Why I Mostly Love but sometimes Hate Switzerland

Switzerland. I have strong feelings towards it and I mostly love it but sometimes hate it. Now before I go into why I love and hate Switzerland I wanted to say that I have been in the country for 3 weeks in 2008 and then another couple of times when I studied abroad in 2010. In total I’ve spent nearly a month in Switzerland and explored areas around Geneva, Bern, Luzern, Zürich, Sargans, and Chur. Fortunately I’ve interacted with the Swiss people and understand Swiss culture more. I can say it’s definitely unique and sometimes interesting how different the mentality is compared to the US. Overall I really love Switzerland and have even thought about living there one day but there are some things that are strange to me.

For starters, Switzerland is a really rich country and there is a lot of reasons why Switzerland is so rich. If you go back in history, Switzerland used to be poor and at one point was one of the poorest in Europe. Why and when did it change? After World War 2, Switzerland was in prime position to up its manufacturing industry, including watches, textiles, engineering and its financial sector. The financial part is what really boomed Switzerland into a wealthy nation and the residents benefited greatly from it. Today Switzerland is an expensive country to visit but the streets are extremely pristine and every Swiss person seems like they are doing pretty well (it’s better than the average American).

View from Sargans

So maybe all the recent success has something to do with how they behave today. The Swiss, when I went in 2008, were cordial on the surface but they made it very hard to get to know them. In fact, if you haven’t known a set of Swiss people for years they will rarely give you the time of day for a in-depth conversation. I had a German friend living in Switzerland at one time and she had ‘friends’ but even then it was still hard for them to open up to outsiders.

Conservative, guarded and like one of my friends said “they have a tendency to be somewhat prejudiced about people who are not Swiss.” I feel this is true and feel that the Swiss may not understand or want to understand anybody else who is not Swiss. Of course they are all polite and cultured on the surface, but they can often be close minded underneath and love to live by the established rules. They will even tell you if there is something you should and shouldn’t do in your life, if they get the chance. That’s kind of what I hate about Switzerland. It’s hard to relate or much less get to know them and most Swiss don’t really make an effort. There is very little small talk or getting to know a visitor on a deeper level. Being from the US and more importantly from Texas, where I would give hugs to even people I just met, it’s weird to be in such a ‘cold’ environment.

The Swiss Alps

However I was told there are reasons that they are choosy with their friends, follow the established rule and give out advice when you don’t ask for it. The mentality in Switzerland is that you really don’t need more friends apart from your select group and only want to invest in people who will be there for life. That’s a good mentality (I guess) but leaves outsiders in the dust.

Also by sticking to a core group they are less likely to open their mind about others, even their own country men. Swiss people all have a hometown to be proud of but it’s rare for them to journey into another part of Switzerland. It’s not rare to see Swiss people travel outside of their own country but not often inside Switzerland. Switzerland is more like 26 different types of regions loosely joined in one country and for whatever reason they don’t feel the need to visit one another. Kind of strange but works for them I guess.

Geneva, Switzerland

They love to follow the established rules and will tell you how to live your life because I do feel they think they are right in most issues. Look how great their country is doing!? So perhaps being so successful has led more Swiss to feel that the way they do things is correct and most should follow the example.

So would I live in Switzerland? Well I know I’m complaining about the people but it’s a big part to dislike because if I can’t relate to the people it’s hard to enjoy the country. However there are parts about Switzerland that I do love.

Zurich, Switzerland

These would be the most obvious to anybody. I think they live very well and have extremely high standards. How they got to these standards is not in my area of debate but I do love that almost nobody is poor in Switzerland and they make an effort to invest in their people and the environment. This makes for a pleasant, yet expensive, visit but I still love it.

You can go to any part of Switzerland and feel absolutely comfortable. But you should prepare to pay insane amounts for food, hotels and even trains. The first time I went to Switzerland I was lucky to live with my friend for 3 weeks, saving me a ton of money. And the second time I was living in France in 2010, close to the Swiss border, so I never had to pay a hotel except one night on a decent (still overpriced) hostel. But if you’re looking for safety and a place where you never really have to worry about crime than Switzerland is perfect.

Shawn looking out to Liechtenstein from Switzerland

Plus Switzerland is divided into different types of cultures and every canton is just a bit different. Like I said earlier, the people are not overly friendly, even to their own countrymen. Culturally you will experience a different Switzerland in Geneva than you would in Zürich. It’s an interesting culture and each region has its own story and own distinct customs.

Also the food is delicious especially if you love dairy. However most likely you will go out for every meal and that adds up quickly in Switzerland! It wasn’t uncommon for a group of 6 to pay over 200 Swiss Francs which is like 220 dollars for a night out. That’s insane to me but that is the standard in Switzerland.

Bern, Switzerland

Don’t get me wrong, I mostly love Switzerland and it would be a perfect country if it weren’t just for the people’s mentality. However I still think it’s an essential country to visit and will sure be back. Perhaps, one day, I would consider even living there (if they would ever let me in) because the standard of living, the beauty, the culture, history, and safety are better than any other country in the world. It’s hard not to love Switzerland but sometimes traveling there for an extended amount of time can be frustrating!

*Flyers tip! If you are connecting through Europe try Zürich or Geneva International. Zürich is one of the nicest and most punctual airports I’ve ever flown out of. Punctuality, another word Switzerland is famous for.


(Any Swiss person reading this feel free to refute any of my comments or say what you need below. Anybody else who has been to Switzerland, feel free to state your opinion as well. I feel people are polite and nice on the surface. I love the country and will be back)

Check out my mini-guide for Switzerland




images by: shawnvoyage

By | 2017-07-25T09:32:49+00:00 March 20th, 2014|


  1. Philippe June 20, 2014 at 3:57 pm - Reply

    I live in Zurich and I totally agree with the good and bad sides that you are describing. It’s exactly like this.

    • Shawn June 21, 2014 at 6:50 pm - Reply

      Oh thanks for reading and agreeing…! However I still have a strong love for Switzerland and kind of wish I could live there…

  2. snow vase September 13, 2014 at 10:32 am - Reply

    I grew up in Switzerland, lived the last 5 years in the US and just came back involuntarily this spring. I agree with your comments. Especially, the one that they like to tell you how to live your life and there is always something to be found that is not good about you, the way you feel, think and live. Fortunately, I have some friends from my past, but I’m having a very hard time with Swiss Culture. Lots of my friends with whom I connect are foreigners too. I’m super unhappy here and depressed. It’s too cold and and I do not feel free here. For the kind of person I am, Switzerland is a great place to visit, but not to live. You want to be able to always have a warm home to come back to.

    • Shawn September 13, 2014 at 12:02 pm - Reply

      Wow that’s interesting. It’s hard to believe such a beautiful country and great place to live can feel so cold and distant. Are you thinking about moving back? What you said is exactly my problem with the country.

  3. albert October 4, 2014 at 10:53 am - Reply

    i have lived here for 6 years, working as a bricklayer, i am 48, i get 18 year old apprentices telling me how to do my job, they almost implode when i remind them i have been doing this since they were hanging on their mothers breasts, the older swiss almost explode with disgust when i tell them that i work so i am not bored at home as my wife earns much more than the average swiss man(a double insultas most men are very sexist, and my wife is english), and the managers grimace that i have bought a house in zurich(an un achievable dream for most swiss men), all in all, i cant stand the swiss, most building sites are about 90% foreigners and i get along great with them all, except the swiss , like most building sites, the nationals are of a lowered percieved success ,by their fellow country men, to make up for this they seem to enjoy asserting their superiority by making foreign workers do menial tasks, who are happy to oblige as they are on one year renewable work visas, and come from countries that have been hit hard by the finance crisis,it is heart breaking to seea spanish architect sweep floors and be grateful, they are the strangest men i have ever met, and cowards to boot

    • Shawn October 5, 2014 at 5:03 am - Reply

      That’s very interesting! Thanks for the comment. I see many people feel this way about the Swiss.

  4. lapetite October 25, 2014 at 6:49 am - Reply

    Oh nooo…
    I`d like to hug everybody of you. Especially because you seem to had so bad luck with us Swiss.
    In my opinion it IS sometimes true what all of you are talking about. We CAN be very reserved and `cold`. But that doesn`t mean all of us are grumpy or hate foreigners. I`d love to know more people who aren`t Swiss. I have friends from Japan, Netherlands, Thailand, Korea, Germany, etc. But it`s true, most of my friends are Swiss.
    When I met my friend of Japan, at the beginning it was very hard for me to talk with her. She was able to speak in a quite good german. Nevertheless, it was exhausting to me to speak in german (not in swiss-german) because it is not natural to us. Yet my big efforts made us good friends and I love her.
    Perhaps you wouldn`t like to speak every day in a foreign language, either…and that in your own homecountry.
    Next point: Sometimes we just feel overflowed from the people from other countries (we have only 8 Mio. citizens) and because we have much foreigners from the east, they mostly speak in their own language and makes it impossible for us to join their group. Further they just DON`T want to hang around with us, because they have a completely other culture (girls have to be protected from their big brothers, men are mostly machos, etc. (there are always exceptions.) ). I have to admit sometimes I feel uncomfortable when I sit in a bus as only Swiss, surrounded by groups from east nations, who speak aloud and in a repulsive and sometimes sexist way and who just don`t want to adopt our culture and live in their own little “communities”.
    So stereotypes are made and that can make it difficult to you to feel welcomed, even though you are willing to adopt. I`am very, very sorry.
    But you are right. There are some narrow-minded Swiss who also make me furious, especially when the foreigners do everything to fit in.
    In my opinion, when foreigners really really do everything to become a part of Switzerland as we Swiss understand Switzerland, than they have deserved to be a part of us. And it makes me angry and sad when they are still not accepted, even though they are “Swiss” now to me.
    On the other side there are foreigners who exaggerate with their overwhelming friendly way and make us feel like grimly trolls. XD To respond in the same way makes us feel like we have to behave like them to be still polite and makes us feel like we wouldn`t be in our homecountry, because we do not behave the same way as we used to.

    I hope I could give you some explanations why the swiss behave like they behave (not all of them of course). And don`t forget: In every nation there can be very friendly people as well as dumbasses (sorry for that strong word).

    I hope you are happy where you are staying at now, because that`s the most important thing; to feel welcolmed and safe and I wish it to everybody of you. :)

    Greets from Switzerland

    • Shawn October 26, 2014 at 7:10 am - Reply

      Thanks for your reply and a perspective from a Swiss person!

      • fiorella October 4, 2017 at 6:24 pm

        Just try northern Italy and you will just find the same level of close minded/racist people. The bad news is that in Italy people are generally also utterly arrogant, they like sticking their nose into other people affairs, they are highly hypocritical and do not know what friendship is. They just use people until they need them or to hang out. It is very hard to find true friends in Italy. Really hard. If you are stranger then you can either become interesting for one night and then you are gone. Mostly group of italian “friends” do not even consider strangers or immigrants. They just stick with their original close minded “friends” and reject new people even if they are italians.
        So, I think switzerland is a little bit better than Italy because people do not like to cheat others. They do not hug you, and I am like that (I am not used to hugging people I do not know and even if I know them I tend to smile but keep a distance), but they do not tell bullshit as italians usually do. They have a very deep meaning of friendship which is a very good point and do not just use people to accomodate their needs. To me they are more honest than italians.
        I am italian, lived in switzerland. Travelled to USA. USA is just another world, too bad I could ever get a chance to live there permanently because of american overly strict work permits.
        Trust me, California seemed to me just another planet compared to Milan and northern Italy in general.
        No one cares how you are dressed up, if you’re black white or whatever, people do not stare at you, no jealous people ( Italy it’s full of haters, they hate you if you have more money, they hate you if you are more beautiful than others…).

      • Shawn October 9, 2017 at 7:55 am

        Thanks for the comment! I could imagine northern Italy having the same mindset, but I have not been to the mountain regions bordering Italy yet. Yeah I know USA has strict immigration laws now. It’s hard to get here.

  5. Carl Fenger October 26, 2014 at 6:32 am - Reply

    I’ve been living here 25 years now, originally from California, and yes, your article is pretty accurate. On the other hands, there are always the few exceptions to the rule, and you just need to find them. A handful of friends is all your need to make the whole country look different.

    • Shawn October 26, 2014 at 7:06 am - Reply

      That is true. A couple of genuine Swiss friends would make a huge difference!

  6. Danielle December 1, 2014 at 8:04 pm - Reply

    I from the US but lived In Lugano a while back from 1999-2000. I found lots of friends (even got married – to an Italian I met there – and had a child), enjoyed my time meeting new people, having discussions, exploring other parts of the country. I didn’t really find anything that you have. (I think, however, that you could easily come in contact with close-minded people from anywhere.) I love its pristine, exact-measuring culture. I raved to my American friends/family about how safe I felt, how clean everything was and how much fun I was having exploring each canton. No, exorbitant prices for everything isn’t fun. However, I was working at Migros (MMM) and making pretty stinking good money for basically being a barista. I even have some retirement money there :-) Oh, one thing I love was that people who work get insurance automatically. I had bought some before I left for Lugano, but it was cheap college travel insurance. Anyway, I was bitten by a dog one day, went to the hospital and while they were cleaning it up, they asked about insurance. I showed them my college card; they looked at it like I was handing them funny money and then asked who my employer was. I told them, showed them my work visa, and they said, “Ok, all set.” I literally had no bill, nothing, niente! Never heard a peep about it after either. Bottom line: I LOVE Switzerland!!

    • Shawn December 1, 2014 at 8:16 pm - Reply

      Switzerland definitely has wonderful landscape! That’s nice they gave you free healthcare. From my understanding Switzerland has really great healthcare that isn’t expensive.

  7. G December 30, 2014 at 5:57 am - Reply

    hi shawn, i just googled swiss mentality, and i stumbled on your blog. I was in Switzerland for a few months and I can see why we all think like that.. Knowing other cultures is not their cup of tea. The way we speak German and English (which has 1000 of accents) make it difficult to give full attention, but also they live in their mind. So whatever you do is not their problem but they will still criticise you. I realised that with my ex. He lives in swiss and got the nationality, he was criticising them at first, but then he became typically close minded and difficult to please and understand, the reason why we broke up.

    To understand the close mindedness i guess you will see a loooot of immigrants and chinese people everywhere you go? I was overflown in the plane with just asians. The balkans are very loud, cannot even speak swiss german, and worst, standard German.

    I had quite a good time except with my ex, as i speak German since i was 12 years old as well as French and Italian. This also makes a big difference when you are in the country and cannot speak either French or German as most of them don’t speak a word of English.

    Anyways i hope you can meet people from the world in your country and be friendly to them and you can get the same friendliness from their part. :)

    • Shawn December 30, 2014 at 7:14 am - Reply

      Wow, yeah its frustrating because I think youre right. They think all with their minds and live in their minds! Thanks for the comment. It seems people generally agree with what this post.

  8. Kevin March 26, 2015 at 7:16 am - Reply

    I would agree with most of the comments about Swiss culture and mentality. I have lived there for over a year (mostly in Zurich) and I am from a country in South East Asia. Generally I love Switzerland, the cleanliness, the precision and the extremely high standard and quality of life. It didn’t bother me that the Swiss are somewhat aloof to get to know other people and cultures, I myself behave in a similar way. They are too cool for me, I am too cool for them ;) For me, there isn’t much not to like about Switzerland. Don’t know why, but I got along better with those in the German speaking part than in the French side of Switzerland.

    • Shawn March 27, 2015 at 8:39 am - Reply

      Thank you for your response and insight. I love Switzerland definitely plan to travel there often but while I was there I did notice how much American and Swiss culture are different! I’m glad you like it there.

  9. Jasmin May 24, 2015 at 3:18 pm - Reply

    Hey Shawn, I’m from Switzerland and I totally agree with you! I have to say I realised those things only recently. Last summer, I went to the Netherlands for my exchange semester. I loved the dutch culture and the friendly, openminded and tolerant people there! After a while, I also started to be more open and just talk to random people and so on. When my exchange was over and I went back home I was shocked about what’s going on in Switzerland! No one’s talking to you except your group of friends, no friendly faces, no smiles from strangers. You don’t even have the chance to meet new people because it seems like nobody wants to know new people than just their friends. Unfortunately, some of my friends are also like this and I sometimes really try to “teach” them that they should go out there, try new things and don’t think about others opinions. I’m not that successful with my teaching so far.. but I’m not giving up ;-)

    I also have to say something positive now! I live around 1 hour away from Zurich somewhere up in the mountains and I love it. It’s so quiet and we have a spectacular view here. I also like the fact that I can walk home alone in the middle of the night and I know that worst thing that could happen is a fox crossing my way.

    Oh, and I have to add: It’s true. Swiss people travel to all countries in the world but barely know their own. I have to admit, I’m like this as well.

    • Shawn May 25, 2015 at 11:29 am - Reply

      Thank you Jasmine for your perspective from a Swiss person. I’m happy that you decided to branch out and experience something new away from Switzerland. However I deeply love the country and people still and will be back for sure.

  10. LEM June 7, 2015 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    I agree with your comment. (I moved here because I married a Swiss.) There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of sympathy or empathy on an individual or national level, which is theme of many websites I have read from expats and some Swiss. (I just read a blog that cited a source that ranks the Swiss last in terms of developing friends and creating social networks out of six major European countries – France, Germany, the UK, etc. I have also lived in Texas and, yes, HUGE difference.)

    I think it’s pretty natural for most people to feel pride in their home country and to like what is familiar. However, I have lived elsewhere internationally and am confused by the hubris this country seems to have. (Many people will think that statement ironic coming from an American, since we are also often thought to have an overinflated sense of national pride.)

    FYI, health insurance is not inexpensive. It is very expensive and if you are on the lower end of the income spectrum here, the only kind you can afford (and health insurance is mandatory) is like a BAD auto insurance policy in the US (like if you have a really crappy driving record or something), where you have large monthly payments AND a large deductible (CHF 2500) before your health insurance will cover any of your medical costs including medications, which are also much more expensive here. Also, general medical practitioners charge CHF15/5 minutes, which does not include any services other than the basic medical consultation. Everything else is extra and gets added to your bill. In general costs are a little less for something like a blood or urine test, but if you are paying for that all out of pocket in addition to your monthly insurance bills, it ends up being much more expensive than health care in the US. For example, for a year in the US, on average I spent about $500 on doctor visits and medication. (Because if you are employed full time, most companies in the US cover part of the cost of your medical insurance. Not the case in Switzerland.) This year my husband will have spent about CHF 4000 out of pocket and that is without any major health issues. (I am not sure how accurate this argument would be if you had major medical expenses for something like cancer treatment or heart surgery, but I think the co-pays are around 10-20 percent in Switzerland for whatever the cost of treatment is after you have reached your deductible or have a more expensive insurance policy.)

    I will say that having a baby here is less expensive and they do provide more care after the birth. Providing a lactation consultation and in home visits post delivery are standard practices in Switzerland (not in the US for sure). Any insurance policy is required to cover all costs associated with pregnancy, labor and delivery, and some postpartum care. I am sure such policies add to the general cost of healthcare for all, but given the birth rate in Switzerland it cannot be the main cause of the high cost of health insurance and medical care. (I have never had a baby in another country, so I am not sure how costs compare in the US or elsewhere.) However, on a less expensive insurance plan, you will never see the same OB-GYN twice on your medical visits during your pregnancy nor will you know/be familiar with the doctor who delivers your baby, which can be challenging.

    • Shawn June 9, 2015 at 2:07 pm - Reply

      I’ve seem to hit the right nerve that most people feel while in Switzerland. I thought the attitude was just so different than what I was use to experiencing. I’m glad you feel this too. Interesting not on the health part of Switzerland. I’ve always felt they were better yet seems to be they still have problems in the system!

  11. Dana July 3, 2015 at 3:11 am - Reply

    I have been living here for 7 months now. All this time only one colleague of mine who is Swiss invited me for dinner once. But everyone is so friendly and polite at work They are narrow minded people. They are judgemental and they just love their routine. I will end my contract after one year. Love the safety, the mountains and the cleanliness. This country made me an unhappy person. I miss the old happy me.

    • Shawn July 14, 2015 at 11:08 am - Reply

      Wow that bad! Yeah I thought I could really love Switzerland too for their beautiful mountains, cities, and cleanliness. I think outside of Switzerland people tend to be more inviting.

  12. KS September 6, 2015 at 10:24 am - Reply

    I find the Swiss unique the way they treat each other. For example, imagine you are in a room where everyone is friendly. I would feel hurt and excluded if they all decide to be bias and be unfriendly to me. On the other hand I feel quite comfortable in Switzerland because everybody is cold and unapproachable toward each other. It’s normal that they don’t smile at strangers or people they just met. It’s nothing personal, just the way they are at the start.

    It also hurts when a new person you meet is very friendly toward you, but suddenly pulls back if they discover something they don’t agree or like about you. In a way, the Swiss takes personal relationships gradually, step by step.

    • Shawn September 9, 2015 at 8:19 am - Reply

      Yes from my observations I totally agree with this. It’s strange as an American but that’s just the way they do things.

  13. Martin November 27, 2015 at 2:54 pm - Reply

    Interesting article you wrote.. I “accidentally” came a across it.

    Here my thoughts (as a native Swiss person):
    I agree with most of the points you mentioned in your article and also some of the comments. But I would put it a little bit in another perspective. It certainly is hard to make friends in Switzerland, but if you made friends then they are for life – which is certainly different from people in the US, where you make 10 “friends” every evening, but what about the next day…
    Interestingly I have a couple of friends living abroad (for example NY, Montreal), and they tell me they almost never get in private contact with people they working with. Everyone seems to rush out after work. Especially the guy who is at the moment in Canada told me that some at work won’t even talk to him because he isn’t native french speaking (this would never happen in Switzerland).
    Last point to not get to long: Anyone from all over the world is welcome in Switzerland and can make friends. If some tells the opposite then he probably hasn’t tried hard enough.. but again once you made it it’s for life…
    Have a good day.

    • Shawn November 30, 2015 at 11:47 am - Reply

      Thank you for your insight as a Swiss person!

  14. dvn December 2, 2015 at 12:06 pm - Reply

    I am Swiss and I can say: Remarkably on the spot!!!

    • Shawn December 5, 2015 at 8:27 pm - Reply

      Thank you, I’m happy your agree!

  15. Tuyo January 21, 2016 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    Hi Shawn! I completely agree with you! I was born and raised in Geneva. Had my different groups of friends since elementary or high school and believe me it is very hard to mix those people together! I have tried numerous times to bring along ‘new’ friends to those groups but it didn’t worked out.. I guess Swiss love their habits. I agree that most of them tend to be rude or harsh and jugemental. However the Swiss travel a lot mostly outside the country. Yet I don’t understand why they can be so distant and arrogant with people. The economical and social status is way too important for them and defines a person. And if you don’t speak their language it’s even harder. Yes I love the cleanliness of the country, education, there is barely no crime (compare to the rest of the world) and ecology is very important. Although this country depresses me and I couldn’t see myself living there anymore. It’s been 2 years I am living in the UK and I have never been happier.

    • Shawn February 4, 2016 at 8:34 am - Reply

      Wow that’s interesting. I have to say that I always dreamed of living in Switzerland but now I’m not so sure. Perhaps I’ll live right on the border in France and travel back and forth. Thank you for your comment and I’m glad you found some happiness living outside of Switzerland. This post was never meant to knock Switzerland. I think it’s a great country and still love to visit.

  16. merve June 17, 2016 at 10:24 pm - Reply

    Hi Shawn and all

    I am orginally turkish and met my swiss boyfriend abroad at Erasmus. He was very cold and not easy to get into him.but after a while more and more we got closer and closer. Now we are together for 6years. I live in switzerland and i think if you know them good and br close enough they are friends for ever. My boyfriend is very loyal and besides we are still soo attracted to eachother we are an amazing team…and people there i dont think narrow minded.also as a müslim it was no problem for me to get involved there…sorry for the bad english :)

    • Shawn June 27, 2016 at 8:35 am - Reply

      No worries, thanks for your comment! Probably overtime the Swiss are easier to get along with!

  17. SB October 7, 2016 at 9:19 am - Reply

    Hi Shawn, I do agree mostly with you. To share my view on this topic let me introduce myself first. I’m originally French living in Zurich since 2 years now, before that I was living in New York for about two years as well. I was lucky to travel the world with my parents since my early age and thus I have developped a faculty to adapt very quickly to new environments, cultures and languages. I will only talk here about my experience in living in the Swiss German part as I don’t know how it is in the other parts of Switzerland.

    I will certainely not end my life in this country but so far I enjoy what it does offer and I repay it well in return.

    When it comes to describe my experience regarding the Swiss German people mindset and behaviour towards foreigners, let’s be honestly objective here: They do not make it easy at all.
    Whatever the reasons that drives them to behave in a such way, nothing justify to deliberately exclude socially a civil member of their country- This exclusion is creating real gaps between both communities (expats&locals) where the live together is often challenged. At the other hand it is to me as important that as a foreigner, one has to embrace the culture, by learning the language, adopting the local way of life, while trying to create a connection with the same locals, etc..
    I have done all those things since I arrived here and I still havent managed to have a proper local friend which is ok though! but I just find it interesting to analyse.

    So it’s bringing me to an other part of this topic where the comments I have read up there is trying to justify by telling that “when a Swiss person is giving you his friendship it is for life” It almost sounds like a fairytale, and then what? they lived happily ever after?! – How intellectually dishonest is that- And why can’t it also be the other way around?

    To me, this is a skillful way of trying to mask their xenophobic tendency in the most politically correct manners.

    So a word to the wise.


  18. Steve October 18, 2016 at 4:32 am - Reply

    Hi Shawn, I have been living in the city of Geneva for the past 1 year and 3 months. I’m 22 years old and I’m a student.

    I agree to everything you said! The country is rich and beautiful but the locals are introverted.
    Due to the multicultural environment of Geneva I have made friends from all over the world (USA, England, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Romania, Serbia, Russia, China, Japan, Spain, Italy, … the list is very big) but I was never able to make a Swiss friend, as you have said they are not very open to foreigners.

    Swiss people seem unfriendly to me most of the times. Maybe they get uncomfortable because they are forced to speak English instead of French (I don’t speak French at all).
    I really don’t know.

    Thanks for this article!!

    • Shawn December 1, 2016 at 10:47 am - Reply

      For outsiders it’s kind of surprising but I’m glad I”m still getting comments that seem to still say the same thing on this! Thanks for the comment.

  19. 000 October 31, 2016 at 8:43 pm - Reply

    Hi Shawn
    Your article is very interesting and im agree with the most points, but i will give you also another view.

    The swiss peoples are introverted – yes! but my experience in Switzerland are the friendship between swiss peoples are more intensive, which I never saw in other countries.

    my experience are more from the daily business (Sales & Account Manager)…
    Example: In USA its very easy to speak with a lot of peoples in short time and i can do also a buisness deal very fast. My feeling in the USA is, every Guy is a “friend”. But if the business deal is done, they have no time, interesting aso. so they let me fall.
    In switzerland you need for a big business deal ca. 9-12 Months. So the peoples do not trust you very fast. For a business partnership its a long pocess which you have to win the trust of the peoples. But if you have win the trust, you have win also new friends for you life.
    And you have also a very strong backup in bad times of your life (Experience: My american friends told me they cannot help me. The Swiss friends has helped me in a bad situation of my life).

    Language: Switzerland have 4 country languages (Swiss German, Italian, French, Romansh). The most peoples from the old generation have learned in the school, as second language a language of Switzerland. So the swiss german guys can speak also a littlebit french. The new generation learn more also english. So in switzerland its very easy to communicate with young peoples, but not all old generation peoples can speak english very well. (Zurich is International – so a lot of peopls can speak english).
    But Switzerland is also a very open country. 25% of the peoples are not from switzerland and mor then 40% have a migration Background (most peoples Italy, France, Germany but they feel as Swiss guy).

    System: Switzerland have a very interesting system. With 15/16 years the young peoples have to learn a job in a company. As example: in our bank we have a 16 years old boy and he is at the moment 3 days in the Bank and 2 days per week in the School. So he learn 3 days practically experience like trading, transaction, aso. and in the School he learn theory like how works the global financial system aso. With 16 years!!!! So with 20 years they are finish with the education in the banking sector, so this peoples work for a company, go to the university for a higher certificate or travel in the world.

    The most young swiss peoples told me, if they was in other countries: “the most other peoples was with 20/21 like a child”. They have no knowledge about the World, Politics, Business, Economy aso. So they come back to switzerland and told me: the peoples in other countries are not so smart, so it was difficult to communicate and it was only possible to speak for a small talk…

    Army: Switzerland have a miliz System. So with 18/20 years the most peoples join in the Army for 21 weeks and then every year for 3 weeks (Should be finish with 30 years). Or you can finish the time by the army in 12 completly months. If you have learned a job as mechanic, you will be in the army also a mechanic guy. So the Swiss Army have a lot of Experts because all peoples have learned the job as young boy.

    Unemployment: In switzerland if you have a Job, the company pay every month a tax to the swiss governement. So if you lost the job, the Swiss Governement support you and pay for you the appartment, eating aso and look fo a new job. So we have in switzerland at the moment only 3,2% of peoples without a job. The Governement look that you are integrated in the system as a young boy (15/16y) and look also in bad time that you never leaves the system.

    Politics: Switzerland have a conflict with the rest of the world. In switzerland we have a half direct democracy and a direct democracy. Other countries from EU dont like Switzerland because the system is danger for the own power. So the swiss peoples dont like the EU becuase its danger for the own system.

    For the poples is the direct democracy system great, because they can start every time a referendum or a initative. So in Switzerland you can start with 18 years, your own initiative like as an example (you need 100’000 signatures): “i want 6 weeks holidays per year for every person”. So they have a big discussions in talk shows, news papers, schools, private circle, podium between economy, parties aso. And then Switzerland have a voting and every swiss person can say yes or no. So a lot of young peoples are interest in politics because you have a chance for change. you know?

    Im from Germany but i love Switzerland, because the system of this country is perfect and i think every other country can learn from Switzerland. Switzerland is neutral so they have no conflicts or war in the world. Its in the innovation global index Nr.1. And i think Switzerland is Nr.1 in innovation, because the poeples can life, speech and thinking very free. If you have a kid, i think the Swiss System is the best future for the development of your kid.

    So yes the Swiss Peoples are introvented – but they live in another system which create another behavioral. So wait for the young generation. they will be more open^^

    But remeber the peoples in Switzerland are also very adult for the age.
    So if you have a son you can drink also a Beer with him, if he is 16 years old – without prison ;-)

    • Shawn December 1, 2016 at 10:46 am - Reply

      Thanks, sorry for the wait to get back! Yes I definitely agree the Swiss are more introverted. I believe Europeans as a whole are definitely more introverted. Believe me some of the policies are better than the USA.

  20. Jay December 4, 2016 at 1:34 am - Reply

    I’m glad I found this, because I am from Northern Ireland but living in Latvia and thinking about moving to Switzerland. My number one annoyance about Latvia? The rudeness and coldness of the people. Other westerners have observed the same, commenting that there are as yet undiscovered tribes living in the Amazonian rainforest who have better developed senses of culture and social graces than the Latvians. Or “Latbots” as I call them, as they act like emotionless robots most of the time.

    From what most people have written above, the Swiss seem pretty obnoxious too. I may have to think about living elsewhere.

    • Shawn January 11, 2017 at 8:35 am - Reply

      It may stem from their past history but yeah it definitely tends to be a more European trait.

    • Steve January 13, 2017 at 9:24 am - Reply

      Well, the Swiss may be “cold” but they are not rude at all.

  21. wijnen guido June 7, 2017 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    i’m from belgium and from 99 untill 3 years ago
    i travelled the world.M y opiniun about the swiss is not so positive.they should learn 2 things
    -switserland is not the top of the world
    -laws and regulations are for the people and not the other way around


  22. merieleslie July 19, 2017 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    Thank you Shawn and thanks to all who have posted. I am a Southern and we smile, talk and offer assistance to complete strangers. It’s called being kind to your fellow human being and evidently not a trait that is prevalent among the majority of the Swiss population. I found this site, well bc I’ve been kicking myself for not marrying my Swiss bf and moving to CH. I had never been there and had NO CLUE the ppl were the way they have been described here. Reading all the posts makes me feel better about my decision to stay in the states. I would have been miserable there.

    • Shawn July 26, 2017 at 7:44 am - Reply

      As an American I just felt out of place there but no I don’t speak the language nor know anybody still in Switzerland. But I wasn’t the only one, my German friend who did live there for a time felt the same way. Thanks for your comment!

  23. YEN August 11, 2017 at 1:58 am - Reply

    Hello everyone
    It is very interesting to read what you wrote. I visited Switzerland several weeks ago. I am thinking of going back there fore a second visit – as I am interested in the country, its natural resources and want to know more about its culture and people. I was in Zurich with my two young children and we had a good time. The Swiss seemed to be efficient, polite and helpful. We did not have any problem, e.g. racist or xenophobic. I agree that people there were not smiling a lot (I am of Asian origin and living in Australia). Young people seemed more open. A young lady we met on the train took us the the tram stop, a man helping us finding a street, two other Swiss that we met on the train were friendly and chatty, etc. Thanks for all the tips about Switzerland and the Swiss people.

    • Shawn August 13, 2017 at 12:16 pm - Reply

      That’s great you didn’t have a problem! I’m looking to go back to Switzerland soon.

  24. Marco August 20, 2017 at 3:39 am - Reply

    Hi Shawn. I’m Swiss and lived here all my life and I would agree mostly with what you wrote, very good description of Switzerland. I traveled a lot when I was younger and it is easier to make friends in most other places. The mentality of the Swiss (I’m talkin about the german speaking part here, the french and italian speaking Swiss are a completely different story) can indeed be difficult to understand for foreigners, I think it is difficult to adapt if you haven’t grown up here. However, I do not agree with comments here that say that Switzerland is xenophobic. I think that a lot of foreigners think that first, because they are not used to the very reserved and pragmatic Swiss mentality and then take it personaly or interpret it even as racism. What they don’t see is that Swiss people are treating each other the same way. I completely understand that it is difficult for an american to understand, but don’t expect Swiss people to make a lot of small talk, or hug or open up right from the start, most Swiss are not like that. To hug people is probably a bad idea, you would do that with your girlfriend here but no one else. To make friends in Switzerland will take patience and time but once you have made friends you will realise that they are not much different then other people. And finally I would like to know where the hell you had a night out with six people and only payed 200- francs ;-)!

    • Shawn August 22, 2017 at 7:48 pm - Reply

      Hey Marco,

      Thanks for commenting! I always like to hear from a Swiss perspective. Now that I’m older I plan to go back to Switzerland and report back. You have a beautiful country and I hope this wasn’t offensive! To me it’s so weird that you wouldn’t hug people. I’m from the south of the United States and I’m use to it. 200 Swiss francs felt like a lot for just drinks and appetizers but now that I live in a big city it doesn’t seem to bad haha! I can’t wait to revisit!