For members


Eight ways to annoy your Swiss friends

From dropping by unannounced to not mastering wine etiquette, here's how to annoy your Swiss friends (although we advise you not to!)

You need to master the wine drinking etiquette in Switzerland. Photo by Zan on Unsplash
You need to master the wine drinking etiquette in Switzerland. Photo by Zan on Unsplash

You may want to think twice about annoying your Swiss friends, as Swiss friends are very difficult to find.

In fact, it probably took you 150 arduous steps to get Swiss friends in the first place, and it takes only eight to p*ss them off.

But if you are really committed to doing do, just for the fun of it, here are some ways that are sure to make many locals wonder why you were allowed into their country.

Drop in without prior notice

The Swiss are very organised, live by the clock, and tend to micromanage everything around them.

Popular lore has it that this habit is not as entrenched in Italian and French-speaking regions as it is in the Swiss-German part.

But if you want to irk people, regardless of the geographical area, drop in announced. Don’t call or send messages telling them you’re coming — just show up at their doorstep.

And if you do tell them you’re coming….arrive late. Few things irritate Swiss people more than tardiness.

READ MORE: The pleasure of punctuality’: Why are the Swiss so obsessed with being on time?

Insult their national pride

If you tell a friend they are not really ‘Swiss’, but German, French or Italian (depending on the region in which they live and the language they speak), you will annoy them terribly.

The Swiss are very patriotic and proud of their country (sometimes even to the point of arrogance) and they will not take to this remark kindly.

Make fun of their army

To tell a Swiss person their military is not a ‘real army’, is sure to rub them up the wrong way.

They regard army service not only as their patriotic and civic duty, but also as a rite of passage of sorts.

True, not every country’s military has army knives, cutlery, watches, travel gear and fragrances attached to their name, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t fight if they had to.

They probably could fight if they had to. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Laugh at their language(s)

One foreigner we know told a Swiss-German friend (now an ex-friend) that his language sounds like “bastardised Dutch”.

Let it be a good lesson: making fun of someone’s native language is a definite ‘nein-nein’.

‘Just so fun to say’: Are these the best Swiss German words to learn?

On the other hand, if you learn to speak it, even imperfectly, you might just make a friend or two.

Not master the proper wine etiquette

Switzerland is a nation of wine drinkers. To Swiss people, French wines are, needless to say, inferior, and don’t even try to sell them on Italian or Spanish wines. They will, literally and figuratively, turn up their noses at them.

Also, if you drink with a Swiss friend, you don’t unceremoniously chug your wine down and ask for more. You have to hold your glass by the stem, look into your friend’s eyes, preferably without blinking, for at least five seconds, then clink your glasses.

Only then can you sip your wine, praising its fragrance, aroma, depth of colour, and the Swiss region it came from.

Not appreciate Aromat

The Swiss love their Aromat seasoning and there’s hardly a household that doesn’t keep it on their spice rack.

It goes on everything from boiled eggs to meat and fish, and some people even carry it with them when they eat out or go on holidays.

As a foreigner, you may not understand what all the fuss is about, but to say outright to a Swiss that Aromat tastes awful or that it shouldn’t be sprinkled on everything is almost as offensive as criticising their language and army (see above) .

Disrupt peace and quiet

If your Swiss friends are also your neighbours, you are sure to irritate them by being loud on inappropriate days and at inappropriate hours.

READ MORE: Nine ways you might be annoying your neighbours (and not realising it) in Switzerland

All apartment buildings in Switzerland have a noise ordinance in place, which bans loud noises after 10pm. You might have heard that you are not even allowed to flush your toilet after this time, but in most buildings this is not the case, unless your toilet sounds like a jackhammer.

However, loud music, TV, and other noises are strictly ‘verboten’.

And Sundays are considered rest days so your neighbours’ peace and quiet should not be disrupted by a sound of a lawn mower, hedge cutter, or nail being hammered into a wall.

Never on Sunday. Photo by Greyson Joralemon on Unsplash

Not support Swiss national football team or Roger Federer

When it comes to sports, the Swiss are firmly behind their teams and champions.

If you tell a friend you are a fan of another team or tennis player, expect to become an outcast in your social circle and maybe even the whole country.

READ MORE: ‘We don’t like France, Germany or Italy’: How linguistic diversity unites Swiss football fans

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For members


Swiss cantons mull civilian protection service for foreigners

Swiss authorities want foreign nationals who live in the country to be well integrated. But could this mean they will soon have to carry out civil protection service? Two cantons are considering the possibility.

Swiss cantons mull civilian protection service for foreigners

All able-bodied Swiss men from the age of 18 until 30 are required to serve in the armed forces or in its alternative, the civilian protection service.

Thus far, foreign citizens living in Switzerland have been exempt from joining the country’s armed forces, civil service and civilian protection service, but according to the Luzerner Zeitung, two cantons are now looking to change that. The reason: the number of men (and women) in Switzerland’s civilian defence has been declining, enough for its Federal Council to express concern over the prevailing staff shortage.

Switzerland’s Federal Council is currently reviewing a possible change in the law with various proposals being up for discussion. Among them, the suggestion by cantons Nidwalden and Zug that foreigners with a permanent residence permit should be subject to civilian protection service – just like Swiss men.

Civilian protection service – or civil defence – provides protection, care and support to the Swiss society and is regulated on a cantonal level. Civilian protection service is often performed by Swiss men who are declared unfit for military service, but who are fit enough for civilian protection service.

The service is not to be confused with Switzerland’s civil service.

READ MORE: Reader question: Do foreigners have to do military service in Switzerland?

However, the opinions of Switzerland’s political parties on the subject differ.

While Zug’s SP party said it was open for discussion, its co-president Zari Dzaferi remarked that it wouldn’t be fair to impose such a duty on foreigners if they have no political rights and that if that were the case, Switzerland should also look at having women join its civil protection service.

However, Dzaferi feels that obligatory civilian protection service for foreign residents may help with integration.

Meanwhile, Nidwalden’s SVP agrees that the medium-term proposals are understandable, and the corresponding examination will show how practicable the suggestion is.

Its president Roland Blättler said that while civilian protection service could help foreigners integrate, so can joining the fire brigade or doing voluntary work – but that women joining the nation’s civil service may well be worth a discussion. Zug’s SVP president Thomas Werner also agreed with Blättler on the integration issue.

READ MORE: Reader question: Do I have to help the fire brigade in Switzerland if I’m called up?

While various solutions to the issue have been discussed at federal level for months, the canton of Aargau announced an obligatory information event last year where it said it will expect some 3,800 residents – including Swiss women and foreigners – to show up, or pay a 500-franc fine. The future event will focus not only on serving in the military and civilian service, but also broader civilian protection, such as the fire brigade or Samaritan associations.

The canton of Lucerne is planning a similar event aimed at Swiss women and foreign residents.

In 2021, Switzerland already extended the length of time for when compulsory service for members of the civilian protection service from 12 to 14 years to ensure that enough civilian protection service officers were available. Over that period participants need to carry out 245 days of service.

The law still has to go through a second reading. If there is still a majority in parliament and no referendum is held, then there will be the first mandatory information events in Aargau in 2024.

*This story has been corrected since it was originally published to show that the cantons were considering introducing civilian protection service for foreigners and not military service as we wrote originally. We apologise for the error.