Cultural Differences between US and Switzerland
Are you planning on relocating to Switzerland and are looking for facts about the beautiful country? SDC International Shipping
Cultural Differences between the USA and Switzerland
If you are relocating to Switzerland from the United States, it’s probably because you have visited many times and fell in love with the Swiss way of life. Switzerland is very different culturally from the USA. While you probably noticed a lot on your visits, there are still some things that need to be taken into account before moving.
Switzerland is a Democracy, not a Republic
The USA is a republic, not a democracy. Switzerland is probably the world’s only true democracy. In the USA, like most republics, the populace votes for representatives who serve for a preset, limited time. In Switzerland, the entire eligible voting population can have a voice in most legislation. This is not only a difference in the technical process by which laws are passed, but a true cultural difference that drips down to all facets of life. The Swiss are empowered, they are independent. Their national hero, William Tell, symbolizes the quest for individual freedoms. Even their flag reflects equality, no other country has a flag divided into four equal regions.
One would be forgiven for thinking that this situation would lead to anarchy and ridiculous legislation. The contrary is true, and the country has relatively low taxes, a business friendly culture, and more rules and regulations that you would expect.
Local Traditions and Cultures
Switzerland is made up of 26 cantons. These cantons have significantly more autonomy that states do in the USA. Different cantons will have varying festivals. The different languages and climates have led to the retention of myriad age old traditions. Have you ever been to a sleigh parade? What about Tschäggättä, a strange combination of pagan festival and the Catholic Carnival.
Do you love fishing? The differences between canton cultures is also felt in sports. You don’t need a license to ski, but you do need a license to fish. These licenses will be required for fishing in rivers in urban areas, but not in rural areas or lakes. Once you move to the country, ask about the regulations, but don’t be surprised by anything you hear.
Public transportation in Switzerland is very good. Expect to be able to get anywhere in Switzerland fairly easily on public transportation. Not only for getting to the office and back, public transportation can be used to go on vacation, for your sports outings, or just for the sight seeing. Some of the most dramatic views in the country can only be seen on the some of the country’s world renowned scenic rail routes. If you go to areas with skiing, expect to be able to ski down a mountain, get on a public bus with your equipment, and be taken back to wherever you need to go. Never be surprised to see a bus or train full of bicycles if you are going to any biking destination. You can even buy a ticket for your bike if you don’t want to send it as luggage.
The public transportation includes mountain railways and boats. Not bad for a land locked country!
Sports are big in Switzerland, and with 60% of the country in the Alps mountain range, it should be no surprise that winter sports lead the way as there is a long winter sports season. In Zermatt and Saas-Fee you can even ski and snowboard all year long. Expect to find toboggan runs and cross country skiing trails throughout the country. If you are relocating to Switzerland, we recommend that you bring all of your winter sports equipment with you.
The Swiss love the outdoors, so if you’re going to be Swiss, you will probably want to join in the sports. Winter walking done in snow shoes will bring you to locations otherwise inaccessible. Have you ever seen snow tires on a bike? If you love biking, give it a try. Don’t forget ice skating, with rinks throughout the country and widely available frozen lakes. There are even some horse races on the frozen lakes, which also are used for curling and ice hockey.
In the summer you can expect hiking, biking, mountain climbing, and the local sport of Hornussen, an ancient sport often compared to baseball or golf. Though there is no baseball in Switzerland, there is some golf, with about 70 golf courses in the country Of course Roger Federer did not grow up in a vacuum, and the Swiss tennis culture is alive and well.
Though the Swiss prefer participation sports to professional sports, they still love the Super League football. There are some other professional sports like hockey and basketball, but they are less popular.
Living, Not Shopping
Does it ever feel like everything in the United States is about shopping? There isn’t a single event that goes by that is marked by a sale. You name, it is a reason to go to the shops, even in the day and age of online shopping and very quick deliveries, it is very difficult to find a parking spot at the shopping mall. While the laws of supply and demand has led to a situation where you can get the best quality merchandise in the USA at more affordable prices than anywhere else in the world. This is why so many of our clients send their entire households when they move to places like Switzerland. We have had Swiss tourists send everything from furniture to automobiles that they bought as tourists in the USA back to their homes.
Don’t expect the same culture of buying and then more buying in Switzerland. The country is known for specialty shops, particularly for Swiss watches and jewelry.
Even the country’s largest shopping mall in Zurich pales in comparison to typical American mall. Most shops in the country work normal working hours, like 10-6 or something similar, and it is not uncommon for a store to close for an hour at lunch time. Do not expect much to be open on Sundays. If you are going to be making a big meal on Sunday, make sure to buy everything you need before the weekend.
Tchi che sa Rumantsch, sa dapli
That means if you can speak in Rumantsch, you will know more. Rumantsch is spoken in the canton of Grisons, home to the world famous St. Moritz. The language is similar to Italian but is a not a dialect, it is a different language spoken only in southern Switzerland.
How many languages do you speak? Everyone in Switzerland will speak at least two, most of them can speak three or four. English is not always one of them. The official languages of Switzerland are French, German, Italian and Rumantsch, this means that any of these languages can be used for official documents and legally binding contracts, taught in schools, or used to address the Federal Assembly. If you go to a French speaking region, don’t be surprised if the conversation is peppered with a few words from other languages, something you wouldn’t expect to hear in France.
The currency used in Switzerland for transactions is the Swiss Franc. This currency is also used by Liechtenstein, a small neighbor. The rest of Switzerland’s neighbors use the Euro, the shared currency of many European Union members. You can use Euros in many shops, but if you live in the country, you will be using Swiss Francs.