The Swiss value cleanliness, honesty, hard work, and material
possessions. Motto: "Unity, yes; Uniformity, no." They are very
proud of their environment and have a long tradition of freedom.
They value sobriety, thrift, tolerance, punctuality and a sense of
responsibility. They are very proud of their neutrality and
promotion of worldwide peace. The Swiss have a deep-rooted respect
for saving and the material wealth it brings.
Meeting and Greeting
- Shake hands with everyone present -- men, women, and children
-- at business or social meetings. Shake hands again when leaving.
- Handshakes are firm with eye contact.
- Allow the hosts to introduce you at parties.
- Use last names and appropriate titles until specifically
invited by your Swiss hosts or colleagues to use their first
names. Academic and professional titles are used frequently.
- First names are reserved for very close friends and family.
- Poor posture is frowned upon. Do not stretch or slouch in
- Do not point your index finger to your head. This is an
- Body language varies from region to region in Switzerland.
- The Swiss take punctuality for business and social meetings
very seriously and expect that you will do likewise. Call with an
explanation if you will be delayed.
- Business cards in English are acceptable. Hand your business
card to the receptionist upon arrival for a meeting. Give a card
to each person you meet subsequently.
- Generally, English is spoken in business with foreigners.
Inquire beforehand to determine if an interpreter is needed.
- Business climate is very conservative. Meetings are generally
impersonal, brisk, orderly, planned and task oriented.
- The Swiss tend to get right down to business after a few
minutes of general discussion.
- Presentations and reports should be orderly, well-prepared,
thorough and detailed.
- The Swiss are fair bargainers but not hagglers. Discussions
are detailed, cautious, and often pessimistic. Decisions are made
- It is not acceptable to call a Swiss businessperson at home
unless there is an emergency.
Dining and Entertainment
- In the German parts of Switzerland, beckon a waiter by saying
Herr Ober, and a waitress by saying Fršulein. It is considered
rude to wave your hand.
- Business luncheons are more common than business breakfasts.
- Business entertainment is almost always done in a restaurant.
- Spouses are generally included in business dinners.
- The host proposes the first toast. Don't drink until after the
toast is proposed.
- Keep your hands on the table at all times during a meal -- not
in your lap. However, keep your elbows off the table.
- Cut potatoes, soft foods and salads with a fork, not a knife.
- Use eating utensils at all times, including to eat fruit.
- Break bread with your hands if possible. Do not use a knife.
- If salt and pepper are not on the table, don't ask for them.
- Don't smoke at the dinner table. Wait, watch and ask
permission before smoking.
- Sample everything offered to you. Try to finish everything on
your plate when dining in someone's home. It is impolite to leave
food on your plate.
- When you are finished eating, place knife and fork side by
side on the plate at the 5:25 position.
- Leave a party no later than midnight.
- It is considered impolite to ask for a tour of your hosts'
home. If your hosts want to give a tour of their home, they will
- Appearance should always be clean and neat. The Swiss are
known for conservative and neat attire.
- Overly casual or sloppy attire is not appreciated.
- For business meetings, men should wear suits and ties; women
should wear suits or dresses.
- Gifts are normally not exchanged at business meetings, but
small gifts may be appropriate at the successful conclusion of
- Be prepared to give a gift in case you are given one. A gift
with your company logo is acceptable.
- Give books, desk attire, whisky, cognac, good bourbon, or
wine. Do not give anything sharp.
- When invited to someone's home, always bring a small gift for
the hostess and a small gift for children.
- Give candy (good quality), pralines, flowers (unwrap before
presenting, odd number), pastries.
- Do not bring large or expensive gifts. This is considered
vulgar and makes receiver uncomfortable.
- Don't give red roses or carnations (these imply romance).
White chrysanthemums and white asters are for funerals only.
- It is polite to send flowers to the hostess before a large
party or the next day with a thank you note.
- Be punctual.
- Show great respect for elderly.
- Donít litter (you will be scolded publicly).
- Donít chew gum or clean your fingernails in public.
- Refrain from putting your hands in your pockets while talking
- Never put your feet on a desk, chair or table.
Especially for Women
- More women are becoming more and more involved in business and
public life in Switzerland, though the banking and finance
industries continue to be dominated by men.
- Foreign businesswomen will be treated fairly and
professionally in Switzerland.
- Many Swiss businessmen would be embarrassed if a foreign
businesswoman invited them to dinner. Swiss men are very
conservative and still expect to pay for a meal. If possible, a
foreign businesswoman should invite a Swiss businessman to lunch
rather than dinner.