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Business culture in Switzerland

The Swiss embrace all things new and innovative when it comes to technology but when it comes to people, they remain conservative. They have many nuances of etiquette to be aware of. It will make your life considerably easier if you present yourself well and create a good impression. Attitudes and personalities vary from canton to canton, but essentially the Swiss are polite and reserved in nature. If you want to be successful in your career working in Switzerland, you should be aware of social norms, dress appropriately and avoid uncomfortable topics of conversation.  

Working Hours

The Swiss believe in working longer hours than most of their European neighbours. It is not uncommon to work as much as 50 hours per week in some professions. The average working Switzerland working hours are lower, 41.5 hours. Normal business hours are Monday to Friday, 8am-12pm, 2pm – 5pm. Overtime is when you work longer than your contracted hours, this is usually paid at 125% or you’re given the time in lieu. Management roles don’t usually pay overtime as you’re expected to ‘put in the extra mile’. There are 4 weeks of holiday every year, with at least 2 weeks of consecutive vacation.

Dress Code

The Switzerland business culture dictates a formal, conservative dress code. Although some professions are more relaxed, it is best to avoid casual wear at first meetings. Colours are dark and modest. The Swiss dress well, but not displaying ostentatious signs of wealth. Stay elegant and understated. The Swiss appreciate good personal hygiene. Pay attention to clean shoes, hair and nails. Making a good impression by dressing appropriately can go a long way in Switzerland.

Communication   

There are 4 languages in Switzerland. If you are working in Zurich, the official language is German. You will find that people speak a kind of dialect called Swiss German. English is also a common language in Switzerland business culture. When you meet business associates, give a firm handshake and make steady eye contact. Adopt good posture, don’t slouch or yawn. Don’t ask many personal questions during conversations. It’s deemed inappropriate to ask someone’s occupation, age or marital status if you don’t know them well. Get straight down to business or stick to safe, general small talk such as the weather or global politics. Avoid making jokes during business meetings. Humour could be taken as mockery and the Swiss like to be taken seriously. The Swiss are direct and don’t appreciate shows of emotion. Don’t interrupt, be honest and sincere.

Hierarchy

The hierarchy in Switzerland business culture is quite rigidly top-down. Often, options will be discussed among colleagues, and a consensus will try to be reached. Essentially though, decisions are made at the top and must be obeyed. Respect is given according to rank, education and achievements. Gender equality is still a work in progress in Switzerland business culture. Women have equality legally, but in practice, women still struggle to progress in their career. Switzerland is still a traditional society and sexism remains an issue. Women hoping to work in Switzerland should be aware of these cultural differences if they want to succeed. For example, male colleagues will expect to pay for dinner and might get offended if you insist.

Etiquette

The Swiss are quite formal in their business dealings. Stick to surnames, unless invited to use first names. Use Herr or Frau, Monsieur/Madame, Signor/Signora. Fraulein/Mademoiselle, Signorita should only be used for little girls, not as a sign of marital status. Make appointments for all meetings, don’t try and be spontaneous. Be early! Switzerland is a country of clockmakers and punctuality is highly valued. Business entertaining usually takes place at lunch, not dinner. Remember your table manners and don’t bring expensive gifts. The Swiss are reserved in their body language, don’t be too demonstrative with your hands, don’t point or fidget too much. Controversial topics are Swiss neutrality, their role in the World Wars, the military, women’s rights and anything too personal.

Switzerland Business Culture – Mundialz

Switzerland business culture can seem formal and intimidating for expats when they first arrive. If you create a good impression and put in the hard work, the Swiss can be friends for life. You couldn’t find a more honest, trustworthy, straight-forward culture in which to work. Mundialz wants you to achieve your career goals and we’ll be here to guide you along the way.

 

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