Business Practices in Switzerland

Overview by
The Fundamental Principles of Business Culture
Switzerland‘s business principles and culture is similar to any other northern European country or even similar to the USA, though some of the business men find their Swiss counterparts somewhat conservative and formal. It is import to have the following few tips: The Swiss are perhaps the most punctual people on earth. You should arrive for any engagement at precisely the appointed time, not early--your counterpart may be unprepared--and certainly not late. You must be well presented and remain polite at all times.The Swiss are a very private people, so you should avoid asking personal questions. Swiss are good listeners and extremely attentive, rarely interrupt while you speak, and expect the same from you. The Swiss may initially seem reserved and 'stand-offish.' Once you develop a rapport with them, however, you'll generally find that they are an honest, responsible people, who will be loyal to your interests.
First Contact
Being introduced by a third person always makes the first contact much easier.


If you don’t have a connection, a personal call will be more effective. Meetings are always by appointment.

The handshake is the standard greeting throughout Switzerland. French Swiss or Italian Swiss colleagues [both male and female] may kiss and/or embrace each other, depending on the closeness of their relationship. In the more formal German-speaking areas, kissing occurs only between very good friends and embracing is unusual even for women. Any visitor to Switzerland should make the effort to say grüezi in the German-speaking areas, bonjour in the French-speaking areas, and buon giorno in the Italian-speaking areas when meeting someone for the first time.
How to Present Yourself
You should always address Swiss adults by their professional or courtesy title followed by their surname until invited to address them by their first name. In German-speaking Switzerland, use the courtesy titles Herr to address a man and Frau to address a woman; in French-speaking areas, use Monsieur and Madame; in Italian-speaking areas, use Signore and Signora.
Business Relations
Business relations are above all personal relations. German Swiss tend to get straight down to business. The French and Italian Swiss, however, will expect some preliminary 'small talk' and may even offer you a drink.


In any case, business is regarded with the utmost seriousness and humour has no place in negotiations. Cracking jokes or urging others to 'lighten up' during a meeting will probably be received with hostility.

Business breakfasts are not part of Swiss business culture so lunch and dinner are the most popular times for business meals.

Gifts are accepted in the Swiss society. The best policy is to wait until the conclusion of negotiations before presenting any gift and you should really allow your contact to give the first gift so that you can reciprocate. Do not give a gift that is obviously expensive, since your generosity may be perceived as either too excessive or a form of bribery.


 Knives, scissors, cutlery or other sharp objects of any kind are not appropriate gifts since they symbolise the severing of a friendship or other close bond.

Business Communication
You do not have to have a magnetic personality to win favour with the Swiss; it is usually sufficient to be a responsible, sound, honest businessperson. Swiss try to maintain a sharp divide between business and pleasure because of a strong urge to protect one's privacy. Modesty and understatement are important virtues and clarity is equated with sincerity.
Dress Code
Swiss attitudes towards business dress have evolved in recent years. More casual dress is acceptable in many companies--'dress-down' Friday is commonplace and some firms have even banned suits--but the degree of informality depends on the degree of direct client-contact. A Swiss executive meeting a foreign visitor, then, will still dress in a formal and conservative style and you should do the same. All clothes for both men and women should be subdued in appearance, and more subdued in the German north than in the French--and Italian--speaking regions. Standard attire for men includes finely tailored woollen suits, white cotton shirts and plain silk ties, with highly polished black leather shoes. Standard attire for women includes suits or skirts of a conservative length. Trouser-suits, in classic styles, are also acceptable.
Visiting Cards
Swiss are usually keen to exchange them.


There is no need to translate your business cards since most Swiss will speak or, at least, understand English. 

It is no longer necessary, or even desirable, to include any academic or professional qualifications on your business card; your rank within the corporate hierarchy is much more important.

You might also include the founding date of your company, since the Swiss will be curious to know how long your organisation has been in existence.

For Further Information
US Commercial Services -Country Commercial Guides
Executive Planet

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  • Switzerland Country Profile

    Home to mountainous landscapes, luxury watches and Roger Federer, Switzerland sits in a strategic position, slightly left of Europe's centre. Although small in size compared to its enormous neighbours on 10 Jan 2012 related to Business Practices in Switzerland

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