What to do if you are invited for dinner in Switzerland?

First of all you should be honoured as the Swiss do not readily invite new acquaintances into their homes – they are generally quite reserved and they prefer to meet in neutral territory. Another reason for their reserve is that many Swiss live in flats and cannot easily entertain.

Once you have got over the honour you need to accept the invitation be clear what you are being invited to and take the event seriously. Depending on your relationship with the person inviting you it is usually expected that you will dress smartly but it is rare nowadays for the Swiss to dress formally. Make sure you arrive within a few minutes of the expected time (but not early!) and you can take a present – flowers or some chocolates are usually well received.

Generally the Swiss are good linguists – they have to be with four of their own languages and English as an informal fifth. You may well find the conversation is in English, but of course an effort to speak the language of your host is always appreciated. Compared to many nations the Swiss are well informed about foreign affairs and some safe topics of conversation include: world news, weather (of course), global warming, local traditions, the British Royal family, holidays and walking in the mountains.

Do not stay beyond 10 pm. The Swiss generally start the day early and dinner guests are expected to leave at 10. If you know your hosts well and they really, really insist you can stay a bit longer but late stayers are not generally welcomed back.

This might be an appropriate place to mention domestic use of loos for men! In Switzerland in an apartment men are expected should sit down to perform after 10pm – noise travels and neighbours might well complain if you are too noisy. The Swiss have learnt very well how to coexist with one another and having set conventions is an important part of that. Many Swiss also feel no inhibitions about politely explaining to newcomers how ones behaves in Switzerland behave.

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