Exploring the Culture of Switzerland

Switzerland’s spectacular landscape includes snow-capped Alps and grassy hills spotted with grazing cows. Home to 1,500 sparkling, crystal-clear lakes, Swiss people are very proud of the fact that even in big cities, the water in the rivers and lakes is clean enough to go for a swim. The Swiss climate is generally temperate, but it can vary from glacial conditions on the mountaintops to the almost Mediterranean climate at the southern tip where palm trees grow.

The Swiss value punctuality and efficiency; a common saying claims that if one is late, it’s probably because they weren’t wearing a Swiss watch or riding a Swiss train. The country’s motto is, “Unity, yes; uniformity, no,” which speaks to the open-minded, peaceful, and collaborative culture of Switzerland.

Study abroad in Switzerland Host a Swiss student in the U.S.

Swiss People and Community

An AFS Student in Switzerland

Swiss families can be very diverse, but most are hard-working and thrifty, with only one or two children. Most families in Switzerland have pets, a cat or a dog, with whom they demonstrate extreme affection. On weekends, people often take trips to visit extended family or friends.

For many Swiss families, meal times – especially dinner – are a time for the family to be together, exchange the news of the day or talk about plans for holidays etc. Therefore, it’s important that everyone is there on time.

In most Swiss families, housework is shared, and hardly any families have maids. It is not unusual that men do the cooking. Men will also do laundry and other housework. There is no difference between boys and girls regarding housework.

Language and Communication Styles

Man with a horn in Switzerland

A Swiss-German dialect is spoken in the German-speaking areas of Switzerland. French is spoken in the western part of the country and Italian in the south. Romansh is a language that derives directly from ancient Latin and has survived and developed in the isolation of Alpine valleys.

Food in Switzerland

Gratin - a popular dish in Switzerland

The Swiss diet is mostly a mix of French and German cuisines, with a variety of sausages and rich cheeses, as well as several fish and pork dishes. The German influence can be seen in plates of spaetzli (homemade pasta covered in butter and oil), while French-speaking areas are known to enjoy fondue and raclette (melted cheese eaten mostly during the winter months). Potatoes are common too, and you can enjoy them boiled, fried, or in dishes such as röstis (grated and pan-fried) and gratin (sliced and baked with cream and garlic). Best of all, the Swiss are famous for their creamy, high-quality chocolate—so get ready to enjoy some tasty desserts!

Explore the Programs Available in Switzerland