Switzerland has an international and multicultural society. In order for companies to do business effectively with Swiss companies, it is helpful for them to be aware of the cross-cultural styles used by their potential partners so that they can communicate effectively and build effective relationships with them.
Clarity, directness, and conciseness are highly valued in Switzerland. Any attempts at flamboyance or overstatement are considered rude. When communicating with Swiss people, one should avoid making vague statements and negotiate with concrete and realistic proposals rather than general statements.
Switzerland is a country in Europe that has a population of about 8 million. It is located between Germany and France which are its two neighbors and also borders Italy as well. Its capital is Bern. Switzerland is renowned for its mountains and lakes, which are popular destinations for skiing, hiking, and cycling.
The official languages of Switzerland are German (spoken by 62.6%), French (22.9%), Italian (8.2%), and Rumantsch (0.5%). Although German is the official language, most standard spoken German is used in the Swiss media, school system, and in day-to-day communication within the country.
Switzerland's culture-based communication style
- Swiss culture is highly formal, with a high value placed on politeness and formality.
- In Switzerland, it is considered rude to address people by their first name unless you have known them for a long time or they have invited you to do so. You should always use their full name and title when addressing them in business situations.
- In Switzerland, there is a very rigid hierarchical structure in place when it comes to business or society as a whole. It's important for people to know their place in this hierarchy and not step outside of it because it can cause tension or conflict within an organization or family unit.
- Swiss people are very direct communicators when it comes to business interactions and they tend to be very blunt when giving feedback.
- The culture of Switzerland is characterized by a strong emphasis on cleanliness and order. The Swiss are known for having a very organized and tidy social structure, which is reflected in the way they communicate.
- In Switzerland, people use low-context communication styles. This means that people do not rely on verbal cues and body language to communicate; rather, they use direct and explicit language.
- When it comes to small talk, the Swiss low-context culture doesn't encourage lengthy discussions about personal details or feelings. Small talk should be kept brief and focused on topical matters such as current events or weather conditions.
- The Swiss also value privacy highly—so much so that it's even enshrined in their constitution! This means that many people will be hesitant about sharing information about themselves or their personal lives with others unless they've known each other well for some time first.
- The Swiss are known for being very punctual when it comes to meeting times, so if you're working with someone from Switzerland make sure that you're on time! It's also important to note that being late may be seen as disrespectful in Switzerland so make sure that you plan ahead for this if possible!
Non-verbal communication in Switzerland
- Greeting: In Switzerland, it is common for people to shake hands when they meet for the first time.
- Eye contact: In Switzerland, eye contact is seen as a sign of honesty and respect. This means that if you're meeting with someone from Switzerland and they make eye contact with you, it's a good sign! They are not only being honest with you, but they are also showing respect for you by looking straight at you.
- Personal space: People from the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland tend to prefer a closer physical distance than those in the German-speaking region. People from the French-speaking part of Switzerland have a more formal style of non-verbal communication and like to keep some distance between themselves and others.
- Body language: Swiss people use body language cues much less frequently than Americans do. It means that if you want to get a point across in Switzerland, you'll need to use your words instead of relying on non-verbal cues!
- The dress code in Switzerland is typically formal, with men wearing suits and women wearing business attire. Greetings are generally formal, with handshakes for men and women.