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Swiss daily dilemmas: Can I flush my toilet at night?

Of the many urban myths about Switzerland, the belief that it is forbidden to flush the toilet at night is one of the most persistent. Here's what you need to know.

Can you flush one of these at night in Switzerland? Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash
Can you flush one of these at night in Switzerland? Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash

One of the first things that strikes foreigners in Switzerland are the (sometimes very) long lists of rules governing life in apartment buildings in the country.

Known as the ‘Hausordnung’ in German or the ‘règlement de maison’ in French, these dreaded house rules are usually pinned up in a prominent position and can cover everything from whether you are allowed to keep a pet in an apartment to an obligation on tenants to clear snow away in winter.

READ ALSO: Ten things foreigners do that make the Swiss really uncomfortable

These rules are included in the contract and you should read them closely before signing a lease as they are a legal obligation.

‘Rest periods’

In addition, the rules often include a mention of so-called ‘rest periods’ (Ruhezeiten/ temps de repos).

Such quiet times are set by local authorities around Switzerland and differ slightly depending on where you live.

In Zurich, for example, the legal quiet times are from 10pm to 7am, although on Fridays and Saturdays, and during summer, the rest time is from 11pm to 7am. According to the by-laws, “disruptive behaviour” should be avoided during these hours.

In addition, people are also expected to avoid unnecessary noise from 8pm in the evening, and on Sundays, although there is more leeway here during night-time hours.

READ MORE: The 12 strange laws in Switzerland you need to know

But none of the above stops people from flushing a toilet at night.

Swiss rental law is not specific

In fact, the idea of a national ban on night-time toilet flushing doesn’t mirror the Swiss legal situation at all.

Thomas Oberle, a lawyer with the homeowners’ association HEV, points out that contrary to popular belief the rental law in Switzerland is not very specific. This means that landlords can interpret the law as they see fit.

In short, there are no blanket Swiss house rules that apply to all tenants.

So what would happen if a landlord decided to ban toilet flushing at night?

READ ALSO: How to behave and what to expect when living in Switzerland – An expert’s mini guide

Well, that wouldn’t stand up in court. According to Swiss Tenants Association (MV), house rules are only binding when they have a practical basis and when they are proportionate.

The MV adds that house rules cannot impose too much of a limit on people’s personal freedom.

In short, you can take a quick shower after 10pm during the week even the house rules ‘forbid’ this.

But taking baths at odd hours is another matter.

“I wouldn’t recommend running a bath at night as the noise would be inconsiderate,” Oberle of the HEV told The Local.

Morven McLean contributed reporting to the original version of this article.

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SWISS TRADITIONS

Do Swiss cows really get airlifted down from the Alps after summer?

'Flying cows' is possibly one of the more curious myths people hear about Switzerland. But is there any truth to it?

Do Swiss cows really get airlifted down from the Alps after summer?

If you talk to foreigners and ask them a surprising thing about Switzerland, many will mention the “flying cows”, and pictures of the animals being taken by helicopter up and down the Swiss Alps are not difficult to find.

“The cows in Swiss are taken to the highlands by helicopters for grazing during summers and brought down back again by helicopters in the winters!” wrote one person in an English-speaking forum.

The pictures of airlifted cows can be found all over the Internet, adding fuel to the myth – but the images are not fake.

So, are cows airlifted in Switzerland once the summer is over?

Yes, cows really get a free helicopter ride up and down the Alps, but only when necessary.

Injured cows that cannot make the journey walking will not be left to die in the cold mountains during the winter season. Instead, they are taken down to the area where the rest of the herd will join them via helicopter ride.

Healthy cows going down the Alps are also a sight worth seeing. In the alpine regions, the yearly march of the cows from grazing in the Alps is called “Alpabzug” (something like “drive from the mountain pasture”).

In the French regions, the march is known as “Désalpes”.

Farmers and shepherds will wear traditional clothes and decorate their cows.

The event takes place in early autumn, usually late September or early October. It is determined by the lack of grass, or if any cold spells start, so it depends on the region and can vary year by year.

The Désalpes festival

The event becomes a party in Switzerland, and people meet up in their villages to see the cows on their journey from the Alps.

They share food (especially cheese) and wine, and there are musical presentations (such as an alpine choir), yodelling, and of course, the cow bells making it known that they are coming through.

The cows leading the procession are usually the best dairy cows and receive decorated headdresses. The event has become a significant tourist attraction in the Alpine regions.

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