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.

Helvetian 101: Your guide to the Swiss lifestyle
View from Klewenalp ski resort in central Switzerland. Photo: gevision/Depositphotos

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.

Find out more about Switzerland's top-rated health insurance provider

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

Photo: Artzzz/Depositphotos

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.

Find out more about SWICA’s comprehensive insurance packages and learn why in 2017 alone it earned three awards for customer satisfaction.

Recycling will become second nature

Photo: tobkatrina/Depositphotos

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.

Find out more about SWICA’s health insurance and start making the most of your life in Switzerland!

This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by SWICA.

For members


EXPLAINED: Why you need ‘legal protection insurance’ in Switzerland

Swiss insurance companies offer a variety of services, but the one covering legal disputes is among the most popular ones. This is what you should know about it.

EXPLAINED: Why you need 'legal protection insurance' in Switzerland
Law and order: Legal insurance may make it easier. Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

The Swiss like to be prepared for all kinds of disasters — both real and imaginary.

This is where insurance comes in.

Whether it’s a policy that covers damages inflicted on cars by weasels, or insurance for theft of sleds and skis placed outside a mountain restaurant, people here don’t like to leave anything to chance.

One of the most popular optional coverages — as opposed the health insurance, which is compulsory — is legal protection insurance (Rechtsschutzversicherungen in German, protection juridique in French, and protezione giuridica in Italian).

What is it and what does it cover?

Simply put, it covers attorney and other associated fees if you undertake court action against someone, are sued, or simply need legal advice.

There are two different types of legal protection insurance — one specifically for traffic accidents and the other for all other matters. Sometimes they are combined.

Typically, this insurance covers costs of legal representation associated with contract disputes, employment, loans and debts, healthcare, housing, retail purchases, and travel.

Photo by Rodnae Productions from Pexels

Some carriers also insure cases related to marital law and inheritance.

Most will not cover attorney fees for criminal cases where you are the perpetrator, or financial disputes related to asset management, banking and investment.

Also excluded is legal action related to political or religious activism.

Can you choose your own lawyer or will you have one assigned to you by the insurance company?

Typically, an insurer has a roster of approved attorneys with whom it works. Some allow the client to choose from the list, while  others select one for you.

If your own lawyer is part of your insurer’s roster, you can request he or she represents you, but it is not guaranteed.

How much does this insurance cost?

Fees vary depending on what coverage you need (traffic accidents, general, or combined), whether they have deductibles, and how high they are.

You can compare the premiums by using this link.

Do you actually need this coverage?

As is the case with any optional insurance, you don’t need it until you do.

Generally speaking, and according to online consumer comparison site, “if you require legal consultation at least once every two years, getting personal legal insurance often makes financial sense. Just the legal consultation benefits which you get with some insurance policies can make up for the cost of premiums”.

READ MORE: How much does health insurance cost in Switzerland?