Living in Switzerland: 10 things you won´t find in tourist guides

Living abroad is all about day-to-day experiencing various situations. Sometimes it goes smoother, sometimes it takes time to understand tiny little things that only the locals know. During the last year of our living in Switzerland, I´ve collected more material to extend my (btw. quite successful) post Living in Switzerland: 10 things no one tells you before.  What else I´ve encountered that you probably won´t find in any tourist guide or brochures for newcomers?

1. Morning and evening greetings

If you meet someone in the morning or before the lunchtime (between 10 – 11 am), forget the obligatory “Grützi” or “Grüessech” and greet “Guten Morgen” (“Guete Morge” or fill in any dialect). On the other hand, it is customary to greet “Guten Abend” (Good Evening) plus-minus as early as at 4:30 pm.

2. Greetings in “communities” 

If your hobbies include jogging or cycling, you may have been greeted with the informal “hallo” or “salü / sali” (which comes from the French word “salut”) during your training. When the local runner “matador” greeted me so, I almost tumbled into the Emme river. Normally, this greeting is reserved for those you know well. Well, being in the community is like be a part of the family 🙂

3. What is a typical Swiss animal?

Grazing cows on green alpine meadows, or lamas in fences? Quite surprisingly you will find at least one lamas farm in almost every village (talking about our neighbor villages). Besides being bred for wool and meat, they are surprisingly used for coaching or so-called lama-trekking.

4. The Swiss are otherwise cats lovers

While running, I meet a lot of these noble animals. But watch out! They are not alley cats! They are nicely fed, with a collar and a mark.

5. In some stores, it is closed on Mondays (and sometimes on Wednesdays)

These are shops like optics, haberdashery, stationery, hairdressing, etc., (but sometimes also restaurants!) rather in smaller towns. They probably compensate the fact that they are open on Saturdays up to 3 pm (sometimes up to 5 pm).

6. In Switzerland, smoking at railway stations and bus stops is allowed

On the other hand, smoking is not allowed in restaurants. However, even in this health-damaging activity, the Swiss can´t deny the innate sense of order. You can hardly find a fag end on the ground (as we experienced in Rome).

7. A hairdresser can be found at every corner

Sometimes it seems there is at least one hairdresser in every street of the tiniest village. And new ones are still opening. I find it quite surprising considering the price level of local (not only) hairdressing services.

8. Same prices

Whether you are on a village feast or in a mountain resort, a hot dog will cost you 5 francs and beer too (exceptions, of course, can be found).

9. Scanning price tags at the cash desk is almost a social event

Scanning goods in the Swiss food chains Migros and Coop is not a race in the number of scanned items per second (as we know from Lidl or Aldi) but almost a social event. You can have a polite conversation with a shop assistant, while she sometimes puts your items very carefully in the bag. It often happens that she makes a compliment to your make-up or new haircut, and then offers your child a candy.

10. Apéro is a thing!

Talking about social events: unlike in other cultures where neighbors come to introduce themselves to new tenants (and eventually bring a small welcome present), in Switzerland, when you move to a new apartment/house, you have to introduce yourself to your neighbors. But the best thing you can do is to hold an “Apéro” – a welcome party. If you do not feel comfortable with it, just throw a card into your neighbors´ mailbox, where you can introduce you and your family.

Finally, I would like to remember one more point that you can read in the tourist guides, but it won´t do any harm to repeat it again to avoid a faux pas: in Switzerland, people don´t talk about money! It is a taboo to ask about the salary or how much did the holiday cost. It´s just a no-go!



Categories: Switzerland
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Hana Hurábová

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