How to Make New Friends in Switzerland


Switzerland is as much known for its natural beauty as for its commercial activities. The people here also depict the same breadth in interests and abilities. And yet some aspects of the Swiss character may leave a foreigner puzzled. So if you are looking to meet Swiss men and women in a social context, here are few things to keep in mind.

Be prepared for some formality

One of the first things you need to remember while getting acquainted with a Swiss guy is that they take time to open up. They prefer to adopt a formal stance with somebody that just been introduced to. The Swiss use formal forms of address both in German – ‘Sie’ rather than ‘du’ - and in French -  ‘vous’ rather than ‘tu’. Also remember that it is customary to greet and say good-bye to a person using their name. Above all the Swiss like to maintain their own personal space. A handshake is the normal greeting between men and women and only among close friends and relatives do people kiss as a way of greeting each other. So if you are being introduced to a Swiss guy for the first time, don’t expect him to hug you or attempt to kiss you on the cheeks.

Also it may take some time to initiate a conversation with men of this country since the Swiss are not known to be expert in small-talk, especially with people they have just met. Thus in the beginning they may come off as rather formal and distant. However once they get to know you better and more importantly wish to do so, you will find them opening up to reveal themselves as smart, intelligent people. Indeed they actually enjoy serious discussions about economy, sports and world affairs and can be even direct and forthright in their opinions. At the same time though they will listen respectfully to the views of others even if they are diametrically opposed to their own. However even when you do get talking to the Swiss, steer away from personal questions since they have a deep regard for privacy. also take care never to criticize their country and culture, however much they may complain about their institutions. Bawdy jokes and risqué comments should be avoided since the Swiss have a sense of humor that is quieter and more self-deprecating rather than loud and obvious. Likewise questions about the military and banks are best avoided since they are deeply controversial in nature.

Make an effort

Since Swiss culture is not really effusive and openly welcoming to strangers, the onus of making friends here usually lies firmly on the shoulder of the newcomer. For instance if you move into an apartment, it may be a good idea to ring the doorbell and say ‘hi’ to your neighbors – if you don’t , they are most likely to conclude that you wish to keep to yourself and the Swiss are very conscientious at respecting others’ privacy.

A far more interesting way of mingling with local populace in this country is to become a regular at your neighborhood commercial establishments like the corner store and the cafe. People are much more likely to chat with you at a cozier venue like the cafe rather than the large, more modern and impersonal supermarkets. Make it a point to greet people as you enter a cafe or a shop and don’t hesitate to ask for advice – they will not only be glad to assist you but mark you as a friendly persona and respond with warmth in future.

If you are serious about making friends here, the best thing to do is to take up outdoor interests like hiking, trekking, camping, cycling for which there are clubs in most cities and big towns. In this alpine paradise it is only natural that Swiss should turn out to be great lovers of the outdoors. Mountains cover three fifths of Switzerland’s area and mountaineering, skiing and hiking are major parts of life. On holidays and weekends, Swiss families, couples and groups of friends can be seen taking off for the mountains. And even though 68% of Swiss are urban dwellers, those who can afford usually have a cottage in the mountains and the richer ones own a luxury chalet. Hockey, gymnastics, soccer, golf, rock climbing, shooting and paragliding are among other outdoor activities that are increasingly becoming popular in Switzerland.

Best of all the Swiss love of the outdoors is not limited to sporting activities and recreational pursuits but they are extremely aware of the need to protect the wealth of their natural resources. Indeed their commitment to the environment could put the rest of the world to shame; 60% of their energy needs are met by hydroelectric power, and each year they produce half the amount of waste per head that Americans do. so if you wish to endear yourself to the locals, show your love and concern for the outdoors.

While there is not much of a pub culture in Switzerland, the Swiss are avid café-goers and here you can meet people from a variety of backgrounds – students taking a bite in between classes, office-workers meeting clients over coffee and friends catching up on local news. Here people meet over coffee for hours at a time to discuss matters of the day and to socialize.

Apart from cafes, Switzerland is also known for its fine-dining scene and in the bigger cities you can find bouquet restaurants as well as fashionable delicatessen, all of which are great places to strike up friendships, provided you have the resources since these rather expensive establishments. Just like a sense of perfectionism marks their professional lives, the Swiss know how to live it up as well. The major cities of Switzerland like Berne, Zurich and Geneva have some of the most fashionable bars and clubs in the continent where you can meet young people eager to party and have a good time.