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Here are 11 Swiss “laws” that are weird and wacky

Happiest Swiss Cow

The Swiss may be a peculiar people when it comes to imposing bureaucracy in order to fix trivial things.

This tendency has resulted in a variety of weird Swiss laws - some of which have taken on a life of their own as they have been passed around online forums for years... I would loosely categorize these "laws" into "social mores" (frowned upon by society), rules and "actual laws" - for the lack of a better term.

So, here are 11 weird Swiss laws for your enjoyment (and debate):

 

Animals may not be kept by themselves but only with a companion.

The 2008 addendum to the Swiss animal rights code specifies for each animal how many others of their kind are required by law. In other words, a guinea pig requires at least one companion, and so does a mouse or a ferret!

Swiss Laws - Two Guinea Pigs

A fairly recent push for a law stated that all animals should have the right to be represented in court by a court appointed attorney. To the best of my knowledge, no other country on earth has similarly advanced animal rights - yet. I really liked this 2010 popular initiative which unfortunately did not pass. Back then, a case of illegal "catch & release" fishing stirred up a debate about animals' rights.

I guess that court cases by Angry Birds and Grumpy Cats were too much for the voters to take. The policy from 2008 is still in effect though which makes it illegal to flush goldfish down the toilet or keep hamsters by themselves.

 

Dog owners in Switzerland need to know a whole slew of laws and regulations.

From the cradle to the grave, dogs in Switzerland have to comply with the law. For one, it makes sense that each dog needs a Swiss passport. And just like every Swiss, they need to have their own incident insurance coverage. But did you know that dog owners need to pay a dog tax? The amount of tax varies by canton: some charge a flat fee while others take into account the dog's size and weight.

Greetings in Switzerland - Bernese Mountain Dog
 

A man may not relieve himself while standing up after 10 PM. Also, you are not supposed to flush the toilet after 10 PM.

Weird Swiss Laws - Toilet

Depending on an apartment building's posted rules, these basic actions may be prohibited. Although thanks to modern building techniques and proper insulation, the gushing sound of sewage or shower water has become less of an issue these days. Although there is no particular paragraph in Swiss law restricting tenants from these things, the Swiss Homeowners' Society (HEV) leaves it open to the owner to set those rules.

Article 257f of the Swiss renters' law (OR) contains some generic language about considering others. It states that a tenant must be mindful of other tenants and neighbors, so draining a bathtub after 10 PM might be considered borderline...
 
Weird Swiss Laws - Showering
 

Among the 408 official traffic laws, there are several weird ones when it comes to cars. For instance, it is unlawful to slam a car door after 10 PM. If you switch from one time limited parking spot to another without entering traffic in between, you could get fined.

Weird Swiss Laws - Parking
 

And if you forget to activate your parking break, you might get fined, too!

Paragraph 37 article 4 of the Swiss road law states that "A driver must appropriately secure their vehicle." In other words, leaving a key inside an unlocked car forgetting to put it in gear and to activate a parking break on a slope is a no-no in the eyes of the law...

Weird Swiss Laws - Carlock
 

It is required that every car with snow tires has to have a sticker on its dashboard which tells that the driver should not drive faster than 160 km/h with those tires.

Engelberg - Snowtires
 

Naturally, you may not wash your car on a Sunday.

Washing a car on Sunday in a car-wash is no problem. In fact, some car washes are so remote that nobody would even notice!

However, it becomes a problem when someone decides to wash a car in their driveway - on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday... You get the picture! Local Swiss laws prohibit the use of a power washer altogether, and there is concern that the detergent would pollute the ground water and thus the environment.

Weird Swiss Laws - Car Wash
 

It is considered an offense to mow your lawn on a Sunday because it would cause too much noise.

 

And laudry may not be hung to dry on a Sunday.

Because who wants to see white socks waving in the wind during their Sunday stroll?

Weird Swiss Laws - Stewi
 

Despite being a country of record recycling rates, you are not allowed to drop your empty bottles and cans into the public recycling bins on Sunday.

Then what's left to do on a Sunday when you cannot wash your car, recycle, mow the lawn or hang-dry your laundry?!?

Weird Swiss Laws - Recycling
 

There is anecdotal evidence that it is illegal to ski down a mountain while reciting poetry.

Now this one sounds plausible, right? But it is probably not exactly a law... Someone on reddit phrased it nicely: "I imagine this is because a mountain reciting poetry is clearly senitent, and skiing down its face would be abusive in nature."

Vintage Photo of Skiers Reciting Gottfried Keller

If you liked these weird Swiss laws, also check out our list of ten things that are (strangely) legal in Switzerland!

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 the Swiss Travelwriters Club.

Dimitri loves discovering new trends and covers architecture, design, start-ups and tourism.

37 comments

  • But…I had absinthe for the first time in a bar in Switzerland. OMG, I’m an international criminal!

  • Relieving oneself is a natural urge, and can occur anytime, day or night. I am afraid, this rule cannot be followed. Other rules are OK.

  • To Vijay,
    Men are allowed to relieve themselves after 10 PM, but they must do so while in a sitting position, not the typical standing position.

    • Simply not true. I think someone saw a “sitzpinkel” sign and thought it was a legal requirement rather than a polite and/or humorous request from the homeowner.

  • I live in Switzerland. I have never heard of the one with the toilet.

    Absinth can be bought, but yes, it used to be forbidden. But of course consuming wasn`t. This would be like forbidding teen drinking/smoking, You don`t want to criminalise the consumer. But the one that sells it!

    Many people wash their cars on Sunday.
    I don`t know about dead relatives in banks.

    The rest is absolutely true and seems normal to me. Do you know how much noise mowing your lawn makes??

    • Thanks for the great inputs, Tina! I think you are pretty “Swiss” if these things seem normal to you :-)

      • Especially finding the “it is illegal to ski down a mountain while reciting poetry” one normal is very, very Swiss indeed ;-). I am not sure if that one is true though… sounds like the “it is illegal in Alabama to wear a fake mustache in church that causes laughter” one: urban myth.

    • Point taken, Cris! Before a popular initiative is launched, we’ve re-worked this article with additional background information, sources (where available) and pretty images. This was one of the very first posts four years ago when we launched, and I would like to think that we’ve come a long way since.

      Thanks for caring, and thanks for your comment! ;-)

      Dimitri

      • Awesome! I realize it took me a while to reply, but I appreciate the work done to find the references :-)

  • I would expect a site trying to give accurate information on life in Switzerland to get their facts right. This article is a joke and just leads to the promotion of myths rather getting the truth out about life in Switzerland.

    • You are correct in that this article is more on the humorous side when its title declares otherwise. We agree that it could be misleading, so we hope that the amendments have added some value and will help future readers distinguish the hard facts from societal mores and possible myths…

      Dimitri

  • You’re still wrong on 2), and it’s one of the most common myths about Switzerland that I get really, really tired of seeing repeated constantly. There have been court decisions to say that it is not legal for the landlord or house owner to place unreasonable conditions such as this in the Hausordnung – going to the toilet is essential personal hygiene (and flushing it is a health matter) and having, say, a reasonable after-work shower when you get home late from work is also fine. However, having a loud splashy recreational bath at 2 in the morning, if it disturbs your neighbours, is not okay, as that would also fall under local noise abatement laws in most towns. Federal law has little to do with it in these cases.

    3 – Absinthe is now legal to sell and consume as of a few days ago, as a quick look in your local Coop will demonstrate.

    5 – sort of makes sense in the context of the “bottom-up” nature of Swiss direct democracy, as this is essentially part of the rule that defence is a federal matter, devolved upwards from the cantons and gemeindes. It also means that, for instance, the town of Aarau can’t declare war on Germany by itself.

    • If you’re real man you can live under any condition and not cry for little reason like making noise by flushing etc…I sleep when my neighbour use vacum cleaner at night and don’t complain because he had work to do since container with coffee fell from his hand suddenly and he wanted to clean his floor..

  • Mostly true and funny, but of course it’s the details that matter. Some of the car-washes are simply closed on sundays because they are situated next to a housing area. Others are in fact open on sundays, which is why you still can wash your car on a sunday.

    It’s not so much the detergent that is harmful but the residue oil that you wash off your engine, which is why you can’t wash it in your driveway. Except if your driveway is equipped with the same oil-separating gear from the car-wash of course.

  • I think #4 is misinterpreted. It means you have to secure your car from rolling away, i.e. putting it in gear and applying the hand brakes.

    • I guess better be safe than sorry and explicitly state it. I think it is pretty self-explanatory, though ;-) ^Dimitri

  • You can take out #4. Securing a vehicle means something different than locking it. Depending on the street you need to use the parking brake or have the front wheels point to one side so the car would roll into the curb instead of into the street. As a matter of fact it might be very unlikely that someone would steal your car (even unlocked and with keys in it). But the law doesn’t care what you do with your property (the insurance might though).

  • I believe that pages that completely misrepresent their sources should be outlawed as well, such as this one. I’m referring to #1 (animals have to be kept with a companion).

    Your source simply does not say what you claim it does. For example on guinea pigs (Meerschweinchen), you are most likely referring to page 99 of the PDF you’re linking to, which is about enclosures for mammals (Gehege für Säugetiere, headline on page 97). There is a column on group sizes and the entry is indeed two, but this column is titled “For groups of *up to* n animals” (für Gruppen bis zu n Tieren) and it gives the minimum enclosure size for an enclosure containing such a group. No requirement whatsoever that the group has to be *at least* consist of two animals. And anyway, this table is about enclosures, and it defines their measurements depending on group size. It is not about keeping animals in general (specifically, pets in homes) and again, the table is not about minimum group sizes.

    In the main text there are indeed some rules on individual species that require them to be kept in groups (search for “Gruppe”), but these are few and specific. Sometimes these rules only apply to young animals (e.g. calves, horses), sometimes they only apply on the condition that more than one such animal actually exists in the “operation” (a hint there too: this is not about restricting the way you keep pets! Examples include calves). No such requirements on any of the species you mention (guinea pigs, mice, ferrets) or picture (cats).

    This is particularly regrettable since I came across this page from another page that repeats this misinformation (and fortunately links to its source).

  • Re. #4, nothing weird about it. It’s required in many countries, including mine; also in some US jurisdictions (the entire state of Texas,for example). It’s to reduce as much as possible the chance of a car rolling unattended while parked.

  • […] There are some…interesting…laws. Yes, Switzerland is a land of funny laws. Many involve things that are aren’t allowed to do on Sundays (mow your lawn, wash your car, generally make too much noise) and rules for your apartment (in some apartment buildings you can’t flush your toilet after 10pm). But my favourite law I have heard so far is that you have to have at least two guinea pigs, having just the one guinea pig is not allowed. Here’s some more interesting Swiss laws. […]

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