Traveling Do’s and Don’ts When in Switzerland

Traveling to a new country is always a new adventure. You get to try out new food, see new places, but most importantly, experience new cultures. Since cultures vary from one country to the next, it’s essential to research etiquette and customs to avoid insulting the locals. As an expat, these tips are something I learned myself, too, when I first arrived. So, before you get on that plane and head there, here are some important traveling do’s and don’ts you should take note of!

Swiss people never pass up the opportunity to enjoy a warm day. (Source: own photograph)

In this guide:

Traveling Do’s:

Be on time

There’s nothing Swiss people dislike more than tardiness. When traveling to Switzerland and happen to be meeting some locals, be on time. If you know you’re going to be late, you have to text/call them to let them know beforehand. However, they’ll probably only excuse tardiness up to 30 minutes max, so make sure you’re on time or five minutes late at most. When you’re taking public transport, every minute counts! When the train says it’s leaving at 8:00 a.m., it will leave at 8:00 a.m.

Try Swiss dishes

Since you’re in Switzerland, you might as well try authentic Swiss dishes! Some of these dishes are:

Raclette: a meal that involves melting raclette cheese and scraping it onto bread or potatoes. It is sometimes paired with cornichons and cold cuts on the side.

Cheese Fondue: a Swiss national dish, its key ingredient is cheese (with alcohol!) melted in a pot and paired with bread or potatoes

Rösti: a kind of potato cake that can either be served as a side dish or main dish, wherein the potatoes are peeled and grated then fried in butter to form a round cake.

Berner Platte: a traditional meat dish of the Bernese region that usually consists of sauerkraut, potatoes, sausage, smoked pork, sausage, and mustard

This is what your table would look like if you were to have raclette at home.

Be polite

Although reserved, Swiss people are very polite. When you walk into a shop, greet the shopkeepers with a sweet “Gruezi!” (Hello!) Before you leave, don’t forget to say, “Schönen Tag!” (Have a great day!) Also, when walking past someone, greet them, too. Finally, if you hear someone sneeze, say, “Gesundheit!” (Bless you!)

Look them in the eyes!

When making a toast with someone, say, “Prost!” and look them in the eyes. Some say the reason for this is so you don’t have a horrible sex life for the next seven years. But, honestly, I’m pretty sure it’s because it’s rude to avoid eye contact. Anyway, it doesn’t hurt to try, am I right?

Check the weather

Coming from a tropical country, I only used to check the weather based on whether there were dark clouds in the sky. In Switzerland, you must check the weather, especially if you’re going to the mountains. The temperature up there is most often much colder, so it’s important to dress accordingly and bring the right things.

Have fun!

Finally, and most importantly, have fun! As long as you’re respectful of Swiss etiquette, you don’t need to worry about insulting the locals. Traveling is a privilege not everyone gets to have, so make the most out of this wonderful experience!

Traveling Don’ts:

Be loud

Swiss people love their peace and quiet, especially on a Sunday! If you’re staying at an Airbnb, try not to be loud. Locals will not hesitate to bang on your door or call the cops if you’re being too loud. Also, Sundays in Switzerland are for resting. This means no loud vacuums and wild parties! Oh, and most shops don’t open on Sundays, too, so you should buy groceries in advance. Lastly, try to keep your voice low during phone calls made while taking public transport, and avoid playing loud music.

Ask personal questions

Swiss people are reserved. As much as possible, please don’t ask them their age, salary, and religion. Of course, they’re pretty friendly and will help you out when needed but best to avoid getting too personal with the questions. But then again, who would be comfortable telling a stranger about how much they earn and how old they are?

Buy bottled water (Seriously!)

Okay, hear me out! Even bottled water is quite pricey, so save your money, and bring an empty water bottle instead. Switzerland has tons of water fountains with potable water. In fact, Zürich alone has over 1,200 water fountains! If you feel thirsty, you can always refill your bottle wherever you go, free of charge at that.

It may look like it’s simply for decoration, but it’s actually a water fountain. (Source: hellozurich)

Take a cab

Taxis are expensive in Switzerland, just like pretty much anything else. Thus, you should consider sticking to public transport instead. Anyway, the transport system is extremely reliable, and if you’re sticking to the city, they run until way past midnight. Although, if you’re staying in a small town, buses only run once an hour on Sundays.

Eat out all the time

Switzerland can break the bank, especially if you’re on a budget. The best way to save money on your trip is to avoid eating out all the time. Of course, you can still spoil yourself, but try to limit the number of times you’re going to a restaurant to eat. Instead, you can head over to Migros or Coop and buy some fresh food there, like a chicken sandwich. If you plan to cook something, you can shop at Aldi or Lidl. Their prices are lower than local Swiss supermarkets.

What I like most about traditional Swiss restaurants is that they have a very homey feel. (Source: TripAdvisor)

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