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Business Etiquettes
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Business Etiquettes in Switzerland

Switzerland has a traditional and formal business culture. The Swiss are reserved and private and it can initially be difficult to establish business relationships. You should try to arrange introductions through an existing contact if possible.

Switzerland has three main languages – German, French and Italian. You should find out which language your business contacts speak, arrange for an interpreter if necessary, and have your correspondence, business cards and company materials translated.

It is crucial to make appointments in advance, and to arrive on time or early, since the Swiss value punctuality extremely highly. Normal office hours are 7.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, with a one or two hour break for lunch.

The Swiss dress well but modestly for business. Normal business attire is formal, conservative and modest, with high quality suits for men and suits or smart dresses for women.

The normal business greeting is a firm handshake, although close friends may kiss or embrace. You should wait to be introduced by a third person if possible, and should always stand when introduced to someone.

First names are rarely used in Swiss business culture, and you should address people by their professional or personal title and their family name. Use "Herr" and "Frau" in German-speaking areas, "Monsieur" and "Madame"; in French-speaking areas, and "Signore" and "Signora" in Italian-speaking areas.

Business cards are exchanged on meeting, and should include details of your professional qualifications and the date when your organisation was established.

While German Swiss usually avoid small talk and get straight to business, the French and Italian Swiss have a more relaxed approach and will chat informally before starting negotiations. Avoid asking your hosts any personal questions, as the Swiss like to keep their business and private lives separate.

The Swiss are very organised and systematic, and meetings will generally follow an agenda strictly. Communication styles are formal and reserved; humour and emotion have no place in business here.
Your presentation should be clear and thorough, as the Swiss pay great attention to detail. They are conservative in business, and will take much persuasion to adopt new approaches.

Although the business culture is hierarchical and decisions are made at a senior level, there is also a consensual approach to business and everyone is encouraged to participate in discussions with a view to reaching a plan of action. The Swiss are renowned for being skilful but non-aggressive negotiators. Everything will be recorded in writing and agreements will be followed to the letter.

It is not normal practice to exchange gifts in Swiss business, but if you do wish to give a gift this should be done after a business deal has been concluded, not before. An inexpensive but good quality gift such as wine or a souvenir of your home country would be appropriate.





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