June 8th, 2010

What I Learned During My Trip To Switzerland

by Jacqueline Whitmore

My husband and me at Jungfrau, the top of Europe (elevation 11,333 feet)

I just returned from Switzerland where I spoke at the International HRCommunity ZGP Annual Symposium in Zurich. What a wonderful experience! It was my first trip to Switzerland and I discovered so much about the culture and the people. Here is what I learned while visiting this fascinating and beautiful country.

  • A handshake is the most appropriate greeting for both men and women, but if someone knows you well, you will receive three kisses…right cheek, left cheek, right cheek.
  • Most Swiss can speak multiple languages including German, French, Italian and English.
  • The Swiss prize punctuality. A favorite saying claims that if someone is late, he is either not wearing a Swiss watch or riding a Swiss train.
  • People dress conservatively for work. Most of the women I saw were wearing panty hose.
  • It is common to address superiors by their title and surname in business.
  • The Swiss don’t seem to be as obsessed with their cell phones and other electronic gadgets as much as the Americans. I seldom saw anyone talking or texting on their cell phone in public.
  • Lunch is the biggest meal of the day. It is not uncommon to see people drinking alcohol (particularly beer) at lunchtime. The legal drinking age is 16!
  • The Swiss use the continential style of eating; the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right.
  • Tipping in restaurants is generally not required unless stated on the bill.
  • About 70 percent of the population rents their housing.
  • Food in Switzerland is 25 to 50 percent more expensive than in most European countries and North America. Switzerland’s food prices are exceeded worldwide only by Tokyo’s.
  • Dogs are welcome everywhere, particularly in restaurants and on trains. (I wish this was the case in the U.S.)
  • Sunday is a day of rest. Working is forbidden by law unless absolutely necessary.
  • Loud noise (e.g. drilling, hammering nails or playing loud music) is not allowed on Sundays and on public holidays.
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