There are things you should not do in Switzerland. Knowing these before you travel will save you time, nerves and possibly even money. This list lists mistakes and mishaps that you can easily avoid in Switzerland
It's so easy to put your foot in it when you travel to a new country. Danger lurks everywhere.
At the train station, at the supermarket, in the mountains...
Wherever you go, you're never really safe from it.
If you've ever been to Japan and left your slippers at the wrong angle in front of the door while visiting the toilet, or thought that, in Australia, "just around the corner " was less than a two-hour drive, you know what we're talking about.
In Switzerland, there are also several mistakes just waiting to be made. Some of them are merely not socially accepted, while others strain your budget unnecessarily, cost you an excessive amount of time and nerves, or they simply want to finish you off.
The following list should help you to recognize those issues early enough and to make your adventure in Switzerland as pleasant as possible. Let's start with what you should not do in Switzerland:
During rush hours, certain train routes in Switzerland are hopelessly overflowing. A classic here is undoubtedly Zurich-Bern or Geneva-Lausanne. If you want to save yourself a lot of stress and find a place for you and your luggage, you should avoid these times for a journey by public transport between major Swiss cities whenever you can.
Let's stay on the subject of public transport for the moment. If you're concerned about not upsetting local tempers, postpone your phone calls until after you arrive whenever possible. Loud phone calls in public are not very popular in Switzerland.
Unfortunately, the same is true for restaurants. In general, people in Switzerland try to keep the noise level somewhat subdued. It depends on the establishment, of course. Read the room and decide how many decibels you can tolerate for yourself and those around you. The evil eye will inevitably follow if you overdo it.
The punctuality of public transport in Switzerland is at a very high level. Depending on which transport company you look at, it hovers around the 90% mark. So if you hope for a delay to catch the train (or bus), you will succeed only in 10% of all cases. Therefore, arrive on time at the station or wait for the next connection.
Accidents in the mountains happen again and again. Sometimes they are mild, sometimes fatal. On average, 130 people lose their lives in the Swiss mountains every year. The number of seriously and lightly injured is several times higher. With good footwear, you can significantly reduce the risk of a serious accident.
Unfortunately, good shoes do not protect you from quick weather changes in the Alps. Thunderstorms often move in very quickly and unexpectedly. Visibility can suddenly drop to 0% and temperature drops cannot be ruled out, especially at higher altitudes. Good preparation in all respects can save you many an anxious moment.
Although every Swiss learned at least one additional national language in school, this doesn't mean that it is also mastered flawlessly. Some basic knowledge is there, but we are far from all being impeccably trilingual. Unfortunately 🙂 English has become very common, though. Even if not all Swiss speak English, you can get by with it pretty easily in most places.
In Swiss supermarkets, you have to weigh vegetables and fruits yourself. To do this, simply find the corresponding number, put the vegetable or fruit on the scale, enter the number and stick on the label. If you forget, there is usually a scale near the checkout so you can weigh it there.
On Saturday, the whole of Switzerland has to do their weekly shopping, because there is a risk of starving on Sunday (see next point). That's why we advise you not to go shopping on Saturday. During the week you have a little more peace and space for yourself between the shelves.
Sunday is a day of rest. Except at the train stations, the stores are closed all day.
Switzerland is blessed with very good quality tap water available everywhere. It's worth carrying a water bottle and filling it up at one of the thousands of public fountains. This will save you money on your trip in Switzerland.
As long as there is no sign with "no drinking water ", you can drink the water without hesitation. Theoretically you could even fill up the bottle in the toilet. It's not necessarily suitable for everyday use, but in Switzerland the toilet is actually flushed with drinking water.
If you are planning on using public transport on a regular basis, we recommend you to install this extremely helpful app. Whether you're looking for the next train connection from the airport to Bern, the departure time of the passenger ship from Thun to Interlaken or the bus schedule from Solothurn to Langendorf, the SBB App will give you the information you need. It also provides information about train tickets in Switzerland, station facilities and the availability of Supersaver tickets.
If you come to Switzerland and are looking forward to meters of snow, you may be bitterly disappointed. Climate change does not stop here and snowfall is no longer as certain as it was 10-20 years ago.
If you're staying at lower altitudes in winter and would like to spend some time in the snow, you will most likely find it in higher places. So if you don't see any snow when you land in Zurich in January, you don't have to give up hope right away.
Granted, Switzerland is small. Very small. In terms of land mass, it can fit 8.5 times in Germany, 67 times in Argentina and a whopping 414 times in Russia. But if you think that a few days are enough to explore the whole of Switzerland, you are badly mistaken.
The diversity of this small country is immense. Even if the distances between various sights and attractions are comparatively tiny, the Riviera in Ticino in no way resembles the stone formations of the Bernese Jura or the meanders of the Rhine around Schaffhausen. So take enough time to discover all the facets of Switzerland. We're happy to help you plan your itinerary in Switzerland.
We admit it. The region around Interlaken is incredibly beautiful and has a lot to offer with the Jungfraujoch and Lake Thun. Just to name a few. But still, you can discover countless other places in Switzerland that are just as impressive and sometimes way less crowded. So try to include more stops in your trip than just the one in Interlaken.
What is true in public transport is generally true for the rest of Switzerland as well. Punctuality is very important and if you have an appointment, we recommend that you keep it. You can't expect anything else in a country famous for its watch industry. Can you?
If you get thirsty at the train station and don't have your water bottle with you, takeaway stands or kiosks are real price traps. They sometimes charge you three times the price you'd normally pay. Since you can find a supermarket such as a Migrolino or Coop Pronto at every major train station, you can pick one of them instead to buy a drink at the regular price.
In Switzerland, you'll find various chocolate factories that have set up a visitor center. This means you can check them out in person and find out all there is to know about Swiss chocolate. These places don't skimp on tasting opportunities, either. So if you show up with a full stomach, you'll definitely regret it once you arrive at the chocolate fountain. At the latest! The same applies to the Kambly factory in Trubschachen. So leave some room in your stomach when you go on a culinary discovery tour.
Although the Swiss don't have a well-mannered queuing culture like the British do - evil tongues say we have no idea how to queue properly - pushing in front is still very much disliked. Be it at the checkout in the supermarket, at the train station after boarding the train or in the ski resort at the valley station. Better take a deep breath and, if in doubt, take a step back.
If you question this tradition for a minute, it doesn't make much sense. But it's just something we grow up with. When we get on the train and sit down with another person, we always ask if the seat is still available. Even if the person got on at the same station as we did and they are obviously sitting alone in the compartment. The "is this seat free? " is a part of Switzerland like the Sphinx on the Jungfraujoch.
As already mentioned in the store opening hours: Sunday is a day of rest. This also applies to laundry and housekeeping. In rented apartments with a shared laundry room it is even forbidden to wash on Sunday. You should also refrain from vacuuming on the seventh day if you don't want to risk a neighbor dispute.
It's a well-known fact: In St. Gallen you eat a bratwurst WITHOUT mustard. In the rest of Switzerland, this is debatable. But in eastern Switzerland, it is such a strong unwritten law that it may well be considered written. The argument: A St. Galler Bratwurst is so good that it doesn't need mustard.
Raclette is a typical Swiss specialty that you should definitely try when you're here. However, you'd better not ask your Swiss friends if they put the cheese on top or next to the potatoes. This can start a heated discussion, even if it seems a bit pointless. But if you want a peaceful evening without nerve-wracking debates, ask them if they grew up as a Migros-child or a Coop-child insetad.
It doesn't matter if your host cleans the apartment every day or hasn't held a vacuum cleaner in two months: In Switzerland, you are generally expected to take off your shoes when entering an apartment or house. Unless your host explicitly mentions that you are allowed to keep your shoes on.
In some countries, standing at a crossroads with a confused look on your face is enough to be offered assistance. This may happen in Switzerland in some cases, but it is rare. So if you need help or directions, it's best to just ask.
Because Switzerland is so small and compact, you may pass by an interesting place or two on your journey from A to B. This is a great opportunity to get to know new places you didn't have in your itinerary. For example, you might travel from Zurich to Geneva and put in a stop in Bern. However, if you're traveling with two suitcases and three backpacks, this is easier said than done. Fortunately, SBB train stations are all well equipped with lockers. So you can store your luggage for a fee during your discovery tour.
Our friends from our neighboring countries are regularly shocked at how expensive speeding on the road can be in Switzerland. The range varies greatly. Depending on whether you are driving through a town, overland or on the highway, you pay more or less. But the values vary between 40 CHF and 250 CHF. For severe violations even more, up to a stay in jail. So think carefully about how much of a hurry you're in.
Chocolate is sold in large quantities throughout Switzerland at every time of year. But never is the selection as varied as before Easter and Christmas. Prices, however, are strongly based on demand. So if you can wait, it's definitely worth postponing your bulk purchase until after the holidays.
Supermarkets usually try to get rid of all kinds of chocolatey delicacies at half the price or less shortly after.
If you're wondering what kind of a weird German is spoken in this country, let us enlighten you. Swiss German is not, strictly speaking, a language, but a collection of Alemannic dialects. Not even the Linguistics Center Zurich dares to determine how many dialects there are, because the boundaries between the individual dialects are very blurred. Sometimes 10 km is already enough for another dialect to be spoken.
What is clear is that someone who speaks fluent High German can be quite frustrated on their first visit to Switzerland because they don't understand anything. This is because, even though the German-speaking Swiss all understand High German and it is one of the four official written languages, it is rarely used in everyday life.
We probably don't have to tell you this, but it's still a concern of ours. Especially in nature, but also in cities, on the train or in public places, there is no reason to leave your trash behind. In most cases, you don't even have to look far to find a trash can. Switzerland is very well equipped in this respect.
You plan to go on a a trip, look out the window and think: "Great, the sun is shining!" Don't let that fool you. The weather in Switzerland is rarely consistent. So if you want to be sure that you won't have any unpleasant surprises at your destination, take a quick look at the weather forecast beforehand.
The same is true the other way around. If it's raining or cloudy where you are, it's still possible that the weather will be much better not too far away. A pretty reliable place for good weather, by the way, is Ticino. Often, not always, it can rain all over Switzerland but the sun shines in Ticino.
Travelling by public transport in Switzerland can be expensive. A ticket from Zurich to Bern will cost you 51 CHF without a discount. So, if you're planning on taking several trips by train, it might be worth looking at the various rail passes for tourists, Supersaver tickets or other tourist offers. Especially if you plan to travel longer distances by train, the Swiss Travel Pass might make your life a lot easier.
Admittedly, Swiss chocolate and Swiss cheese is world famous. And delicious. Nonetheless, we don't spend all day eating chocolate and cheese. And neither should you. Unless you've set your ming on trying all 450+ types of cheese during your stay.
Otherwise, there are other Swiss specialties that you're going to love. Be that a crispy Rösti with a fried egg and a Bratwurst, a delicious Zürcher Geschnetzeltes with Spätzli, a healthy Birchermüesli or tasty Capuns from the Grisons.
Switzerland is not a member of the European Union and therefore does not use the Euro as a means of payment. Our currency is the Swiss Franc (CHF) and is accepted throughout the country. Although you can theoretically pay with Euros in most places, we recommend that you use the Swiss Franc. The exchange rate to the Euro offered in supermarkets or at ticket machines is often very unfavorable. With bank apps such as Revolut, you benefit from low fees and good exchange rates. This is how you can save money in Switzerland.
It looks so simple. Put on your boots, get in your skis and hit the slopes. But let us tell you, it definitely looks easier than it is. Your legs have a tendency to want to go in a completely different direction than your head does. If you've never skied before in your life, we recommend that you make use of a ski instructor for the first few hours. After that you will know the most important tips and tricks and can work from there. The same applies if you decide to go snowboarding.
Every year, around 10.000 accidents happen in Switzerland while sledding. It's not uncommon for concussions to occur, which can have dangerous consequences. The Swiss Council for Accident Prevention therefore recommends wearing a helmet when sledding.
In certain cultures, money is a topic that is openly addressed and discussed. Everyone knows how much their friends earn and own. In Switzerland, however, the topic is rather taboo. There's a saying that goes, "You don't talk about money, you have it." Make what you want of this. But if you'd like to start a casual conversation with a Swiss, maybe don't start with the question, "So, how much do you earn?"
Another question you better avoid... In Switzerland, people vote four times a year. Be it on initiatives, changes in the law or the election of members of the government. Often, heated debates arise, even among family and friends. If you're not particularly close to someone, we advise you not to ask them about their voting decision.
It has almost become a new popular sport: "Böötle". The principle is simple. You wait for a nice, sunny summer day, grab an inflatable water vehicle such as a unicorn, a rubber boat, a flamingo or an air mattress, jump into a river and let yourself drift down with all the others.
The most famous place for this is certainly the River Aare between Thun and Bern. But during summer, unicorn lazybones can be found all over Switzerland with a beer in their hand. So if you want to "go with the flow", give it a try when you get a chance.
In Switzerland, it's common to say hello to each other while hiking. Or Bonjour, Grüezi, Buongiorno or Bun dì. Depending on which part of Switzerland you happen to be in. So if you're hiking on one of the more than 60.000 km of hiking trails, you'll make your oncoming traffic happy if you give a friendly hello. Especially when it gets a little tighter and you have to make room for each other. Simply staring at the ground and passing by silently doesn't go down too well with the Swiss population.
These are our 40 things you shouldn't do in Switzerland. We hope we were able to prepare you well for your trip and keep you from putting your foot in your mouth.