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Living in Switzerland For Members

How hard is it to make friends in Switzerland?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
How hard is it to make friends in Switzerland?
An average Swiss has four close friends. Image by Dim Hou from Pixabay

If you are a foreign resident in Switzerland, you may have had some problems meeting new people and making friends with the locals. But is this process easier for the Swiss people? A new survey sheds some light on the matter.

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Logic dictates that if you were born and raised here, you will have more friends than if you are a newcomer.

That’s because most people (and not just in Switzerland) establish friendships during their school years and carry on these ties into adulthood.

If you are new to the country or community, anecdotal evidence shows that is it very difficult to ‘penetrate’ these established, closed cliques.

One of the reasons is that when it comes to friendship, the Swiss prefer quality over quantity.

As a survey published this week by the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute (GDI) demonstrates, the Swiss have, on average, four very close friends — and that’s all they want.

Not only that, but friendships, like everything else in Switzerland, also depends on cantons — or, in this case, linguistic regions.

On average, French-speakers have the most close friends (4.3 per person), followed by German-speaking people (3.9), and Ticino in the last place (3.3).

The GDI also found that German-speaking friendships tend to operate more in isolation than those in the rest of Switzerland.

However, when it comes to casual (rather than close) friends, or acquaintances, Ticino comes first, with 44 people in this category per person. Next are those in French-speaking Switzerland (41), followed by Swiss- Germans (39).

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What about foreign nationals?

On the whole, this group finds it hardest to make friends.

Surveys carried out over the years indicate that while Switzerland is the best country to make money, it is the worst place to make friends. 

A similar poll completed by The Local’s Swiss readers in 2018 led to many of the same conclusions. 

As one reader pointed out, the Swiss have much less experience living and working abroad than other foreigners, so they have never had to make an effort to make friends in a new country.

"They are born and die in their social circle,” the reader said.

So the Swiss really do remain neutral when it comes to striking up new friendships.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

In yet another reader survey carried out by The Local, a reader explained this aloofness thus:

“The Swiss have the innate sense of privacy — their own and other people’s. That’s why it takes them longer to befriend someone and trust them”.

She added that this is more the case with the older generation accustomed to rules of social etiquette; “young people are more open and spontaneous in this regard.”

READ ALSO: Can you make friends in Switzerland?

Much may also have to do with social etiquette — as many people have pointed out, being spontaneous is not at all a Swiss ‘thing’ — everything, including social interactions, must be planned carefully well in advance.

As one foreigner in the GDI survey pointed out, she rang a neighbour’s doorbell hoping to come in for in a chat. “They didn't open the door. Instead, they messaged saying I can come by in three days at 7 pm.”

Another international resident who participated in the survey, said: “It took us three years to make friends in Switzerland – in London, it took barely a month.”

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‘Trust and loyalty’

Regardless of how long it takes to befriend a Swiss, the GDI study also found positive aspects of Swiss friendships.

For instance, people in Switzerland value trust and loyalty in close social relationships.

That may be the reason why they prefer a small group of friends — to be able to invest a lot of time into those relationships. “We would tend to take a dim view of many friendships with little involvement,” one participant said.

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