Yes, okay. We Swiss have some quirks. But honestly, who doesn’t! Well, summer traveling season is just starting and maybe you happen to come through Switzerland on your journey. If this is the case, here are some quirks which are nice to know.
As you certainly know, we have four official languages in Switzerland – German, French, Italian and Romansh. First of all, don’t expect everyone to speak all four of them. Hardly anyone does. Well, we learn at least two of them in school, but they are quickly forgotten when not in use.
Secondly, if you happen to speak one of them, do not lose faith in your language learning skills when you approach a native and do not understand a word of the reply. We happen to deviate slightly from the standard and have a vast variety of dialects. So don’t worry – most of the time we do not understand each other either. Root for a lot of jokes, really.
Swiss say Hello a lot. Well, not Hello, but – at least in the german speaking part – GRÜEZI [ˈɡryə̯tsiː] It is the shortened form for Ich grüsse Sie (= I greet you). Whenever you pass someone in Switzerland, you are supposed to say Grüezi.
But no worries. In highly populated areas people don’t do this. It’s not that city folks are unfriendly, but you would just simply go insane doing that to everyone in the street. So in and around bigger cities do not greet. As a rule of thumb, greet when hiking, on Sunday walks in the countryside or when you enter a room with a small amount of people. If you fear you might hurt yourself saying Grüezi, just shine your biggest smile and nod. That will have the same effect. Most of the time. 😉
Another stereotype, but true. We might not be punctual all the time personally, but when travelling in Switzerland, remember that our public transport system is very punctual. (There might be exceptions when all you want is getting home after a hard day at work or if you have a very important appointment…%&@+!) Apart from that, trains and busses are pretty punctual.
So if you need to take one, be there on time or you might find yourself with your hand on the door button using your whole range of flowery expressions while the bus driver, having a bad day, ignores you. Train drivers won’t even notice you way down the platform. So just take the next train. There are quite a few of them.
Oh boy. We sure have a lot of stereotypes… Yes, Swiss like it clean. We are recycling champions. Different waste will be collected on different days (greens, carton, paper, bulk, you name it…). You might find different containers for paper, PET and other waste in trains or in public areas.
We also have a different charging systems for household waste in each village. You might need to pay for garbage bags or you buy garbage stamps. Non-compliance with this concept is called „waste tourism“ (= taking one’s household garbage to a public waste bin without paying the local waste tax). Highly frowned upon. Okay, I admit, this all might be slightly confusing. When in doubt, just take your garbage with you and deposit it in the next country on your itinerary. 🙂
5. Cheese, Chocolate & Co.
Swiss have some of the world’s most famous cheeses, chocolates and watches. But don’t be mislead. You can also buy foreign cheese, chocolate etc. in Swiss stores. Which one is which? There is a general guideline for cheese – we usually name them after regions. Emmentaler, for example, was not invented by Mister Hans Emmental. No, it really comes from the Emmental. You will also find cheese factories in these regions where they show you how cheese is made.
You might also want to try a Raclette (= melting little pieces of cheese in little pans) or Fondue (= melting a big piece of cheese in a big pot) in a restaurant. We usually eat Raclette or Fondue in winter, as both involve a lot of heat for melting, and we silently laugh about tourists eating melted cheese in summer. But hey – who cares! Go get the whole experience together with a decent glass of white wine and a kirsch. By the way, there are also chocolate factories of the different brands. Always a good thing to go there and get wasted on a sugar rush after a tour through chocolate heaven. Boy… you are going to roll back home!
So, now you are well prepared! Have a fantastic journey!