Helvetian 101: Your guide to the Swiss lifestyle
Integrating in Switzerland is about more than appreciating a bar of Lindt chocolate and carrying a Swiss army knife.
With its humbling mountain peaks, magnificent lakes, lush green meadows, and almost unnervingly clean cities and towns, Switzerland truly is a stunning country.
If you’re new to life in Schweiz, you may find yourself flummoxed by the local customs. After all, this is a country where people have been known to take their own slippers to other people’s houses.
But never fear -- along with our friends at Swiss health insurance company SWICA, we’ve pulled together this handy guide to help you fit in with the sometimes puzzling Helvetians.
Talk the talk
Your first Swiss lifestyle tip is not to hold back on the hellos.
You may initially think it’s a case of mistaken identity as a perfect stranger greets you in a corridor or as you sit in the doctor’s waiting room, but it’s all part of Swiss etiquette. Reply with a jovial “Bonjour!” or “Grüezi!” and you’ll blend right in.
And remember -- when meeting a friend, kiss them three times: offer your right cheek first, then your left, then your right again. Then congratulate yourself for being terribly Swiss and sophisticated.
Park the car
You might be used to jumping in your car every time you need to go somewhere in your home country. Particularly in the States where the nearest supermarket is often a good twenty minute drive away!
Now that you’re in Switzerland, however, you better get used to taking public transport. And you may even find you prefer it! Switzerland’s public transport system is clean, efficient, and convenient -- with 29,000 kilometres of train, bus, and boat lines along with urban transport like trams, cable cars, and ferries.
For extra Swiss points, complain to the person next to you when your usually dependable tram is even a minute or two late.
In fact, punctuality of all kinds will become incredibly important to you as the Swiss take time-keeping very seriously. So get yourself a good watch -- luckily, you shouldn’t have a problem finding one in Switzerland!
Eat like a local
The Swiss are sticklers for a good schedule, and their eating habits are no exception. If you really want to go whole hog with your adoption of the Swiss lifestyle, the first place to start is by switching out your three meals a day for five.
That’s right, the Swiss are fans of little and often, with five daily meals on the agenda. And, conveniently, they all begin with Z: Zmorge, Znüni, Zmittag, Zvieri and Znacht. Before you get too lost, think of it this way -- it’s basically breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a couple of snacks thrown in for good measure.
Life abroad can be overwhelming at times, so it’s extra important to eat well and take good care of your health. SWICA isn’t your average health insurance provider. It also offers contributions towards nutritional advice as well as all sorts of fitness-related activities from gym memberships to climbing, gymnastics, and yoga so you can keep in ship shape while living overseas.
Recycling will become second nature
Living in Switzerland, you’ll quickly turn into a recycling zealot. Autopilot mode switches on every time you need to separate your recyclables, and you won’t think twice about paying a couple of francs for your official taxed garbage bag.
There are even special recommendations for how to tie your paper waste together, and you’ll be the first to tut anyone who doesn’t meticulously follow them (all while asking yourself, “Who am I?”).
Ain’t no mountain high enough
The Swiss are outdoor people all year round, little wonder really when the natural landscape is so perfect for sports. It’s rare to see a Swiss person out of shape, perhaps because in the summer you’ll find them splashing about in a lake while they hit the slopes the moment the snow falls.
Swiss families spend at least a week a year skiing or snowboarding, and most of the major ski resorts have a ice rink or frozen field for skating. According to figures from the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention, around 1.7 million Swiss people go skiing or snowboarding each year -- and approximately 50,500 of them suffer an accident.
Take safety precautions when you go on your annual Swiss ski trip, and make sure you have health insurance that covers you if you do have an accident. Find out more about SWICA’s different packages and find one that suits your situation -- the last thing you want is to get hit with a huge hospital bill when all you need is some R’n’R.
This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by SWICA.
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