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Ten strange Swiss road signs you need to know about

Switzerland is a unique country and has some one-of-a-kind road signs to match. Here we take a look at some of the more unusual examples.

A road sign tells military vehicles what they need to do
No: this is not a sign indicating a military museum. Photo: The Local

With its narrow, often one-way city streets and curvaceous mountain passes, driving in Switzerland can be difficult – even without these wacky road signs. 

Here are ten road signs you might encounter on Swiss streets. 

We’ll try and name what we think the sign looks like in bold, before explaining what it actually is underneath.

1) Shooting noise?

A particularly Swiss sign, this one. It indicates there are military exercises going on nearby and might help explain what all those booming noises are as you drive to the supermarket. Don’t be alarmed.

2) White-belted man rides the sleigh?

Sledding forbidden (because sometimes you have to spell these things out). 

And just as an aside, while it might be confusing to Americans and Australians who are expecting a Ghostbusters-style cross, in Europe when anything is presented in the white centre of a red circle, it is forbidden. Therefore, this is not an invitation to sled – but a warning!

3) Heavy metal album cover from the 80s?

While it might look like a pretty sweet heavy metal album cover – perhaps with some invented language and scribblings – this sign has a far more holy origin. 

Yes, the sign below is actually about churches. At the approach to many Swiss towns, you will see a sign telling you the times of both Catholic and Protestant masses.

4) OK, I get it – cows forbidden?

Alright alright, I remember point number 1), this must mean that cows are forbidden in this area – which is why we don’t see any in the paddock behind, right? 

Unfortunately not, as the red triangle warns motorists of upcoming dangers in the area. 

Therefore, this sign simply warns there might be cows on the road up ahead. 

A straightforward enough sign, but one you are more likely to see in Switzerland than in some other parts of the world.

Photo: The Local

5) Tank parking this way?

No, the yellow sign below is not for a military museum and nor is it telling you where to park your tank.

It’s actually a dedicated sign for military vehicles. Switzerland is, after all, a country where you can see tanks with L plates on city streets. 

The upside down red triangle is a give way or yield sign (not to be confused with the right-way-up red triangle above).

6) This one is simple – bikes on one side and pedestrians on the other, no?

Actually, this sign shows a dead end (with through access for bicycles and pedestrians). This is a really useful sign that recognises it’s not just cars who use roads.

7) Um, trumpet parking….?

The sign below has nothing to do with concerts or band practice. Instead it indicates that the road is a part of a mountain bus route.

Switzerland’s distinctive yellow post buses ply some pretty hair-raising routes and blow their horns on tight bends to let oncoming traffic know they are coming.

8) Oh this one is easy – don’t go faster than 30?

No, it is quite the opposite. This is a minimum speed sign.

While most speed limit signs indicated the maximum possible speed you can go, the sign below indicates a minimum possible speed.

This must be adhered to in good conditions, while vehicles which cannot reach this minimum speed – i.e. tractors, smaller bikes etc – are not allowed in this area. 

9) Alright, this one is just there to confuse me…

Mountain pass conditions. Switzerland is crisscrossed by a network of mountain passes, many of which are closed for the duration of winter.

This sign indicates the status of a number of passes. You can see that you can only use the Gotthard with chains while there is a risk of ice and snow on the Oberalp.

10) Different retro vehicles inside a peace sign – is this a James Bond poster?

Wrong again. This sign says that all motorised vehicles are forbidden within a particular area.

This is a common sign in Switzerland and means that a road is closed to cars, motorbikes, fast e-bikes and the sort of low-powered motor scooters Swiss teens like to get around on.

You can, however, still use a regular bicycle on this road, or a low-powered e-bike.

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FAMILY

EXPLAINED: Why so many baby names are banned in Switzerland

These days, it’s not just celebrities who seem to have a penchant for ruining their child’s life by bestowing him or her with an odd moniker. In Switzerland however, there are several rules about what you can - and cannot - name your child.

EXPLAINED: Why so many baby names are banned in Switzerland

Whether its hanging out your washing on a Sunday or flushing your toilet after 10pm at night, Switzerland has several rules which can be surprising to foreigners. 

One such example is what you are allowed to name your kids.  

While from time to time, parents’ failed attempt to give their child a unique name might make the news, there are in fact an extensive variety of rules about which names can actually be chosen in Switzerland.

Sticklers for the law as they are, the Swiss have several rules controlling what baby names can be given. 

No names which will damage a child’s well-being

Although this appears incredibly difficult to define, there are several actual examples which have been rejected for breaching the well-being rule. 

In considering this, Swiss authorities will look at whether “the child will be exposed to ridicule because of its name.”

This includes ‘Grandma’, ‘Rose Heart’, ‘Prince Valiant’ and ‘Puhbert’. 

REVEALED: The most popular baby name in each Swiss canton

They specifically prohibit giving your kid a name which will damage his or her “well-being”. Names aren’t allowed to be offensive either. 

Twins

Twins must not have names that are too similar to each other. 

The names must not be either spelt or pronounced in the same way. 

Swiss media gives the example of calling two boys “Philip” and “Philipe”. 

No villain names

Switzerland – or at least large parts of it – remain relatively religious, which is probably why choosing a bible villain name for your child is verboten. 

Newspaper Telebasel reports that the name Judas has already been rejected by Swiss registry offices – and will likely be rejected again. Satan, Cain and Lucifer are also banned. 

Boys are boys, girls are girls

Ever the traditionalists, Switzerland has tight gender rules for naming children. 

Specifically, a name must clearly indicate a person’s gender. 

Girls cannot be given a boy’s name and vice versa. 

If a name does not clearly indicate the person’s gender, then the child must be given a hyphenated double name or a second name to make this clear. 

Numbers or letters

In 2017, a Swiss court said ‘J’ was not appropriate as a middle name. 

The court held that allowing ‘J’ would be similar to letting people have a name made up of numbers – although ‘Jay’ a la Homer ‘Jay’ Simpson would presumably be fine. 

No place names

While the world might be debating how to cater to non-binary people who want to be identified as ‘their’, identifying as ‘there’ is a big no go in Switzerland. 

Place names for people are forbidden in Switzerland. 

This may not be interpreted incredibly strictly – Dakota Fanning and Brooklyn Beckham will be OK for now – but if you want to name your little boy ‘Matterhorn’ you may come across some resistance. 

READ MORE: How much does it cost to raise a child in Switzerland?

No product names either

No matter how much you love a particular product, you will be prevented from honouring the brand by naming your child after it. 

That means Ovaltine, Rivella, Chanel or Ferrari are off the table. 

You’re also banned from naming your child after a plant or after an animal. 

What about foreign names? 

One major question – particularly among Local readers – is whether foreign names are banned. 

The main question is whether the name appears in the ‘Internationalen Handbuch der Vornamen’ – the International Handbook of First Names. 

This book – which does not appear to exist in English – expressly lists acceptable first names. 

If it appears in the book, it’s OK with Swiss authorities. 

Which names have actually been banned in Switzerland? 

Suissebook has listed several baby names which have been banned in Switzerland for breaking at least one of the rules listed above. 

In addition to all of those mentioned so far in this article, it includes Bierstubl (place name), Troublemaker (well-being), Mercedes (brand name) and Sputnik (not sure if that is a place or a thing, but either way it’s banned).

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