From the moment people found out that I would be visiting Switzerland, I was showered by a mix of common swiss stereotypes about the swiss culture.
To me, this turned into a fun game to see in what way my before and after trip perspective of Switzerland will change!
Disclaimer: I travelled around the country and thoroughly explored each area that I visited. However, during that specific trip, I did not visit a few important and famous areas like Geneva, Basel, Interlaken and Bern.
16 Stereotypes about the Swiss
- Can ski
- Speak German
- Are french, german, italian depending on the canton they reside in
- Eat a lot of cheese fondue
- Eat a lot of cheese
- Cold and serious
- Tight on rules
- Extremely private people
- Never argue
1. The Swiss are Punctual Stereotype
The super short answer is that yes, the majority of the population is punctual.
I must admit that at the swiss-german cantons, people were overall more inclined to be punctual.
The most interesting fact concerning this swiss stereotype is that they will actually let you know ahead of time of their predicted or even possible delays. Be it an appointment, public transportation schedule or even a house party.
There is a general feeling of stepping into a parallel universe of “niceness”, where everyone tries their best to be respectful of each other’s time.
Surprisingly, there was another side, less known to outsiders about the swiss. That of the swiss-french cantons, where overall time-keeping became a little looser.
I was about 8 days into my trip and had found myself waiting for a bus in Montreux, in order to head back to the main train station.
By then I was accustomed to everything being on time, apart from 1-5 minute pre-announced delays, and I also became used to checking for updates on possible issues and alternative modes of transport.
This bus was 10 minutes late without any announcement and was stuffed (not using this word lightly) with people, unlike any other bus ride I had experienced within the country until then.
If it weren’t for the locals assuring me that the bus is on its way, I would have been worried and have grabbed a taxi/Uber.
The general consensus for the swiss-french areas is that you shouldn’t be surprised by delays.
As a matter of fact, I made it a point to notice if this were true and found that there was consistently a 5-minute delay. So a 1 o’clock date is turned to at least 1:05. It’s funny thinking about it now because shortly into my stay my expectations were raised, while back home a 30 minute delay is not unheard of!
Punctuality is something that I did not feel that the swiss-italian area lacks. There were no considerable delays. That said, my stay there was super short (one day) and confined to just one town, thus I don’t feel comfortable with expressing an opinion.
The reason that I initially said that the majority of the population is punctual, is because around 60% of the country consists of swiss-german cantons and these are the areas where people are mostly punctual or consider punctuality important. Statistics aside, this is also what I personally experienced.
2. The Swiss are Efficient Stereotype
Yes! With almost no exceptions. Scary, I know…
The extremely self-aware swiss don’t want to spend time on actions that could have been dealt with earlier or avoided altogether. Especially if they are wasteful as far as time, energy and money goes.
And this is why everything revolves around efficiency in Switzerland. From navigating to work to managing garbage!
Natives are raised to lead an environmentally friendly lifestyle, to use the SBB app (transport app) for optimal navigation and to be overall practical in what they wear, what they eat, what they learn and the list could go on FOREVER.
I’m not even joking people! There are good reasons why this is one of the most common swiss stereotypes mentioned.
In spite of the fact that the majority is raised to care about the things that they do, I find it mind blowing that the swiss equally recognise the reasons behind their actions.
That shows me that even though it is the norm in Switzerland to act the way that they do, they still possess critical thinking.
A. Many swiss eat on trains, even during short transits.
I’m not talking about store bought food or sandwiches. I mean full on home cooked meals! A lady’s food instantly caught my nose’s attention while on a train, because her food was rich in herbs and spices. This is something super practical as a train ride from point A to point B is essentially dead time.
B. Work experience before you even finish high school.
The educational system accommodates real-life work experience as part of the curriculum, which is awesome! Even if you never go on with your studies, you’re ready to join the workforce.
C. The construction of all the buildings that I stayed in create the perfect temperature.
I am impressed by the perfect (not exaggerating) home temperatures. I never stepped into a place that had a rug or a carpet and I never noticed any heating turned on, apart from the bathroom’s heating. Once. For a little while!
A parquet type of flooring seems to be the standard material used. Even though the spaces were big and open plan, I was never cold.
That was unless a window was kept open for more than 15-20 minutes. I was always so warm, that I was actually walking around barefoot and had to wear tank tops. In December!
3. The Swiss can Ski Stereotype
Firstly, the country as a whole is actually not as cold as people might think. Even though there are many mountains where the temperature drops dramatically during the winter, I believe that it’s unfairly labelled as a cold country.
Sports and physical activity is promoted from an early age and that makes the swiss fairly sport oriented in relation to most countries around the world.
Where I come from, we take the kids to the beach and they learn how to swim before they even go to school. But in Switzerland it’s just as easy to go on excursions up the mountains to teach kids how to ski instead.
However, most of the population does not come in contact with skiing very often, because most people live close to the cities which are far from the ski resorts.
They also tend to avoid resorts altogether due to tourists. But, that doesn’t mean that they don’t know how to ski.
Think of the sports/hobbies that were promoted to you when you were young. You might have liked or hated it, you might have been good or bad at it. It all comes down to the person’s individual preferences.
One of the reasons the specific sport/s was promoted to you, is because it was easily accessible in your country, just like skiing is for the swiss.
Early December, which I am told is still too early for skiing, I visited two mountainous areas where ski was permitted. Although not many, the majority of the skiers were locals.
Honestly, you walk around towns close to mountains and you see people casually carrying their equipment in the street! It initially seemed weird to me, but I gradually got used to it.
Most Swiss might know how to ski, but that doesn’t make them good at it or happy to practice it.
4. The Swiss Speak German Stereotype
Exploring this stereotype was interesting to me because I agreed with this thought and really wanted to prove myself right.
A common misconception is that the whole country speaks german – beyond wrong!
There are four official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh!
However, when thinking of Switzerland, for some reason, you also think of the Germans.
I assume that many of us think of Switzerland as a german speaking nation due to the fact that the majority (around 60%) indeed speaks it. I cannot think of any other fact supporting this bias.
In reality, the citizens know and use a combination of a minimum two of the official languages.
Traditionally, the first depends on the canton they reside in and the second is the student’s choice (commonly the language of a neighbouring country or canton).
Some Swiss end up never learning any german.
It is important to not compare the Swiss with the Germans and if you read only the basics of Swiss history you’ll know why I’m saying this. You’re welcome!!!
To get to the main train station in Zürich from my friend’s house in Winterthur, I had to take a bus and a train.
I step into the bus. Silence!
Everyone was keeping to themselves. I thought, okay proving this bias is going to be harder than I thought.
Unfortunately, at the Winterthur train station, I couldn’t even differentiate words let alone pick apart languages. It was more like a collective human noise!
I get onto my train disappointed and boom!
My jaw drops because I walk past seat after seat and hear a different language in almost every booth.
I could recognise french, german, italian and some american english. I was shocked by the variety.
This is something that could happen in any big european city, that’s not new to me, but I wasn’t even in a big city!
What really excites me is the fact that these guys are so badass, they made four languages official but not only on paper.
These languages are spoken by people that were born and raised thereand not foreigners.
To make things more complex, the Swiss will use german in writing and in doing business, but when speaking amongst eachother they will use swiss-german.
We do this in Cyprus by speaking in cypriot, but writing and doing business in greek.
Even though this is not confusing to me due to my origin, I’m sure that it might be viewed as complicated by many people.
Swiss-german and cypriot are unofficial languages that also have subdialects just like any language. You might text or speak in these languages, but at school, work, emails etc, you are expected to use the official languages.
Please imagine for a moment that you are travelling anywhere in the world knowing that you can rely on communicating in a minimum of two languages. Badass!!!
So there you are. Not all Swiss can speak or understand german, but they all know more languages than an average western person.
5. The Swiss are French, German, Italian, depending on Language / Canton they Reside In Stereotype
Erase this thought. Now.
Historically, Switzerland’s lands were occupied by Helvetiians which were not German, French, Italian or Roman. They were a Celtic tribe.
For several centuries, the country was harassed by surrounding tribes and later on by bordering countries.
The Swiss had always expressed that they wanted to just be Helvetiians and never wanted to bow to invaders. Apart from that one time for a while…
Instead, they kept working on themselves, while trying to keep peace with others. Independence is one of the main reasons, in my opinion, that the country is so powerful.
Switzerland has a diverse culture as far as many things go: food, language, beliefs etc.
The country consists of cantons established to act like states since the creation of the Swiss Confederacy, for political and administrative purposes.
Having that in mind, it makes sense that each corner of the country has a more or less different character than the others.
Meeting a swiss person is definitely not like meeting anyone from the surrounding countries. They might have a few common traits, but they are what I can only describe as a blend of several cultures.
The fact that the country has 4 official languages, makes it easier to communicate with locals around the country. You are bound to understand one of the main languages!
Romansh is a “roman” language. Meaning it derives from the language the Romans used when the empire was created. The romansh speaking swiss are a minority, but it is nevertheless accepted and recognised by the country. That doesn’t make them romans though!
The fact that a person can speak french does not automatically mean that they’re french. Or if a country has a joint border with France, does not make that area french.
For example, as I’ve mentioned in another point, the official language of Cyprus (written and professional use) is greek. If language was the sole factor that made a country ethnically homogeneous, then Cyprus would have been called Greece.
Undoubtedly, every country has its own influences and identity.
You will definitely find other enthnicities in Switzerland since there are currently many foreigners residing there, but it has nothing to do with the titled bias.
After learning the country’s history, I can certainly beyond a doubt say that the Swiss are actually Swiss.
6. The Swiss are Rich Stereotype
This was an all-around favourite stereotype that all people I talked with before my trip believed in. So I guess it must be true?
Firstly I need to say that this one was tricky to confirm or dismiss, for the simple reason that it’s not an easy subject to open up with a stranger!
I don’t think anyone feels comfortable talking about their finances.
A country with such prices is definitely considered expensive, no one can doubt that! Or not?
In Switzerland, there are fewer social classes than most other countries.
Truthfully, there are no “poor” people in the standard meaning of the word. For you to be poor in Switzerland, you need to really want to be poor.
The government protects the unemployed and actively helps them in order to find a job by holding people accountable.
I can confirm that I didn’t see any beggars and that I had no fear of any kind of criminal activity taking place.
Most of the country is either middle or upper class and the minority is the “elite” that we all know about from films.
The country has this rich stereotype precisely because of the elite. This class consists of the bankers, accountants etc. corporate related jobs.
When you walk on Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich, you see suits with Louis Vuitton briefcases walking really fast, downing their espresso shot in a minute and rushing back to their work, looking like they are constantly in between appointments.
Even though this is not the majority, film and media portray Switzerland as the land of money, sharp looking people (who are mostly men for some reason) and piles of gold!
In contrast to the elite that loves to brightly flash how rich they are, the rest of the country keeps to themselves so much, that you cannot tell who has money and who is “struggling”.
The Swiss are very humble as far as lifestyle goes. They will automatically select practicality over showing off.
From dressing practically versus fashionably, to buying a fully unprepared meal as a gift instead of something flashy, decorative and expensive.
Uncooked meal as a present?!
I kept seeing baskets filled with things like pasta, wine, spices, decorated with a ribbon and wrapped in cellophane at every supermarket.
Some were more expensive than others and some had more/higher quality of ingredients.
There were whole walls in the supermarkets covered with stacked baskets. I found this to be an extremely weird gift, so I asked my friend what was this all about.
He explained that the Swiss generally offer practical gifts like these for celebrations.
They might pick an expensive wine that is included in the basket, but they would avoid offering something that is expensive in an obvious way as a gift.
The idea behind this behaviour is that by buying something very expensive you almost offend the recipient of the gift.
The Swiss find expensive gifts tacky and forceful, almost like they are being bribed or belittled.
However, a personalised or practical everyday simple gift is much more appreciated.
This small gift giving custom made me realise that overall, the Swiss are financially comfortable but also try to be humble about it.
Truthfully, most Swiss have told me that “the country is expensive in comparison to other countries”.
And THAT is the answer.
Keeping in mind that the country has much higher taxes, which pay for basically everything that makes Switzerland such a powerful and wealthy nation, it is of course viewed as more expensive and the residents are seen as rich.
In reality, the overall quality of life is what is rich.
The country might charge more for food in a restaurant and the salaries might be higher than most countries in the world, but it’s undeniable that the economy and the wealth distribution is overall balanced.
Who would not want to live in a calm country with limited (or no) crime, basic necessities for all and minimum discrimination, in exchange for living in a more expensive place?
To conclude, I’m not sure if the Swiss can be considered rich or not.
I believe that they are, but only in comparison to other countries.
7. The Swiss are Clean Stereotype
Are they sparkling clean people? Yes. Do they enjoy it? I’m not sure!
One of my first impressions of Switzerland is that it has the same cleanliness standards in and out of buildings.
Every single public space and building is clean and tidy, as well as every house I’ve entered.
Swiss children are raised with a certain level of independence and part of their discipline is the concept of cleanliness.
In addition to the overall cleaning culture, there are laws and schedules that promote that mindset.
Starting from public spaces, I have never seen any trash in streets or overflown bins on pavements. I honestly tried to find an exception but could not.
Not only there is a schedule to consistently clean the streets, but many people are also used to carrying their trash to a designated area for disposal.
The first time my friend took me to the recycling area in his neighbourhood I was confused. There were so many bins for every single type of material that exists.
Recycling includes PET, glass, paper, cartons aluminium/tin cans, tin foil, old batteries, corks, but also ink cartridges, light bulbs, bicycles, textiles and shoes, electrical and electronic equipment and so many more!
These bins are connected with underground channels where the trash drops in.
When everything around you is clean and tidy, you are considered the weird one if you litter.
And if someone does decide to litter, people will pick it up and give it back to that person for them to properly dispose of.
As far as houses go, one word: immaculate.
The very first thing that I found weird the first 2-3 times I entered houses was taking off my shoes. But I quickly got completely used to it and it became a habit.
I know non-Swiss people that do this, but the reason I’m pointing it out is that in Switzerland it’s the norm and not just a random voluntary act.
Make sure to take off your shoes, without having to be told to, as soon as you enter the doorstep in order to keep mud, water and dirt away from the rest of the house.
Worth mentioning next, I believe is how the kitchen area works.
Few utensils – fewer things to clean, whatever is dirtied gets cleaned as soon as possible and is usually even dried in order to be put back in the cabinets.
Let’s talk trash, again!
Indoors, nothing is trash. Everything is separated in order to then be recycled as mentioned previously. I could not believe how little organic waste was left after meals.
I’ve been in the cleanest baths and the most spotless bedrooms that I’ve ever seen.
Most shocking was the fact that I experienced all this while I stayed with men, who are generally known for being the sloppy sex.
8. The Swiss Eat a lot of Chocolate Stereotype
Walk into any supermarket and you will see that there are sometimes more than 2-3 walls endlessly stocked up with a variety of brands.
Someone must be eating all that chocolate…
You know how every country has its own national food/s? Well one thing that the Swiss have on the rest of the world is milk chocolate.
The reason is because it dates back to the late 1870s when swiss Daniel Peter discovered it almost by mistake (as most inventions occur), when he added milk to chocolate.
During my trip, I tried several types of swiss chocolate and the majority of them were beautiful.
I found myself trying out a new brand every day, but always had some Cailler with me in case todays one wasn’t nice.
Needless to say that the chocolate isles are always occupied by locals who buy their chocolate either by weight or by piece.
All this led me to believe that chocolate is a must in a swiss home.
9. The Swiss Eat a lot of Cheese Fondue Stereotype
The Swiss do definitely eat more than what is globally considered normal during the winter. Which could explain where this bias came from.
Traditionally, the key ingredients of the meal are wine, cheese and bread, but you’ll see all sorts of combinations nowadays.
It all started when in the 18th century swiss producers decided that they need to find a way for their bread and cheese to be edible during the winter because sales were low during those months.
They found that heating cheese with herbs, garlic and wine, makes the bread edible when dipped in. Even if it had gone stale.
The dish is considered swiss, however, many claim that it is french. The truth is that the dish came from the french speaking area of Switzerland, but it is officially recognised as both french and swiss.
Cheese fondue is definitely part of the swiss diet and is usually an excuse for the family (or for a group of friends) to sit together at the dining table and share the meal.
10. The Swiss Eat a lot of Cheese Stereotype
If there is something the swiss eat a lot, it’s cheese, bread and potatoes.
Previously, I mentioned that there are walls of chocolate bars in supermarkets. Wait until you see the fridges filled with every imaginable type of cheese and pool type fridges in the refrigerated section, in between isles of dry, packaged food.
Yet it doesn’t stop there. Oh no!
In every town I’ve visited, there are stacks of cheese wheels in shops, street vendors or local markets.
I had visited Switzerland during December and there were christmas markets even in train stations. And guess what was there. Stacks of cheese blocks!
There are many patented local cheeses that the swiss are proud to call their own and cannot be manufactured outside the region the cheese was created at, due to them being patented.
The most famous cheesy swiss dishes are raclette and fondue, which are both social dishes. Both are cooked and eaten on the dining table, usually with company.
Raclette is a thick square piece of semi hard cheese that is grilled until the cheese melts.
Think of palm sized mini grill pans placed on a stainless steel tower of grills. That is a device that you can cook from 1 to 12 raclettes, depending on the size of the tower you buy.
Before the cheese melts, a variety of other ingredients, spices and herbs is added on top of the thick piece of cheese. That is then poured on an opened baked potato.
Fondue is much more famous and even more social because everyone’s forks are trying to get some cheese on their piece of bread.
There are many types of fondue nowadays, but fondue was originally created in Switzerland with cheese, bread and wine.
Do the swiss eat a lot of cheese? Undoubtedly yes during the winter.
11. The Swiss are Slow Stereotype
Before you read any further you need to understand that even though the swiss are perceived as slow, they have a different view of the word itself.
In Switzerland, mistakes are not easily accepted. Especially when they appear in situations that could have been prevented.
As a nation, it is preferred to have a balance between high quality and quantity output, but quantity can be sacrificed as long as there is an acceptable level of quality control.
Excellence requires hard work and dedication. And those, in turn, require time.
If the swiss are slow what is making them productive?
The answer is simple. Schedules are important in the swiss culture.
There is a dedicated time for work, mental and physical growth, for resting and for socialising. Most of which are scheduled down to the minute!
Considering how well-educated, independent and reliable the swiss are, I’d say that they are good at whatever job they choose to do.
The fact that they focus on every task in order to complete it as best as possible might take longer, but the overall quality results will also be better.
However, I believe that maybe the constant reserved behaviour the swiss possess and their overall composed nature, even in stressful situations, give you the feeling that they are not in a rush and thus, slow.
That’s definitely not the case, as all they are doing is gathering the facts and trying to think of a solution in a calm and efficient way.
12. All Swiss are Pacifists Stereotype
War is not something anyone in Switzerland pursues, but they would fight if needed. Every male is obligated to serve in the swiss army and keep their rifles at home in case it’s needed.
Actually, since the 19th century the swiss army has admitted to have installed explosives at several strategic locations around the country to delay possible attacks, at the risk of sacrificing their own people. This included around 2000 structures like bridges, tunnels, roads and airstrips.
That doesn’t sound very pacifist of them!
This bias probably exists due to the fact that they have been labelled as a “neutral” country and became especially famous for it due to the creation of the Red Cross.
Historically, Switzerland has consistently tried to avoid taking sides when empires were formed and wars were taking place.
For example, in 1864 governments were invited to a diplomatic conference which resulted in 12 european nations signing a treaty stating that in future wars they would care for all sick and wounded military personnel, regardless of nationality.
They would also recognise the neutrality of medical personnel, hospitals and ambulances identified by the emblem of a red cross on a white background.
In reality, the swiss have always been proud helvetians and it seems like every powerful country or empire wanted a piece of that.
Their neutrality was confirmed with the formation of the Red Cross through which people were only seen as either injured or healthy.
However, the swiss were not afraid to fight for their lands and by the sound of their current defence strategy, they still aren’t.
I don’t believe that the swiss are pacifists. They don’t really care about getting involved in what other countries do or don’t do and cultivate neutrality to preserve unity, independence and territorial integrity.
They are so focused in developing their own country that the only time they would fight anyone is in a situation were they are under attack.
13. The Swiss are Cold and Serious Stereotype
This one makes me laugh and for the record it was one of my own swiss biases too.
The swiss are definitely not cold, but they are indeed very serious people.
I come from a mediterranean island and my idea of a warm person is non-sexual lingering physical contact like a hug, handshake, pat on the back, holding someone’s arm, eye contact.
In addition to simply smiling, making small-talk, joking, gift giving, sharing, being helpful etc, even with people that we just met.
Admittedly, the swiss generally keep to themselves and would like for others around them to do the same.
However, as a visitor, I’ve witnessed ALL of the above (apart from physical contact) in a surprisingly high quality!
Many strangers have smiled and joked around with me on the streets, in supermarkets, at bus stops, platforms and restaurants.
During my very first 45 minutes in the country, a random guy gave me and my friend his reusable bag to carry our shopping home, because he noticed that our bags kept ripping apart on the way to the bus stop.
As far as seriousness goes, in Switzerland everything should be taken seriously unless stated otherwise.
If you find yourself involved in a discussion, let others/the other party take the lead to better understand what are their cultural boundaries.
Soon you’ll find that everything from a simple coffee date to a gathering at home is taken much more seriously than what most cultures are accustomed to.
My tip is to be extremely reserved and don’t make fun of anyone until that person clearly shows you that you can loosen up.
The thing is, it sounds worse than it actually is. What you should keep from this is that the swiss are friendly and helpful as long as you are not overstepping their limits or until you make them feel comfortable.
When I say limits I mean their personal space, or offending their values/beliefs as well as being overall disrespectful.
14. The Swiss are Tight on Rules Stereotype
Needless to say that this is a subject that the swiss themselves joke about, because it’s true and they are aware of it.
One of the fastest ways to make enemies in Switzerland is by breaking rules. Even jokingly.
Just ask a swiss person what happens if they cut the queue or if you are caught doing your laundry off the laundry schedule.
There are several reasons why this happens, one being that the swiss are raised to be highly disciplined and is thus deeply engraved in them.
The swiss crave scheduling, organisation and rules. They are followed so that there is a sense of control and balance in their daily life.
However, they also exist in order to pay respect towards fellow citizens’ rights and personal space.
It is not clear to me if this is done genuinely or if it is done because they want that same respect for themselves in return, or maybe both.
Outside the Winterthur train station, there are bus platforms. I was standing there trying to decide if number 2 or 2A was the correct bus to my friend’s house.
After some thought I realised that the bus that was stand by was the one that I wanted.
I kid you not, I was 1.5 meters away from getting in when the doors began closing. The driver obviously saw me because I kept pressing the button.
But the bus left anyhow because that was when it was scheduled to leave.
Rules are rules people!!!
This swiss stereotype causes people to think that they are being cold and serious (previous point), while in reality they are just reserved until they deem appropriate to step into your personal space.
Very few swiss will publicly dismiss rules, making this swiss stereotype absolutely true as well as overwhelmingly confirmed by the locals.
15. The Swiss are Extremely Private People Stereotype
It is said that it’s difficult to meet any swiss, mainly due to the lack of opportunities for small talk and spontaneity. But what about getting to know a swiss that you have already met? Most locals have confided in me that it’s considered impossible.
Even if you somehow manage to meet a swiss person, it is highly unlikely that they will open up easily, because (even though this sounds bad) you will simply not easily become a priority to them.
In Switzerland, the most important people throughout life remain family and friends no matter what.
Anyone else is considered either an acquaintance that is taking up their time or a person they provide or receive a service from.
That said, if you somehow manage to spend time with a swiss group, be prepared to devote many hours of common activities for them to finally accept you as their own.
The swiss are very helpful and friendly, but it is hard for them to let other people in.
Both foreigners and other locals find that the swiss lifestyle is exceptionally difficult to adapt around.
And since they are raised to put family and childhood friends above all, it becomes almost impossible to make new meaningful friendships even if they wanted to.
Keep in mind that however hard it is for swiss to let you in, they feel equally uncomfortable when you try to open up to them.
Especially when you share more than what they consider acceptable at that point of your relationship.
I would recommend to keep your deep thoughts to yourself, until it is made clear to you that you may open up, in order to make them feel comfortable.
The truth is that, however rare it is, once the swiss let you in you can rest assured they mean it and that your friendship is for life.
16. The Swiss Never Argue Stereotype
You can easily discover for yourself that even in intense conversations, the swiss will debate and disagree, but they will rarely argue due to their non-confrontational nature.
In Switzerland, the act of arguing is considered a waste of breath.
If someone is looking for a fight or an arguement, a swiss person will instantly lose respect for them and will essentially walk away feeling superior.
You need to understand that the swiss work on their self-development their whole life.
Every citizen is aware of what they are worth and what they should be working more on. And at the same time, they all have their beliefs, morals, goals and their own daily life.
The combination of all this, consists of the universe of a swiss individual.
In contrast, an arguement comes from a place of anger, dispair and the need to prove ourself when we feel like we are not being heard.
It’s rare to see that in a swiss person because of what I like to call the “Swiss Palette of Neutral Emotions”.
Swiss will reveal opinions, but not emotions. And given that arguements are based on emotions but debates are driven by opinions, they don’t argue. They debate!
This swiss bias is definitely, on average, true.
A. I was on a train from Lausanne towards north and two booths behind me sat a mother with 3 loud children.
A booth ahead of me sat a man that seemed annoyed at the noise. He turned his head 2-3 times but did not say anyting or move seats.
He just endured it without taking any action.
B. I don’t remember where I was going but I was somewhere north. I sat at a train booth opposite a woman with silver hair who was writing something. I imagine that she’s some kind of teacher.
At that point of my trip I was already aware that the swiss don’t appreciate noise, especially in confined public spaces.
I was on the phone to my mum from before I stepped in the train and I distinctly remember whispering so that I don’t annoy anyone. My mum was whispering back and we were joking that she didn’t need to whisper like I am. I was looking out of the window waiting for the train to start.
At some point after the train began moving, I turn my head and see the woman closing her ears in order to not listen to me WHISPER.
She never told me to keep it down or showed any signs that I was annoying her. I said goodbye to my mother and closed the phone explaining in greek what was happening.
This was one of the funniest moments I experienced there.
Wrapping it all up
However true a stereotype might be, there is usually a negative connotation attached to it.
I feel like people tend to stay away from Switzerland because they focus on these biased negative thoughts, which is a trap that I fell into myself. I probably would have never even thought to visit if my friend hadn’t invited me.
Hearing about how I cannot have small talk with people or how expensive everything is, appalled me as a traveller. I grew up in a country where joking around with people we just met is the norm, as well as finding bargains everywhere. This foreign, distant place sounded too different, too strict and scary than what I was accustomed to.
Exploring Switzerland for myself, I managed to understand first hand, to a certain extent, where the stereotypes are rooted and to even excuse and welcome their existence altogether.
So firstly I need to clarify that this is a country that can be explored without having to sell your body parts like people think. I certainly did.
As far as the culture goes, I have no complaints and was pleasantly surprised with the variety of sceneries and things to do.
There are ruins, 20 million year old glacier exhibits, Picassos, hike/ski/climb/swim, festivals, castles, one of the oldest surviving libraries in the world and so many more that I never expected to discover, because I was so focused on all the negative stereotypes.
Most importantly, if you are afraid of travelling alone, this is a good country to start with. You will never be scared to walk alone, even at night. You can rely on transport and on getting help if you need it at any given moment anywhere you may be.