For members


The dos and don’ts of Swiss social etiquette

Toblerone, Heidi and Fasnacht: Switzerland in a nutshell - or is it? Anyone who thinks they know the ins and outs of Swiss culture from these classics couldn’t be more wrong. There's a plethora of unwritten rules when it comes to social behaviour.

Fondue is a favourite of the Swiss. Photo by Angela Pham on Unsplash

Whether you are visiting the country as an exchange student or are here on a more permanent basis, you are likely to commit your fair share of faux pas on your way to becoming a true Swiss. But fear not, these can be easily avoided if you’re aware of some of the most important Swiss etiquette. Let’s check it out.

Greet the Swiss way

Grüezi, Bonjour, or maybe just a simple Hallo? Over the course of your time in Switzerland you will encounter many people, be it co-workers, fellow students or just strangers on the street – so it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed with figuring out just how to greet people properly.

As with many things in Switzerland, the way to greet people, too, depends on the canton you’re in. In casual situations, such as when riding lifts or meeting people out on hikes, usually a friendly Grüezi, Bonjour, or Buongiorno will get the job done. Greeting anyone that isn’t friend or family with a Hallo is not common in Switzerland and is often perceived as rude. So, as a rule of thumb, always stick with the formal way of greeting people you’re not close with.

READ ALSO: Swiss culture shocks that may take some getting used to

A flag thrower performs with a Swiss flag in front of the Parliament.

A flag thrower performs with a Swiss flag in front of the Parliament. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

In a business environment, always greet people with a firm (!) handshake in addition to addressing them formally – this is crucial until the other person initiates an informal approach.

When it comes to greeting friends, however, the rules are generally a lot more relaxed, depending on the closeness of the friendship. While many Swiss friends are content with a quick Hoi, Salut, or Ciao, some will favour a more physical approach, such as a hug.

Good friends also greet each other with three kisses (left, right, left) – but be careful when greeting a French person, they start with the right!

Do give a small gift 

If you have been invited to a party or homecooked dinner by a friend, colleague, or acquaintance, the etiquette is to bring a small gift as a thank you. In Switzerland, most people choose to bring a bottle of wine or a seasonal bouquet of flowers. 

In a business setting, it is not necessary to bring or exchange a gift.

Bring a gift to your host in Switzerland.

Bring a gift to your host in Switzerland. Photo by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

TIP: Refrain from bringing expensive or flashy gifts as this can be seen as tasteless and make your host uncomfortable.

Don’t say the wrong thing in conversations

Once you’ve stepped inside a Swiss home you will want to make for interesting conversation, but before you know it, you could be on your way to committing your first crime against Swiss etiquette. That’s right, the Swiss are notoriously private people which means discussions around divisive topics, such as finances, politics, and religion, are best avoided.

Get dining etiquette right

We all know the feeling: You’ve been waiting for your order to arrive for longer than anticipated, your stomach is growling, and you’re growing increasingly impatient. But where some people may be tempted to raise a hand and wave over the restaurant staffer, in Switzerland this is considered a big no-no. Likewise, you should always wait for everyone’s dish to be served and wish the whole party a “Guten Appetit” prior to digging in. 

READ ALSO: ‘Suspicious of the unknown’: Is it difficult to make friends in Switzerland?

On that note, don’t be surprised to see a dog patrol the restaurant as you enjoy your long-awaited meal. Dogs are in fact allowed inside a remarkably high number of Swiss establishments, and diners are expected to pretend they’re part of the ambience.

Once you’ve finished your meal and are ready to ask for the bill, be sure to remember that tipping is not necessary in Switzerland as staff are paid a healthy salary. However, despite this, many Swiss still choose to round up their bills to the nearest franc.

If you’re invited for a dinner at someone’s home and the host wishes to make a toast, you will (regrettably) be expected to sit through the entire toast before eating. If you are the host yourself, remember it is important to make eye contact with your guests while addressing them. 

People with drinks

Photo by Zan on Unsplash

Brush up on fondue skills

If you find yourself in the land of cheese and chocolate, you are very likely to indulge in some delicious fondue sooner or later. But eating the melted cheese dish isn’t as straightforward as you might think, so make sure to get a hang of some of the key fondue rules before losing your bread in the cheese (the loser buys the next round of drinks!).

TIP: Fondue is eaten in the winter, avoid restaurants offering it in the summer.


When out shopping, be sure to greet shopkeepers when entering a store and paying for goods. However, don’t expect fellow shoppers to queue up. The Swiss, while polite, do not have a queuing culture and will absolutely step in front of you if you let them!

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For members


Social life in Switzerland: 10 things the Swiss do in their free time

Have you ever wondered what Swiss people get up to after work and at the weekend? We have put together 10 of the most popular leisure activities of the Swiss – and some are completely free of charge.

Social life in Switzerland: 10 things the Swiss do in their free time

Hiking and picnics

Not surprisingly, given Switzerland’s magnificent landscape and easy access to various hiking trails and breath-taking views, hiking and picnicking are among the Swiss’ favourite outdoor activities and make for a great not-so-lazy- Sunday afternoon pastime.

In fact, hiking happens to be the most popular sports activity in the country with 97 percent of the Swiss population enjoying a hike frequently, regularly, or occasionally. Of that, 57 percent of people aged 15 and over hiking on the regular. This corresponds to around 4 million Swiss people!

But while the average age of Swiss hikers is 50 years, enthusiasm for hiking is also evident in 15- to 29-year-olds, the youngest age group, with a recent increase recorded among young women.

Hiking is in fact considered a lifetime sport for the Swiss and many keep it up well into their old age as one of the very few sports to be practiced by people over 74 years old.

Meeting friends

According to the Federal Office for Statistics, meeting up with friends is equally high (97 percent) on the Swiss priority list with the majority choosing to meet up after working hours (5 pm to 6 pm).

Once work is wrapped up for the day, the Swiss like to head out for a casual dinner with a friend, blow off steam with some shopping, enjoy a round of pool, or simply get together for a coffee.

However, since the Swiss take punctuality and work ethic very seriously, don’t expect to be partying well into the night on a weekday.

Get fit

Speaking of breaking a sweat, there has been a real fitness boom in Switzerland in recent years and 92 percent of Swiss take their fitness seriously enough to practice it now and again, regularly, or religiously.

While some early risers will squeeze in a quick workout before work, doing so at a gym will be nearly impossible – unless your manager proves extra generous.

Switzerland’s gyms tend to open after 8 am and close at 9.30 pm during the week, which is why you’re more likely to find the Swiss working out after work, either right before dinner, or a good while after.

Some Swiss also like to hit the gym early on a Saturday morning anywhere between 8.30 am. and 12 pm.

Village, district, and club festivals

Three quarters of the people living in Switzerland take every opportunity to be a part of their community by partaking in smaller festivities hosted by villages, districts, or clubs (Vereine).

The latter are great if you happen to be a member of a local social or sports club and are typically held over the weekend.

Card and board games

While you can always invite a few friends over for a board game night on a Friday, many Swiss choose to sign up with local card game clubs, such as all-time favourite Jassen – Switzerland’s national card game – to face more serious competition

READ ALSO: Jass – What is Switzerlands national card game?

Typically, meet-ups take place during the week anywhere from 7pm until 10pm or on a Saturday afternoon from 2pm onwards.

A total of 76 percent of Swiss people listed card and board games as an activity they enjoy doing in their leisure time. So, next time you’re looking to befriend a Swiss, why not suggest a round of Monopoly?


Some of Switzerland’s largest festivals have also made the list with seven out of ten people in the country joining large scale celebrations such as the August 1st (Bundesfeiertag), Fasnacht and various music festivals.


Cinemas are a firm weekend favourite for the Swiss, but unlike in many other European countries that show entire movies without any interruptions (barring the odd cellphone!), in Switzerland most movies break up in the middle allowing the audience to use the loo and buy (more) snacks.

Though the Swiss love late night showings on a Saturday, many also visit the cinema on a Monday or Tuesday. Depending on the canton, district, or town you reside in, many Swiss cinemas grant a 20 percent discount on Mondays or Tuesdays because that day is dubbed the official ‘Kinotag’ (cinema day).


According to a 2020 study by the Verband der Zoologischen Gärten, a third of Swiss zoo visitors (33 percent) had been to a zoo in the past 24 months. Almost half (47 percent) visited a zoo two or three times in that time and 12 percent said they had been to the zoo roughly four to five times. Zoo Zurich counted 1’270’000 visitors in 2021 alone.

Needless to say, the Swiss love their zoos and when asked where that love originates 26 percent of visitors said their admiration for zoos is fuelled by a need to protect and care for the wildlife.

Another 23 percent of visitors said their motivation for going so frequently is to learn more about the animals, while 22 percent think zoos are vital for children.

As with hiking, most Swiss people leave their zoo visits for the weekend or whenever their kids are off school.

Botanical Gardens

Switzerland has an array of wonderful botanical gardens where visitors are enchanted by thousands of native flowers and plant species. Around 48 percent of the Swiss population enjoys frequenting the country’s botanical gardens, particularly during the icy winter!

In Zurich, you can visit not one but eight botanical gardens with the most popular being the Botanischer Garten der Universität Zürich. The garden welcomes visitors from 7 am until 7 pm during the week (March – September) and 8 am – 6 pm in the winter months for free.

Though particularly popular on the weekends, many Zurich city dwellers pay the garden a visit at lunchtime to marvel at its over 7,000 different plant species and enjoy an inexpensive lunch at the university’s canteen. Pssst, the latter is intended for students and researchers, but anyone is welcome!

Night clubs

This one may come as a bit of a shock, but a few select Swiss, namely 37 percent, do like to live it up in a night club from time to time! If you’re looking to dance the night away, remember that Swiss night clubs generally don’t open before 11pm and the party definitely doesn’t start before the clock strikes midnight.

Those looking to make the most of their money may still want to arrive early as most clubs shut their doors at 4am.