Switzerland Travel Tips
The following basic rules of etiquette will assist travellers to this small European country blend in with the locals and relax on their trip without worrying about social faux pas.
Loud obnoxious behaviour is frowned upon
Don't be that loud person on public transport having loud conversations in a group or on your mobile phone. Talking loudly in public is considered rude and obnoxious.
When in a social setting, don't be a wallflower
If you are invited to a home for a dinner party or for drinks, ensure that you shake hands with every one attending and introduce yourself if you don't know them (this includes children). The same goes for when you're leaving – shake hands and farewell all with a smile.
Be on time
The Swiss aren't just known for making high quality watches – they use said watches to ensure they're on time. Punctuality is important in Switzerland and if you are running more than 5 minutes late it is considered polite to let your meeting partner know immediately with sincere apologies.
Questioning someone about their income and wealth is considered of very poor etiquette. The Swiss people value their privacy and place a high priority on not questioning other people about such personal things.
Eye contact is important
Maintaining eye contact is a sign of respect so direct eye contact is required – even when being served at a supermarket or speaking to children.
Say grüezi (Hello) and adieu (Goodbye) in German Speaking regions
Say grüezi (Hello) to staff when entering a store or when you pass fellow trekkers on hiking trails. You may even find some Swiss strangers saying grüezi (Hello) in the street. Smiling and returning the gesture is appreciated. However do recognize that German, French and Italian are widely spoken in Switzerland and Romansch is spoken in certain areas.
This indulgent dish is what Switzerland is famous for – so all foodies should follow "Fondue etiquette". Wine, schnapps or tea is to be served with fondue – if you ask for beer you may be frowned upon. When served fondue stir vigorously as soon as the pot is put on the heater to avoid the cheese burning. When you've finished, wait until the crust forms at the bottom and eat it, this is called "religieuse" and is very delicious. Also don't ask for chocolate fondue as that is not a traditional Swiss dish.
Wait for the toast before you drink
When your wine glass is filled or you've been given a beer, wait until everyone clinks their glasses and raises a toast before you start drinking.
Keep your hands, not elbows, on the table
Resting your hands on your lap during a meal is considered rude.
All food should be eaten with utensils
This includes fruit. Use a fork to cut food such as potatoes, apples and salad. However, you should use your hands to break bread.
Offer to help tidy up after a person hosts a dinner
It is customary to offer to assist the host with clearing the table and doing the dishes when you are invited to their home. Also the next day it's polite to write them a thank you note for their hospitality.
Do not feel obliged to tip
There is usually a service charge included in hotels and restaurants. However in more posh restaurants it is common to round up the bill or leave a few extra Swiss Francs as a tip for good service.
You may be scolded publically for this – the Swiss are very environmentally conscious and have strict recycling rules.
Chewing gum or chewing / cleaning your nails in public are considered impolite.
Don't point with your index finger
This is considered offensive so it's best to gesture with your whole hand.
A coffee table book about your home country is always a good idea. Avoid giving gifts that are obviously very expensive as this may be viewed as a form of bribery. Quality chocolates and flowers are always a good option, however, avoid giving chrysanthemums, white lilies, red carnations or red roses.
Use one single seat on a train
If you are caught by inspectors with your luggage taking up more space you will be charged for a fare ticket which needs to be paid on the spot.
When in doubt – always observe the locals and follow their lead
The Swiss are very forgiving of social faux pas from tourists however they really do appreciate the efforts travellers make to try and follow their basic rules of etiquette.