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Swiss people are well known for their diversity, creativity, and innovativeness. Switzerland business culture is usually characterized by strict planning, aversion of risks, and formality. The country has some of the most insured businesses in the world. They take time to evaluate their businesses and take long-term consequences before making any decision. Nonetheless, it is a nation at the forefront of an international company that has some of the most advanced businesses. Did you know that Switzerland rates among the best economies in the world? It is imperative to understand that the culture of these businesses will vary from one canton to another.

The Italian and French-speaking parts of the nation tend to keep a laid-back approach. However, there are common factors that should be held constant, and these include tolerance, sobriety, and punctuality.  Most businesses in Switzerland have a deep and rigid entrenched hierarchy.

Here are a few aspects of Swiss business etiquette you have to learn before doing any business with Swiss companies. 

First Meeting

Business Meeting in Switzerland

In Switzerland, punctuality plays an integral role, and you should take time to request the meeting in advance for your counterparts to prepare themselves early. Swiss people are open to engaging in business with foreigners, however, being introduced by a third person to the Swiss company will make the first contact much more comfortable.

As much as local Swiss people are fluent in English, you should learn the common regional languages such as Italian, French, or German. You don’t need to be fluent, but a phrase or two will make wonders for your relationship. 

A good impression at the initial meeting is integral if you are to make any business deal in Switzerland. Therefore, if you want to do business with them, you must make an excellent first impression.

Time Management Skills

Punctuality is the most critical aspect of the business culture of people in this country, and tardiness is frowned upon. In case you are experiencing any delay, or you want the meeting to be rescheduled, it is integral that you find time to notify your counterparts about the same.

Meetings are timed ahead of time, and therefore, your swiss business partners will stick to the issues that are only on the list. It is not a common thing for meetings to run beyond the scheduled time.

p.s. if you’re thinking of moving to Switzerland to start a new work or business, be sure to learn about the Swiss cost of living beforehand. It’s a very expensive country if you don’t plan your budget.

Titles and Greetings

It is imperative to note that greetings may vary from one region to another. As much as handshakes are a common form of greetings across Switzerland, you should look out for social cues to get to know the best way of greeting for your meeting. 

Greetings in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland tend to be longer than their swiss colleagues. In a professional relationship, it is integral that you maintain your ability to keep everything as per the schedule. 

Titles are essential in any Swiss business etiquette. It is better to address someone as madam or mister if you are not sure and their surnames. Formal ‘you’ is considered polite, especially when you are addressing professionals in German or Italian speaking regions.

Gifts

business gifts in Switzerland

In Switzerland, giving gifts after the first meeting is not a common thing. It is more important to wait until both parties are familiar with each other or close a deal before exchanging any gifts you should note that sharp objects, cutlery or scissors are not appropriate when it comes to business relationships.

Swiss people always appreciate a fine wine, cheese or even a watch as a gift. It really depends on the context and people you’re dealing with. 

Dressing

Business attire has changed over time and Switzerland is not left behind either. In recent years some companies have included dress down Fridays. However, for business meetings, you should maintain a formal attire for both the men and women and wear suits and other traditional business clothes.

Conservative yet a stylish look will work well.  On the other hand, women should wear elegant yet stylish dresses and blouses or suits. Accessories are recommended; however, they should be subtle. 

Business Card Exchange

Business card exchange

There is no order or specific protocol when it comes to the issuance of business cards. Since it is a business meeting, you can hand your business card to everyone you meet at the meeting. Business cards should include at least your academic title and a job title.

Since Switzerland is a multilingual nation, you should have a side of the card translated into one of the regional languages, depending on your client or partner.

When you are making or designing your cards, you should make them look as professional as possible. People will often judge you based on your presentation. 

Meetings Management

If you are getting into any business with your swiss counterparts, you must remain professional and severe throughout the period. Since they value professionalism spend very little time for small talk socializing. However, depending on the region, the Italian and French-speaking swiss may accommodate some small talk before business negotiations. 

During negotiations, you should remain patient as much as the decision-making process can be relatively slow and methodical.  If you are a foreigner, you should avoid the use of hand gestures, as some may consider them rude unless you are doing a presentation.

You should bring all the required documents to the meeting. The planning and procedure are critical to the success of any meeting, and if you are using presentations, they have to be meticulous and detailed.  The swiss are risk aversive professionals, and they will ask you very direct and specific questions. It would be best if you had all your facts right and checked before any business negotiation.

Since most businesses prefer long-term businesses, they, therefore, will plan adequately about the growth of the business as well as the long-term objectives of the companies. The decisions can be made top-down, but the juniors are given a chance to speak up their minds.

Entertainment

Business entertainment is done in restaurants, and in most cases, spouses are welcome to business dinners. It is the most common form of entertaining business partners as breakfasts remain unusual to the Swiss. You will rarely find an inviting swiss foreigner to their houses, however, if this happens, then know that your host has taken a keen consideration and is interested in further negotiations.

Final Thoughts on Switzerland Business Culture

Doing business in Switzerland may sound too formal and dull, but once you get used to it, you’ll understand the reasons behind it. Swiss people are one of the best business people in the world, and it’s a pleasure to do business with them. They are hard-workers who are organized, pretty formal, and plan ahead.


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