Welcome to Switzerland!
Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world with Zurich and Geneva ranked as the cities with the second and third highest quality of life in the world. Switzerland comprises three main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French, and Italian, which showcase three of Europe’s most distinct cultures – beer-drinking, sausage-eating German-speaking Swiss in the northeast; wine drinking and shopping spills effortlessly French Swiss in the south-west; the cappuccino-sippers loitering in Italian-style plazas in the south-east; and the classic Swiss flugelhorns and mountain landscapes in the centre. Swiss are relatively reserved people, polite and helpful, but rather discrete with highly respected privacy. Respect their culture and etiquette, and bear in mind the following Swiss travel tips, taboo, dos and donts will make Switzerland a glorious whirlwind trip.
Switzerland Travel Taboo
Pointing your index finger to your head is considered an insulting gesture.
Switzerland Travel Donts
- Do not speak loudly in public, especially on a cell phone. Nor make big noise, or joking loudly. As a rule Swiss do not like noise and dislike others make jokes about them.
- Do not address someone by their first name until invited to do so. Use surnames and titles instead.
- Do not give expensive or extravagant gifts which can be viewed as tacky or bribery. Nor give anything sharp, such as knives or scissors, which signifies severing off the friendship. Wine, high quality chocolates, or flowers are good gifts. But avoid white chrysanthemums and white lilies which are for funerals.
- Do not drink until after the first toast given by the host. Do not ask for salt and pepper if it’s not already on the table.
- Do not feel obligated to tip. A service charge is included in restaurants and hotels.
- Do not put your hands in pockets while talking to people. Nor chew gum, litter, or clean your nails in public.
- Do not ask personal questions, such as salary, age, or religion. Swiss respects privacy highly.
- Do not eat out which can be very expensive. Making lunch your main meal of the day. The same meal in the evening doubles up.
- Do not hike unless you think you are fit or hike often. Carry your joggers or any pair of light shoes.
Switzerland Travel Dos
- Do respect traditional Swiss greeting with three kisses on the cheek, though a handshake is the norm on a first meeting.
- Do dress conservatively and neatly. A suit and tie in business for men, and a suit or dress for women.
- Do appreciate tolerance and be patient in Switzerland. Swiss are rather discrete, let them follow their own rhythm.
- Do keep both hands on the table during a meal, but keep elbows off the table. Eat everything off your plate and put your knife and fork side by side at the 5:25 position when you’re done eating.
- Do use fork to cut food such as salad and potatoes instead of a knife, and break bread with your hand, but most other food should be eaten with utensils.
- Do recognize that German, French and Italian are widely spoken in Switzerland, and Romansch is spoken in isolated pockets. More French around the west and South is Italian. Other areas are more German in style, but speak Schweiz-Deutsch (Swiss-German), a dialect that even Germans don’t understand.
- Do be punctuate for a dinner party, although 15 minutes late is acceptable. Do send flowers to your hosts either before a party or the next day, along with a thank you note.
- Do ask for your tax-free shopping cheque and reclaim the VAT if your purchase costs at least CHF. 500. Switzerland is a shopper’s paradise with so much irresistible stuff around.
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