Switzerland explained For Members

'Party after 10pm': The 10 things that really annoy the Swiss

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected]
'Party after 10pm': The 10 things that really annoy the Swiss
There are countless ways to annoy a Swiss person. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio.

The Swiss are organised, live by the clock, and tend to micromanage everything around them – so it’s no surprise that it doesn’t take much to irritate them.


Not respecting the proper train etiquette

If there is one thing the Swiss love, it is the practice of proper etiquette – be it in a social or business setting.

This means that every Swiss person tends to follow an unwritten set of rules when out and about, such as when catching a train on their commute to work.

While foreigners will swiftly (be forced to) embrace the silence that makes up social etiquette rule number one when travelling on Swiss trains, it may prove a little more difficult to refrain from eating certain (smelly) snacks on a packed train.

However, should you give into temptation and whip out a whole McDonald’s meal, know that your fellow Swiss travellers will not be impressed and may even have a word with you.

While eating hearty, hot foods on a train can result in complaints, you are more than welcome to eat cold foods and snacks whenever hunger strikes.

In any case, eating on Swiss trains is not forbidden, but if you fancy a real meal, you may want to consider boarding a SBB restaurant on one of their InterCity trains instead.

While on a Swiss train, it is also worth remembering that you will be expected to ask your fellow passenger(s) whether the seat next to them (yes, the one they are obviously not occupying) is ‘really’ free. You will then be graciously granted permission to sit.

Hosting a party past 10pm

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, which famously include the notorious (but very respected) ‘rest periods’ ‘rest periods’ (Ruhezeiten/ temps de repos).


Such quiet times are set by local authorities around Switzerland and differ slightly depending on where you live, however, most often than not the quiet time kicks off at 10pm. From that time onwards, you are expected to keep noise at a minimum – or there will be complaints.

The same goes for Sundays when you are expected to not engage in excessively noisy activities.

But what classifies as excessive noise?

While the Swiss Code of Obligations states (Article 257f Para. 2) that those renting apartments must show consideration for residents and neighbours, it doesn’t explain what exactly said consideration entails, relying instead on a person’s common sense to decide just what is an appropriate level of noise.

On a wider scale, unwanted noise can include anything from playing instruments, slamming doors during arguments, using a drill for home improvements, or emulating Heidi Klum in some fancy high heels.


If you’re still set on hosting a party on a Sunday or past 10pm, notify your neighbours first, and good luck – you’ll need it.

READ MORE: Six things you shouldn't do on a Sunday in Switzerland

Dropping in without prior notice

The Swiss are very organised, timely, and love abiding by their (strict) rules.

Popular lore has it that this habit is not as entrenched in Italian and French-speaking regions as it is in the Swiss-German part.

But if you want to irk people, regardless of the geographical area, drop in announced. Don’t call or send messages telling them you’re coming — just show up at their doorstep.

And if you do tell them you’re coming...arrive late. Few things irritate Swiss people more than tardiness.


If you’re invited over for dinner and are on time, the only way to cause some upset is to arrive emptyhanded.

In Switzerland, most people choose to bring a bottle of wine or a seasonal bouquet of flowers as a small thank you gift.

If you’re looking to up the ante however and really rile up a Swiss person, ring them up at dinner time and engage them in a lengthy conversation.

In Switzerland, dinner time is sacred, and you are commonly expected to cease all spontaneous contact from 6pm onwards.

Making fun of their army

To tell a Swiss person their military is not a ‘real army’, is sure to rub them up the wrong way.

They regard army service not only as their patriotic and civic duty, but also as a rite of passage of sorts.

True, not every country’s military has army knives, cutlery, watches, travel gear and fragrances attached to their name, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t fight if they had to.


Greeting the wrong way

In a country with four national languages, you may be tempted to think that the Swiss practice a laidback ‘anything goes’ approach – when nothing could be further from the truth.

So, which is it? Grüezi, Bonjour, or maybe just a simple Hallo?

Over the course of your time in Switzerland you will encounter many people, be it co-workers, fellow students or just strangers on the street – so it’s easy to find yourself overwhelmed with figuring out just how to greet people properly. Yet, getting this right may just make you a friend or two.

As with many things in Switzerland, the way to greet people, too, depends on the canton you’re in. In casual situations, such as when riding lifts or meeting people out on hikes, usually a friendly Grüezi, Bonjour, or Buongiorno will get the job done. Greeting anyone that isn’t friend or family with a Hallo is not common in Switzerland and is often perceived as rude. So, as a rule of thumb, always stick with the formal way of greeting people you’re not close with.


In a business environment, always greet people with a firm (!) handshake in addition to addressing them formally – this is crucial until the other person initiates an informal approach.

When it comes to greeting friends, however, the rules are generally a lot more relaxed, depending on the closeness of the friendship. While many Swiss friends are content with a quick Hoi, Salut, or Ciao, some will favour a more physical approach, such as a hug.

Good friends also greet each other with three kisses (left, right, left) – but be careful when greeting a French person, they start with the right!

Not respecting wildlife

We know by now how much the Swiss appreciate their quiet times, but did you know their wildlife does too?

It is therefore recommended to be mindful of wildlife when out on hikes or busy enjoying a barbeque in a forest.

It's generally advised to refrain from blasting loud music, shouting, or conversing in a loud manner so as not to disturb the animals and other hikers who may have ventured into the forest seeking peace and solitude.

Dogs walkers must also be aware of the local wildlife breeding season when some cantons have specified the months your dog must be walked with a leash, while again others forbid walking your pooch off a leash in and near forests altogether.

Remember, the Swiss love their hikes, and you will encounter your fair share of hikers while out exploring nature’s wonders, so be sure to follow the rules – the Swiss aren’t too shy to reprimand you.

Underestimating nature

One of the first things my foreign friends told me upon landing in Switzerland was that they cannot wait to go hiking in the Swiss Alps.

But while Switzerland is a perfect place to go hiking with its thousands of marked trails, every year, hundreds of people get into accidents while trekking, and some even die.

In the case of an accident, the last thing you will want is to be branded a ‘typical foreigner’, so make sure you wear appropriate clothing (specifically shoes), pack enough water, and download the Meteo Swiss App to stay informed on severe weather forecasts and other natural hazards.

READ MORE: Unwritten rules: 10 things you shouldn't do in Switzerland

Asking inappropriate questions

It is no secret that the Swiss have an innate sense of privacy and breaching the wrong subject may (rightfully) make for a rocky encounter.

The Swiss have a range of topics - such as one’s salary - that make for an awkward discussion even among the closest of friends.

Generally, discussions around divisive topics, such as finances, politics, and religion, are best avoided.

Taking a long time to order at the bakery

If you happen to be a morning person who enjoys a yummy pastry in the morning – as many Swiss do - remember that hitting the bakery in Switzerland will require you to make up your mind about your order fast - and ideally before you get there.

Unlike in some European countries, the Swiss like to get on with their day's work and prolonged chats paired with indecisiveness are generally not encouraged. That said, always feel free to ask for recommendations.

Making assumptions

Many people, especially foreigners new to Switzerland, believe that only the very rich live in wealthy Switzerland.

Foreigners can therefore be quick to assume that every Swiss person works as a banker, broker, or trader – or worse, is mega rich.

But this is actually not the case and could ruffle a few feathers.

In fact, the super-wealthy - those with assets worth more than 1 million  - account for only 15 percent of the adult population.

The largest group is middle-class, Switzerland also has people living under the poverty threshold.

In 2021, Caritas estimated that 745,000 people (134,000 children) were affected by poverty in Switzerland, while around 1.244.000 people living in Switzerland were considered to be at risk of poverty.



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