Swiss Mentality

In German-speaking Switzerland, a German dialect is spoken. But to assume that the German-speaking Swiss are like Germans is wrong: Switzerland is a different country with its own culture.

Swiss people have a pronounced democratic understanding. They are Western European-oriented, freedom-loving citizens who set themselves apart from the US-American mentality. Diversity, tolerance and the separation of state and religion are fundamental values for the Swiss. They are less faithful to authority than Germans. Any kind of authority is rejected by Swiss. Treat bosses the same as their employees. Swiss like equality. They do not like to be singled out. Bosses try to get their point across through casual requests, not instructions. In Switzerland, even in business settings, people are decidedly friendly with each other and are increasingly on first-name terms. For all your superficial closeness, remain professional and maintain the boundary towards chumminess. A sense of how to deal with each other smoothly and effectively is particularly important in Switzerland. In conflict situations, Swiss people rely on cooperation rather than confrontation.

The tendency to express equality is also reflected in the wardrobe of the Swiss. They certainly like stylish clothing and jewelry, but tend toward understatement and restraint and are reserved about ostentatious or boastful appearances.

The Swiss think critically and also want to have a say. This is expressed not only in direct votes in political events, but also in companies. It is true that the joint deliberation and decision making practiced in Switzerland take more time, but the balanced compromises found together are supported more broadly. Swiss people do not accept that there should be only one way. They discuss alternatives. For the Swiss, every decision should be made in the lowest possible unit. This conviction is also reflected in operational practice.

While Swiss people are traditionally inclined, this does not mean that they want everything to remain as it is. To foreigners, they may appear ponderous and insistent, but at heart, perhaps because of their stable history, Swiss people are extremely laid-back. At the same time, as an ancient trading nation, they are very flexible. For example, Switzerland is the European country with the greatest intensity of innovation.

If you have an appointment with a Swiss person, be on time. Punctuality is a matter of course for the Swiss. But punctuality is only one facet of precision. And Swiss people are also known for their precision, which is reflected in Swiss precision engineering. If you want to do business with Swiss people, you should respond to these requirements. This starts with the greeting: Indeed, Swiss people place great importance on being greeted by their name. Keep the greeting and also the farewell at business appointments formal, and avoid an informal “goodbye”. Initiate conversations with small talk, but in a measured way. Get to the topic of the meeting in a reasonable amount of time.

Part of the precision of Swiss people is their reliability. They will expect the same reliability from you.

German-speaking Swiss feel more comfortable speaking Schwizerdütsch; with High German, they feel inferior to Germans and therefore prefer to avoid it. Words like “parkieren” and “grillieren” come across as pompous to Germans; their reaction to them makes Swiss people feel they are being made fun of. Understanding Swiss German well and accepting its idiosyncrasies can open doors for Germans in German-speaking Switzerland.

Germans are often perceived as arrogant by the Swiss. This is due to different styles, different word choices and different formulations. While the Swiss paraphrase their criticism, Germans deal with identified errors in a factual and direct manner, which the Swiss are not used to.

Both Germans and Swiss do themselves a favor when they adopt common technical terms from the other’s language area. For example, “Traktandenliste” vs. “Tagesordnung” (both meaning agenda) and “sistieren” vs. “teilnehmen” (taking part).

The Swiss live eco-consciously. As a tourist country, Switzerland is heavily dependent on the ecosystem on the one hand and has few raw materials on the other, which is why it was industrialized early on. Perhaps this is why the Swiss learned early on to combine the use of technology with environmental protection. For example, the public transport system is much better accepted than the German one by Germans. In Switzerland, there is a pronounced sensitivity to the environmental and social consequences of the use of technology. Major projects in Switzerland are usually intensively analyzed for their long-term consequences before they are approved.

Because of the tripartite nature of Switzerland, major differences between the Romanic and Germanic cultures occur in the country, leading to conflict on the one hand, but also to greater tolerance and coexistence on the other.

Look also to the British mentality, the Austrian mentality, the Spanish mentality, the Dutch mentality, the Scandinavian mentality, the French mentality, the Turkish mentality, the US-American mentality, the Italian mentality, the Latin American mentality, the Indian mentality, the Chinese mentality, the Japanese mentality, the Russian mentality, and the Arab mentality.


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