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A Local’s Guide On Things Not to Do In Switzerland

Traveling the world and learning about new cultures is cool, no question about it. But, as a former flight attendant and experienced traveler, I know firsthand how easy it is to add centrally put your foot in your mouth. 

So today, we will talk about 13 things not to do in Switzerland to make your stay go as smoothly as possible. And how could I give better advice than a local like me who’s been living and breathing Swiss air since the day I was born? 

Summary of 13 things not to do in Switzerland

🔑Don’t expect a lot of trouble and action 24/7

🔑Don’t be late for invitations and appointments

🔑Don’t expect too much from budget travel hacks

🔑Don’t become impatient, rude, or speak too loudly if things go wrong

🔑Don’t litter in public places

🔑Don’t go on hikes with insufficient clothing

🔑Don’t forget to say hello while hiking

🔑Don’t assume that every Swiss speaks fluent German, French, and Italian

🔑Don’t underestimate the local differences in the country

🔑Don’t eat Swiss Cheese Fondue or Raclette in summer

🔑Don’t forget to check the operating times of cable car 

🔑Don’t use public transport without a ticket 

🔑Don’t avoid eye contact when cheering with drinks

13 Things Not To Do In Switzerland 

Before we get started, I just want to make a short disclaimer: I am not here to lecture you. But with upcoming controversies in Switzerland about the behavior of some guests, you will do yourself and your fellow travelers a favor if you follow the rules as people will treat you much better. 

With that being said, don’t worry about being perfect; everyone knows about some cultural differences, and if people see that you are putting in some effort, most people will forgive you minor errors very quickly.  

Don’t expect a lot of trouble and action 24/7

It might be kind of a cliche from movies like “The Wolf of Wall Street,” but I can confirm from my own experience that Switzerland isn’t the greatest party hub in the world. Peace, quiet, and privacy are actually highly valued in Swiss society. It has its pros and cons, but I spoke to many journalists and tourists, mainly from the United States, who were actually quite surprised by it. 

Even the big cities like Zurich, Basel, or Geneva are nowhere as bustling as London or New York. Shops then close at 6 pm in smaller cities and around 8 pm at the latest in major cities (except at train stations, gas stations, and airports). After 8 pm, you will find fewer people on the streets, especially during winter time. 

Infographic shop opening hours in switzerland

There is even a night-time noise restriction law in place that should protect people from noise pollution during certain times. If you’re planning to stay in an Airbnb or any local lodging, keep in mind that loud noises are strictly discouraged after 10 pm. It’s not just about loud music, it’s about any loud noise that could disrupt neighbors. So don’t be surprised if you find few people on the streets after 8 pm, especially during winter time. 

Nightlife is best from Thursday to Saturday in Switzerland

 Keep the major party plans for Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays if you want to really experience the Switzerland party scene. Thursday is also the preferred day for student parties, with discounted entry fees and reduced prices for drinks in many nightclubs in Switzerland. 

Don’t be late for invitations and appointments 

Switzerland is world-famous for punctuality, right? So, when it comes to time management, good planning is key. It’s an unspoken rule that showing up 5-10 minutes early for professional appointments is the norm. You subtly communicate respect for the other person’s time and schedule with it. So, it’s better to take an earlier train and enjoy a nice cup of coffee at a nearby café while you wait rather than racing in, huffing and puffing, at the last minute. 

The rules change slightly if you are invited to someone’s home. In this scenario, I recommend arriving a little bit late (no more than 5-15 minutes). It’s a nice courtesy that allows your hosts that extra bit of time to make everything perfect for their guests. 

Don’t expect too much from budget travel hacks

screenshot of budget travel app

Many travel blogs will tell you some tips and advice on how to save money on your trip when you come to Switzerland. Not all of them are bad; for example, you can indeed save a little bit of money if you refill your water bottle at a public fountain, etc. 

However, this doesn’t change the fact that Switzerland is among the most expensive countries in the world. According to the latest data from Switzerland tourism, the average tourist spends a whopping 335 CHF per person and day (I can’t show the data here, as it is not yet publicly available, but I was able to look at the numbers confidentially.)

So, if you come to Switzerland, it’s better to prepare yourself to spend a lot of money on your trip instead of trying to run after every money-saving hack, in my experience. I would like to compare it with my experience at Universal Studios in Florida. I spent like $500 on a single day for car rental, entrance ticket, food, etc. But I knew it was worth it because it would be an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I REALLY wanted to see the Harry Potter world:)

So I am not saying don’t choose a less expensive option once in a while, but you run the risk of missing out on a lot of fun things if constantly chasing the cheapest options is your number one priority. Especially since your trip won’t be really that cheap anyway, no matter how hard you try. 

Don’t become impatient, rude, or speak too loudly if things go wrong

man complains at restaurant with waiter

Despite the high prices, things can also go wrong. The queue at the museum might be longer than expected, or the service at the restaurant not be up to standard on some rare occasions. But here’s how to handle these tricky situations: take a deep, calming breath and then explain why you’re not satisfied, as cool as a Swiss mountain lake. Trust me on this; raising your voice or getting heated will often do more harm than good. 

A bit of Swiss wisdom for you: Most Swiss people are not very confrontational and uncomfortable in these situations. Speak softly and treat the other person with respect, they’ll be much more inclined to go the extra mile to help you out. 

Tipping is not mandatory in Switzerland

The service in Switzerland is generally included, but most people will give a 10-20% tip to the restaurant staff if they are satisfied. However, if you experience awful service, don’t be sorry to leave an extra tip.

Don’t litter in public places 

If you visit our country, you will quickly notice that most public places in Switzerland are spotless. This is no coincidence:  Swiss law mandates that all waste must be disposed of properly. This includes everything from cigarette butts to food wrappers. Public trash cans are readily available in most areas, and many places also have recycling bins for different types of waste.

Most people are very proud of the cleanness, and it’s not uncommon to see locals carrying their trash with them until they find a suitable disposal spot. So please, follow this example and don’t litter. 

Side note: Fines for littering increased

In May 2023, the Swiss parliament voted to increase littering fines to CHF 300 ($330) nationally. The change has yet to be confirmed by the Council of States, Switzerland’s upper house.

Don’t go on hikes with insufficient clothing 

Nothing in the world compares to the breathtaking on a Swiss hiking trail. However, one thing about the Swiss mountains that sometimes surprises people is how quickly the weather can change. I’ve seen weather changes from sunshine to rain to fog and back to sunshine, all in the span of a single hike! 

So, if you are going for a hike, pack appropriately, according to your planned route.  Depending on the altitude and the time of year, the temperature can shift dramatically. So, having layered clothing will help you get comfortable real quick, one layer at a time. 

And oh, the footwear! I can’t stress enough how important it is to invest in a solid pair of hiking boots. There’s nothing worse than hiking in soggy shoes or boots that rub in the wrong places, believe me. Plus, hiking boots offer much-needed ankle support that can make the difference between a pleasurable hike and a painful one. 

Don’t forget to say hello while hiking

Hiking is a favorite activity of the local population (2.7 million active hikers), but an estimated 300.000 visitors per year explore the hiking trails. Here are some more impressive numbers on the Swiss hiking trails:

860 CHF
Average spent per person a year while taking hikes in Switzerland, excluding expenses for hiking gear.
60 hours
The average number of hours a year that each Swiss spends hiking on trails. 
7%
The increase over less than a decade in the percentage of people between the ages of 15 and 74 who live in Switzerland and identify themselves as active hikers.

 As you traverse the lush Swiss trails, it’s a common courtesy to greet everyone you encounter. It could be with a friendly ‘hello,’ or a nod, or even just some brief eye contact. But my go-to? It’s the classic Swiss German salute, ‘grüezi’! 😊🏔

Don’t assume that every Swiss speaks fluent German, French, and Italian

Switzerland’s DNA contains a great amount of cultural and linguistic diversity. There are four official languages (German, Romansh, French, and Italian) spoken in Switzerland. 

However, not all Swiss citizens are multilingual in the country’s four main languages. For example, the majority of the German-speaking population either learns French or Italian as a second foreign language in school.

Amazingly enough, especially in younger generations, many people are more comfortable speaking English as a second language. I would assume around 85-90% have solid English skills, so you shouldn’t run into any huge language barriers. 

Don’t rely on the weather forecast app on your phone (especially in the mountains)

meteo swiss website

Don’t simply rely on your standard weather app on your iPhone or Android, especially in the mountains. You would not believe how often the weather forecast on the standard weather app on my iPhone is just weirdly off. 

The national weather forecast provider Meteo Swiss has the most accurate forecast in my experience. You can search for the weather in a specific location in Switzerland via the search function. There is also an app, but I find the website version to have a much better user experience. 

Don’t underestimate the local differences in the country

Switzerland might seem small on the map, don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s a cultural monolith. Switzerland is one of the most diverse countries in the world. The country is made up of 26 cantons, each with its own distinct culture, government, unique cuisine, and often language. Many Swiss locals are proud of their local scenery, locally produced chocolate, the local football club, etc. You could even describe it as a friendly rivalry. 

Take Lucerne, for instance. Many folks here view their city as one of the most beautiful in the country.  Let’s say you find yourself chatting with a local in the shadow of the Chapel Bridge, it’s probably not the best move to start debating the merits of other cities

Don’t eat Swiss Cheese Fondue or Raclette in summer

Let’s talk about Swiss Cheese Fondue and Raclette for a moment, and something you should never do as (nearly) Swiss).  No local would think about eating a hot cheese fondue or Raclette in July or August. So, if we catch you digging into a pot of fondue in the peak of summer, that’s a telltale sign that you’re a visitor. But hey, don’t worry, we won’t hold it against you. We’re just too polite for that! 

Just be aware that fondue is only half as good outside the winter season. The ambiance and gathering part is actually a big part of the fun. My ideal location and tip for the best Swiss cheese fondue is at the Swiss Christmas markets. 

Don’t forget to check the operating times of cable car 

Just a little heads up – if you’re visiting Switzerland in the shoulder season (that’s spring and autumn for us non-Swiss folks), you’d better make sure those cable cars and mountain railways are operating. There is nothing worse than arriving at the cablecar station only to find out it is not operating. 

 We love our maintenance here in Switzerland and often close down these transport modes for regular checkups and revisions. Sometimes, they’re offline for weeks.  So do yourself a solid cross-check of those operating times, especially if you’re traveling outside the peak season. 

Don’t use public transport without a ticket 

In Switzerland, a seemingly minor oversight, such as forgetting to purchase a ticket for public transportation, can quickly turn into an unpleasant surprise. It’s important to always have a valid ticket for your journey, as Swiss authorities routinely conduct inspections and are known for their strict adherence to rules. 

A seemingly harmless ride to a neighboring town without a ticket can result in fines that may leave you up to 100 CHF, or roughly $100, lighter – not including the cost of the actual ticket!

Don’t avoid eye contact when cheering with drinks 

Here’s a social faux pas you should avoid when you’re winding down after a day of adventure in Switzerland. It’s all about respect and, believe it or not, superstition. In Switzerland, when you’re raising your glasses in cheers, it’s considered bad luck not to make eye contact. Some will even say you’ll be cursed with seven years of bad sex. 😮 

FAQ- Frequently Asked Questions

For an authentic and respectful travel experience, avoid doing things that are considered culturally inappropriate, like littering, being late for appointments and speaking too loudly or rudely in public.

In general, the Swiss tend to appreciate privacy and are usually reserved in conversation. They typically don’t indulge in small talk with strangers and prefer to keep conversations straightforward and to the point. 

Tipping is common for extraordinary service, but you are not required to give a tip. The service is always included in the bill.

Yes, it is generally more expensive to eat out in Switzerland compared to many other places. However, you can save some bucks by eating like a local — enjoying fresh food from local markets or indulging in high-quality chocolate from the supermarket!

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