Home Living in Switzerland Government & Law A life of Swiss bureaucracy
Last update on May 12, 2020

Swiss bureaucracy and regulations can make living in Switzerland seem restrictive, but it has become an ingrained part of the Swiss way of life.

Switzerland is often called a police state, particularly by fans of microlite aircraft, snowmobiles, and jet skis. All of these are banned within Switzerland.

Beware the Swiss rubbish police

One explanation for this is the misuse of the word translated into English as police. There’s the dead pets police for disposing of dead pets. There’s the foreign police to oversee the eligibility of foreigners to work and reside in the country. Checking on the correct disposal of household rubbish are the rubbish police. One of the most horrendous crimes that one can commit is to put out one’s rubbish in a non-approved bag. The rubbish police sift through the contents of offending bags for clues to the culprit. Fines are quite steep.

Switzerland’s obsession with law enforcement

Switzerland is thick with laws and even thicker with their enforcement, and crime is low compared to international standards. This very occasionally falls flat on its face, like when it was found that there was no law to prevent a Zurich businessman from painting his own parking space outside his office.

There are times when the dogged appliance of rules seems to rule out common sense. Taking a bath before 7am or after 10pm is forbidden in most apartment dwellers’ book of rules. But since it is unthinkable that any Swiss would arrive at their office desk at dawn (as most do) without washing, showers are exempt from such rules.

The Swiss net curtain brigade

Once a Swiss starts obeying the myriad laws, he thinks all his fellow countrymen should also obey them. Unlike in the UK where cheating the system is applauded, the Swiss see the point of minor legislation and so help enforce it. Thus seemingly unenforceable statutes such as not washing cars on a Sunday or having a garden bonfire on any day of the week but Saturday, are easily policed by the net curtain brigade who have no hesitation in reporting offenders. More tax evaders are brought to book by tip-offs from the public than from the tax authorities’ own investigations.