Too slow, too naked and eating a croissant in traffic: Switzerland's 10 weirdest fines

Helena Bachmann in Geneva
Helena Bachmann in Geneva - [email protected] • 22 Jul, 2022 Updated Fri 22 Jul 2022 15:04 CEST
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Hiking naked will net you a fine in Switzerland. Good or bad? Discuss. Photo by Mohammad Gh on Unsplash

While speeding and parking tickets are pretty common everywhere, some people in Switzerland have received odd fines for breaking ‘weird’ rules. These are some of them.

It is no surprise to anyone living here that Switzerland has plenty of rules (both written and unwritten) for practically everything — including how to boil a lobster humanely.

There is no readily available data about how many cooks have broken this law since it was implemented in 2018 or what the fines for these infractions were, but there is enough evidence for how people who violated other regulations were punished.

READ MORE: Verdict: This ‘unwritten rule’ should become law in Switzerland

Whether for odd things or not, the Swiss love to issue fines. Last year, the Swiss had to pay CHF936 million in fines - an amount which goes up every year. 

The following probably wouldn't add up to almost a billion francs, but they are real fines which have been issued in Switzerland. 

Here's some of the best. 

Biker fined for falling off the bicycle

A German tourist fell while riding a bicycle in Schaffhausen and broke his ribs.

However, instead of empathy for the injuries he suffered, cantonal authorities slapped the man with a 150-franc fine for “losing control of his vehicle” — even though the only damage his fall inflicted was to himself, and not to Schaffhausen’s residents or infrastructure.

After refusing to pay the fine, the tourist was sentenced to two days in jail. The whole experience, he said, “was obviously not very favourable for the image of Swiss tourism”.

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

Driver fined - for being too slow

Being fined for speeding seems fair enough, but what about if you drive slowly?

A 66-year-old driver was stopped by police earlier this year after receiving an anonymous call that a car was driving too slowly on a steep mountain road.

The car in question was hauling an enclosure with a horse in it, so the man drove cautiously on a narrow and winding Julier Pass in the Swiss Alps.

Once he descended, the police gave him a 780-franc ticket for driving too slowly – a fine he is now appealing.

“I just don’t understand what’s going on in this world”, the Bern resident commented.

Driving in Switzerland: Which canton has the highest speeding fines?

Pensioner penalised for buying train ticket one minute late

As The Local reported in January, the 72-year-old man took the train from Lenzburg to Hunzenschwil in the canton of Aargau.

He wanted to buy his ticket online before getting on, "but my phone did not recognise me at first because of the mask and then my glasses fogged up”, he said.

He was finally able to complete the transaction when already on the train, with the ticket purchased one and a half minute after departure.

But after having his ticket checked, the man received a 90-franc fine for not paying the fare before getting on the train.

The situation is all the more ironic as he has been a loyal customer of Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) and season ticket holder for 57 years. 

The pensioner took this incident in good stride: being considered a “fare dodger” at his age “amuses me, but only moderately", he said.

READ MORE: Swiss pensioner fined 90 francs for buying train ticket one minute late

Taking your feet off the pedals while cycling

In the interests of safe cycling, cyclists are required to keep their feet on the pedals at all time.

If they fail to do so, they'll be hit with a CHF20 fine

You can also be fined for failing to have a bell.

If you're on an e-bike, you'll also be fined if you don't have your lights on at all times - even during the middle of the day. 

Zug resident fined for not paying for parking — at inaccessible meter

The man parked his Jeep in in front of the cantonal administration building and went to pay, but the parking meter, located in the middle of a building site, was blocked by construction machinery, blocking all access to the meter.

He was therefore surprised to receive a 40-franc ticket, which he appealed, relying on the testimony of a construction worker at the site who confirmed to the police that it was indeed not possible to use the parking meter.

However, authorities wouldn’t budge: “The citizen was fined because he did not use the parking meter and therefore did not pay for his parking”, police spokesperson Judith Aklin said.

Hiking naked

Although Switzerland has a more progressive attitude to nudity than some other parts of the world, a line has to be drawn somewhere – and that somewhere is naked hiking. 

The mountainous canton of Appenzell recently fined a naked hiker, saying that doing so breached ‘decency customs’. So if you’re on your way to Switzerland to do some naked hiking, best stay in Germany (let’s face it, anyone looking to hike naked is bound to be German). 

Dairy forgery

A car was stopped at a customs check in Aargau because the driver allegedly "manipulated the vignette with cream and attached it with transparent adhesive tape"

As this action counts as an attempt to “counterfeit of official stamps”, the driver was fined a hefty sum of 1,900 francs.

Fined for recycling on Sunday

A 35-year-old German woman may not have known about the Swiss law stating you can’t recycle your trash on Sunday.

Her reaction after being slapped with a 250-franc fine after disposing on her trash on this day: “I can understand that people don’t want to be disturbed, but going to the police over a few bottles seems a bit much”.

Not in Switzerland, apparently.

Trash talk: What are the rules for garbage disposal in Switzerland?

Eating while stuck in traffic

Several years ago, a Zurich driver made news when she was slapped with a 250-franc fine for eating a croissant while driving.

While this may seem petty, many cantons do sanction drivers caught snacking in traffic.

That’s because eating or drinking hot beverages is considered a risk to road safety, as it interferes with the driver’s control of the vehicle.

There are, however, nuances. According to a report in Blick, “snacking on an empty highway is more tolerated than in city traffic at rush hour.”

So if hunger strikes while you are driving, resist the urge to eat. Because the hefty fine you could get may be hard to digest.

So close but so far

The Swiss love of recycling is legendary, but have you ever been in a situation where smashing stuff up would help you avoid a fine? 

That's what happened to Gränichen pensioner Ursula Mettler, who was fined 300 francs for littering when she placed a glass plate next to a container for recycling grass rather than inside it. 

The problem was, as Mettler told Swiss tabloid Blick, that the plate didn't fit into the container. Cameras at the recycling station identified her licence plate and she was hit with the fine, which she says is "completely excessive". 

A police officer told Blick they had no discretion with littering fines and were bound to treat everyone the same. 

READ MORE: You are not Swiss until you try these seven weird foods

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Helena Bachmann in Geneva 2022/07/22 15:04

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