women, 3) the traditional system implies that a good mother needs to take care of her children, not her career, so mothers simply pressed by societal judgment to remain at home.
don’t worry about those “rules” &just feel free to behave as you wish. The guest is usually king and can do however he pleases. This is at least my experience from my business trips to Sweden.