If you are considering joining the 100,000 or so US connected persons who call Switzerland their home, it may be worthwhile getting more familiar with some of the interesting cultural elements that the beautiful country exhibits.
It is fair to say that there are some quirky rules and idiosyncrasies in Switzerland that many people find confusing and sometimes amusing when you first move there.
The Swiss are known for their rules-based culture and it’s no secret that they are very organised. As Paul Bilton of Xenophobes guide to the Swiss says,
“The Swiss are the only nation to make the Germans appear inefficient, the French undiplomatic and the Texans poor”.
Even so, there are a few areas where these rules can seem bizarre by most western standards.
Take Sundays for example, as a Scotsman, modern Sundays are really just the same as any other day of the week, the shops and businesses are all open, I can clean my car and mow my lawn and catch up with other jobs that need doing that I can’t get done during my busy week.
This is not the case in Switzerland, I may indeed be breaking the law if I wash my car, hang out some laundry or mow my lawn on a Sunday. You would be wise to also consider any noise that you make after 10pm on any day as you may fall fowl of noise pollution laws.
Switzerland has an enviable recycling record and takes this very seriously but even the act of dropping off my empty bottles at a recycling point could leave me with a choice between a few days in jail or a fine.
As for recycling, as well as being a noble pursuit it’s also cost effective as in many cantons you need to purchase your refuse sacks locally and they can cost around 4 CHF per bag, making it an expensive way to dispose of your family waste.
If you are caught speeding your fine will be based on the speed you were doing and the level of your income resulting in a pretty expensive ride if you are a high earner which can pose an issue if you are also one of the “Uberpunklich” which is a SwissGerman word for someone who is super punctual, a trait that is admired by the Swiss.
The legal quirkiness also extends to our furry animal friends as its also illegal to keep a pet regarded as a “social animal” (think guinea pig!) without a companion. But fear not, if one of your little buddies dies, you can always rent a partner from various rent a pet schemes that help to re-home other widowed pets.
And if all this starts to get on top of you and you want to start a revolution, it’s worth bearing in mind that the Swiss have compulsory military training from age 20 and expect its citizens to be “battle ready” until the mid 30’s. This means that Switzerland has one of the most equipped and trained citizen armies in the western world. It’s no wonder the Pope uses the Swiss guard as his personal bodyguards.
Despite its neutral stance in the two world wars, the Swiss has even prepared itself and its people for global Armageddon by ensuring that many private homes have nuclear fallout shelters in the basement and where applicable there are communal shelters that the population can use in the event of the world going mad.
So, if all the above hasn’t curbed your enthusiasm to yodel your way to the breath-taking valleys of the Swiss countryside to explore new job opportunities and avail of some of the best chocolate, cheese and outdoor pursuits that money can buy, please just spare a moment to understand how the culture may differ from what you are used to. This also extends to your personal financial situation as careful consideration of your circumstances is a priority to ensure that you maximise your financial efficiency for your time in Switzerland, whether you’re passing through or here for life, its critical to get the right advice to help your planning needs.
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By Barry Honeyman