Home Living in Switzerland Cultural Integration Culture and social etiquette in Switzerland
Last update on July 10, 2020

Get started with this short primer on social etiquette in Switzerland.

The Swiss appreciate honesty and tolerance. They are proud of their neutrality and promotion of worldwide peace. In order to respect the things most important to them, you should learn about culture and social etiquette in Switzerland. Being aware of what the Swiss consider to be polite behavior will help you feel more comfortable. Switzerland has 26 cantons; what is acceptable in one area may not be in another.

Meeting people 

The Swiss have praiseworthy work ethics and punctuality. Being even a few minutes late for a meeting is especially rude and inconsiderate. If you go to a party or dinner in Switzerland, social etiquette dictates it is acceptable to be 15 minutes late. It is normal to give flowers to the hostess or a small gift – such as chocolate, books, wine, or candy. Handshakes should be firm with eye contact. You must always be clean and neat. The Swiss often wear conservative and neat attire. For business meetings, men should wear suits and ties, and women should wear suits or dresses. The Swiss people place a high priority on their privacy and value it greatly; questions about someone’s private income or wealth are very rude.

How to greet someone

Academic and professional titles are used frequently. Address the Swiss by title, like ‘Dr’, if you happen to know their title. If not, use ‘Mr’, ‘Mrs’, or ‘Miss’ if you are speaking English. Different languages are spoken in different regions of Switzerland. Hyphenated surnames are pronounced using both words; it is rude to only use part of a hyphenated name. First names are only for very close friends and family.

Body language

Social etiquette in Switzerland dictates that it’s rude to stand too close during a conversation. You should stand at least an arm’s length from conversation partners. For friends and families, it is normal to touch when they are speaking. In order to make a good impression, you should maintain good posture. Chewing gum, littering, or cleaning your nails in public are also impolite.

It is rude to talk loudly when using mobile phones in restaurants, on public transportation, or when queuing.







Photo credits:
Hostess gift, Flickr/Elle-Epp; Watch, Flickr/J. Mark Bertrand; Mobile phone, Flickr/Simon Blackley