How not to offend the Swiss when skiing in the Alps

Switzerland. Junfraujoch with Sphinx, UNESCO World Natural Heritage.

To help travellers avoid common mistakes about Switzerland, its people and their way of life, Switzerland Tourism rounded up the top 10 ‘don’ts’ for skiers heading to the Swiss Alps.

Don’t ask if they speak “Swiss”

Switzerland has four official languages – German, French, Italian and Romansch. While German is the official language, Swiss German dialects are by far the most widely spoken (63.5%), followed by French in the western part of the country (22.5%), then Italian in the south (8.1%) and Romansch in Graubünden (0.5%).

Don’t invert the colours of the Swiss flag to reflect the Red Cross.

Due to the similarities of the Swiss flag and the symbol of the Red Cross, many people make the rookie mistake of drawing the latter thinking it is the former. A big no-no.

Don’t mistake Switzerland for Sweden.

While there are many similarities between both countries in terms of spectacular scenery, wild nature and friendly people, Switzerland is not located next to Norway in Scandinavia. It is, in fact, located in West Central Europe, bordering France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria and Italy.

Don’t mistake Zurich as the nation’s capital.

While Zurich is the main entry and exit port for most international flights and the preferred city for many organisations’ head offices, it is not the nation’s capital. The city of Bern, just 56 minutes on a train south-west of Zurich, claims that title.

Don’t think Switzerland is just about cheese, chocs & clocks

Switzerland may be famous for its cheeses, chocs and clocks, but that’s not all. It’s all of that and much, much more. Among many things:

Switzerland ranks among countries with the most museums per capita;

It’s where you’ll find Europe’s highest mountain railway station (Jungfraujoch, Top of Europe at 3,454m asl);

It’s home to the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge (Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge in Zermatt, spanning 494m)

It’s where the world’s longest and most expensive railway tunnel is situated (the Gotthard Tunnel runs for 57km and cost €11bn to complete); and

It’s also home to the world’s slowest express train (the Glacier Express links Zermatt and St Moritz covering 291km of tracks, crosses a whopping 291 bridges and goes through 91 tunnels in about eight hours).

Don’t assume the Swiss are all wealthy bankers or brokers and everyone lives a lavish lifestyle.

Just because Switzerland is a banking capital, many people assume that the Swiss are cashed up and enjoy lavish lifestyles. While the cost of living in Switzerland is indeed high when compared to many other countries, they are not too dissimilar to their neighbouring countries around Europe, but often more affordable than Scandinavia.

Don’t compare the cost of living in Switzerland to its neighbouring countries, but not the quality of life.

The high cost of living in Switzerland naturally goes hand in hand with the very good quality of life and high standard of living enjoyed by the Swiss people. One simply cannot discuss costs without discussing quality.

Don’t refer to Roger Federer as a South African.

Son to a South African mother and a Swiss-German father, Roger Federer was born and bred in Basel, the art capital of Switzerland. While he holds both Swiss and South African citizenship, the Swiss lay claim to his country of birth.

Don’t double-dip in a fondue pot.

When enjoying a pot of fondue with locals, it is regarded rude to double-dip. One should simply ensure that the potato, bread of meat being dunked into the pot is thoroughly coated with the fondue to avoid any need to dip it twice.

Don’t ask who the King of Switzerland is…

Switzerland is a democratic Federal Republic in Europe, where its Federal Council holds the executive power in governing the country. The Council is composed of seven Federal Councillors elected by the Federal Assembly with the current year’s Vice President becoming the following year’s President.

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