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Ten strange Swiss road signs you need to know about

Switzerland is a unique country and has some one-of-a-kind road signs to match. Here we take a look at some of the more unusual examples.

A road sign tells military vehicles what they need to do
No: this is not a sign indicating a military museum. Photo: The Local

With its narrow, often one-way city streets and curvaceous mountain passes, driving in Switzerland can be difficult – even without these wacky road signs. 

Here are ten road signs you might encounter on Swiss streets. 

We’ll try and name what we think the sign looks like in bold, before explaining what it actually is underneath.

1) Shooting noise?

A particularly Swiss sign, this one. It indicates there are military exercises going on nearby and might help explain what all those booming noises are as you drive to the supermarket. Don’t be alarmed.

2) White-belted man rides the sleigh?

Sledding forbidden (because sometimes you have to spell these things out). 

And just as an aside, while it might be confusing to Americans and Australians who are expecting a Ghostbusters-style cross, in Europe when anything is presented in the white centre of a red circle, it is forbidden. Therefore, this is not an invitation to sled – but a warning!

3) Heavy metal album cover from the 80s?

While it might look like a pretty sweet heavy metal album cover – perhaps with some invented language and scribblings – this sign has a far more holy origin. 

Yes, the sign below is actually about churches. At the approach to many Swiss towns, you will see a sign telling you the times of both Catholic and Protestant masses.

4) OK, I get it – cows forbidden?

Alright alright, I remember point number 1), this must mean that cows are forbidden in this area – which is why we don’t see any in the paddock behind, right? 

Unfortunately not, as the red triangle warns motorists of upcoming dangers in the area. 

Therefore, this sign simply warns there might be cows on the road up ahead. 

A straightforward enough sign, but one you are more likely to see in Switzerland than in some other parts of the world.

Photo: The Local

5) Tank parking this way?

No, the yellow sign below is not for a military museum and nor is it telling you where to park your tank.

It’s actually a dedicated sign for military vehicles. Switzerland is, after all, a country where you can see tanks with L plates on city streets. 

The upside down red triangle is a give way or yield sign (not to be confused with the right-way-up red triangle above).

6) This one is simple – bikes on one side and pedestrians on the other, no?

Actually, this sign shows a dead end (with through access for bicycles and pedestrians). This is a really useful sign that recognises it’s not just cars who use roads.

7) Um, trumpet parking….?

The sign below has nothing to do with concerts or band practice. Instead it indicates that the road is a part of a mountain bus route.

Switzerland’s distinctive yellow post buses ply some pretty hair-raising routes and blow their horns on tight bends to let oncoming traffic know they are coming.

8) Oh this one is easy – don’t go faster than 30?

No, it is quite the opposite. This is a minimum speed sign.

While most speed limit signs indicated the maximum possible speed you can go, the sign below indicates a minimum possible speed.

This must be adhered to in good conditions, while vehicles which cannot reach this minimum speed – i.e. tractors, smaller bikes etc – are not allowed in this area. 

9) Alright, this one is just there to confuse me…

Mountain pass conditions. Switzerland is crisscrossed by a network of mountain passes, many of which are closed for the duration of winter.

This sign indicates the status of a number of passes. You can see that you can only use the Gotthard with chains while there is a risk of ice and snow on the Oberalp.

10) Different retro vehicles inside a peace sign – is this a James Bond poster?

Wrong again. This sign says that all motorised vehicles are forbidden within a particular area.

This is a common sign in Switzerland and means that a road is closed to cars, motorbikes, fast e-bikes and the sort of low-powered motor scooters Swiss teens like to get around on.

You can, however, still use a regular bicycle on this road, or a low-powered e-bike.

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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

Do foreigners in Switzerland have the same legal rights as the Swiss ?

Foreigners living in Switzerland may be wondering what their basic rights are compared to Swiss citizens. The answer depends on several factors.

Do foreigners in Switzerland have the same legal rights as the Swiss ?

There are currently 2.2 million foreign nationals living in Switzerland — roughly 25 percent of the population.

Simply put, everyone residing in the country legally, regardless of nationality, has the same basic constitutional rights as Swiss citizens do — for instance, the right to human dignity, free expression, equality, protection against discrimination, and freedom of religion, among other rights.

They also have the right to fair and equitable treatment in the workplace, in terms of wages, work hours, and other employment-related matters.

As the law states, cantons and municipalities “shall create favourable regulatory conditions for equal opportunities and for the participation of the foreign population in public life”. 

If they are arrested or imprisoned, foreigners also have the right to fair trial and to the same treatment as their Swiss-citizen counterparts, including legal representation and due process of the law.

Even those who are subject to deportation have the right to be represented by a lawyer.

And the Swiss legal system doesn’t necessarily favour Swiss litigants over foreign ones. For instance, in some cases, foreign nationals whose request for naturalisation was denied but who then appealed the decision, eventually won.

The most recent example is a man in the canton of Schwyz whose application for citizenship was rejected due to a minor car accident, but a Swiss court overturned the decision, ordering that the man be naturalised this year.

READ MORE : Foreigner wins appeal after being denied Swiss citizenship due to car accident

Where the rights and privileges differ between foreigners and Swiss, as well as among foreigners themselves, is when it comes to work and residency rights.

 EU / EFTA nationals

People from these countries, who have B or C permanent residence status have sweeping rights in terms of residence, employment (including self-employment), and home ownership.

The only right that is denied them is the vote, though some cantons and communes grant their resident foreigners the right to vote on local issues and to elect local politicians. 

READ MORE : Where in Switzerland can foreigners vote?

Apart from the limit on political participation, EU / EFTA nationals can live in Switzerland in pretty much the same way as their Swiss counterparts.

There are, however, some groups of foreigners whose rights are curtailed by the Swiss government.

Third country nationals

They are people from countries outside Europe, for whom various restrictions are in place in terms of entry, employment and residency.

For instance, their “future employer must prove that there is no suitable person to fill the job vacancy from Switzerland or from an EU/EFTA state”, according to State Secretariat for Migration. This could be seen as a discrimination of sorts, but that’s what the law says.

Once employed, however, “their salary, social security contributions and the terms of employment must be in accordance with conditions customary to the region, the profession and the particular sector” — in other words, no discrimination is allowed.

Another area where non-European foreigners are disadvantaged in comparison with their EU / EFTA counterparts is home ownership. While third-nation B-permit holders can buy a property to live in (but not rent out), they can’t purchase a holiday or second home without a special permission.

To sum up, all foreigners in Switzerland, regardless of their status, are entitled to fundamental “human” rights, including freedom of speech and religion, and freedom from discrimination in life and employment.

They also have the right to legal protection and representation during litigation or other court actions.

However they don’t have the right to participate in the country’s political process and, depending on their status, have equal access to residency and employment.

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