People Innovation Excellence

Business Culture in Switzerland


By: Ng Scherly Hansopaheluwakan, S.E,  MIB

Switzerland is one of the country​​ in Western Europe, though a small nation, has four official languages – German, French, Italian and Romansch. Romansch is spoken by 1 percent of the population in the eastern part of the country. Swiss-German is a dialect spoken in all the German-speaking cantons, as well as in Ticino. It is the lingua franca of the population, although High German is what is taught in schools and read in newspapers. Because of the nuances of culture this diversity brings, Switzerland is considered to be a prime test market in Europe where new technology products and services are often introduced and used first prior to national launches elsewhere.While openness towards technology may give the Swiss an air of daring-do — do not be misled.

​​The Swiss tend towards conservatism, empirical-thinking and prefer to stick to the rules. Swiss culture remains ethnocentric – a strong belief in ones own cultural group – and maintains a cautious attitude towards outside influences.  However, as Intercultural management consultant Fons Trompenaars points out, “There is a mindset that needs to be built in which the Swiss (or any other country national) can be approached rather than ‘this is a list of what the Swiss do’ because the Swiss will not expect you to become Switzerland. You are not Swiss – they know that !”

Switzerland has behavior in business culture.  The following points should be noted before doing business with  Switzerland  such as :

  1. Making appointments Meetings are done by appointment and not spontaneously. Punctuality is necessary on all occasions, whether business or social. This is especially true in the German-speaking areas, where arriving even five minutes late for a business or social engagement can cause grave offence. Swiss dress code​
  2. Dress code It is in your best interest to be well presented (read conservative) and to remain polite at all times.​ Do not wear jeans or casual attire on a first-time business meeting unless it is standard in the industry such as in IT or the arts.​
  3. Conversation The Swiss are a very private people, so try to avoid asking personal questions. The Swiss can be rather earnest, so it is advisable to avoid making jokes until you are sure of your ground
  4. Body language Fidgeting, moving hands and making sweeping gestures are considered rude. Do not point your index finger to your head it is an insult. Poor posture is frowned upon. Do not slouch, stretch or yawn in public.
  5. Making a deal Generally speaking, the German and French Swiss are conceptual, analytical thinkers; the Italian Swiss tend to think associatively. The German and French Swiss often have a tendency to use universal rules to solve problems, while the Italian Swiss usually prefer to become personally involved in each situation. Also, the German and French Swiss rely on empirical evidence and other objective facts for verification, while Italian Swiss depend more on subjective feelings.​​​

Published at :
Written By
Ng Scherly Hansopaheluwakan, S.E, MIB
LS 1 | IBM
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