Learning the mother tongue of the area you will be staying in is a great sign of respect. English is widely spoken in Switzerland, but any attempt to speak the local language is always appreciated, even if you’re replied to in English. It’s always polite to ask if they speak English before starting a conversation.
Friends kiss each other on the cheek three times (left – right – left).
The drinking age for beer, wine, and “alcopops” (i.e. flavored malt beverages, etc.) is 16 while the age for straight liquor is 18. The public consumption of alcohol in Switzerland is legal, so do not be alarmed if you see a group of teenagers drinking a six-pack on public property; this is by no means out of the ordinary and should not be interpreted as threatening.
Swiss police take on a relatively unobtrusive air; they prefer to remain behind the scenes, as they consider their presence potentially threatening to the overall environment (practice of de-escalation). Unlike some more highly policed countries, officers will rarely approach civilians to ask if they need help or merely mark their presence by patrolling. However, police are indeed serious about traffic violations. Jaywalking (crossing a red pedestrian light), for example, will be fined on the spot
Tipping: Tips are automatically included in all hotel and restaurant bills and in most taxi fares. For special services like luggage handling, it is customary to tip CHF 2 per bag.
DO NOT LITTER! It’s not Singapore where you get fined for it but it’s definitely seen as bad behavior in this country. Also make sure that you put trash in the correct bin (e.g. recyclable).
Be punctual. Not surprisingly for a country that is known for making clocks, the Swiss have a near-obsession with being on time.
Switzerland is not a country of insane civil lawsuits and damage claims; consequently, if you see a sign or disclaimer telling you not to do something, obey it! An example: in many alpine areas, charming little mountain streams may be flanked by signs with the message “No Swimming.” To the uninitiated, this may seem a bit over the top, but these signs are in fact a consequence to the presence of hydroelectric power plants further upstream that may discharge large amounts of water without warning.
Switzerland has very strong Good Samaritan laws, making it a civic duty to help a fellow in need (without unduly endangering oneself). People are therefore very willing and ready to help you if you appear to be in an emergency situation. Be aware, though, that the same applies to you if you witness anyone in danger.
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