European Travel Information and Authorization System
ETIAS news

What are some social taboos in Switzerland?

Etias Visa Waiver
ETIAS Europe

How to be polite in Switzerland

Swiss people are known for their kindnesses and you should be respectful of that. No matter where you are, no matter how small the place, greet everyone with Salu, Hoi, Gruetzi, or Ciao, depending on your location. This is considered polite by the Swiss.

A handshake is the best way to meet someone new in Switzerland. While you exchange the handshake, keep eye contact with the person. It is considered rude to break eye contact. If you have met someone for more than one occasion, your greeting will be more casual. You can now kiss them three times on the cheek.

If you are speaking to someone you have never met, it is a good idea to use the family name or the formal pronoun (“Sie”) when approaching them. Continue this formal approach until they inform you otherwise.

You should greet everyone when you are in public places, such as in shops or on the streets. This is especially true in small towns or villages where everyone knows everyone. This is something that the Swiss really appreciate.

Few things to remember:

  • Never, ever, litter the streets. It’s simply a felony.
  • Don’t chew gum in public, as it’s considered rude!
  • Enjoy the silence. Swiss people don’t like loudness.
  • Respect and help the elderly.

Business etiquette

Switzerland’s business culture is more conservative and formal than many other countries. Many companies follow a strict hierarchy. Switzerland’s social etiquette rules mean that Swiss workers are reserved and polite but direct. There is a clear separation between personal and professional life.

For example, the Swiss do not consider it appropriate for your boss or manager to contact you outside business hours.

These are some things you should keep in mind:

  • Make appointments rather than just showing up without warning. This is considered almost unacceptable in Switzerland.
  • When the appointment is scheduled, arrive 5 minutes earlier. And for heaven’s sake, don’t be late! It’s a big, big no-no, especially for business purposes.
  • Look professional. Formality is a virtue in Switzerland. Wear a suit and subtle accessories.
  • Don’t ask personal questions. Keep the conversation light by talking about sport, cuisine, or even world politics, without expressing too extreme of an opinion.

Other social conventions in Switzerland

It’s socially enouraged in Switzerland to bring small gifts to someone who hosts you at their home. You can bring flowers (avoid red roses, unless you are in a romantic relationship), chocolates or wine. You should also bring small gifts for the children if your hosts have them. Avoid sharp objects like knives or scissors as it could signify cutting ties. Although it is not common to give gifts at work, you should do so after all business and negotiations have concluded.

At dinner, maintain common decency and be respectful and polite. Wait for the host to toast the first time and maintain eye contact as you toast. Wait until everyone has finished eating before you begin to eat. Throughout the meal, keep your elbows and wrists at the table. Keep the knife and fork in each hand and hold them in your left and right hands. Place the fork and knife together on the plate at the 5:25 clock.

It’s also impolite to wave at a waiter or waitress.

These are just some of the customs and social etiquette to expect from Swiss society! What do you think? As fellow British citizens, we are sure you can look forward to a beautiful experience in the Alpine country.