Opinion and Analysis For Members

OPINION: The true signs you’re becoming more Swiss than the Swiss

Clare O'Dea
Clare O'Dea - [email protected]
OPINION: The true signs you’re becoming more Swiss than the Swiss
Enjoying a cocktail in the middle of the day? You may be in Switzerland. Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

Spend enough time in Switzerland and Swiss ways will get under your skin. Eventually you may even start thinking and acting like a local, writes Clare O'Dea.


Here are the 10 signs that you are becoming Swiss. If you score higher than seven, consider yourself integrated...

Money matters. You are used to paying eye-watering prices for everyday things and you think quality is important. You can debate the merits of Migros versus Coop, and, despite owning both loyalty cards, you have a favourite. You understand the three-pillar pension system and will talk about it willingly. You are also well versed in different types of insurance. You pay for a coffee with a 100-franc note without batting an eyelid. At the same time, you are comfortable giving minuscule tips. 

READ ALSO: Migros vs Coop: Which Swiss supermarket has cheaper groceries?

Wine o’clock. Wherever two or more Swiss people are gathered, an apéro is likely to break out without warning. You have forgotten that you ever thought drinking alcohol before midday was odd, and you even start to prefer Swiss white wine. You think nothing of hosting your own leaving do at work, schlepping in drinks and nibbles like a professional caterer. 


Bon app! When you see someone about to take a bite of food, you wish them bon appetit/an guete/buon appetite, or the informal version, bon app. You will not be able to control this impulse and are liable to say it to anyone, anywhere, as soon as you see them lift food to their mouths. 

Coffee and croissant

Don't forget to greet someone before they eat! Photo by Basil Lade on Unsplash


Selective hearing. You can’t tolerate the sound of a lawn mower on a Sunday but you don’t notice the 24-hour church bells any more. You treasure the prescribed quiet times of day or week, and resent untimely noise from neighbours.

Climb every mountain. Your idea of a good time is to go for a five-hour hike. You may even consider ‘sleeping on straw’. You speak knowledgeably about altitude difference, and your calves have become rock hard. You will tut tut when you see hikers wearing unsuitable shoes. When not out enjoying the 65,000km of Swiss walking trails, you spend as much time as you can at your beloved local lake. 

Hiking in the Swiss Alps - a national pastime

Hiking in the Swiss Alps - a national pastime. Photo by Colton Miller on Unsplash

Greetings! You send and receive greetings (salutations/Grüsse) constantly. When you meet someone you know, they pass on greetings to you from their nearest and dearest and you dutifully return those greetings. On your hikes, you greet other walkers. 

On parting, you wish your friends, colleagues, and every person you have the slightest interaction with, a good day/afternoon/evening/night/weekend. The more specific, the better. If there is a religious or public holiday coming up, you substitute that. When you have mastered the art of goodbye, you may use the catch-all alternative in French when the person is in the middle of something: bonne continuation. 

READ ALSO: What are the rules on greeting Swiss people?

Goody Two-Shoes. When you arrive at someone’s home, you automatically take your shoes off at the front door. If you are really relaxed, you’ll even turn up at a friend’s house with your own slippers. There are no confirmed cases to date, but if you spend enough time with Swiss Germans, there is a risk that you may end up wearing your slippers at work. 


When visiting a friend, you may start bringing your own slippers. Photo by K F on Unsplash

Recycling rites. You know your local recycling calendar off by heart, and leave things out neatly on the right day. You are horrified when you see rubbish dumped at the bottle bank, which you only use correctly and at the prescribed times. While conscientious about separating rubbish at home, you merrily join the Swiss in consuming 2.8 times the amount of natural resources that are available per capita worldwide.

READ ALSO: What are Switzerland's rules for waste disposal and recycling?

Say cheese. Fondue and raclette are staples of your diet. You could not get through the winter without them. For extra points, you also like cervelat. For double extra points, you take cervelat with you on your hikes and grill it on a stick at a designated fire pit. You stretch the barbecue season from March to November. 


Along with raclette, fondue is Switzerland's favourite cheese dish. Photo by angela pham on Unsplash

Last but not least, after putting up a good fight, you have given in and adopted Swinglish. This means using the term ‘last but not least’ in every conceivable context, referring to your phone as a Handy (in German-speaking Switzerland), and blithely using words like shitstorm, wellness and mobbing too often and not entirely accurately. 


There are many more Swiss traits that didn’t make the shortlist, including a certain smugness linked to the high standard of living. Let’s just say, it can be a trial to cope with public services and spaces in other countries after enjoying the deluxe version for too long. Perhaps the most accurate test of Swiss belonging is whether you exhale with relief when you arrive back in the country. 

Bonne journée!


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