Swiss Laws and Customs

By , Travel Insights Editor Switzerland europe, law, Switzerland, travel-legal, travel-safety-tips, Switzerland

Visitors to Switzerland often find it remarkable how obedient as a culture the Swiss are. There are rules and regulations for everything, some of which might surprise the outsider. In each canton there are traditions and ways of doing things, and the mountain villages all have a unique set of rules. It might seem oppressive to the casual observer, but it's the Swiss way of doing things and it seems to work. If you're visiting, try to go with the flow and enjoy it.

National Security

For a neutral country they take their security seriously, and you'd be well advised to be respectful of that. 

Citizens and visitors in Switzerland must carry identification with them at all times. If you are stopped without a valid ID there is a possibility that you may be taken in for questioning by the police.

One of the most well known regulations in Switzerland relates to National Service where each Swiss male has to spend time each year in a training camp which forms part of the military in this neutral country. Swiss men also have a gun in their home which is a part of the military framework in readiness for potential conflict.

As in many countries, don't take photos of military installations or activities, unless you want to spend a few hours explaining yourself.

During the Cold War Switzerland was famous for stating that each house must have a nuclear fall out shelter. These are still around, and each citizen has a list of emergency items that must be kept in the home at all times in readiness for a civil emergency.

Swiss Rules

The Swiss have a number of quirky rules and customs that must be obeyed if you want to make the most of your stay.

One of these is at road crossings where it is forbidden to jaywalk or cross on a red light. If you are caught by the police a fine will be imposed on the spot.

Drug possession is also taken very seriously and there are heavy penalties, jail sentences and fines depending on the type of narcotic found. Taking drugs across an international border automatically constitutes drug trafficking and has a heavy penalty.

In Switzerland there is a mutual respect for one’s neighbour. To many this gets carried to extremes, for example, many towns have special party houses in woodland where people can host events so as not to make a noise in the street where they live and disturb others.

Sundays are taken as particularly sacrosanct and it is forbidden to use a washing machine or a lawnmower so that the neighbourhood is not disturbed. Many a concierge has become upset when foreign visitors ask to wash their clothes on a Sunday.

The Swiss like the neighbourhood to be tidy and each citizen must keep their home in order. The police have been known to call at homes where washing is not hung out tidily enough on the line (true story).

In winter it is a citizen’s responsibility to clear ice and snow from their paths so that people do not fall or slip. If the neighbour is elderly or ill it is the responsibility of the other neighbours to clear their paths. 

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