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Living in Switzerland

Guide byBerlitz

One of the first things you notice in Switzerland is the rich and incredible diversity. You can use 3 languages in the same sentences which is something you might have to get used to.

Are you planning to move to Switzerland? Book a Guidance Call and find out what to expect. 
 

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A few basic facts about living in Switzerland

  • Learn the local language in order to ease integration. Business might be done in English, but everyday life runs in the local language of your area.

  • Stick to the rules (laundry hours, recycling rules, etc).

  • Be open and don’t compare your new situation to what you have left behind in your home country

  • Make an effort to meet people

The three regions of Switzerland are quite different

One thing you need to know is that the German part of Switzerland is completely different mentality wise from the French part. Also, Ticino, the Italian part of Switzerland, is a world apart. And that’s great! 

If you are planning to move to the German part of Switzerland, then know that Swiss German has literally nothing to do with German.

Even if you are planning to stay here for a short period of time, use this opportunity to learn German if you don’t already know it (Swiss German is even better, but you first need to master German for that).

Start learning a Swiss language

 

What the Swiss are like

First impressions of Switzerland include its cleanliness, safety, efficient infrastructure, and high prices. Considerate behaviour that shows awareness of others and general helpfulness are held in high regard.

The Swiss are also known for their reserved, extremely organised nature and strict adherence to a set of unwritten social rules for daily life. Everyone is expected to follow these rules, which can make integration challenging.

Many newcomers stick with familiar expat groups, but those who make the effort to get to know the Swiss better are rewarded with loyal friendships in the long term.

Social courtesies in Switzerland: a practical guide

Everyday life in a Swiss neighbourhood

Swiss neighbourhoods are compact and planned around local services and infrastructure. They are generally safe, clean, and orderly places, where failure to stick to ‘the rules' may be commented on. 

As a newcomer, you are expected to make the first move and invite your neighbours over to introduce yourself. An introduction over a glass of wine and snacks is sufficient. The Swiss are reserved and generally limit their invitations to trusted circles. This is a sign of respect for your privacy and not intended to cause offence. They are usually delighted to be invited as a way of getting to know you better. Don't expect barriers to break down immediately: this will take time. Once you do get to know the Swiss better, there is great potential for lifelong friendship. 

Swiss form of greeting

Swiss people over the age of 30 generally greet each other by shaking hands on introduction, using family rather than first names, and addressing each other using the formal word for 'you' ('vous' in French or 'Sie' in German).

Neighbours are greeted by name and a polite 'bonjour' / 'guten Tag' during the day or 'bonsoir' / 'guten Abend' in the evening. This courtesy is returned and greatly contributes to your being gradually accepted. When entering an establishment a greeting is expected, as is a goodbye or 'au revoir'/ 'auf Wiedersehen', on leaving.  

Only start using the familiar form of 'you' ('tu' in French and 'Du' in German) form once invited to do so by the person you are speaking to. When a Swiss colleague feels ready for a friendly relationship on a first name basis along with use of the familiar 'tu'/ 'du' form of 'you', you may be invited to partake in a special 'tutoyer/ dutzen' ritual, usually over a drink.

After this, the use of first names and a dependable relationship will always be expected. Younger Swiss practise this less.

Common Swiss social courtesies

Bring a small gift such as flowers, chocolate or a gift for the children when invited for a meal.

Be on time (or even 5 minutes early) for appointments or cancel in time.

When offered a glass of wine, wait for the host to make a toast before drinking.

Before beginning a meal say 'bon appétit' / 'guten Appetit' ('enjoy your meal').

Call before dropping in for a visit.

On the telephone: Swiss people introduce themselves first before asking to speak to someone or explaining the reason for the call.

If a workman is at your home for a longer period, offer him something to drink or eat.

Sunday is a day of rest, and noisy activities are not appreciated.

If you're planning a party, neighbours appreciate being informed or even invited.

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