Much has been said about Switzerland’s quirkiness, but when you think about it, this country’s idiosyncrasies are not more or less weird than any other nation’s — except for the fact that they are expressed in at least three languages which, admittedly, can complicate matters a bit.
However, once you master the intricacies and nuances of Swiss life, you will feel like you belong here.
This is when you know you’ve “made it”.
You speak one of the national languages, even if badly
It irritates the Swiss to no end when a foreigner, and particularly an English-speaking foreigner, doesn’t make an effort to learn the language of a region in which he or she lives, insisting instead that everyone communicates to them in their language.
So speaking the local language will go a long way to being accepted and making you feel settled in your new home.
You get a Swiss watch and live by it
Punctuality is a virtue here, while tardiness is a definite no-no.
If you want to ingratiate yourself to the Swiss, be on time. Being even a minute late may cause you to miss your bus, but also fail in the cultural integration.
Using an excuse like “my train was late” may be valid in other countries, but not in Switzerland.
The only exception to this rule is if a herd of cows or goats blocks your path, causing you to be late.
You sort and recycle your trash
The Swiss are meticulous when it comes to waste disposal and, not surprisingly, they have strict regulations on how to throw away trash in an environmentally correct manner.
Throwing away all your waste in a trash bag without separating it first — for instance, mixing PET bottles with tin cans or paper — is an offence in Switzerland which can result in heavy fines, the amount of which is determined by each individual commune.
In fact, the more assiduous residents separate every possible waste item — not just paper, cardboard, batteries and bottles (sorted by colour), but also coffee capsules, yogurt containers, scrap iron and steel, organic waste, carpets, and electronics.
In fact, with their well-organised communal dumpsters or recycling bins in neighbourhoods, the Swiss have taken the mundane act of throwing out one’s garbage to a whole new level of efficiency.
So one of the best ways to fit in is to be as trash-oriented as the Swiss.
You trim your hedges with a ruler
How your garden looks says a lot about you.
If it’s unkempt and overgrown with weeds, you are clearly a foreigner (though likely not German or Austrian).
But if your grass is cut neatly and your hedges trimmed with military-like precision (except on Sundays), and some of your bushes and shrubs are shaped like poodles, you will definitely fit in.
You follow the laundry room rules
If you live in an apartment building, chances are there is a communal laundry room in the basement that is shared by all the residents.
As everything else in Switzerland, these facilities are regulated by a …laundry list of “dos” and “don’ts” that you’d well to commit to memory and adhere to meticulously.
These rules relate to everything from adhering to the assigned time slot to removing lint from the dryer.
Following each rule to the letter, and not trying to wash your laundry in someone else’s time slot, is a sign of successful integration.
Voilà, the five signs you are “at home” in Switzerland.