Adapting to the Business Culture in Switzerland

Business Culture in Switzerland

Switzerland is a mecca of successful business enterprises. The country’s economy is one of the strongest in the world with low rates of unemployment and a dedicated and skilled workforce. As you prepare to travel to this booming business center, don’t let yourself be intimidated by Swiss business culture. With a little preparation, you can be ready for whatever executives throw your way.

Punctuality

 Time is a valuable asset in Switzerland, so it’s important to show it some respect when doing business there. Leave early to allow yourself ample time to get to where you’re going. Ideally, you should plan on arriving to any meeting or event 10-15 minutes ahead of schedule.

If, for whatever reason, you foresee yourself being late, be sure to call. Being a few minutes behind may seem insignificant, but it’s a sign of disrespect to those you’re meeting.

Additionally, meetings are rarely scheduled at the last minute. This allows everyone to plan ahead for the gathering. The more preparation involved, the more productive the meeting will be as a whole.

Dress Standards

Before you leave for the day, take one last look in the mirror to make sure you’re presenting a neat and conservative image. Your clothing should be free of wrinkles; comb or carefully style your hair so it doesn’t appear messy.

Your appearance should reflect your professionalism and make a successful first impression. Swiss businessmen and women prefer modest business attire that doesn’t draw too much attention away from the task at hand. Avoid lavish accessories or anything that may be seen in poor taste.

In some instances, casual clothing may be appropriate, but don’t ever make that assumption. When you’re first meeting with new colleagues or potential clients, you should dress to impress.

Small Talk

It’s common in Switzerland to be respectful of other’s privacy, so you want to tread lightly when choosing topics of small talk with others. Though you may see it as simply getting to know someone, there are several seemingly harmless topics that you should probably avoid in professional settings:

  • Age
  • Living situation
  • Marital status
  • Personal lifestyle
  • Religion

Until you’ve worked with someone long enough to feel comfortable, it’s also a good idea to stay away from too many jokes. Humor is a subjective concept; something that seems funny to you may be offensive to co-workers.

It’s also polite to let the person you’re speaking to finish what they are saying, even if you have relevant info to interject. Switzerland business etiquette considers interrupting especially rude.

Honorifics and Greetings

As professional as Swiss businessmen and women are in their appearance, they are equally so when it comes to how they address others. You should never call someone by their first name, unless you have been specifically asked to do so. Using a colleague’s surname shows formality and respect – two things that are held in high regard in Switzerland business settings.

Handshakes are standard when greeting someone, and you should always present yourself with straight posture and minimal extraneous body language. Having firm control of your movements shows that you’re confident and sure of yourself.

Meeting Protocol

Swiss business meetings are not intended to be social affairs. Rather than focusing on small talk, professional men and women keep on track with the goals of the meeting. It should be a productive gathering where information is shared and decisions are made.

You should always come ready to discuss your own knowledge, skills and qualifications. Business cards are quite popular in Switzerland; coming with a thick stack in your back pocket ensures you’re prepared to network as much as possible. Typically, handing over a business card is also considered a gesture to announce your arrival to a receptionist.

Be ready to go at the very start of the meeting. There may be some general summarization of what the goals of the meeting are, but Swiss professionals usually dive right into the scheduled topics.

Social Decorum

While it’s true that business is taken very seriously in Switzerland, there are widely understood expectations when it comes to professional socialization. For example, corporate lunches and dinners are almost always conducted in restaurants rather than anyone’s home.

Another thing to keep in mind is that successful business negotiations are often concluded with the exchange of gifts. Traditionally, knives or other sharp objects are a sign of broken relationships, so stay away from those types of items.

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