Swiss Laws & Customs: A guide to what's acceptable

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 in Switzerland

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.

Some Swiss laws to get you started

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

  • 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.
  • 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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  • Ariane said

    Very interesting.

  • Terry said

    Spent a week in Switzerland and loved every minute, the people were very helpful with directions and an absolute joy to chat with, America can learn a few things from the Swedish.

  • Brier Rose Smith said

    Switzerland is a beautiful place to go to, and full of delicious treats!!!!!

  • Tina said

    The Swiss, not the Swedish!!!

  • Bryan said

    Don't really know why Switzerland has a bad reputation when it comes to the people, every person I've talked to or asked something to, responds in the nicest way possible and always with a smile, anyone here is always willing to help. And the jaywalking one, I always see people doing this 😂 weird

  • Gary said

    Typical American, spent a week in Switzerland and still thought the locals were Swedish.
    I heard that you cant was your car in Switzerland, its against the law.

  • Tired of London said

    Hi, This sounds like heaven. I wish to be somewhere where party in woodland instead of outside making noise at all hours also where deal with drug taking etc etc Will be checking out for sure.

  • Arjunan said

    Switzerland is a very nice place. People response others wellness. It's great.

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