Have you ever found the Swiss giving you weird looks while you were chewing gum or laughing just a little too loudly? Welcome to the world of cultural differences! But no worries, help is on its way.
Short of pissing them off, here are seven little ways that will likely tick off the Swiss:
1. Being loud or making unnecessary noise.
Swiss people do not like noise, whether in their neighborhoods, inside public transportation or at work. After all, reservation and modesty are important traits in Swiss society.
If you are still Newly Swissed, take note: Avoid talking loudly on a cell phone while in public, laugh and/or holler while walking down the street, vacuum on a Sunday or dare to drop glass into the communal recycling bins on a weekend... Want to know the deadliest sin in the noise category? Munching a smelly kebab on a tram...
2. Asking personal questions.
The Swiss value privacy dearly, so they will be offended when you ask them personal questions about their age or their salary. Even when you have known someone for a fair amount of time, money matters remain a taboo.
3. Addressing someone by their first name.
In most of Western Europe, it is considered rude to address someone by their first name. Instead, use (and remember) a person's last name when you first meet them, and do not change this until they invite you to go informal. This could be in a few months, or never. The reason is that the formal tone shows respect and appreciates their privacy. And as a rule of thumb, always introduce yourself by last name to an elder person.
4. Assuming that everyone went to university.
It is insulting if you bluntly ask a white collar worker what they studied at university. Switzerland offers alternative routes to making it in business, and the question inadvertently makes you sound condescending.
5. Not taking care of the environment.
Switzerland is known to be one of the cleanest countries in the world, and most Swiss truly care about the environment. For the most part, you will be hard-pressed to find any litter on the streets or in public transportation. Needless to say, littering is frowned upon.
When it comes to disposing of trash, the Swiss separate burnable waste from recyclable glass and plastic. Due to the limited space, the infrastructure makes driving a car all but convenient. Therefore, using public transportation, walking or bicycling (except on the sidewalk) to your destination will often save you time - and help save the environment.
6. It's all in the handshake.
When you meet people or are introduced to someone, always shake hands firmly while maintaining eye contact (this includes children). Before leaving a party, do not neglect the importance of going around and once again shaking everyone's hands. And to leave a lasting impression, it helps to repeat back someone's name.
7. Making fun of their sports teams.
Statements such as "Switzerland has a national hockey team? I've never heard of them..." or "I couldn't name a single Swiss Olympian" will not make your life any easier. Call it a Swiss minority complex, but they sure do not appreciate being belittled when it comes to sports.
As you can tell, it is not very difficult to drop a brick in Switzerland. Yet, every now and then you might not feel like following the rules. Sometimes it is nice to be surrounded by people who experience the same. If this happens, consider attending one of the many expat events in Switzerland. The biggest organization is InterNations, and they organize multiple events in all major cities in Switzerland.