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Life in the Swiss Alps: Swiss table manners matter

9th October 2012, Comments7 comments

Life in the Swiss Alps: Swiss table manners matter
You may have discovered WHAT you like eating here, but do you know HOW to eat in Switzerland?

The Swiss are very manners conscious. Even in schools, children are required to greet their teachers with a handshake and eye contact. When my children's friends come over, I am always pleasantly surprised by their good table manners and their use of please (bitte) and thank you (danke). Shortly before leaving, a Swiss child will come over to me, stick out a hand and thank me for the visit.

Here are some Swiss table manners:

  1. Be on time.
  2. Always wait for everybody to be served before beginning to eat.
  3. All meals are usually started with the words "bon appetit" or "guten Appetit."
  4. If wine is served, wait until the host begins the toast.
  5. When toasting, chink your glass with everybody at the table and look each person in the eyes before drinking.
  6. Keep your wrists on the table, but never your elbows. Do not place your hands in your lap.
  7. Remember to always say please and thank you.
  8. French bread is always torn rather than cut with a knife.
  9. Lift your forearm from the table while moving the fork to your mouth.
  10. Use your left hand for the fork and the right for your knife and gently push food on your fork.
  11. If you are served cheese as a wheel, it should be cut from the centre into slices (as you would slice a pie).
  12. When finished, put your knife and fork parallel to one another on your place as if they were hands on a clock indicating 5:25. If you don't do this, your host will serve you more food.
  13. Finish everything you take on your plate. The Swiss do not appreciate waste.

These manners apply to children as young as two.

Additional children rules: make sure children wash their hands before meals. Children generally must wait to leave the table until everyone is finished.

with permission of
Life in the Swiss Alps.

Daughter of a Swiss mountain guide and American photographer, Diana Oehrli grew up in Switzerland, the South of France and in New England. In 2002, she moved to Switzerland and fell in love with mountain life. With her two children, she now lives in a 300-year old farmhouse above the villages of Gstaad and Saanen, where she is working on a novel and on her blog lifeintheswissalps.com.

7 comments on this article Add a comment

  • 11th October 2012, 15:38:37 Jestyn posted:
    "En guete", not "Guten Appetit", at least where we live, in Kanton Zürich.
  • 11th October 2012, 16:27:33 Maarten posted:
    Except for the cheese slicing, these etiquettes apply for The Netherlands as well
  • 11th October 2012, 20:55:20 Pénélope posted:
    I'm French, and I can say we have the same manners, maybe it's european...
  • 11th October 2012, 23:16:07 Ross posted:
    It may be surprising to come from an Australian, but almost all of these table manners were (and hopefully still are) by standard taught in most households growing up. Not so many cheese wheels here though.
  • 12th October 2012, 06:12:45 Kathleen posted:
    I agrée with all of these! We lived in Lausanne for eight years, my son was ten when we left ch to move to th US. My husband is of British heritage and these customs also were part of his upbringing. These rules are still followed in our home even though our now 16 year old son finds them "formal". I like them and think they do set you apart in a good way.
  • 15th October 2012, 02:22:47 Z~ posted:
    Almost the same as Hungarian table manners! The part that I like is 'it applies to children from 2'. that's really nice o know - not just hungarians are that "army like" with the kids. It helps them understand that the world has rules which you'll have to obey. nice one!
  • 25th July 2013, 11:13:42 Jay posted:
    These look like common, basic table manners, not particularly Swiss table manners... Being on time, saying "please" and "thank you" is a Swiss thing ??? I thought its common courtesy. [Edited by moderator]

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