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Travel, Teach, Live in Europe and Middle East

How to Behave in Switzerland

Switzerland has a rich and storied history dating back to 15 BC, when the Alps were discovered and integrated into the Roman Empire. In recent years, Switzerland has distinguished itself as one of the most peaceful countries in the world by not participating in a war since 1815. Switzerland is well-known for watches, chocolate, knives and cheese. When visiting Switzerland, it is important to behave according to the mores and traditions of the culture.

Speak a few phrases in the local language of the area you visit in Switzerland. Almost 70 percent of the Swiss speak German, primarily in the central portion of the country. The western side of Switzerland speaks French, and the southeastern area speaks Italian.

Recycle almost everything. The Swiss recycle paper, glass, plastic, chemicals, cartons, textiles, oil and cooking fat. Make sure your items are put in the proper receptacles when you finish using them. All other waste goes into special bags purchased at checkout counters and supermarket kiosks.

Behave and communicate analytically with the German and French-speaking Swiss, who are known to dwell on facts. Communicate a bit more associatively with the Italian-speaking Swiss.

Do not be surprised if the Swiss person with whom you are speaking takes time to fully analyze a situation before making a decision about it.

Write and read dates in order by the day, month and year. For example, 1/11/1990 is January 1, 1990.

Behave when eating with others by resting your wrists on the table. Don't place your hand(s) in your lap. During meals, avoid discussions about dieting.

Avoid talking about the military in general and universal military conscription in particular.

Give up your seat to an older person when on public transportation. The Swiss have a deep respect for seniors and expect everyone to give a seat to older members of society.

Tip your hat to acquaintances and be prepared to respond to hats tipped in your direction.

Shake hands to greet someone, and always stand when being introduced to someone. Allow your friend or another third party to make introductions instead of introducing yourself.

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