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TRAVEL NEWS

Seven things that may surprise you when traveling in Switzerland

Among first things you will probably notice while in the country is how very expensive and very beautiful Switzerland is. But there are also many other surprises you are likely to discover.

Seven things that may surprise you when traveling in Switzerland

Depending on how much you know about Switzerland before you travel, and what your level of expectations is, you may be quite surprised by what you find along the way.

Cleanliness

One of the first things you are likely to notice (especially if you come from one of Switzerland’s neighbours, which shall remain unnamed for the purpose of this article) is how well maintained the country is.

Not only is it clean but it is also manicured to the extreme: not a blade of grass is out of place, hedges are neatly cut and trimmed with utmost precision.

Travel: Six ways to save money while visiting Switzerland

If you see wildflowers and even weeds along the way, it is because they are allowed to grow — also in an arranged and organised manner. Nothing is left to chance or mother nature.

And if you notice that rivers flow in a straight pattern, it is probably also due to ingenious Swiss engineering.

Trimming hedges with precision is ‘Swiss’ thing. Photo: Pixabay

The road less travelled

Another surprise, somewhat related to the previous point, is that you will not find many off-the-beaten-track paths in Switzerland.

Vast majority of roads, both main and side, are paved, and that includes those in rural areas.

You may be able to find an unpaved path somewhere in a remote area or a hiking trail in the mountains (the Swiss would never call it a ‘dirt’ road), but that is probably by design.

Language

It is probably not a surprise that Switzerland is a multilingual country, but you may be stunned by how suddenly one linguistic region spills over into another, without any forewarning.

The only inkling you get that you passed from one language area to another is by signs on the (paved) road and hearing the locals speak.

However, most will also speak English, although they will first insist their skills are very bad (the Swiss don’t like to boast or show off).

But when they do start talking, you will be — yes, surprised — by their fluency in a language that’s not their own.

READ MORE: How did Switzerland become a country with four languages?

Transportation

You have probably heard of punctual Swiss trains.  But the country’s transportation network, including buses, trains and boats, can take you practically everywhere you want to go, both vertically and horizontally (which may explain why the Swiss like their roads paved).

Have you heard of PostBuses?

Those yellow buses travel the widths, lengths and heights of the country, including on narrow, winding, remote and mountain roads.

You can find more about this mode of transport here:

EXPLAINED: Why PostBuses are true Swiss icons

Postbus on a winding (paved) mountain road. Photo by Pixabay

Water!

You will find both good and bad surprises about water in Switzerland.

First, the bad: some restaurants will charge you for a carafe of water.

Good: You don’t have to pay a centime / Rappen / centessino for you water; you can quench your thirst at one of the numerous public drinking fountains that abound in practically every municipality in Switzerland.

These fountains are marked with Trinkwasser, Eau Potable, Acqua Potabile signs. They are perfectly safe.

Sometimes best things in life really are free.

READ MORE: Ten things Zurich residents take for granted

Trash

Please, please don’t throw your garbage away any which way.

The Swiss are meticulous when it comes to waste disposal (no surprise here) and have strict regulations on how to throw away trash in an environmentally correct manner.

Depending on the canton or municipality you are in, you will need a special bag or a sticker, and you will have to either place the trash in a specially designated communal bin, or put it to a curb on a specially designated day and in a specially designated place.

More information about Switzerland’s ‘trash culture’ can be found here:

Trash talk: What are the rules for garbage disposal in Switzerland?

Cheers to that!

It’s a given that Switzerland has lots of cheese and chocolate, but you may be surprised to discover that it has plenty of its own wine as well.

In fact, you will probably find local vineyards practically anywhere you travel in the country.

Sloping vineyards like these overlooking Lake Biel are common in Switzerland. Photo. Pixabay

But beware, when in Switzerland, you can’t just shout “bottoms up”  and down your glass in one gulp. That’s because the Swiss have their own wine drinking culture — and that, certainly, is no surprise.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to drink wine like a Swiss

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FAMILY

EXPLAINED: Why so many baby names are banned in Switzerland

These days, it’s not just celebrities who seem to have a penchant for ruining their child’s life by bestowing him or her with an odd moniker. In Switzerland however, there are several rules about what you can - and cannot - name your child.

EXPLAINED: Why so many baby names are banned in Switzerland

Whether its hanging out your washing on a Sunday or flushing your toilet after 10pm at night, Switzerland has several rules which can be surprising to foreigners. 

One such example is what you are allowed to name your kids.  

While from time to time, parents’ failed attempt to give their child a unique name might make the news, there are in fact an extensive variety of rules about which names can actually be chosen in Switzerland.

Sticklers for the law as they are, the Swiss have several rules controlling what baby names can be given. 

No names which will damage a child’s well-being

Although this appears incredibly difficult to define, there are several actual examples which have been rejected for breaching the well-being rule. 

In considering this, Swiss authorities will look at whether “the child will be exposed to ridicule because of its name.”

This includes ‘Grandma’, ‘Rose Heart’, ‘Prince Valiant’ and ‘Puhbert’. 

REVEALED: The most popular baby name in each Swiss canton

They specifically prohibit giving your kid a name which will damage his or her “well-being”. Names aren’t allowed to be offensive either. 

Twins

Twins must not have names that are too similar to each other. 

The names must not be either spelt or pronounced in the same way. 

Swiss media gives the example of calling two boys “Philip” and “Philipe”. 

No villain names

Switzerland – or at least large parts of it – remain relatively religious, which is probably why choosing a bible villain name for your child is verboten. 

Newspaper Telebasel reports that the name Judas has already been rejected by Swiss registry offices – and will likely be rejected again. Satan, Cain and Lucifer are also banned. 

Boys are boys, girls are girls

Ever the traditionalists, Switzerland has tight gender rules for naming children. 

Specifically, a name must clearly indicate a person’s gender. 

Girls cannot be given a boy’s name and vice versa. 

If a name does not clearly indicate the person’s gender, then the child must be given a hyphenated double name or a second name to make this clear. 

Numbers or letters

In 2017, a Swiss court said ‘J’ was not appropriate as a middle name. 

The court held that allowing ‘J’ would be similar to letting people have a name made up of numbers – although ‘Jay’ a la Homer ‘Jay’ Simpson would presumably be fine. 

No place names

While the world might be debating how to cater to non-binary people who want to be identified as ‘their’, identifying as ‘there’ is a big no go in Switzerland. 

Place names for people are forbidden in Switzerland. 

This may not be interpreted incredibly strictly – Dakota Fanning and Brooklyn Beckham will be OK for now – but if you want to name your little boy ‘Matterhorn’ you may come across some resistance. 

READ MORE: How much does it cost to raise a child in Switzerland?

No product names either

No matter how much you love a particular product, you will be prevented from honouring the brand by naming your child after it. 

That means Ovaltine, Rivella, Chanel or Ferrari are off the table. 

You’re also banned from naming your child after a plant or after an animal. 

What about foreign names? 

One major question – particularly among Local readers – is whether foreign names are banned. 

The main question is whether the name appears in the ‘Internationalen Handbuch der Vornamen’ – the International Handbook of First Names. 

This book – which does not appear to exist in English – expressly lists acceptable first names. 

If it appears in the book, it’s OK with Swiss authorities. 

Which names have actually been banned in Switzerland? 

Suissebook has listed several baby names which have been banned in Switzerland for breaking at least one of the rules listed above. 

In addition to all of those mentioned so far in this article, it includes Bierstubl (place name), Troublemaker (well-being), Mercedes (brand name) and Sputnik (not sure if that is a place or a thing, but either way it’s banned).

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