Newly Swissed Online Magazine

10 Office Taboos in Switzerland

If you want to succeed at your new job in a Swiss office, there are a number of taboos to avoid at al costs.

Your new colleagues might not tell you in your face that you are being rude, but they might gossip about you in incomprehensible Swiss German. Or did you think you will make friends by showing off your hairy legs or calling everyone by their first name? You guessed wrong.

Yes, Swiss work etiquette is a slippery slope. But these office taboos will hopefully help the Newly Swissed avoid the biggest blunders:

Forgetting to bring a cake for the coworkers on your birthday.

Swiss Office Taboos - Forgetting to bring cake on your birthday

Not taking a two week vacation at least once a year.

Wearing shorts and showing hairy legs (this goes for guys and gals).

Insisting on speaking Swiss German with German colleagues.

Calling everyone by their first name from day one. That's a no-no!

Swiss First Names - Hansueli

Don't bark orders. It's better to involve everyone in the "decision making" - even if it's already been decided.

Paying your croissant with a 100 franc bill (the lunch lady hates that).

Paying your croissant in Euros (dito!).

Occupying the elevator for just one floor.

And finally, microwaving cheese fondue in an open office. That's a deadly sin, even in the Land of Cheese!

Swiss Office Taboos - Microwaving Cheese Fondue

What taboos persist at your Swiss workplace? We're dying to know.

Dimitri Burkhard

As the founder, editor, and community manager of Newly Swissed, Dimitri owns the strategic vision. He is passionate about storytelling and is a member of Swiss Travel Communicators. Dimitri loves discovering new trends and covers architecture, design, start-ups and tourism.


  • In my workplace:

    – we speak a terrible mix of Schwitzerdutsch, German and Italian because of our different backgrounds

    – we bring cakes, cookies, biscuits and crackers on a daily basis :D

    – nobody barks orders, but the Italians are LOUD

    – no first names, we use nicknames

    – first one at the coffee machine usually brings coffee to everybody

    – World War II is nothing compared to The Vacation Slots Placement Time

    • Wow, you seem to be working in quite a “regulated” workplace with plenty of blunders… How long does it take a new person to figure out all these customs? ^Dimitri

      • Well, we give new employees a week or two :D
        Actually, the only (minor) problem in our workplace is the language: we have tried with English, but some people don’t know it well so we had to settle with standard German.

  • In our office we bring the cake for the one who has birthday :) and we call everyone by first name (Zurich)

  • I enjoyed a lot the article. Most of my colleagues are women, so everyday in the office is a little celebration for us. Home-baked sweets for breakfast, sounds good right? Have a great week!

  • I guess it depends on which area or field you work for. In my company, we all call each other by nicknames, in summer time shorts are (almost) a must, and twice a year we host a Raclette party on the common kitchen (takes at least two days for the smell to go away haha)

  • I wonder about the tradition of bringing a cake for your co workers on your birthday. I lived in the Eastern United States and this was not the custom as in Anglo-Saxon culture co workers bring you stuff. Once I moved to the North Central United States; where more peoples ancestors came from Scandinavia, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, bringing a cake on your birthday is common practice. Is this from an old custom found in mainly Germanic countries? I just find it interesting that some of these same office taboos exist in this one part of the United States also.

  • Microwaving anything! We lived in Switzerland without ever owning a microwave – never missed it. Another taboo is eating your lunch at your desk. Who wants to smell someones lunch when you’re trying to work. Most people actually get up from their desk and take the hour lunch. It’s a pleasure because in the US rarely to people leave their desk for lunch.

    • Solid inputs, so true! I would agree that the lunch hour is a precious time for most Swiss, so they would never dream of eating at the desk. ^Dimitri

Dimitri Burkhard

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