Swiss etiquette - what not to do/do in Switzerland

Swiss etiquette - what not to do/do in Switzerland

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NASEER
NASEER
6 posts
new member
Jul 7, 2018 - 7:48 PM

Hi all,

Simply, what are actions we ( tourists and strangers) should not do while being in Switzerland? For example I know that leaving the car engine on for even a couple of minutes is not good practice due to harmfulness to the environment, Could you please advise with similar things?

Thanks

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5006 posts
expert
Jul 7, 2018 - 11:03 PM in reply to NASEER

Hi Naseer-

Thoughtful question, and much appreciated.

Many rental cars come with an option for automatic shut off at a stop. When you begin to move forward, the engine starts automatically in response to your actions.

Since most Swiss in tourist regions speak good English, this one is not necessary, but it is polite and sometimes desirable:

When you start a conversation, always use "Please,.." especially if you have a question.

Such as:

"Please, may I speak with you in English."

Slowpoke

NASEER
NASEER
6 posts
new member
Jul 7, 2018 - 11:17 PM in reply to Slowpoke

Thanks Slowpoke for your help. That’s a very good one. I searched for such matters but I need more of Swiss etiquette if somebody can add more. Thanks again 🙏

Lucas
Lucas
8846 posts
expert &
moderator
Jul 8, 2018 - 8:00 AM in reply to NASEER

Oh I hope a lot of members chime in here on their thoughts. Great topic.

I think the biggest thing is not to assume someone speaks English. :)

The Swiss love to hear a nice "Gruezi" (Grootzee) from you when walking in the woods or hiking in the mountains. You will hear it a lot.

It is an amazingly clean country. So be sure to throw out your garbage in a garbage/trash can.

Last modified on Jul 8, 2018 - 8:02 AM by Lucas
Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5006 posts
expert
Jul 8, 2018 - 9:02 AM in reply to NASEER

Hi Naseer -

<<"I searched for such matters but I need more of Swiss etiquette if somebody can add more">>

<<"Oh I hope a lot of members chime in here on their thoughts. Great topic.

I think the biggest thing is not to assume someone speaks English. :)">>

Actually, not particularly Swiss...just common courtesy.

On occasion, i have heard a frustrated tourist practically shout the command "Speak English!"

It is very rude, and guarantees that the shouter will not get very much help. Although, the Swiss are generally helpful to tourists.

Naseer- I have to compliment you for your thoughtful question. As far as I can recall, It is the first time a visitor has asked that question on the forum. It is a wonderful attitude for a traveler to have anywhere, and will be much appreciated wherever you travel.

Lucas- "grüetzi" works well in the German speaking regions. Indeed, you will be constantly be greeted with "grüetzi" when you meet someone hiking on a trail. In the French speaking regions, "bon jour" is generally better received, but less common to hear from a stranger passing on a hiking trail.

And, often, someone greeting a group of people, such as a waiter or waitress in a restaurant, will great them with "Grüetzi mittenand" ( from the German "miteinander" meaning "with one another."

Slowpoke

Last modified on Jul 8, 2018 - 9:12 AM by Slowpoke
Arno
Arno
11143 posts
expert &
moderator
Jul 8, 2018 - 1:24 PM

Indeed a good question Naseer! We've planned a page about this topic but I haven't had the opportunity to create it yet.

In Switzerland, and many if not all European countries, people working in the tourist and catering industry are considered to be equal to their customers. Politeness goes both ways and a "demanding" attitude will not work very well. They will of course serve their clients well, but don't expect extra services like hotel personnel planning your day trips. Asking front desk staff for directions, weather forecasts, etc. is no problem though.

Not being loud (in trains and tourist attractions for example), is much appreciated.

Of course this is all very generic, and there sure are loud and impolite Swiss people too, like in any other country. It depends on the traveler's home culture whether things like this are perfectly normal or considered something to be aware of.

Last modified on Jul 8, 2018 - 1:30 PM by Arno
fredch
fredch
55 posts
active member
Jul 8, 2018 - 1:52 PM

Basic rule: Taught to me by parents about 70 years ago. "Remember as a tourist, you should act as a guest in their country. A smile will always translate."

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5006 posts
expert
Jul 8, 2018 - 2:14 PM in reply to Arno

<<"In Switzerland, and many if not all European countries, people working in the tourist and catering industry are considered to be equal to their customers.">>

Arno-

A very nice way to remind travelers from those countries where there are strong class distinctions.

Slowpoke

Minnie
Minnie
32 posts
active member
Jul 8, 2018 - 10:39 PM in reply to NASEER

Hi Naseer,

You may already do this in your home country, but it is polite to say hello when you enter a shop (particularly a small shop) and goodbye when you leave. "Hi" or "hallo" is fine if you're not sure which Swiss greeting to use, and "goodbye" or "bye" also.

In the grocery stores, your groceries are not packed for you by the check-out operator (this can be daunting for Western Australians, but it's normal practice in most other countries I've visited). It helps with the flow of human traffic if you have a shopping bag with you, your payment card or money at the ready, and gather up your groceries quickly. And, as above, a smile.

In a department store, the staff are very helpful and will approach you as you browse, asking if they can help. Even if you don't understand what they've said, they will appreciate your response as, "I'm sorry, I only speak English" and then mime you are just looking or point at something you're interested in. If that staff member doesn't speak your language they will find someone who does. As others have remarked, the Swiss are generally very helpful and take their customer service role seriously.

As Lucas says, the country is clean and it is routine to wipe your feet on the doormat before entering.

Have a lovely holiday - Switzerland is a beautiful country and the Swiss are rightly proud of it.

Cheers,

Minnie

AlanPrice
AlanPrice
194 posts
active member
Jul 8, 2018 - 10:58 PM

Hi,

The best thing you can do is just be polite, smile and as already noted, if you want to ask somebody something, start by saying "Excuse me. Do you speak English"?

There is a sort of hierachy of english speakers, but don't take it for granted. Most people in the tourist industry will speak excellent English, a lot of people in the transport industry (I mean trains and busses) will speak some, hospitality workers and most young people will have at least a basic level of comprehension, but if you need to deal with the Police face to face, there seems to be no set level and I've met policemen who were completely fluent, and others who only spoke German. The further away from the major tourist centres you go, the fewer people who will speak English.

As far as greetings go, "Hallo" is universal, "Grüezi" for the German speaking areas, and if you want to try a bit of to and fro, the full German greeting goes,

"Grüezi",

"Grüezi wohl",

"Grüezi mit einander".

The Swiss are rather reserved, so don't be offended if you smile at someone and they don't smile back. They're not being rude, they're just being Swiss. If you are in an area for more than a few days and you see the same people each day, they will start to thaw out a bit.

The Swiss are also preoccupied about making noise on Sundays. This is more for residents than tourists, but in a lot of places it's illegal to make any sort of noise on a Sunday, so things like cutting the grass or even washing the car can get you in trouble with the neighbours. Again, this really doesn't apply to tourists because they usually don't hang out in quiet neighbourhoods.

Hope this helps

Alan

Lucas
Lucas
8846 posts
expert &
moderator
Jul 9, 2018 - 6:13 AM

Sprechen Sie English? is always a good first thing to ask .:) Just try to avoid pronouncing the ch like a k!

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5006 posts
expert
Jul 9, 2018 - 9:28 AM in reply to Lucas

Hi Lucas-

Swiss German dialects tend to harden the "ch" to a "kh" or a "k" especially after "o" and "a,"while Rhineland Germans tend to go the other way, almost to an "sh" before vowels such as "i." So, some variation in the pronunciation of "ch" in "Sprechen" is not unusual. However, in Berlin, you'd not want to say "sprecken." ;-)

In fact, it is less confusing to the German speaker if he or she hears "May I speak with you in English" rather than the "two language" -" Bitte, sprechen Sie English?" It may be slightly better as the single language "Bitte, sprechen Sie Englisch>' with the German pronunciation of the "E."

If it all comes at him or her in English, the automatic language setting reflex can work...and the Swiss in general will reply in the language that is spoken to them if they know it. If it comes at them in German, they'll reply in German. If it comes in English, they'll respond in English.

The common answer to "Bitte, sprechen Sie Englisch" (or English) is "wenig." which leaves the questioner dealing with German. Typically a short German/English conversation ensues before settling into English or a mix.

As a consequence, I have settled on asking in English. Then, I get - "Of course," usually with a smile, if the person is in a job that requires English. (At a ticket counter in the train station, for example). Or some other English phrase or words. Or, maybe "Deutsch" if that is what they speak.

Slowpoke

Last modified on Jul 9, 2018 - 9:54 AM by Slowpoke
Snowman
Snowman
228 posts
active member
Jul 9, 2018 - 10:50 AM in reply to NASEER

Hi Naseer,

Thanks for your decision to switch off your car engine when waiting at a red light. I (Swiss) would wish that all Swiss did the same!

I am allergic to men keeping their baseball cap on during meals (although some Swiss, unfortunately) also do that.

Otherwise, there are good advice in this thread. Just behave like you would like foreign visitors to behave in your own country.

autumnz
autumnz
79 posts
active member
Jul 9, 2018 - 12:39 PM

Question...how do you signal you are ready to pay the bill at a restaurant? If you are in a bit of a hurry to meet a train, can you mention this/ ask for the bill upon delivery of the meal?

Snowman
Snowman
228 posts
active member
Jul 9, 2018 - 12:55 PM in reply to autumnz

< can you mention this/ ask for the bill upon delivery of the meal? >

Yes, no problem. They usually don't offer this upfront, because they are always happy if you order additional items as the meal progresses (dessert, coffee, etc.). Unlike in some countries, you usually pay direectrly to the waiter/waitress.

You can ask for the bill (not the "check"!) by calling the waitress/waiter, or just raising your wallet if you don't know the local language.

Tips are included, small "rounding up" is pretty much customary, keep it under 5% so as not to spoil the market. Usually in cash, even if you pay by credit card.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5006 posts
expert
Jul 9, 2018 - 1:01 PM in reply to Snowman

Hi snowman-

I have never ben in a Swiss restaurant where leaving a tip was expected; often I do not tip.

I frequently round up to the nearest whole CHF. For an exceptional experience or special service, such as a large table, I tip.

Slowpoke

Arno
Arno
11143 posts
expert &
moderator
Jul 9, 2018 - 1:08 PM

I usually don't tip either, I'd rather save the money for a next visit :-) I appreciate the Swiss system of fair wages for the staff (as far as I know), so they don't depend on it and don't expect it. But you can tip, and it will be appreciated. I think there are also countries where it's not appreciated.

Slowpoke
Slowpoke
5006 posts
expert
Jul 9, 2018 - 1:23 PM in reply to Arno

HI Arno-

As you probably know, wait staff in restaurants in the USA depend on tips for their living. Wages are low in these jobs. And, often, skills are low, too.

Slowpoke

Arno
Arno
11143 posts
expert &
moderator
Jul 9, 2018 - 1:36 PM in reply to Slowpoke

Hi Slowpoke,

Yes I know, they'll probably chase you down the street if you don't leave a 15% tip or so :-) Well, any system is fine as long as you know about it as a foreigner. US food prices are quite affordable as I recall it, and it only makes sense to leave a tip if you know that the staff is not earning a lot. I prefer the "tips included system" though.

Lucas
Lucas
8846 posts
expert &
moderator
Jul 9, 2018 - 1:57 PM in reply to Slowpoke

Haha. Well my wife slaps my hand if I pronounce it Swiss-German rather than her "German". So I always avoid hard K sounds with the CH letters no matter what. I know I can get away with it a bit more when I'm speaking with locals in some areas of the country.

I always endeavor to speak in one language yes. ;) in regards to English/ Englisch...that is just me quickly typing here on the forum and not an indication of pronunciation.

I prefer to say Kann Ich mit Ihnen English Sprechen when I know the conversation will, at some point, go beyond my German skills. IE techincal questions or medical, official documents etc. But that is getting tricky for one-time visitors with limited German. Sprechen Sie English is perfect.

A great thread to keep going!

I love the Swiss tipping system. I wish they would raise prices in North American and do away with tipping!

Last modified on Jul 9, 2018 - 1:59 PM by Lucas

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