10 things that are (strangely) legal in Switzerland

It is no secret that Switzerland has more bureaucrats than milk cows.

Given that it is illegal to mow your lawn on Sundays, there are a handful of things in the grey zone that are actually legal in Switzerland. Here is a random list of things that seem like they might be illegal but are actually legal in Switzerland. Disclaimer: In no shape or form do we endorse or otherwise encourage any of these activities.

Here goes:

Downloading music and films is legal in Switzerland. It's the online sharing of media that's illegal.

 

Starting a campfire anywhere in public is actually legal.

Camp Fire in Switzerland
 

It is common to list gender, age or nationality on a resume. In many other countries, there are laws against this.

 

In Switzerland, prostitution is legal (like in most of Europe).

 

Also, nudity in public is legal. A few years ago, a story on naked hikers in Appenzell even made it into the New York Times...

Naked Hiking Switzerland
 

Negotiating a flat tax vs. paying your fair share based on your tax bracket is legal. (At least for wealthy foreigners...)

 

Not using your turn signal is legal in Switzerland.

 

Euthanasia, which is the proper term for assisted suicide, is legal in Switzerland. That's not to say that it is not controversial.

 

Smoking pot in public is tolerated, but selling your home-grown stash is illegal.

 

And last but not least, wearing swimming trunk "speedos" is legal as well - provided you are Swiss!

 
So, what are your thoughts? Do you even think these things are bizarre, or do you wish your country would allow any of these activities also? Share in the comments below...

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And if you are into surprising facts about Switzerland, we have got you covered! For instance, check out this collection of surprising Swiss facts...

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Dimitri Burkhard

Founder, Editor-in-Chief at Newly Swissed GmbH
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 the Swiss Travelwriters Club.

Dimitri loves discovering new trends and covers architecture, design, start-ups and tourism.
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23 replies
    • dimitri
      dimitri says:

      Let’s put it this way: Knowing personal information about an applicant such as gender and marital status may influence a hiring decision. Obviously, there is no policy that formally allows discrimination. But at the same time, there is no law against it.

      Reply
      • James Kinahan
        James Kinahan says:

        Swiss Law;
        Article 8 (Equality before the law): (1) Everyone shall be equal before the law.
        (2) No one may be discriminated against, in particular on grounds of origin, race, gender, age, language, social position, way of life, religious, ideological, or political convictions, or because of a physical, mental or psychological disability.
        (3) Men and women shall have equal rights. The law shall ensure their equality, both in law and in practice, most particularly in the family, in education, and in the workplace. Men and women shall have the right to equal pay for work of equal value.
        (4) The law shall provide for the elimination of inequalities that affect persons with disabilities.

      • khay
        khay says:

        hi sir,i actually shared this discrimination issue in our class, and unfortunately, i think i got embarrassed because i dont have a stand, can you provide me any proof or your stand about this matter?thanks

      • Moonchild
        Moonchild says:

        I think the main difference is that the Swiss don’t consider everything to be discrimination. My previous boss was hesitant to hire me because I was a newlywed woman of child-bearing age. I thought he was being practical, not discriminatory. The boss has the right to hire who he thinks is best for the job. I guess it works the same in politics.

      • newlyswissed
        newlyswissed says:

        Thanks for sharing your insights! I guess discrimination in hiring practices is a matter of perspective. It is important IMO that managers know about the implications of their decisions, as the applicant might not share that same perspective.

        ^Dimitri

      • Ryan
        Ryan says:

        What you describe is precisely discrimination. Your boss was inferring how good a hire you would be based on your gender, age and marital status.

        Consider another example. In many countries ethnic minorities are over-represented in crime statistics. Consider a job applicant who happens to be a member of that minority. Now: should your boss have the right to infer how good a hire that person would be based on their ethnicity?

      • Moonchild
        Moonchild says:

        There was no discrimination, because he actually hired me. I was exactly what he needed at the time, so that counterbalanced the bad short-term investment in an employee that’s going to be leaving to start a family in the next few years.
        Anyway, I think that if Bossman is paying the salary, Bossman should be able to choose whoever he wants, for whatever reasons he wants. It’s his *job* to decide what’s a “good hire.” If he would have hired a young single guy, I would have totally understood. Maybe I’m too privileged to understand discrimination. But it seems that legislating someone’s opinion may be the greater evil?
        As for your example above, I think the boss should interview the person, and decide for himself.

      • Ryan
        Ryan says:

        Regardless of whether you condone it or not, if he considered your gender as a hiring criteria, it is discrimination. If you are cool with some mild forms of discrimination, so be it. Say it loud and proud, sister.

        Now: “Legislating someone’s opinion” is a vast overstatement of what anti-discrimination laws do. They restrict hiring practices in a specific way; the intention being to remove gender, ethnicity etc. from the hiring criteria. (Unless those factors are in fact part of the job description: e.g. female model.) Now that we’ve cleared that up: I certainly cannot agree that anti-discrimination laws are a greater evil than discriminatory hiring practices.

        “Bossman should be able to choose whoever he wants”. Really?! How far are you willing to go with that sentiment? Let’s rewind 100 years to a world in which all the bossmen (plural) all share the opinion that the fairer sex don’t have the mental capacity to do 95% of the jobs out there. Back to your nursing, teaching or textile manufacturing, woman! You are cool with that? Or a world in which all the bossmen think that Blacks don’t have the mental capacity? Labor income is how most of us get ahead in society. Widespread discriminatory practices hold huge swathes of the population back. Moreover, they are wasteful. If I was a shareholder in a firm where bossman doesn’t hire women, I would have him fired, because he is losing me money.

      • Moonchild
        Moonchild says:

        But it’s not 100 years ago. Nowadays, everyone knows that women are smarter. =P
        Switzerland has had five female presidents … unlike some other countries with perhaps stricter anti-discrimination laws. Maybe it’s not the laws that changed things, rather the people changed their opinions. People should be able to elect who they want, hire who they want. If general attitudes are influenced, and the candidate is qualified, the laws are unnecessary. IMHO.

  1. felisnigripes
    felisnigripes says:

    But how do you want to forbid those unhygienic shorts or better “longs”, which make men look like Pampers-Babies freshly swaddled instead of water heros showing legs?

    Reply
  2. David
    David says:

    Every single one of those (with the possibly exception of no. 4, which there’s probably more to anyway but i am too lazy to research it) SHOULD be legal!! Switzaland goes up in my estimation. I guess if you think those strange, you really must come from a dodgy country!

    Reply
    • Vanessa
      Vanessa says:

      Hi David!

      I’m actually from Switzerland and I can assure you #4 is false. You do not have to give any of the information listed above and officially, the potential employer is not allowed to discriminate.

      However, some of the other things are definitely not legal either.

      Reply
      • Globeca
        Globeca says:

        Hello,
        I am also from Switzerland and although I agree with Vanessa that discrimination is not legal you certainly do have to list all these attributes on a job application! No one would take you seriously if you would send them a CV without indication of gender, age, marrital status and nationality!
        I don’t know in what dream world you live Vanessa but your statement is definetely wrong…

      • Claudia Dolfi
        Claudia Dolfi says:

        “Discrimination based on gender, age, or nationality is legal” is definately not legal (Antirassismus-Strafnorm: Article 261bis StGB since 1995), although it is expected (but not legally required) to mention Gender, Age and Nationality in a CV. But of course it doesn’t mean discrimination is not taking place conciously or unconciously. A potential employer doesn’t have to give any reasons why he doesn’t employ you, and even if he would have to he would probably find legal ones…

        Smoking pot in public or in private is still illegal. It is tolerated though in certain Cantons/ Cities only, where carrying small amounts of pot and having a few plants for personal use might be tolerated to.

  3. Janne
    Janne says:

    I think all of these are absolutely normal, except for no.4.

    There actually IS a law against discrimination, but as you stated, it’s very difficult to enforce it. (f.e. equal salaries for men and women)

    Maybe the fact that I grew up in Switzerland gives me a differend view on those things? Still, I think most of those are just common sense.

    Reply
    • Dimitri
      Dimitri says:

      Hi Janne,
      Thank you for your input! Most of these items are common sense for me, too, but our Swiss background has probably jaded us to an extent ;-)

      Take care,
      Dimitri

      Reply
  4. Nate
    Nate says:

    Read this and had a bit of a laugh.

    #4 IS illegal, however that is not to say that discrimination doesn’t happen, because its true, it does.

    However what I think should be illegal is the not using your signals (or #7 on the list).

    I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I find it so frustratingly confusing on how it seems that drivers over here don’t ever use their signals properly at a round-about.

    You come to a round-about. You yield to traffic on the left. Then all of the sudden someone comes from oncoming traffic, enters the round-about and turns left WITHOUT signalling.

    I have come so close to almost having accidents on round-abouts purley because people don’t indicate that they are turning left. Everywhere else in Europe its legal to indicate whilst your on the round-about, why can’t they do it here? It makes sense. You let everyone know where you’re going, everyone can then take the appropriate action and avoid any possible accidents.

    To all of those that don’t indicate while you’re on the roundabout. Please adhere to the following advice. Stop it!

    Oh and tailgating a lorry on a roundabout? Seriously? Ugghhh.

    Reply
  5. Tatsuhiro Sato
    Tatsuhiro Sato says:

    I am a Swiss born ‘two deminsional’ American citiyen. I don’t know how this would work in mz favour or against it, as I do understand th concept of jus sanguinis emplozd in Swiss Law, and jus solis in American Law. Ujs solis means the law of the soil, thus if zou were BORN in a country one automatically acquires citizenship of that particular country. In a jus sangunis situation like under Swiss Law, one can only receive nationality (Stattsangehörikgkeit) through sanguinis = sanguis or blood (relation). That is my own situaton, I was physically born in the now former Frauenspital Bern (which I was able to Photograph as i was being razed) but not from Swiss parents. Thus despite being given birth inBern, I could not obtain Swiss nationality. Many People ” especially from America ” do not realise that.
    So, in this regard, I have an absence of any clue of how this would work for or against me. Any thoughts?

    Reply

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