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Switzerland Culture and Traditions

Switzerland (German: Schweiz Karte) is a diverse country with a wide range of traditional customs. Strategically located between the major European countries of Germany, France, and Italy, it stands at the very heart of Europe.

Culture and Traditions
The Swiss are humble and law-abiding people who are proud of their ethnic heritage. Because of this, folk culture and arts are very much alive and practiced. Switzerland is more than just chocolate and yodeling. The country takes care of its people, its rich history, and the arts. There are 3 major languages spoken in the country, which are German, French, and Italian, and their influences are evident in most of Switzerland's culture and traditions.

Here is a list of Switzerland's social traditions that occur in an everyday setting:
  • For new acquaintances, a handshake is the most appropriate greeting while friends kiss on the cheek. The kiss is not the typical smack but an air kiss done on both sides of the face.
  • Greet strangers on the street and especially when you enter a store - greet and say goodbye.
  • Don't make a fuss when bumped in the streets - simply say it's okay or excuse me.
  • During business meetings, it's customary to arrive earlier than the expected time.
  • Punctuality is expected and the Swiss demands it even for playdates.
  • You can't just throw your garbage in a trash can, there are special rules for throwing certain types of garbage.

Arts and Architecture
There are over 1000 museums all around the country and plenty of platforms for contemporary artists to show their works. But it wasn't until the modern times that Swiss art emerged into the global consciousness. Paul Kee is the country's most original painter and the country is also home to the Dada art movement in 1910.

Architecture is influenced by Roman styles, evident in the cathedrals of Geneva, Sion, and Basel. Other styles include Baroque and Gothic - which are found in the country's fortresses and castles.

Notable Swiss architects have been heralded around the world, such Mario Botta for influencing modern architecture and winners of the international Pritzker Architecture Prize Jacques Herzoq and Pierce de Meuron in 2001 and Peter Zunthor in 2009.

The most popular Swiss book in fiction is Heidi by Johanna Spyri - about an orphan living in the mountains. This children's book classic has always been a symbol of the country and is considered to be one of the most popular literary works for children in the world. Other famous Swiss authors include Jean-Jacques Rousseau who wrote On the Social Contract and Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, and Germaine de Stael whose house was a center of European literary life in the 18th century.

The Swiss are known for being conservative and law-abiding. They value punctuality and honesty, and expect visitors to be polite and follow their rules. They have one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world, with the average mortality age for men at 80 years and women at 84.5. They're not known to be outgoing people and tend to be reserved in public gatherings. They also value masculinity, in the sense of competitiveness and achievement. Raising kids is particularly hands-off, encouraging their school-age kids to bike to school on their own.

Traditional garb are still being worn on special occasions. Women wear a long sleeved blouse, a skirt, a silk apron, a smock, and tights while men wear a smock, white shirt, shorts, and tights for some. Contemporary clothing is majorly influenced by the urban world with jeans and t-shirt being the most common combination of dressing up. Teens wear a lot of sporty clothes to match their sporty lifestyles and environmental-friendly fabrics are much preferred by adults.

Switzerland is known for their cheese fondue, using local cheeses melted on a pot with bread dipped into them. Other national favorites include raclette, which is another melted cheese concoction, and rosti - a potato dish that was initially served for breakfast. Switzerland is also the biggest consumer of chocolate and is renowned worldwide for producing the best chocolate products.

Celebrations in Switzerland range from family traditions to local, national, and international. A weekend doesn't go by without a festival somewhere in the country. Here are some of their most beloved celebrations:
  1. The International Balloon Festival
    For 8 days at the end of January, 20 different countries go to an alpine village called Chateau-d Oex to fill the air and sky will colorful displays of hot air balloons.

  2. Carnival Month
    For the month of February, different cities around the country hold carnivals with street dancing, costumes, and parades. The best known are in Zurich and Basel.

  3. Grindelwald Yodelling Festival
    Every July on the first mountain of Bernese Oberland, this yodelling festival takes place under the open sky and around meadows. An event found only in Switzerland, it celebrates a thriving age-old tradition that's become one of the symbols of the country.

Last Updated : July 31, 2014

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