As an expat, understanding the local dating culture in your new home country is important for your love life. After all, different cultures around the world have a different appreciation of the qualities that make someone a desirable partner. Furthermore, what might be considered romantic, attractive, or polite in your culture might not be well received in another.
And while there are no set rules when it comes to dating in Switzerland, men and women still have their own cultural traits which are useful to know as an expat. With this in mind, this guide explains some basic etiquette about dating in Switzerland and includes the following information:
- An overview of dating in Switzerland
- How to meet people in Switzerland
- Dating etiquette in Switzerland
- Dating behavior in Switzerland
- Moving into a relationship
- The role of the family in dating
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An overview of dating in Switzerland
While the Swiss might not be known as the most romantic nation, they certainly take matters of the heart very seriously. Unlike some other countries, Swiss men and women can be rather reserved and conservative; they prefer to take their time to get to know someone properly before they completely open up. However, once they do commit to a relationship, they are usually in it for the long haul; which is good news if you are looking for something serious.
That said, with a declining marriage rate, and a gradual shift away from traditional ways of living, getting hitched might not necessarily be on the cards in your future. After all, the Swiss like to do things their own way, which means they don’t feel the need to cave into societal pressure.
You certainly won’t be living in each others’ pockets once you officially become a couple, either. This is because personal space plays a big part in Swiss relationships; which is good news if you cherish your independence. You are also unlikely to feel any pressure to move things forward or settle down anytime soon, as Swiss men and women tend to be fairly laid-back and comfortable with taking things at a steady and natural pace.
How to meet people in Switzerland
Just like in other Western countries, there are several traditional ways to meet people in Switzerland, such as going to bars and clubs and through social circles. However, these can vary depending on where you live.
Local clubs and events
For instance, it is typically easier for expats to meet locals and other foreigners in larger cities such as Zurich and Geneva where English is more widely spoken and more events take place. Joining local clubs and attending group events is a great way to interact with others and build real connections.
Furthermore, some say that the Swiss are open to dating foreigners, relying on the ‘exotic’ factor. In fact, figures from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office show that 36% of all marriages in 2019 were between a Swiss and a foreigner; so there’s always hope!
Dating apps and websites
Like in most other countries, online dating is becoming increasingly popular in Switzerland; particularly among those living in larger cities with wider expat communities. However, while online dating is present, it’s perhaps not as widely talked about as in some other countries and not necessarily considered a serious way to form relationships.
This is somewhat due to the fact that Swiss men and women tend to be more reserved than other cultures, and therefore less willing to speak and connect with strangers online, even if you have an eye-catching online dating profile. That said, there is a myriad of dating apps and sites that are available in English; including Love Scout 24, Meetic.ch, Parship.ch, and of course, Tinder.
Meeting through friends
Despite the various opportunities to meet potential partners, meeting through friends is still prevalent in the Swiss dating scene. Friendships, in particular, play an important role, as many Swiss men and women feel more comfortable starting small and ‘seeing where things go’. That said, like elsewhere, friendships are formed from birth, and breaking into the Swiss circle as an expat can be a challenge.
Dating etiquette in Switzerland
When it comes to dating etiquette, the Swiss are somewhat more conservative than their European neighbors, which is useful to know as an expat. Here are some key things to bear in mind.
Making the first move
In Switzerland, women generally expect men to make the first move, however, Swiss men aren’t known for being very forthcoming when it comes to asking women out. In fact, if you search any dating forums in Switzerland, you will likely to find a slew of women moaning that men don’t approach them. Some sources claim that this is not down to laziness or arrogance, however, but rather the result of men being rejected so much by Swiss women.
Indeed, some expats report that Swiss women can come across as unapproachable and reserved. Therefore, if no one makes the first move, it may well turn into a staring contest before anyone strikes up the nerve to start a conversation or openly admit a mutual attraction. But once a man does pluck up the courage, more often than not, it’s well worth the wait. After all, he will likely turn up fifteen minutes early to a date, looking like a fine gentleman, and acting like one too.
A typical dating scenario in Switzerland
Because of the conservative nature of Swiss men and women, people are generally much more comfortable going for a walk or doing group activities before landing themself on an official date. The Swiss are known for their outdoor lifestyle, so you can expect plenty of outdoor activities while you’re getting to know them. After this, you can expect dates to involve the usual scenarios such as going to a restaurant or bar, meeting up for a coffee, or cooking a typical Swiss meal together.
Dating behavior in Switzerland
While it might be unfair to stereotype an entire nation, there are certain behavioral traits that you are likely to come across when dating in Switzerland.
What to wear
What you might wear on a date, of course, depends on where you are going. However, because appearances play less of an important role in Switzerland than in some other countries, it isn’t uncommon for men and women to dress casually for dates. In fact, women will often wear jeans and no make-up. That said, both sexes will always look neat and tidy, so you might not want to rock up wearing scruffy shoes and slashed denim.
Punctuality and time-keeping
An important thing to know is that punctuality is vital in Switzerland. In fact, being late to a date is a big turn-off for Swiss men and women, so make sure to arrive on time. It is even common for the Swiss to turn up 15 minutes early to social gatherings. Therefore, if you are getting picked up, make sure you are ready in advance because you can expect your date to arrive on your doorstep early.
Generally speaking, the Swiss tend to keep things fairly formal when it comes to body language. For instance, a Swiss man will usually shake a woman’s hand when meeting her for the first time. And because the Swiss like to have their own personal space, they aren’t likely to get touchy-feely during dates. Therefore, don’t expect to see any public displays of affection or sneaky cuddles among couples when out and about.
Flirting and compliments
Interestingly, many dating forums bemoan the lack of flirting from Swiss men, who in return report that it’s partly the result of being rejected by so many Swiss women. Similarly, men in Switzerland aren’t usually known to compliment or praise someone unless it’s by accident. On the flip side, however, they won’t criticize or complain.
Generally speaking, the Swiss are not known for being avid conversationalists with people they have just met. They tend to be quiet and discreet, which means it’s better not to spill your most intimate stories on the first encounter. Nor is it a good idea to ask probing questions about their personal life or family. This shouldn’t be taken as a sign of disinterest, though; instead, try to accept that it is just a part of Swiss culture. Remember, they like to take their time to get to know people before they open up.
Paying the check
As Swiss women are becoming more career-driven, sharing costs on a date is not uncommon; even though Swiss men remain fairly traditional and may insist on paying the check. In Switzerland, splitting the check is not seen as rejecting chivalry, but rather as a sign of respect and equality between couples. This is particularly the case in long-term relationships where both partners prefer to go 50/50.
Chivalry and manners
The Swiss are known for being proper and courteous. Furthermore, they are commonly thought of as perfectionists, which can extend to their dating lives, too. After all, Switzerland is known for being a country of high standards, and men and women are used to upholding them. Therefore, they typically expect the same in a partner. With this in mind, appearing slack, disorganized, or non-committed in your work or home life will not impress your date. Some expats may even feel that the Swiss are too demanding in their expectations.
Moving into a relationship
Swiss men and women generally like to take things slow and let relationships progress naturally. As a result, there are no benchmarks for when to get intimate, meet their family, get married, and so on. That said, there are certain unspoken rules and growing trends that are useful to know as an expat dating in the country.
While dating a few people at the same time is common in many countries, it is not customary in Switzerland. People prefer to keep dates casual and meet for lunch or dinner; avoiding intimacy until they are sure they want a relationship. And because people are quite straight-talking, they will usually tell their partners if they are seeing other people too. Similarly, when they decide they want to build a relationship with someone, they will make it known. With this in mind, getting intimate usually means you are in a committed relationship, although this isn’t always the case.
Even when a relationship becomes serious, Swiss men and women value having their personal space and independence. As a result, they expect to have a blend of commitment and independence, even early on. In fact, weeks might pass between dates, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t interested, it’s just the culture.
Despite being a conservative nation, the idea of getting married is losing its appeal in Switzerland. In fact, the number of marriages has been steadily declining over the years. According to figures from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, 38,200 couples tied the knot in 2019; a decrease of 6.2% compared to 2018. This trend is occurring across all types of marriages including those between Swiss, foreign, and Swiss and non-Swiss couples.
Civil partnerships between same-sex couples, who don’t have the right to marry, are also on the decline in Switzerland. Around 650 same-sex couples entered one in 2019; a drop of 7.9% since 2018. On the flip side, figures show that there were 16,611 divorces in 2019, bringing Switzerland’s divorce rate to around 40%. Interestingly, the majority of divorces appear to be among foreign couples; for whom the number of divorces rose by a staggering 23.4% between 2017 and 2018.
The role of the family in dating
Switzerland can be very progressive in terms of its attitudes towards having and raising children. However, once couples have established a family, men and women are no longer on an equal playing field when it comes to their roles in the home.
Having children in Switzerland
Interestingly, marriage is not seen as a prerequisite for having children in Switzerland. In fact, according to official data, out of all newborns in 2018, a quarter were born to parents who were unmarried. Again, this is largely due to the fact that the Swiss don’t feel the need to conform to traditions.
The average age of a mother giving birth for the first time is also continuing to rise and now stands at 30.9 years. On average, women choose to have 1.47 children, so families remain fairly small.
Gender roles in the family home
Switzerland has strong patriarchal roots, which means that tradition places men as the main providers of the household; while women are responsible for taking care of the children and home. That said, Swiss women have gained a certain degree of emancipation since the 1970s; when most women didn’t have a job and if they did they only worked part-time. Back then, women made up no more than a third of the workforce, however, today, this figure is 46%.
Women in Switzerland tend to continue working after they become mothers, but usually on a part-time basis. And while they are getting more involved in business life, the banking and finance industries continue to be dominated by men. Women also earn less money per year than men. This might be a little hard to swallow as a female expat coming from a more progressive country.