Cultural Tips for Switzerland – including some valuable business travel tips for Switzerland!
The culture of Switzerland is made up of four subcultures: the German, French, Italian, and 1% indigenous population who speak Romansch.
The handshake is the most common greeting in Switzerland, and Swiss Germans may shake hands upon both meeting and departing.
The Swiss French and Swiss Italians may shake hands and give you an “air kiss” or an embrace, depending on the rapport they have established with you. Men in either of these regions will embrace close friends but will not kiss.
When doing business in Switzerland, punctuality is necessary on all occasions, whether business or social. This is especially true in the German speaking areas, where arriving even five minutes late for a business or social engagement can be offensive. The French and Italian speaking areas tend to be slightly more relaxed about time, but punctuality is still the best policy.
Female business travelers should have no problem as long as they remain highly professional, and while many women hold high-level positions, there are still fewer than in some cultures.
The Swiss may initially seem reserved or even standoffish, however once you develop a rapport with them, you’ll find that they are very honest, responsible people, who will be loyal to your interests.
It takes longer to develop personal relationships in Switzerland, however, with time and patience, the bond you establish will prove to be very beneficial.
The Swiss are very private people, so avoid asking personal questions about family, age, marital status, religion etc. unless they bring it up first.
Whether in a social or business situation, the Swiss are polite and pay close attention to what you say to them. They are very good listeners and rarely interrupt.
Although the use of first names in business is becoming more common, initially address your Swiss contact by “Mr.”, “Ms.”, or “Mrs.” until you are invited the use their first name.
The Swiss are very controlled, so maintain control over your emotions and show a disciplined approach in what you do.
The way you sit, stand, and project yourself are very important. You can expect the Swiss to pay close attention to your posture.
Business is regarded as serious, and humor has little place in discussions. Cracking jokes during a meeting will probably not be well received.
Swiss Germans will usually get right down to business, however, the Swiss French and Swiss Italians will expect some preliminary “small talk” and may even offer you a drink.
Business presentations should be clear and concise, and while the Swiss are very straightforward in negotiations, they make a genuine effort to see matters from the opponent’s perspective.
In the Swiss business culture, there is a reluctance to take risks so they will require substantial information before agreeing to a new plan or procedure.
Typically, the Swiss German and Swiss French rely on empirical evidence and objective facts for evidence, while the Swiss Italians may rely more on subjective feelings.
The Swiss have a reputation for getting the best possible deal without ever appearing aggressive or demanding. Their quiet self-confidence, combined with the exceptional quality and value of their goods and services, allows them to avoid the “hard-sell” or other high-pressure tactics.
Hierarchy and rank is more important in the German-speaking area compared to the French and Italian speaking areas, however individuals with seniority, rank, and authority assume an air of modesty and remain discreet in exercising their power.
The Swiss will not rush to a decision, and while the final decision may come from the top, it is also consensus based in the fact that everyone involved must be accepting of it.
Once a decision is made, the Swiss are very reliable, efficient, and can be trusted to follow through. They are also very good at maintaining confidentiality.
Do’s and Taboos for Switzerland
5 Key Conversation or Cultural Gesture Tips
- The Swiss are always interested in world affairs.
- The natural beauty of Switzerland, and where to visit is an excellent topic.
- The distinct varieties of foods from the different subcultures.
- Sports of all kinds, especially all winter sports!
- The excellent quality of Swiss products, for example watches and chocolate.
5 Key Conversation or Cultural Gesture Taboos
- Avoid asking personal questions, or discussing family, unless they bring it up at some point in your relationship.
- It’s considered impolite to stand and talk with your hands in your pockets.
- Avoid any form of back patting.
- Point using your full hand, because pointing with your index finger is considered impolite, or even obscene by some.
- Don’t be overly demonstrative with body language or tonality or you won’t be taken seriously
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The CROSS of Cross-Cultural
Cultural Tips for Countries from A to Z
Cultural Tips for Switzerland – including some valuable business travel tips for Switzerland
This article on cultural differences in Switzerland and cultural travel tips for Switzerland is a brief snapshot of conversation guidelines for Switzerland, tips for communicating in Switzerland, and business strategies for Switzerland to help with understanding the culture in Switzerland. It’s important to keep in mind that as we homogenize as a ‘global culture,’ cultural tendencies change and evolve as well. Awareness is the first step when it comes to cultural do’s and taboos for Switzerland and tips for intercultural communication!
It’s easy for business travelers to think that even when they travel, business is going to be done pretty much the same way it is at home. But that’s not always the case. Cultural differences can have a significant impact on global business etiquette. That’s why it’s important for business travelers to make sure that they understand the culture of the country that they’re doing business in.
Emmy Award Winner, Gayle Cotton, is the author of this blog and of the bestselling cross-cultural communication book ‘SAY Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication’, which is available on Amazon as a Book, eBook, or Audio Book. She is President of Circles Of Excellence Inc. and a Professional Keynote Speaker. Contact Gayle if you need professional speakers for events, speakers on cultural diversity, conference speakers for events, or keynote speakers that specialize in cross-cultural training. She is a leader in the field of public speakers, motivational speakers, and international keynote speakers. She is among the best of female keynote speakers and women motivational speakers and is a ‘first choice’ request for international audiences!
Circles Of Excellence provides Corporate Training, Leadership Coaching, and Professional Keynote Speakers for companies of all sizes and in all industries, including over 50 Fortune 500 companies. Contact us about our customized training programs for Communication Skills, Cross-Cultural Communication, Cultural Diversity, Customer Service, Leadership Coaching, Presentation Skills, Sales Negotiations, Stress Management, Team building, and Time Management Training.
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