Home Living in Switzerland Cultural Integration Culture and social etiquette in Switzerland
Last update on June 22, 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 is made up of 26 cantons, and what is acceptable in one area may not be acceptable in another.

Meeting people 

The Swiss are known for their praiseworthy work ethics and punctuality. Being even a few minutes late for a meeting is especially rude and inconsiderate. If you are invited to a party or dinner, 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 are always supposed to be clean and neat. The Swiss are known for 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, so questions about someone’s private income or wealth are considered 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 considered rude to only use part of a hyphenated name. First names are reserved for very close friends and family.

Body language

It is considered to rude to stand too close during 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 to maintain good posture. Chewing gum, littering, or cleaning your nails in public is considered impolite.

It is considered rude to talk loudly when using mobile phones in restaurants, on public transportation or when queuing at the post office or bank.







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