Switzerland

Privacy is a highly estimated value!Since Switzerland is such a beautiful place, everybody will make a lot of pictures, movies and other multimedia recordings, of course. But take care that you respect the privacy of everybody in this country where privacy is not only almost guaranteed even to international stars. No wonder so many international celebrities like to live in Switzerland, not only for its beauty and safety, but also for the star's ability just to be one among others, because usually it is frowned upon to approach a celebrity in public. Furthermore, also take care that you do not cross the border of privacy of anybody in Switzerland. For example, according to the Swiss Civil Code and Federal Act of Data Protection it is even forbidden to make recordings of a person without their explicit consent. This is also true for pictures and video recordings in public as soon as a person is recognizable! Finally, you can especially be sentenced–up to 3 years prison–for publishing pictures and other recordings of any person without their explicit consent! – So take care, of whom you make pictures and respect the request for privacy, not only by celebrities!

Switzerland is, not surprisingly, one of the safest countries in Europe, but anywhere that attracts Rolex-wearing bankers and crowds of distracted tourists will also bring out a few pickpockets. Obviously, keep an eye on belongings, especially in the midst of summer crowds.

Quite a few Swiss establishments will print your entire credit card number onto the receipt, thus raising identity theft concerns when shopping with a credit card in Switzerland. Therefore, visitors using credit cards should carefully review the information printed on all receipts prior to discarding them. This happens, for instance, in some book and clothing stores and even at the ubiquitous K-Kiosk. This list is obviously not exhaustive; therefore, the visitor must beware whenever using a credit card.

Women travelling alone should have no problems. The younger Swiss tend to be very open with public displays of affection - sometimes too open, and some women may find people getting too friendly especially in the wee hours of the club & bar scene. Usually the international language of brush-offs or just walking away is enough.

Swiss police take on a relatively unobtrusive air; they prefer to remain behind the scenes, as they consider their presence potentially threatening to the overall environment practice of de-escalation. Unlike some more highly policed countries, officers will rarely approach civilians to ask if they need help or merely mark their presence by patrolling. However, police are indeed serious about traffic violations. Jaywalking crossing a red pedestrian light, for example, will be fined on the spot. The upside to stringent traffic rules is that automobile drivers are generally very well-disciplined, readily stopping for pedestrians at crosswalks, for example. Generally, you are safe anywhere at any time. If, for any reason, you feel threatened, seek a nearby restaurant or telephone booth. The emergency phone numbers in Switzerland are:

Police emergency call: 117
Fire station: 118
Medical emergency, emergency rescue service: 144
International emergency call: 112
for international compatibility, operators are generally English-speaking.

and:

Car break-down service Strassen-Pannenhilfe: 140

Personal crisis line Telefon Seelsorge, Dargebotene Hand: 143

Toxin information Giftinfos, Notfall-Beratung: 145

Children, youth emergency Kinder-Jugend Notruf: 147

Road condition information only: 163

Avalanche/all-points bulletin information only: 187

Rega, air rescue: 1414

Air-Glacier: 1415

Parents emergency call Elternotruf: 044 261 88 66

Tropes institute Tropeninstitut Basel: 061 284 81 11

Animal rescue service Tierrettungsdienst: 044 211 22 22

Football soccer games are the only notable exception to the above rule. Due to the potential threat of hooligan violence, these games especially in Basel or Zurich are generally followed by a large contingent of police officers with riot gear, rubber bullets, and tear gas, in case of any major unrest.

Switzerland has very strong Good Samaritan laws, making it a civic duty to help a fellow in need without unduly endangering oneself. People are therefore very willing and ready to help you if you appear to be in an emergency situation. Be aware, though, that the same applies to you if you witness anyone in danger. The refusal to render help to a person in need can be punishable by law as "Verweigerung der Hilfeleistung", ie refusal of aid. The general reservation of Americans to avoid entanglement with strangers due to possible future civil liability does not apply in Switzerland, for it would be practically impossible to wage a civil suit against anyone providing aid.

The drinking age for beer, wine and alcoholic cider is 16 but not in all cantons, so make sure to ask before buying while the age for any other alcohol eg spirits, "alcopops", etc is 18. The public consumption of alcohol in Switzerland is legal, so do not be alarmed if you see a group of teenagers drinking a six-pack on public property; this is by no means out of the ordinary and should not be interpreted as threatening.

Switzerland is not a country of insane civil lawsuits and damage claims; consequently, if you see a sign or disclaimer telling you not to do something, obey it! An example: in many alpine areas, charming little mountain streams may be flanked by signs with the message "No Swimming". To the uninitiated, this may seem a bit over the top, but these signs are in fact a consequence of the presence of hydroelectric power plants further upstream that may discharge large amounts of water without warning.

In mountain areas, be sure to inquire about weather conditions at the tourist information office or local train station as you head out in the morning. They should be well informed about severe weather conditions and will advise you about possible avalanche areas.

There have been problems with police assuming that any Black, East European, or Arab person without an ID card or passport is an illegal immigrant, and treating them accordingly. That could be a considerable problem if you are travelling alone.

Generally there is no problem with food and water in Switzerland. Restaurants are controlled by strict rules. Water is perfectly drinkable everywhere from literally every water tap, even out of all public fountains unless specially marked Kein Trinkwasser! - Pas potable! - Non potabile!. There are many organic food stores and restaurants available and it is currently illegal to import or sell any genetically modified food.

internet

Many of the internet cafes that have emerged in the 1990's have closed since, probably because Switzerland has one of the highest rate of high-speed internet connections in homes in the world, but almost any video rental shop and most train stations will have a few internet terminals. The tourist office should be able to direct you to the nearest one. The going rate is CHF5 for 20 minutes.Also, you can send email, SMS text messages to cell phones or short text faxes from just about every public phone booth for less than CHF1. Some public phone booths allow you to browse the internet. There are many shopping centres and cities Lausanne and Vevey for example that offer free wireless internet access: ask the young locals; maybe they know where to go.

talk

There is no Swiss language. Depending on where you are in the country the locals might speak Swiss-German (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiss_German, "Schwiizertüütsch", expressed in Zürich dialect), French, Italian, or, in the valleys of Graubünden engl.: Grisons, Romansh, an ancient Romance language. All four languages are considered official languages except that Standard German is the official German language, and not Swiss German, which is various dialects. Some cities such as Biel/Bienne and Fribourg/Freiburg are officially bilingual, and any part of Switzerland has multilingual residents, with German, English, and French being the most widely spoken second languages depending on the area.

First languages spoken in Switzerland:

German: 63.7%

French: 20.3%

Italian: 6.5%

Romansh: 0.5%/0.9%

Serbo-Croatian: 1.5%

Albanian: 1.3%

Portugese: 1.2%

Spanish: 1.1%

English: 1%

Turkish: 0.6%

Rest: 1.9%

Around two-thirds of the population is German-speaking, mostly in the centre, north, and east. French is spoken in the west, while Italian is spoken in the south of the Alps. Romansh is native to parts of the canton of Graubünden engl.: Grisons. The Swiss learn one of the other Swiss languages in school in addition to English, so in the larger cities you will have no trouble finding English-speaking people. In the countryside, it is less common, but hardly rare. People under the age of 50 typically speak more fluent English than older people, and English has become the most important second language in German-speaking Switzerland, prompting a debate regarding what the first foreign language taught in Swiss-German schools should be French or English. Nonetheless, students eventually learn both.

The Swiss German language situation is insofar exceptional that all Swiss-Germans speak a local dialect as their native tongue and there are slightly more dialects than Swiss-German cantons, i.e. in all ordinary informal settings family, friends, job, markets, etc.. However, in school they are also taught to speak Swiss Standard German (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiss_Standard_German, only slightly different from the Standard German spoken in Germany) which they use for official situations newspapers/magazines, theatre, education, museums/exhibitions, news on TV and radio, national/cantonal/communal parliaments, courts, formal presentations, documentaries etc. and all formal writing. In informal writing, however, many Swiss Germans, especially the youth and lower educated people, use their dialects, for example in text messages, e-mails, chats and on Facebook and YouTube, though there is often little or no consensus as to how to write certain words in a specific dialect there is a Swiss-German/Alemannic wikipedia (http://als.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Houptsyte_(Schwyzerd%C3%BCtsch) with articles written in a range of dialects). Linguists have a term for this: Diglossia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diglossia). Speaking profanely, you could say, the dialect spoken by a Swiss German person, on one hand, and the Swiss Standard German, on the other hand, are just the two sides of the very same medal: their German language.

Swiss German is no concise dialect group itself, but just a collective term for the Alemannic dialects spoken in Switzerland. Alemannic is divided into Low, High and Highest Alemannic, with Highest Alemannic being spoken in the alpine southern part of German-speaking Switzerland e.g. Obwalden, Uri and eastern Valais and High Alemannic in the flatter north e.g. Zürich, St. Gallen and Berne. The dialect of Basel is traditionally considered Low Alemannic, but has become closer to being High Alemannic.

Since the rise of High German originally spoken in the geographically higher German area, therefore the High as the Standard German originally mainly used for trade situations language since around 1650/1750, German speaking Switzerland moved into a specific situation, since they were the only ones who kept maintaining the dialects as the community's everyday or vernacular language, possibly very strongly based on their profoundly federal, political understanding and subsidiary organisation of the Swiss Confederation. This did not happen in Germany, and in Austria just occasionally, but was not offcially supported.

Swiss German exhibits many major phonetical, lexical and grammatical differences from Standard German, making it very hard to understand to even native Standard German speakers, and the Highest Alemannic dialects are usually completely incomprehensible to non-Swiss, with even other Swiss-Germans having a hard time. What makes Highest Alemannic dialects so different is the fact that they missed the so-called Second Germanic consonant shift (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_German_consonant_shift) taking place between the 4th and 9th century in the geographically higher regions of the German speaking world. The other place where this consonant shift did not occur, neither, was north of the so-called Benrath Line (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benrath_line) in northern, lower Germany, e.g. in Bremen or Hamburg. The people from the deep Walliser valley possibly missed it because of isolation from the rest of the world by high Alp mountain chaines in the north, the east, and the south, making it extremely hard to have regular contact with the rest of the world, and to the west, where the Franco-Provencal speaking Savoys lived; another natural, but societal border.

So do not be surprised if you can not understand locals at all, even if you are fluent in Standard German. Again, however, all German-speaking Swiss learn Swiss Standard German in school, so aside from some elderly farmers up the mountains, almost all people can speak Standard German perfectly well. Since Swiss German is the native language of the Swiss Germans, it is no surprise that you will find a lot of dialect-based broadcastings in Swiss media. However, news, movies, political discussions, interviews, documentaries etc. are being broadcasted in Swiss Standard German on most TV and radio stations. However, local broadcasting are usually spoken in the native dialect of the current speaker. This is especially true for radio channels with a rather younger and/or lower educated audience. On the other side, it is rather unsual that movies in cinemas are being shown in a synchronized version quite opposite to Germany, France, or Italy for example, but are shown in their original languages with subtitles in German and French or Italian.

The French version of La Suisse Romande / La Romandie (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suisse_Romande, the French-speaking Switzerland), Swiss French (http://en.wikipedia.org/w...), is essentially standard French with some differences. It is spoken more slowly, with more of a drawl. The numbers are not the same. Though anyone will understand you when you use soixante-dix, quatre-vingt, quatre-vingt-dix 70, 80, 90, the use of these vanish as you proceed east along Lac Léman: in Geneva as in French-speaking Belgium soixante-dix becomes septante and quatre-vingt-dix becomes nonante. — quatre-vingts and huitante are both acceptable ways to say the number eighty. However, by the time you reach Lausanne, quatre-vingts has given way to huitante, and in the Valais it is possible to hear the almost Italian octante.

Another difference is that you may encounter people using the word cornet to define a plastic bag as opposed to the word sachet that would be heard in France. French has also had a significant impact on Swiss German vocabulary, making it different from the German heard spoken in Austria or Germany. Remember even in German Switzerland, a streetcar is a "Tram", not a "Strassenbahn"!

Swiss-German dialects have quite a few words from French, which are perfectly assimilated. Glace ice cream for example is pronounced /ɡlas/ in French but [ˈɡ̊lasːeː] or [ˈɡ̊lasːə] in many Swiss German dialects. The French word for 'thank you', merci, is also used as in merci vilmal, literally "thanks many times". Possibly, these words are not direct adoptions from French but survivors of the once more numerous French loanwords in Standard German, many of which have fallen out of use in Germany.

In many rural areas of French-speaking Switzerland, the related Franco-Provencal language is still spoken by parts of the population, mainly elders. One notable town is Evolène in the Valais where most of the adult population still speaks Franco-Provencal natively. Virtually all speakers, however, also speak French.

Swiss Italian (http://en.wikipedia.org/w...) is basically standard Italian with German and French influences and is the native tongue of most people in Italian-speaking Switzerland, although old and rural people often speak the related Lombard language instead, though in this case Italian is most often spoken in addition to this.

Romansh (http://en.wikipedia.org/w...) is an umbrella term for the Rhaeto-Romance languages descended from the Vulgar Latin spoken by the Roman era occupiers of the region. These are closely related to French, Occitan, and Lombard, as well as the other Romance languages to a lesser extent. There are five Romansh standard varieties native to a particular area. These are from west to east Sursilvan, Sutsilvan, Surmiran, Putèr and Vallader. These standard varieties are used as the written languages of their native regions, except on the federal and cantonal level where a single standard written language, Rumantsch Grischun, has been introduced.

This said, numerous local Romansh dialects exist and are the native languages of locals, with the regional standard variety being taught in school. Spoken Rumantsch Grischun is rare and frowned upon by many Romansh, meaning most learning material on Romansh which usually involves Rumantsch Grischun is rather useless.

Unlike in the rest of Switzerland, where in most cases "unilingual meets unilingual", Romansh people are usually trilingual, also speaking perfect Swiss-German and Standard German; in fact, it is not rare to meet a Romansh person whose native tongue is actually Swiss-German. In the 2000 Swiss census, 35,095 people of which 27,038 in the canton of Grisons indicated Romansh as the language of "best command", and 61,815 also as a "regularly spoken" language. Spoken by around 0.9% of Switzerland's 7.9 million inhabitants, Romansh is Switzerland's least-used national language in terms of number of speakers and the tenth most spoken language in Switzerland overall.

phones

Public phones are surprisingly cheap, and have no surcharge for credit cards.

If you stay for some time, it may be advisable to buy a pre-paid cell phone card that you can use in any phone that supports the GSM standard on the 900/1800Mhz bands - they usually cost around CHF10-40 and are obtainable in the shops of the mobile service providers Swisscom, Orange or Sunrise in most cities. Swisscom mobile network coverage is close to 100% by area, even in the mountainous, non-populated areas. Other operators cover mainly cities.

There are also a lot of cheap prepaid cards for local calls from other providers. The prepaid cards of the big supermarket chains Migros M-Budget-Mobile and Coop Coop Mobile for example cost around CHF20 and include already CHF15 airtime. The cheapest prepaid card for calls within Switzerland is Aldi Mobile (http://www.aldi-mobile.ch/): CHF0.14/min Switzerland fixed and Aldi mobile, CHF0.34/min other mobiles. The cheapest prepaid card for international communication is yallo (http://www.yallo.ch/): CHF0.39/min within Switzerland as well as to all European and many more countries to the mobile and fixed networks. This includes the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. SMS cost CHF0.10. The prepaid cards can be bought online CHF30 with CHF30 airtime inclusive, in most post offices CHF29 with CHF20 airtime inclusive or Sunrise shops CHF20 with CHF20 airtime inclusive. An other prepaid card with cheap rates offers Lebara Mobile Sister company of Sunrise. The prepaid card is available for CHF5 with an equivalent talk time and recharge vouchers offer the talk time equivalent to the price of the voucher.

Don't forget that despite several Switzerland-EU treaties, the EU roaming regulations do NOT apply in Switzerland. This means that rip-off prices for calls, texts and data are the norm €2-3 per minute for phone calls, €15-20 for data. In order to avoid getting a bill for hundreds if not thousands, it's best to avoid using foreign SIM cards in Switzerland altogether and get a local one if you need it.

respect

Learning the mother tongue of the area you will be staying in is a great sign of respect. English is widely understood in Switzerland especially by young adults and teenagers but any attempt to speak the local language is always appreciated especially in the French-speaking part of the country, even if you're replied to in English. It’s always polite to ask if they speak English before starting a conversation.

Make an effort to at least learn Hello, Goodbye, Please, and Thank You in the language of the region you will be traveling in. "I would like..." is also a phrase that will help you. If you are in the German speaking region of Switzerland, it is generally wise to try to communicate in German rather than attempting to speak Swiss German. In most cases, German Swiss almost instinctively switch to German or English once they notice that they are speaking to a foreigner.

German, French, and Italian all have formal and informal forms of the word you, which changes the conjugation of verb you use, and sometimes phrases. For example, the informal phrase don't worry about it in French is ne t'en fais pas and the formal is ne vous en faites pas. The formal is used to show respect to someone who is older than you, who you consider to be a superior, someone who has a greater rank than you at work, or simply a stranger in the street. The informal is used with close friends, relatives, and peers.

As a general rule, you shouldn't use the informal with someone you don't know well, someone who is your superior in rank, or an elder.

Use the informal with your close friends and younger people. Peers can be a gray area, and it is advisable to use the formal at first until they ask you to use the informal.

Friends kiss each other on the cheek three times left - right - left. This is the usual thing to do when being introduced to someone who is female or if you are female in the French and German speaking part. If it is a business related meeting you just shake hands. Don't be shy as you if you reject the advance it appears awkward and rude on your part. You don't have to actually touch your lips the skin after-all, as a fake kiss will do.

Do not litter. While Switzerland will not fine you as in Singapore, littering is definitely seen as bad behaviour in this country and in general in German speaking Europe or Central Europe for that matter. Also make sure that you put it in the correctly labeled bin e.g. recyclable. Some bins actually have times to when this should be done to avoid excess noise!

Be punctual. That means no more than one minute late, if that! Not surprisingly for a country that is known for making clocks, the Swiss have a near-obsession with being on time and arriving late can be considered rude.