Do's and Don'ts in Switzerland

Swiss Etiquette Tips

Flying to Switzerland? The Swiss appreciate honesty and tolerance. In order to respect the things most important to them, you should learn about Switzerland's culture and etiquette. Below is a list of do’s and don’ts for you to keep in mind on your trip to Switzerland.

1. Dress Attire

  1. DO dress conservatively and neatly.
  2. DO wear a suit and tie to a business meeting if you are a man or a suit or dress if you are a woman.

2. Table Manners

  1. DON'T drink until after the first toast. The first toast is always given by the host.
  2. DON'T rest your hands in your lap during a meal. Keep your hands on the table, but keep your elbows off the table!
  3. DO use your fork to cut food such as salad and potatoes instead of a knife.
  4. DO break bread with your hand, but most other food should be eaten with utensils.
  5. DON'T ask for salt and pepper if it's not already on the table.
  6. DON'T smoke while eating.
  7. DO eat everything off your plate and sample a little bit of everything, especially when dining at someone's home.
  8. DO put your knife and fork side by side at the 5:25 position when you're done eating to indicate that you are finished.

3. Tipping

  1. DON'T feel obligated to tip. A service charge is included in restaurants and hotels. However, in a more expensive restaurant, it is customary to round the bill up or leave a few extra Swiss Francs.
  2. DO give a tour guide a small gift as opposed to a tip.

4. Gift Giving and Accepting Gifts

  1. DON'T give anything sharp as a gift, such as knives or scissors. This signifies severing off the friendship.
  2. DO give gifts such as books, candy, chocolate, pastries, wine, or whiskey.
  3. DON'T give large or expensive gifts. It can be seen as tacky or even as a form of bribery.
  4. DON'T give red roses or carnations, as they signify romantic intentions. White chrysanthemums and white lilies should be avoided too, because they're for funerals. Flowers should always be given in odd numbers.

5. Body Gestures

  1. DO maintain good posture.
  2. DON'T put your hands in your pockets while talking to people.
  3. DON'T chew gum, litter, or clean your nails in public.
  4. DON'T point your index finger to your head. It's considered an insulting gesture.

6. Greetings

  1. DO shake hands upon meeting someone. Shake hands with all who are present, including children.
  2. DON'T address someone by their first name until invited to do so. Use surnames and titles instead.

7. Language Etiquette

  1. DO recognize that Switzerland has four official languages: German, Italian, French, and Romansch. Romansch is the least commonly spoken language in Switzerland.

8. Visitors Etiquette

  1. DON'T ask your hosts for a tour of their home.
  2. DON'T leave a party later than midnight.
  3. DON'T put your feet up on the furniture.
  4. DON'T be more than 30 minutes late to a dinner party, although showing up 15 minutes late is acceptable.

9. Business Meetings

  1. DO be on time and call with an explanation if you are running late.
  2. DO give a business card to everyone you meet.
  3. DO be conservative in business environments. There is not much small talk and meetings tend to be very orderly.
  4. DO be prepared to give a gift in case you are offered one, although gifts are not usually exchanged at business meetings.
  5. DON'T use high pressure sales tactics.
  6. DON'T call a businessperson at their home unless it's an emergency.

10. Socializing and Conversation

  1. DO be polite. You will find that when talking to a waiter or a store employee, the Swiss will greet you with a “hello” or “excuse me”, and say “please” and “thank you” a lot. It may seem overly formal, but not speaking this way can be viewed as rude.
  2. DON'T ask personal questions, such as questions about salary, age, or religion.
  3. DON'T speak loudly in public, especially on a cell phone.

The Swiss are very proud of their country's heritage, history, and culture. Because of this, you must remember to respect Switzerland and its people by following their etiquette. Have a happy trip to Switzerland!

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